Andy Murray’s Resurfacing inspires!

Resurfacing is an eye-opener! I cannot believe how much Andy Murray truly suffered. We tend to make assumptions and judgements about these athletes, we never take into account just how much they put themselves through for following their passion. I have always been a Roger Federer fan and I wasn’t a big fan of Andy. But with time, as I got to know him, he grew on me. Especially for standing up for various issues that dog the sport.

Having seen my brother go through excruciating pain and dialysis and various other medical procedures because of his kidney failure and his eventual passing, I find it hard to watch shows based on the medical field. They bring bad memories to mind, I get squeamish and they freak me out. I also have a very low threshold for physical pain. So watching Andy Murray’s documentary was a difficult task. Somehow I managed to watch it all through that. I willed myself to watch it really, because I thought that my discomfort is nothing compared to what my brother felt or Andy felt. If they could battle through the pain, I could watch it too.

Resurfacing gave an idea of what goes behind the scenes. How the teams make decisions about their participation and schedule and what factors they take into consideration. It also put a lot of focus on his training and how complex the whole process is. He had the surgery but the doubts about its effectiveness and the long road to rehabilitation is truly something that can make our minds go bonkers. Would the pain ever subside? Would it be possible to play again? These are the questions that bothered him. It’s so tough to see and plan the future when you’re thrown these curveballs in life!

“No one is pain free!” – Bill Knowles

This is such a great line! I have been suffering from a wrist injury because of a fall 22 years ago. I find it difficult to do even the most basic things like doing household chores and writing. I have somehow learned to do it all in spite of the pain. And this line made so much sense. I do not presume to understand what Andy actually felt. But what I can feel is empathy as well as an understanding that it is a tough road, a path filled with so many obstacles that traversing it seems absolutely impossible. These self doubts grow into major confidence issues and they play games with your minds. It’s not easy to stay focused at such times. It becomes detrimental to your end goals but you can’t help it either. It’s so easy to spiral out of control at such times. It takes a lot of effort, patience and a solid support system to get through it.

There was one moment in the movie, where his voice note was played. There was no video, just his voice in the silence of the night. He spoke of his painful childhood and his vulnerabilities and insecurities. It was a heartening moment. That voice note was like a window to his soul. His mother, Judy is truly so inspirational! Bringing up her sons as a single mother and channeling their talent so successfully. It was amazing to see Andy’s family stay rock solid during these tough times. I’m sure they must have had their own fears and struggles to deal with it. I remember how tough it was for me and my family to deal with my brother’s sickness and care.

I hope Andy recovers and is able to play like he used to before. He has so much passion for it. It would be amazing to see him win a grand slam again.

Why I still love Roger Federer

People often ask me, “why are you so emotionally invested in Roger Federer?” Or, “why are you so crazy over him?” I’ve written so much about him before. But lately I’ve seen a lot of hate and disrespect coming from certain Roger fans, who actually don’t show any respect for someone they claim to love. Criticism of his game is okay, but some crossed the line when they assassinated his character. It made me think about all those moments he made me love him.

Well, the simple answer is that he inspires me. And I feel connected to him somehow.

Back in 2003, when he won his first Wimbledon, I hadn’t even recovered from my Brother’s death in 1999. I had just enrolled at college. I had begun loving the way he played. Having been a Sampras fan earlier, Roger seemed so similar. He was truly mesmerizing when he played. And a few months later, my Grandfather passed away. It all seemed so overwhelming, first my brother then my grandfather, I somehow began my recovery.

Roger then began winning slam after slam, tournament after tournament, making me love him deeper and deeper. In 2005, I lost my cousin brother. Another blow. I lost both my confidantes. Roger’s wins and losses back then kept on being a source of some kind of happiness. He gave me solace. I also buried myself in books, somehow losing myself in those imaginary worlds distracted from these tragedies. When I had to stay strong for my family and I did not confide in anyone, he was there to pull me out of the sorrow cycle.

Fast forward to 2008, he was on a downward trend and from then on it was a constant rollercoaster ride. He had some good seasons and then bad ones. In 2015, somehow the stars aligned for me, he came to India for a second time and I got to meet him. One of the luckiest and best days of my life! Though the worst year was 2016 when he got injured, had to have a surgery and he took a break of 6 months. I was so scared of what it could truly mean. I somehow kept that hope alive that he’d be back.

Boom! Next year, against all odds, ranked no. 17 in the world, playing multiple 5-set matches and beating Rafael Nadal, his greatest rival, Roger won the Australian Open. It was unbelievable! He did it! He rose like a phoenix! He then won the Wimbledon. Another piece of magic! He was so beautiful to watch. In 2018, he again won the Australian Open. Making it 20 Grand Slams.

He’s again been in a phase of winning some and losing some, not a single grandslam though… But he’s 38 years old. He just beat Novak Djokovic, his other greatest rival. He can still beat the best, the top guys. It’s a miracle. I think about all the rough times I’ve had and I see him. He never gives up. He fights. He instils hope in all of us. We all have our ups and downs. What matters is, how we handle them. He handles both with utmost dignity and integrity. He inspires me. I keep telling myself that if he can carry so much hope, in spite of the pressure, the criticism and the disrespect, I can too. I can hold my head up high and grow and succeed just like him. And I truly believe that he will succeed even more than he has. I have faith in him! I love him unconditionally and I know he will inspire me no matter what!

Broken is the New Normal

She broke me, in a way no one ever could,
Path strewn with thorns, no end in sight,
I lived each day, cowered in fear,
Darkness masking what lay ahead.

