Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Price of Perfection

It's no big secret that I am a perfectionist. I'm driven by results and I'm stubborn until I get it. I get complimented many a times for being a dedicated and hard-working person.

But is perfectionism good?

To answer this question, I felt it is pertinent to analyse the reasons that watered this certain characteristic in me. I feel our education system has made me ruthlessly competitive. Over the years, the social approval that came associated with academic success fueled my desire to study hard. I enjoyed the process and everything was rosy and nice.

However this came with its drawbacks that I have been noticing only lately. This attitude came with subtle messages that I did not realize even existed. It has sowed tendrils of doubt and a deep fear of failure. I treated failure as an obstacle that is to be quickly crossed by redoubling effort. It had strongly bound my happiness to quantifiable success. If not quantifiable, at least by the approval of others.

There came a moment in my life where the Universe I carefully constructed with hard work came crashing down like a pack of cards. The societal approval disappeared, the results evaporated and all my efforts were in vain. I could feel the haunting fear in the pit of my tummy that failure was imminent. I increased my efforts so much that it bordered on desperation. I learned later that there is some wisdom in the phrase "haste makes waste".

Soon, in every facet of my life I was facing failure, be it personal or professional. As far as the eye could see, there was only darkness. Who am I, if not for my results? What do I believe in?

I was struck by an identity crisis so clear that I felt like a bleak helpless baby once again.

Thankfully, in the 21st century, every individual has a lot of tools to help themselves. I'm grateful to my friends, family and the Internet for pulling me through. I don't see the light yet but I feel I'm getting there.

Part of the healing comes with the acceptance. This blog post is my way of accepting my flaws and working with them.

Perfectionism is not bad as such. Without it, I would not be where I am today. However, when it developed low self-esteem and the craving for validation due to external mismatches of expectation, it became a monster that devoured me.

So next time I see failure approaching me, I will not bulldoze it with hard work. I will face it, bite the bullet and learn from it. My life is not a statistic. When life is firing cannon balls at me, it's better to build an armour of self love than let it batter my soul.

Dedicated to every lip biting perfectionist out there - you are enough :)


Monday, February 20, 2017

For the Love of Me

"What is emotional branding?", the voice of the instructor thundered across the class. The glint of her immaculately starched saree in the brightly lit room caught Lavanya's eye. "What an oxymoron", she thought. How could marketing ever be emotional? There is no ethics in business. A business exists to sell itself. A detached voice describing something "emotional" in an austere manner did nothing to impress her about the topic.

As this seemed to be the buzz in marketing, she thought she should take her training seriously. But her scepticism got the better of her. How can one be forced to be emotional to cater to making money? This form of marketing seemed to rely on poetry that cannot be commanded.

Lavanya's position in the company wasn't great and she knew it. She had to pull off the hair-oil commercial as soon and as effectively as possible. What could make her pitch stand out?

There are few typical ads that the brand already had - the dramatic visualisation of hair and the promise of spectacular results(with appropriate disclaimers in fine text as well). What could she possibly do to impress them? What would make their brand linger?

She contemplated stressing on the the minimal use of chemicals. Perhaps that would appeal to a wider audience.

As these thoughts had strayed into Lavanya's mind, the instructor was sternly looking at her, though she was oblivious to it. After a few goosebumps, Lavanya jumped out of her reverie and pretended to take notes.

After the session, she stepped out of her glass prison for a break. She hated her work. She was tired of failing every pitch. As she walked into the canteen, she was flooded with offers for Valentine's day. As if she needed anything else to ruin her day! Married to a job she did not love, she had no time for relationships.

She moodily bought her food and sat alone in a corner. In this consumerist era, how could she pitch an ad that connected with someone? She herself was so irritable that it seemed impossible that she had the capacity to make any other person happy, let alone millions of viewers.

A curl of hair fell on the table. No matter how disconnected she was with fashion, hair was her weakness. If at all anyone can pitch an ad for hair oil, it had to be her. When she was a child, her biggest nightmare was to wake up with no hair.