She killed my confidence,
Played with my deepest fears,
Seemed like my fate was sealed,
My existence felt worthless and empty.

She filled my heart with rage,
Rage that masked all the insecurities,
Worrying if I could make it even till today.
I feared, not just losing every thing I worked for,
But losing all my relationships.

I should be happy and content,
Yet these feelings escape me,
This irrational fear of loss,
Wounded me, crippling my soul.

So much pain, so much heartache,
I couldn’t share, lest I be judged,
So many people around, yet alone I felt,
Kept all my emotions hidden, only to bubble inside.

Crying came easy, self loathing even more,
Sleep eluded me, smile just a mere formality,
But the cloud had a silver line,
Something kept me afloat.

The tides turned, times changed,
Another soul came to the rescue,
I could finally feel respected,
Confidence seemed to be creeping back.

But memories are scary,
The dark moments triggering them,
Or when good tidings should bring joy,
Numbness takes over.

Fear of loss is the driver,
while rationale takes a back seat,
What if the good tidings disappear,
Making way for immeasurable loss?

How do I tame this beast inside me?
How do I let this fear out?
The rage and bitterness stubbornly prevail,
The soul remains broken, for broken is the new normal!

Holding On, Living in the Now and Overcoming the Fears of the Unknown

This has been a journey of a few months and I have written this account as my emotions have guided me over time. It is a rollercoaster of my feelings and emotions. I hope that anyone who might read it, should feel that they are not alone in when adversity knocks on their door. We all have these dark moments and I hope to show that in spite of what happens in our lives, we need to hold on and hang tough.

Feelings of uncertainty have invaded my mind. The stress is weighing me down, like a heavy anvil that I am being forced to carry but cannot really hold it. Something that is out of my control, I await the twist of my fate, with bated breath. I smile, I laugh, hiding within a mask, hoping to somehow cross this rickety bridge and get to the other side. I could fall down at any given moment, the fear constantly freezing me. The self-doubts creeping in, like a serpent coiling over me, squeezing me in a deathly grip.

Riddled with the conundrums of life, I seek answers; answers that are elusive, as if the mysteries have no intention of revealing themselves. Maybe the universe wants to spring a happy surprise or maybe its playing a sinister game. The path ahead is dark and unknown. 

Always afraid of opening my heart; I take a chance. I show my true self to a kindred spirit across the distance, realising that I share a connection. In a short time, for a reason unbeknownst to me, I establish trust. Pouring my heart out, I try to feel at ease. In turn I hope my attempts at soothing this noble soul somehow work too.

Sleep eludes me. I lie in my bed, constantly pondering the dilemmas and fears that have crept on my mind. Iam afraid. Afraid of so many scenarios. Afraid of external forces trying to drive a wedge between me and my dreams. Afraid of people I trust letting me down and breaking my heart. Afraid of me being the cause of pain and heartbreak. I cannot seem to figure out if this fear is warranted or is it irrational. I end up second guessing every decision I make. This has never happened to me before. I have never lived in such fear. I cannot understand this fear. Why cannot I be carefree like I used to be? My heart is pounding, my mind is racing through a thousand scenarios. 

I try to focus on work, I try to engage my mind in diverse activities, striving to live in the present. I try to express myself with writing, I read the eloquent expressions of life written by my fellow writer friends. I go out and talk to like-minded friends about everything else in the world. Somehow I traverse each day with a new hope, a new resolve to survive. 

Sometimes it’s tough feeling happy or excited even. Everytime I feel happy about something, certain forces of nature sweep me up into a tornado and I find myself in another adversity. My plans have a tendency to go awry. I feel afraid to celebrate the good moments, what if another monster is lurking in the vicinity. I try to calm myself and remember the earlier turmoil and how I found my way of dealing with it. But the new turmoil threatens to tear apart my path. Normally I live and celebrate all the trivial little things of life, the small good moments. But sometimes the bad ones follow immediately, like  the inevitable aftershocks following a major tremor. My sense of purpose sways, what am I doing on this Earth? What am I supposed to do?

I take a leap, a step forward and wait for my destiny to unfold. I play my part and await the hand of fate to reveal it’s plan. My heart races again, not knowing how I will land after this leap. Would I fall flat on my face? Or would I land like a professional jumper? The questions scare me again. It’s as if I am stuck between a well and a ravine. The obstacles just keep appearing. The serpent begins coiling again, tightening its grip over me.

I try to regain my composure, hoping against hope that my fears are unfounded. I think about my life ahead. This dark unknown path is messing up with my mind. I need to fight this. I need to be ok with whatever my fate has in store for me. Maybe my doom is inevitable, but I need to keep moving. I need to live the little moments.  I am usually the one spreading positivity, but this time I am the one who needs it the most. Maybe I am overthinking it, I need to find a way to keep having faith that no matter where this dark path leads, I shall find my way; I shall find the light at the end of the tunnel. I shall be strong, resolute and I shall strive to have fun. I want to be stubborn, to show this universe that I can keep moving ahead despite its sinister designs. I think about my brother, all the terminally ill people; how their pain is greater than mine. I think about the people who struggle to get even one meal. The magnitude of my problems cannot be compared to those people, and, while for me, they seem overwhelming, are far lesser in magnitude. I feel strong again. Things may not work for me the way I want them to, but I still can live for the present. The serpent seems to slowly uncoil, the bridge looks sturdier, the strength and willingness to cross the dark path is renewed.

The Hindi song Jeete Hain Chal has these three very beautiful lines which keep motivating me.

Gham musafir tha, jaane de, 

Dhoop ko aangan mein aane de,

Jeete hain chal.

Translation: 

sorrow was a traveller, let it go,

Let the sun come into the courtyard,

Come, let’s live.

Focussing on Time, Positivity, Purpose, Passion and Vivacity

As I lie awake at 3 in the morning, I am pondering about time. How time is something I never seem to have; for I have this need of seeking out new information and doing a plethora of things. I learned very early that life is too short; too short to waste it on counterproductive things. They say time and tide wait for none. I think it represents a universal truth: time is a luxury most of us can never seem to grasp. It is perplexing and I keep wondering how people have so much time on their hands to whine, plot and scheme against other people. I might sound preachy in this post, maybe some rambling also might follow; but this has been something weighing on my mind since quite a few days.

Here I am, with ambitions to do so much with my life but with no time at my disposal. I want to read countless number of books, watch immeasurable amount of new TV shows, movies and all types of sports, I want to travel the world, I want to write, I want to learn cooking so many different things, I want to indulge in adventure sports; the list of what I want to do is inexhaustible! I have barely any time to do even a quarter of what I aim to do. Yet I see people around me wasting their time bellyaching or plotting someone’s downfall or gossiping. Time for me is a luxury, while for them; it seems to have no value.

An acquaintance of mine has this annoying habit of whining and crying about everything under the sun. Nothing is ever good enough; everything is a negative. She does not find anything positive from anything that happens around her. I do not know how she lives her life like this. She has so much to be thankful for, she has a nice family, a beautiful baby, a great job and a great support system behind her, but she chooses to ignore the bright side and and keeps on harping about the negative side. If a person were to live like that, their life would never hold a purpose. There would be nothing to live for. What a waste of life that would be. Even when darkness creeps upon us, we usually switch on a light, or a candle, to get rid of this darkness. But she sits in darkness I suppose. While I understand that she might have become this way because of something that happened in her life; of which I have no clue about, her friends, including me, have tried to reason with her so many times. Everytime she tells us of a problem, I give her a solution. But she always finds a way to negate that solution as well. For a while it’s ok to keep on giving her solutions, but when someone does this every single day, it becomes exasperating. We all have our own problems and stress to deal with; it becomes awfully difficult to not feel irritated. Circumstances are not in our control, but our own attitude is. David Guetta and Sia’s song Titanium explains this in a very inspiring way:

I’m bulletproof nothing to lose

Fire away, fire away

Ricochet, you take your aim

Fire away, fire away

You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium

You shoot me down but I won’t fall

I am titanium

And while some people whine, some people contrive and manipulate to harm others. They have this need of sabotaging others to progress. It is a twisted way of working on their ambitions. I am sure most people have suffered or gone through something in their lives which makes them a little ruthless. There are times when I try to understand why a person could do something like this. I have seen people derive some sort of a sadistic pleasure by laying a minefield on a person’s path; relatives who have gone above and beyond to create upheaval in the lives of their own flesh and blood, friends turning into foes and co-workers destroying someone else’s careers, just because of a bruised ego or greed or blind ambition.

Do they not have passions? How do they find so much time? Maybe they are incredibly good at time management; following their passions as well as indulging in some megalomania on the side. Or maybe megalomania is their passion. I do not have a clue to how their brains work. I keep racking my brains to try to understand this phenomenon. They may have narcissm, or some psychological disorders which need professional help. Or I may be the odd one, the square peg that can’t seem to fit into the round hole. I think that we stop growing as a person when we intentionally hurt someone. We need to think about how we can go farther in life by doing our own work rather than sabotaging others. We need to cultivate various passions to keep ourselves busy; or just live it up a little.

When I think about my own life and the hurdles that have crossed my path so far in life, I have seen so many ups and downs. Losing two of my closest brothers, being stagnated or even on a downward spiral and heartbreak, has taught me that life is too short. Life is much more meaningful if we were to work on ourselves, work on solutions for ourselves rather than paying attention to what others are doing. Whatever problems I might face, if I was to find the solutions to them rather than making someone else fall, my life would hold much more significance. Focussing on ourselves will make us become better people. We could achieve all our dreams and ambitions by resolving to keep striving, without hurting someone else. This aforementioned acquaintance of mine, not only whines, but also has begun plotting against people. The person, who hated someone for scheming, has turned into one herself. I really do not think that would serve any purpose. We must own up to our mistakes, and still be positive enough to bounce back and vow to not commit the same mistake. We are humans and we are bound to make other mistakes. Life is all about learning and living. We could help those who are far worse than us. We could make time and contribute to the larger society; some people have no limbs, some people have no food, and some people live in the most brutal conditions that we can never even imagine. We are much more privileged than them and we need to do something about it rather than believing that we are the only ones in trouble. All of us have different abilities and interests, why cannot we put them to a better use than lead a life filled with such triviality? We could groom ourselves and take care of ourselves and of our loved ones.

I remember my brother wanting to live his life and yet being constricted with a terminal illness. I remember just how much he wanted to live and yet the grim reaper was knocking on his door. I remember him comforting us in spite of his own helplessness and physical and mental pain that he suffered from, at the tender age of 19. We are blessed with one precious life and we tend to squander it in such inconsequential pursuits or actions. I have often mentioned that life is a cycle of joys and sorrows; it will keep spinning. It’s like the waves at the beach; they will keep hitting us in succession and we need to be resolute enough to not let the waves carry us far into the sea. We have to be relentless and keep being positive, no matter how many waves hit us. Life isn’t always about being successful all the time and reaching sky high; it is about failing and rising up again. Athletes always find a way to rise up each time they fall. No matter how broken down our soul gets, we have to find our own ways to be stronger and deal with the source of the stress. We have to find joy in the small little things in our everyday lives; a bird humming a sweet tune, the flowers blooming, the wind caressing our face, experiencing the first rain of the season, finding shapes in the clouds and admiring Nature, walking early in the morning and breathing in the cool fresh air, laughing at the little pranks and jokes we share with our friends, celebrating our special days and indulging in our passions and fascinations, etc. There is an abundance of things that we could do instead of being so down in the dumps or causing destruction.