Perhaps it was the nourishment that was firing her brain cells. She thought about how superficial society had made her feel about hair. The fact that the loss of hair was something mortifying seemed laughable logically.

She finished her solitary meal and walked to the wash-basins. As she caught herself in the mirror, she couldn't help sighing at the sight of her new hair-cut. It was supposed to give her confidence but it changed nothing about how she felt about herself.

Confidence. There is so much of beauty in confidence and self-love. She had grown old with fear and disappointment. What would she not do to be the happy and cheerful person she was a few months ago?

Confidence. For centuries, women have been sold upon the idea that looks equal confidence. Lavanya knew that wasn't true. How could she use her ad to make someone feel confident?

And suddenly, the story line for the ad came in one glorious moment of inspiration. What if she confronted her fears, took away the superficial and came up with an idea that oozed with confidence? What if someone could feel good and hopeful seeing her ad? She was nervous about the idea but she felt some inkling of hope. She started liking herself more for coming up with the idea.

Thus, she came up with an ad about a cancer survivor who returns to work, bald and proud. Her own insecurities helped her come up with an endearing screenplay that helped her win the pitch. It helped her regain her confidence little by little and love what she does to the best of her conscience. So this Valentine's day, she realised she has begun falling in love again - with herself!

***

This post was written for Chennai Bloggers Club February Contest in association with woodooz and Indian Superheroes. I was paired with marketing tech professional - Subhashini who wrote the technical details of marketing here. Go watch the ads there! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Story of how I Began Cooking

I find someone's views on cooking to be the litmus test of whether I can see eye-to-eye with a person or not. For example, a very good friend of mine commented that he found it odd that a group of female room-mates had a cook. I was speechless. I'm not going to bother arguing that statement because what is wrong with that is absolutely apparent. So every time some one asks me whether I know how to cook, I always say no because it makes the conversation much more interesting :)

I contemplated long and hard whether to write this post :P

I was addicted to packet soups and noodles. Nearly every day I used to have them. Obviously, that did not bode well with my health. I developed a stone in each kidney when I was 21.

After that, there was a blanket ban on any of these "instant" items.

But, winter was coming.

I tried. I made do with rasam for a while. Sometimes, just hot water. But I was an addict. I was having withdrawal symptoms. Something had to be done fast :P

So, I swallowed my pride. And I asked my mother to make a soup from scratch.

This led to an hour long monologue where my ungratefulness over two decades was stressed. It ended with the usual statement referring to the fact that my age is that of four donkeys.

With no other option left, I wrestled my ego and placed my right foot inside the kitchen. With a smart-phone connected to YouTube, I attempted to make an onion soup.

The searches were so contrived.

Chop onions finely.
How to chop onions finely?
Saute onions till translucent.
What does saute mean?

After half an hour, I tested it on my family for possible poisoning. To my complete amazement, they liked it. Or at least pretended to. I started dusting the china at home and taking out soup bowls that my parents hadn't used since their wedding.

Then, there has been no turning back. Soups, pastas, appetisers and anything I don't get at home were experimented and burnt and re-attempted and arranged beautifully for photos on Instagram.

Because that's what's important isn't it?

In conclusion, cooking isn't a big deal. The trick is in the recipe. There is no magic secret that you need to know. If you love to eat, you'll love to cook as well :)

This post was inspired by my weekend experiment to make potato chips at home.



P.S. To those of the unlikely people interested in the recipe that's available everywhere on the Internet, you cut potatoes very thinly, keep them in water for at least half an hour and then dry them thoroughly and fry. I microwaved them.

Friday, December 30, 2016

I am Engaged to Myself First

Today my blog turns 7 years old :)

I was 18 when I started blogging. I cannot believe how much I have transformed over these years. But I am learning every day and I thought the best way to look forward is to make a few resolutions and hope my constant companion, writing, is at my side and helps me fulfil them.

#1 Know that I am enough

Though my anxiety and over-thinking has helped me strive towards perfection, it has also magnified my failures out of proportion and has caused my self-confidence and self-esteem to plummet. I have been raised in a world where competition, results, numbers and conformance make sense and failing to achieve these seem to make my existence meaningless. This year I promise to breathe deeply, work hard and not be attached to the result as the scriptures say.