I think failing is more like a stepping stone; what really matters is how we stand up after the failure and strive again and again. If my brother were given a chance to live, he would have used it to a greater purpose than most of us ever would. He never let his disease break his spirit. Why cannot we do the same? No matter how many problems we have, nothing can ever compare to a person who is at the death’s door having endured such malaise and torment. Their life is slipping away and yet they find enough positivity to deal with it so bravely. My brother was a teenager when he was sick, yet he was far more mature and braver than anyone I have ever known. He still makes me think about him and not give up. He did not give up his fight for life till the last moment. My parents who lost a child, can any other problem ever compare to this loss? No, it cannot! Yet they live and go on with their lives so that they could see me happy. They have invested all their energies into making life better for me. They never whine. That’s how we all need to live; make others happy, make yourself happy, find a purpose, find passions and live for them. If life gives you lemons, throw the darn lemons away, or rather give them to your neighbours and buy yourself some mangoes. 

As Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like a bicycle, you must move forward to keep the balance.” 

The peRFect Goan Adventure

This was a vacation long time coming. I hadn’t been to Goa in 8 years; and I hadn’t gone on a real vacation in more than 2 years. I had traveled several times in these 2 years but I can’t really count them as vacations. I am a half Goan and had been there twice before. Almost everyone I know had been traveling there but not me, I just did not get that chance, that is up until now. My friend suggested going there and I jumped at the chance. I love Goa a lot, it’s my happy place. It always gets me euphoric.

I was traveling with one of my closest friends and two of her friends. We had an early morning flight but since we had some issues with transport to the airport, we decided to spend the night there. We kept awake all night, talking and reminiscing about our days when we worked together. Since we were only 4 girls traveling, our parents had given us a thousand instructions. The flight was only an hour’s duration. We mostly kept awake. My friend was incredibly sweet as she let me lean on to her to catch some beautiful sights outside. We felt so excited when we saw the plane was flying over a beach!

We had booked a service apartment in Goa, which worked out much cheaper than a hotel. Once we checked in, we slept off for quite a while since we were so sleep deprived. When we woke up, it was about 4 in the evening. We were discussing where we could go; I suggested the beach. It felt like the beach was beckoning me, so I just googled the nearest one and decided to go there. Baga Beach was the nearest. The sun was just setting when we reached, I was so excited! As soon as the waves touched my feet, I was in heaven. I just stood there in the water and the waves kept crashing into me. It was high tide time, so the waves were quite high and intense. Two of my friends are national level swimmers, so I held their hands to keep myself stable. We sat down on the beach after a while. I felt at peace after such a long time. Beach is my happy place and I loved every bit of it. Breathing in that fresh air and listening to the sound of the waves; it just gave me what I had needed in a long time; peace and quiet. I did not give a single moment of thought to any of my worries back home. I wanted to live in the moment. I just took it all in.

20170217_185640
Baga Beach

20170217_185723
Baga Beach

Next day we went to the Calangute beach for the water sports and some shopping. It’s an extremely crowded beach, so there is not much tranquility.  First we went for parasailing. I have done parasailing on land when I was 13 years old, at my uncle’s army cantonment.  People often ask me if I felt scared; but I didn’t. I have never had a fear of heights. In fact I have plans to do skydiving someday.  First we climbed onto a small boat where we wore our life vests and we were taken to another boat which would be used for parasailing, quite far out into the sea. There were about 10 people on the boat, a group of guys and us girls. First the guys had their turn.  When our turn came, I recorded the video on my phone while the other one clicked pictures on my digital camera. When my friend was up sailing, the instructor put the harness on me; I was so excited.  I was then tied to the parachute. As the boat began accelerating, I began ascending. After just little bit of ascension, I was dipped in the water for a few seconds. Then I ascended again. I could see the vast expanse of the sea widening as I went higher and higher. The view was incredibly breath-taking! As cliched as it may sound, I really felt like I could fly. I could feel the wind on my face. I was screaming all the while, not because of fear, but because of the excitement. I felt so free. I could see the boat as a tiny speck. I was gliding in the air; soaring in the sky. And then suddenly I felt like I was descending; before I knew it, I was approaching the water. They dipped me in the water again. I felt the water suddenly hit my legs and a bit of salty water splashed my face. The water felt so cool. And then again, I was yanked up a little. This time I could see the beach as well and the people looked like tiny ants. I was again descending; they dipped me again as my legs were flailing in the water. After the third dip, as the boat turned around once more, I was ascending again, one last time; I took in the sights which would be etched forever in my memory. I saw the limitless sea and felt so happy. I began descending slowly and I landed softly on the boat. It was so exhilarating and thrilling, I felt like I could be on a high. It was really beautiful!

DSC02427
View from the boat

DSC02436

DSC02461
So high…

DSC02462
About to be dipped

We had plans to do other water sports but nothing could top parasailing, so we decided not to do them. We just had lunch and went back to the hotel for a rest. In the evening we were contemplating where to go when we decided to go the Chapora Fort. Vagator beach is close to this fort. It was quite a climb up. The problem was that I wasn’t wearing my shoes; I was wearing the beach worthy rubber flip-flops. So climbing was a huge challenge. But somehow we climbed up and went inside. It’s in ruins; it has a beautiful view of the beach and the sea. We left from there once it got way too dark, we had to use our phone torch to climb down.

20170218_184900.jpg

For dinner, we went to a famous place called Curlies, a beach shack on Anjuna Beach. But it did not live up to our expectations; in fact it was horrible! We regretted going there. Somehow we ate and left quickly to reach back to the apartment.

The following day we had plans to visit three beaches and then an evening party. First we went to Arambole Beach. During daytime, it is one of the most peaceful beaches in Goa, there is hardly any crowd and it’s a really beautiful beach. We just stood in the water, clicked pictures and again felt the waves hit us. My elation knew no bounds. I was ecstatic just being there in the water. The heat did not get to me, it was really breezy and amazing! One thing I really love to do is collect shells, fossils and stones on the beach; it’s been a hobby I have indulged in all my life. I have an enormous collection of them at home and I have displayed many of them in my room. I picked up a few nice ones. My friends helped me out too. It was so serene. When we got hungry, we went to one of the shacks and had an amazing lunch. We couldn’t have enough of the water, so we again went out to the water and stood there feeling the waves and serenity gripping us once again.

Next up was Ashwem Beach, which was nice but not that great. And there was a lot of crowd. The third in the line was Morjim beach. We had heard the sunset there looks really beautiful! So we spent quite a lot of time there. I took a picture there, posing with a V sign, as a celebration of Roger Federer’s Australian Open win, his 18th slam which came after a long time. While one my friends sat down, the three of us walked down towards one stretch of the beach. We kept on walking for quite a while, it was so beautiful. A little ahead, we saw a flock of seagulls sitting. I clicked a picture of them while they had just begun flying from there.It was a beautiful sight.

DSC02499.JPG

When we came back to where my friend was sitting, it was almost sunset time. We sat on the beach and waited. As the sun began setting, it truly looked beautiful.  It was a mesmerizing sight; it was absolutely worth the wait. Since it was our last day on the beach, I didn’t feel like leaving from there. But as we had a dinner celebration to get to, we reluctantly left from there.

20170219_172959

20170219_182458

For dinner we went to a very famous Goan pub called Tito’s. One of the girls is getting married, so this was like a mini bachelorette party for her. The food was good and the ambience was really nice. There were some fire acrobatics as well.

20170219_213742.jpg

Next day was our last day in Goa, we had a few hours before boarding the train. So we visited the famous Fort Aguada. I had seen it before on my last trip there, but no one else in my group had. I love that place so I was happily ready. It was built by the Portuguese and it is famous for its water aqueducts and the lighthouse. I love the architecture there, it’s so incredibly beautiful! There were two sets of stairs near the edge of the fort. They looked like they led to some kind of dungeons below. My friend and I felt like maybe we were in an Indiana Jones movie, or even National Treasure. We were contemplating climbing down to check but then we decided against it.

Once we reached the railway station, we had lunch first and then we boarded the train. During our journey, we played Uno, a fun card game. I am not that great with card games but I won a few of them. It was really funny! We wanted to see the Dudhsagar falls but we could only catch a glimpse as the train sped past it. Two of us took the lower berths; I kept myself awake for half the night to be vigilant about our luggage and my friend kept awake after that. We reached back early morning; I took the metro to reach to the nearest station near my home and my dad was there to pick me up.

Thus ended my beautiful, 4 day, all girls trip to Goa. I wish I could have stayed longer. I had great company and I had loads of fun and my stress was so much lower than before. Next time I shall definitely plan a longer vacation, for I know Goa will always beckon me to its shores and I shall keep going.

Roger Federer’s Inspiring 18th Slam

The past 2 months had been really difficult for me. I had been constantly sick and there had been a mountain of work that had prevented me from taking any rest. I had spent all my nights coughing; sleep had eluded me and I had to show up for work anyway. Working with a leaky nose, constant coughing and sleep deprivation took a lot of will power. I really haven’t the foggiest how I managed to deliver my work. There was no inspiration to write, I was stressed and exhausted. My only solace was seeing Roger Federer back on court who had taken a 6 month break due to injuries.

After Wimbledon last year, Roger had taken a break for the rest of the season. His absence was like a void that couldn’t be filled; it was as if there was a huge hole in my heart. I missed him like crazy. I suddenly had no interest in watching tennis and I just could not imagine enjoying tennis without Roger. 2016 being the cursed year that was, I wished it would end soon so that we could watch Roger back in action.My only wish was to see him on tour happy and healthy, leaving behind all the issues that had dogged him.

He was supposed to come to India in December 2016 to play a match for the Tennis Premier League but due to some financial constraints they could not get him to play here. I had spent a fortune on the tickets just to see him but had to ask for a refund. Although since I wouldn’t have gotten the flight tickets refunded, I went to Hyderabad to heal my broken heart and disappointment of not meeting or seeing Roger again, and just hung out with my fellow Roger fan and friend for 2 days. It was just a day before this trip that my throat had begun to pain. But the pain was very less and I didn’t expect it to bloom into a throat infection.

As soon as January rolled in, Roger came back to playing at the Hopman Cup. I was still incredibly sick but I had something to look forward to. He paired up with Belinda Bencic, 16 years his junior. He played amazingly well. It was sheer pleasure to just see him create magic on the tennis court again. Although he lost in the semifinals despite having won his singles match, there were many positives to take away from the tournament. He was raring to go to the Australian Open with fewer expectations. He wasn’t even sure if he could go all the way.