#2 Be Happy

I am not a happy person. Content, yes, happy, no. Who knows how long I am going to be on this planet? I vow to be happy every single day, sing, dance, write and shout off roof tops that I am alive. Of course, I'm going to be sad, angry, hurt, disgusted, pitiful but I will not let my eyelids close without reaching peace on my own terms.

#3 Hope

When despair, doubt and darkness permeate every inch of your surroundings, the survival of hope is endangered. In my true obsessive, possessive style, I shall hold on to it.

#4 Accept Myself

The previous year I was committed to being myself, to not be as docile as I was before. However I forgot that with that, acceptance of who I am is also required. I have messed up and the perfectionist in me loathes those parts of my life. While I thought that forgiving others would be the biggest battle, I was wrong. The biggest battle is forgiving myself.

#5 Be Engaged to Myself

I promise to talk to myself everyday, analyse what I've learned and grow a little bit. Everyday. I promise to listen to my fears and inhibitions. I promise to rejoice the small victories. I promise to not seek validation for my existence because in reality, we are all alone first and then we share society. Because I cannot truly complete society until I am complete on my own.

This post was inspired by a lot of things, but mainly an article I read on why women are wearing an engagement ring on their pinky finger to signify that they are engaged to themselves. While the sentiment is admirable, I do think it's a marketing ploy to ensnare single women :P

Advance happy new year, let's rejoice and grow together. :)


Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Journey of a 100 blogposts begins with a Single Word

When Chennai Bloggers Club (CBC) announced a blogging competition on the topic how blogging has transformed me, I couldn’t help but smile.

I started blogging in 2009. I cannot believe that seven years have passed since I typed the very first word. I’ve already written about how I took the baby steps into the realm of blogging.

In this story, I shall dive into my ocean of memories and present to you the jewels I have gained in this wonderful journey.

I joined college in 2009. As an engineering student, I realised my days of writing are numbered and my thoughts were itching to be cast into the written form. Fortunately for me, I was introduced to the convenient mode of blogging.

When I began, I didn’t expect it to be read by anyone. I expected my blog to be a literal translation of “web log”, a public diary that will be perused by me and perhaps a few others at most.

Over the years, the storyteller in me became quite ambitious. My keyboard has hummed across a growing range of topics. Today, I was surprised to see a 102 blog posts. I am not a regular blogger. In a typical Libran fashion, sometimes I blog every week to perhaps once in every four months. In spite of that irregularity, I felt happy and blessed to have created this digital content that has forever marked my evolution as a writer and more importantly as a person.

Emotional Stability

When I write, there is no judgement. There is no fear of someone cutting your thoughts in short. Emotions empty easily into text. There may be comments, but that comes later on. A blog post that is completed is a medium for release and an exercise of tranquillity.

An Archive of Memories

While I may be blessed with photographic memory, I am going to age and memory does fade with time. A blog post behaves as a duster that removes the cobwebs from a glass door that is an entrance to a particular incident.

A Window to Who I Am

No matter how articulate I am in person, my blog posts tell the reader of an entire journey. While a person who just met me might know who I am today, a person who has read my blog will know why I am who I am.

An Opportunity to Share
Sometimes my blog posts have motivated discussions on social media and brought about different perspectives that have taught me about the world and how people think.

A Box of Chocolates

My blog is really a box of chocolates. You will love some posts. You will not agree with some. You will fondly recollect some. (I have added a “Search” feature to aid that purpose :) ). I’m confident that it will leave any reader with an impression, be it good and or bad and that gives me immense satisfaction.

In conclusion, blogging has made me content, honest and happy. It has made me eligible to participate in a forum like The Chennai Bloggers Club. It is such a fulfilling task to look back at what I have gained and what I have become. Even if it is in the nick of time, I’m happy to participate in this collaboration between Sweek and CBC. #chennaibloggers #autobiography

And yes, this post won the competition ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Review : Untitled by Gayathri Prabhu

A random purchase based on no recommendation or inclination, "Untitled" became yet another book to make itself home in my bookcase.