When the Australian Open began, I had no expectations. I was taking it match by match; so was Roger I reckon. As the rounds progressed, so did he. His earlier round opponents were young kids who looked up to Roger, but they had an amazing bit of confidence; they played quite well, but Roger being Roger, he gave them a masterclass. Then came the deadlier rounds; I wasn’t too negative but I sure was scared. It was truly nerve wracking to think what would happen. Though my expectations were less, I was still hoping for the best. His third round could have been a 5 setter but it turned out to be great 3 setter against Berdych. He played a tough 5 setter 4th round against Nishikori. His quarterfinals were easier against young Zverev. He again played a 5 setter against Wawrinka, which was another heart-attack inducing match. But he won the match and reached his first final in over a year. I knew it was going to be Nadal against him which made me edgy. I had no clue how I was going to spend the next 2 days with all this anxiety.

On Sunday, 29th January 2017, finally the day had dawned; where Roger would face his arch-nemesis for a shot at another glory, another slam. I was a nervous wreck, couldn’t eat, couldn’t focus. Everyone was happy about a Federer-Nadal (FeDal) Final after a long time. But it was utterly annoying for me since it made me so nervous. Every time I looked at my Facebook or twitter, all I saw were the Fedal pictures. My heartbeats kept elevating as the time drew closer. And finally, at 2 PM, I saw Roger coming out onto the court; my heart was thumping loudly. I was watching with a friend and he tried to reassure me.

The first set was a breeze. Roger played very confidently and aggressively. But you can never count out Nadal and he always raises his game, much to my annoyance! He went onto win the second set; raising my anxiety levels higher. I was sitting in weird precarious positions in the fear of jinxing him. The third set was completely topsy-turvy; Roger raced past Nadal with a score of 6-1. My jaw dropped looking at this set. Suddenly I became more hopeful. Would he really win? Of course the heart had always said he would win. As the 4th set began, I had begun cheering louder. My friend’s cats kept looking at me as if I was crazy. But Roger lost this set and Nadal was back in the match. It reminded me of the glorious and heart-attack inducing 2007 and 2008 Wimbledon finals. I was very afraid and kept getting nervous again.

The fifth set began with Roger losing his serve. My heart sank. I didn’t give up but my anxiety levels were rising higher and higher, my heart was racing. He was 0-3 down. He took a Medical Time-Out suddenly which got me worried. I was constantly talking to my fellow Roger fans on our amazing whatsapp groups. We have had this ritual of chanting Roger’s name whenever he got in trouble, as if to send out positive energy for him. We began chanting, “Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger, Roger”… We kept typing this chant on the group. And it actually began working. Roger began winning more points, he began playing a little more aggressively and he got back on level. And then a couple of blurry points more, he was at championship point. He hit a winner which was in but Nadal challenged it. Everyone waited with bated breath, I think I was chanting as well as not breathing at all. And as the hawk-eye showed the ball trajectory, I was chanting, “in, in, in, in, in”… and it was IN! He did it! He won! I could not believe it! I jumped with my arms in the air and screamed so loudly that the cats began staring at me as if I was fit to be committed to an asylum! And then I had tears in my eyes. Watching Roger exult while tears in his eyes made me cry. And then he knelt on the court for a few seconds; while I was beyond happy.  My friend congratulated me. Poor guy was missing his Barcelona match, but I told him there was no changing of the stream until I saw Roger with the trophy in his hand.

js119163317_epa_tennis-australian-open-2017-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqqvzuuqpflyliwib6ntmjwfsvwez_ven7c6bhu2jjnt8

His backhand was on fire, he played so beautifully! It was a sheer pleasure to see him play the way he did. Ivan Ljubijic, his coach had told him, “Dont play the ball, play the opponent!” And that is what he did! It was just amazing to see him playing his opponent and his arch-nemesis. He was mesmerising, reminding us of the vintage Roger.

It was a long time coming. Roger had won his record 18th grand slam after almost 5 long years and he deserved every bit of it. He truly deserves this success. We were all celebrating in the group, texting like mad. Our chants worked! And we were so beyond happy!

960x016473198_10154995931443615_8294961760994953490_n

After the match, I saw videos of how his team reacted after the win, how his coach Ivan teared up while waving his arms in the air, how they hugged each other and how Mirka, Roger’s wife hugged him and kissed him inside the stadium. She truly is inspiring, as Roger said, she was with him when he had 0 titles, and 89 titles later, she is still with him, supporting him and loving him. It just melts my heart. He even said later that his twin boys kept their toys inside the trophy and the twin girls cleaned it. It was really beautiful to read these details.

03ba8061-ab6a-4e15-9855-7bac85e1bb22.jpg.png

With this win, I believe that good things do come to us if we wait patiently and keep working towards our goals. We may have to wait a little, or even a lot, but if bad times have come upon us, so will the good times. Such is life; the cycle of joys and sorrows keeps spinning. As Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving forward”. That is what Roger did and that is what made him win. He did not give up. He wants to play because it is his passion, being out there on the court and playing is what he wants to do. Its what makes him truly happy. And he worked towards his goals and came back on his own terms. He hiked in Switzerland and he trained so hard. All that hard work and his decision to take a break truly paid off.

Roger has cast such a deep spell on us.. He is a wizard! we always want the best for him. We cry with him, we laugh with him, we all literally worship the ground he walks on.. and he just keeps raising that love higher and higher! My love for him will never diminish. His balletic play is as melodious as a symphony and as captivating as an artist painting his masterpiece. He enchants us with his magical and artistic moves. He is the pied piper and we are the mice that have been entranced by him and we follow every tune of his. He always makes his fans happy and he truly is one in a gazillion. He is an epitome of a perfect sportsman and he is a true gentleman. I had missed him so badly, he is an integral part of my life. He inspires me. I wish he plays as long as he is comfortable and he stays healthy and fit and wins a few more along the way. His ranking may fluctuate but taking it easy and winning with a bang is so much more appealing.

People keep harping on about his age and his mental blocks and his capacity to win more; there were articles that said he would never win another slam. BUT HE DID! He won his 18th slam and completely bamboozled his naysayers. Sure he is 35 years old, sure he came back with an injury, but as the evidence suggests, he is mentally and physically fit to beat anyone on the tour, young or old. Age has nothing to with our dreams, we can achieve anything that we want, regardless of age; as long as we have the willingness and the passion to keep rising up after every fall. I am truly proud of Roger to have shown everyone that he cannot be written off in any case.

Bel19ve!

Meeting Lord Jeffery Archer

It turned out to be quite an enchanting day! I met Lord Jeffery Archer, one of my favorite authors and it was fascinating. I have been a fan of his since a long time; I got introduced to his books when I read the book called, “The Sons of Fortune”, which was such an amazing book that I haven’t yet forgotten the story. Kane and Abel was another that got me hooked to his style of writing. His short stories are fantastic too, especially, “To Cut a Long Story Short”.

A week ago, Facebook alerted me to a meet & greet event with Lord Jeffery Archer at a mall near my workplace. This is why I love Facebook sometimes, it alerts me to all these cute events keeping in mind my wide variety of interests. I was overjoyed to see that I could make it, despite it being a weekday. These days my schedule is pretty heavy, but I was determined to attend this event. Who would miss a chance to meet up their favorite authors? I reached my office pretty early, requested my superior to let me leave at an earlier time than usual and finished all my work.

I reached the venue one hour in advance, but so many people had already gathered. The host kept us all entertained for an hour by asking questions about Lord Jeffery Archer and rewarding the people who answered correctly. I was standing right at the front since all the chairs had been occupied. I sought out the counter where they were selling his books. I bought his latest book, “This Was A Man”, the final book from the Clifton Chronicles series. I wanted to get it signed by him. I was carrying my favorite book, Sons of Fortune, but it looked too old, so I decided to get the new one signed.

After waiting patiently for more than an hour, Lord Jeffery Archer finally graced the stage in the midst of loud cheers and applause. It was a surreal moment, one of my favorite author was standing just a few feet away from me. He is an enchanting person and extremely witty. At the age of 76, he is globetrotting to promote his books. It is an amazing feat for someone who is in their 70s.

He regaled us with some funny anecdotes about his life. Like how when Kane & Abel had come out, he wasn’t popular in the United States and he had a few misses when trying to get his book on the best-seller list. Ultimately it was a radio talk show host who told him that it was the best book he had read in his life and that’s how it finally entered the best-seller list. He then spoke about his love for cricket and India and he said Indians gave him the best responses. Though he did talk about the crazy Bangalore traffic and he had some really witty comments about life in India.

The question and answer session was quite an interesting one; he revealed that he would love to be the Captain of the English cricket team, but he could neither bowl, nor bat nor field so he stuck to writing. On being asked how he dealt with the dreaded writer’s block, he responded by saying that he has been incredibly lucky to have never suffered from this disease. On being asked about how can people become authors, he said that you need two things to be a writer; talent and energy. You can write with talent and energy or even just energy without talent, but never without energy. And writing and storytelling are two very different things. I really loved what he said about writing. As an aspiring writer myself, where I question my own abilities so many times, I loved how practical his advice was.While talking about bouncing ideas for his novels, he gave a very funny spin to Jane Austen novels; he quipped that Jane writing in a small room in a small house in a small village wrote about 5 daughters trying to find husbands for themselves. Then she wrote about 4 sisters trying to find husbands for themselves and so on and so forth. Emma being the last one. This made us Austen fans laugh crazily. 
Once this session was over, the queue to get the book signed became a huge chain. The entire floor area of the mall was filled with people waiting to get their books signed. There was a girl behind me, who kept saying how so much waiting was bad for her and she didn’t even like the author. She was there just to get her boyfriend’s book signed. It’s really weird why her boyfriend couldn’t get it signed if he was such a big fan and why she would waste someone’s else chance of getting the sign quickly when she wasn’t interested at all. I guess some people show up to these events just to show off how intellectual they are on social media.

Finally when my turn came to get the book signed, I told him he is a brilliant author and I admire him a lot. I thanked him for the autograph and left happy that I got to meet him.He just signed his initials but it was just so unbelievable to have actually met him that it didn’t matter as much.

I wasn’t able to get a picture clicked with him because of the sheer amount of people still waiting and the lack of time; but I am happy I got to live the moment and I could see him so close to me, listen to him and convey my admiration to him.

Soul-Stirring Teenage Music Influences and Nostalgia

What is it about old songs? The songs that you listened to when you were a kid. Its just by happenstance that I stumbled on this song called Cloud Number 9 by Bryan Adams; which triggered a flurry of memories in me. All the Bryan Adams’ songs that I used to obsess about came to the fore.

Thankfully there are apps these days that come to your rescue. I immediately went on the “Gaana” app where I could listen to all his songs, one after the other. I hadn’t really listened to these songs in a long while, so when I did, my brain went into an over drive and recalled the lyrics of these songs; I could sing all of them word for word. Of course I am a horrible singer, so I kept singing in a very low voice; but it was amazing.