I had also bought "To Kill a Mockingbird" earlier and was planning to write a book review on that. As masterful as that book is, the whole world knows about it. This book on the other hand lit the wick of my imagination much like the embers in the lamps of the house of Wodeyar women.


This is a historical fiction set in the times of Tipu Sultan. The protagonists are two painters - Richard, an English artist and a Brahmin boy Mukunda who is drawn to art rather than the art of reading planetary movements.

The author beautifully brings out the many facets of Tipu Sultan - the ruler, the strategist, the merciless and the merciful. The book moves at a fast pace. From Richard's arrival in Madras to his reception in Srirangapatinam, we learn of the turmoil he faces. India, like it was for many Englishmen, was his coming of age story.

We also get a glimpse of the society's rebel - Mukunda. As the son of an astrologer, one expects him to docilely comply with the promptings of fate. But here is a boy who believed destiny was his own making.

My favourite character is Suhasini, the dark daughter of a fair priest, her intelligence knew no bounds. She is cunning, manipulative and charming. Her strong personality comes to life with the author's choice of words. She becomes the trusted informant of the Wodeyar Queen who was imprisoned. 

The book is replete with historically accurate information. It truly transports the reader to another time. An era where the king relied on both strategy and astrology. An era where Indians were not yet viewed with the loathing that will come after the First War of Indian Independence in 1857. An era where communication could take months. 

Yet, some things were timeless. The earnest will of the soul to not conform be it Richard, Mukunda or Suhasini. The absorbing nature of passion and art. The fact that there are no real victors in a war. The fact that humans can become animals when there is nothing to lose and there is no accountability.

This book is worth your time. The prose is almost poetic. If I had to find a flaw, I'd say I found it unbelievable that all the main characters had such a fine instinct about the uncertain future.

The subject is close to my heart. A trip to Mysore had prompted me to churn out this historical fiction. I felt like I visited the same places, but in another time. Do buy this book :)


Saturday, October 29, 2016

How an Introvert behaves with Guests

Happy Deepavali to one and all :)

As much as I enjoy good food and positive vibes, dealing with people on festivals is not my cup of Horlicks.

Now I know there will be some people going how ungrateful I am as a human being to make fun of my family. Time for a defence that such people are not going to accept anyway. You can only make fun of the people you love :)

#1 The Awkward Smile

Here's the thing. Just because I don't talk doesn't mean I don't observe. Also, because I'm not talking, it means I have over-analysed every detail. So if you're going to say something smart/cheeky/cunning, I will know it and I will have a super sarcastic answer for it. But the fear of falling into disgrace checks my tongue and lo and behold - the awkward smile.

"You washed you hair?"
The clearly wet hair that the owner gave up de-tangling which looks like a cuckoo's nest curls in further fright.

"You're already 25"?
Yes my eternally 16 aunt.

#2 Lowering Expectation

Sometimes I'm not careful enough. Sometimes I make eye contact with fellow human beings who cannot comprehend the state of my existence. I learned this trick from my sister that when you feel backed into a corner and in pressure - always lower expectations.

"You won't study after this?"
I don't even have one journal paper. If I want to be a good professor, I need more publications so I am thinking of doing a post-doc.

*Total Silence*

#3 The Genuine Fake Smile

This is very different from the awkward smile. The genuine fake smile occurs when you are smiling at a completely different scenario but the listener thinks you're smiling because you accepted their unsolicited advice.

For example, a person keeps complaining about the lack of freedom by her elders. She then proceeds to advice me on something. And says she would never allow her son's wife to behave the way I did.

I smile at the hypocrisy, she smiles at her liberal doling of punyam.

#4 The Disappearing Act

Suddenly adults and children will begin to congregate into groups. As I am neither old enough to be an adult because I'm single and not young enough to be a kid because I've finished college, I stealthily creep into a room and sleep.



Once again, this was all for fun. Who knows how judgemental I will be when I am old! Let's hope we remember these annoyances and try to make life easier for the next generation ;)