I remember I had received the results of my exam after I had heard Cloud Number 9 a couple of times. The song resonated with me as I was happy to have passed the exam despite the fear of failure. In those days I used to be a starry-eyed kid, I had crushes and Bryan Adams kept reinforcing that phase in me. And so did the Backstreet Boys.

My brother used to listen to Bon Jovi, The Doors and Pink Floyd; I listened to them but I did not have the maturity to understand them. I particularly began appreciating Pink Floyd right after my brother passed away. But I began to really understand the others much later. I was 16 by then and a couple of more years later I was exploring them further.

I have always had a very eclectic taste, I could listen to music from so many genres and eras since my childhood. Grace à my musically inclined family, I had been exposed to almost all the genres and eras of music. I could listen to anyone, from the Backstreet Boys to Pavarotti. The Backstreet Boys were my favorite boy band in my teenage years, along with Boyzone, Westlife and Take That. I was so obsessed with them, but I loved all other kinds of music too.

I am a 90s kid. The songs from the 80s and 90s are the most influential on me. The song called Take on Me by A-ha or any songs by the Cranberries and Mike + the Mechanics always make a huge impact on me. As I grew up, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Abba; all of them influenced me a lot.

They say that the music we listen to in our teenage years remain our favorite all our life. I reckon its because we tend to associate a lot of our feelings and emotions with the songs that we listen to at that age. As we are in that process of growing up, we often go through moments of confusion, chaos, bliss, fun, happiness and sorrow, and all these songs help us in traversing this unpredictable path, helping us in trying to understand the complex situations of life. We also forge our strongest friendships at that age and music cements that bonding. I think its a fact as I always feel happy when I come across the music I loved in my teenage years. Pink Floyd and Westlife were the two bands that got me through my brother’s death. David Guetta’s Titanium, with its very powerful lyrics and Sia’s haunting voice got me through a very tough time on the professional front. Or how Cloud Number 9 made my happiness extra special. Music generally makes me happy, but these old treasures give me a special feeling. So many times I get goosebumps, its amazing! The nostalgia makes the music more sweeter to the heart and the soul.

Music is a universal language, it has the power to build bridges between different people. It is a stress buster, a soul healer and something that permeates through generations. I love how it connects people across ages and backgrounds. And when we listen to the familiar words or notes, it just transports us back in time to make us think about those golden moments that hold such a special place in our heart.

Festivities Sans Materialism is the Need of the Hour

Disclaimer: This post in not to mock any religion or anyone’s faith, I am just expressing my opinions. Based on my experiences and what life has shown me so far, I don’t feel inclined to believe in religion or God. Though I don’t have anything against people who do have faith; live and let live is my philosophy. But some rituals (actually superstitions) are irrelevant today and there are a few things God wouldn’t have preached, like superiority over another religion or hatred towards people of different races or faiths. And I do have a problem with those particular rituals or ideologies.

The festive season is here. Navratri and Dusshera just went by. Diwali is around the corner and the preparations are in full swing. People are cooking up some delectable delicacies,  buying new clothes, electronics, new jewellery, firecrackers and so much more. This is a joyous period of time, bringing together families and friends.

Normally I don’t have a problem with any of it, but I always wonder when did materialism get associated with religion and that in turn got associated with our festivals? I understand buying electronics or even jewellery as this is the time for heavy discounts. But I don’t understand the taboo associated to it if a person does not buy these things. It’s not ok to judge people based on their buying habits.

Festivals are a time to cut through the differences and coming together and leaving them aside. This is the time to give, rather than show-off and indulge in pretense. How many people actually donate food and money to the needy? People make 1000 kg sweets to enter some kind of record books, but never actually give that food away to those who really need it. Or they waste milk by pouring it on stone idols. (scientifically speaking, the stone absorbs the liquid, so that makes it look like the idol is drinking it… Duhhh!!) How do we become so selfish and stupid to think fun can be had only when we think about ourselves?

I love Diwali, not because of any religious belief, but because it is the festival of lights. Lights symbolize hope, love and joy. That’s what this festival should be about. Not about how much gold people buy or how much they spend on firecrackers. Firecrackers are bad, for health, for our planet, for the animals who are scared to death because of the loud bombs. The poor things have nowhere to go and hide from all the noise. And the terminally ill, the heart patients and old people, they all have so many problems during Diwali. My brother when he was down with kidney failure, he used to have palpitations and breatjing problems because of all the fireworks. Nor is it about how many little light-bulb strings you light up; which is nothing but wastage of precious electricity. Its like whoever spends the most on firecrackers is the most religious person. Is it a race where you have to come first? In that case how do religion or God fit into the equation? Did God ask us to be so competitive with each other?

According to our traditions, Diwali was celebrated because Rama returned home after defeating Ravana. In those days, the firecrackers and light bulbs had not been invented. Did they not enjoy? I bet they enjoyed much more than any of us. They had nothing but love to share. And there was no materialism that ate away the true essence of the festivities. Why do we make so many mouth watering snacks and sweets? So that we could share all the amazing food with our loved ones and spend quality time with them.

My favorite part of Diwali is, making beautiful Rangoli right at the entrance of the house, to light up the beautiful earthen diyas, to put fresh flowers everywhere and to eat and share the goodies that my mom makes.We light up the Tiffany Lamps made by my parents (only for a few hours) and light up diyas all over the house. The simple earthen lamp lights and the decorations bring out that joyousness in me. Spending time with family and friends, eating all those delicious snacks and sweets, that’s what matters to me.

11215890_10207607775782308_3398003780727602549_n.jpg
Chakli and Chiwda, typical Diwali savory delicacies

12208644_10207630602472961_4130794362051302678_n
Diwali 2015: The entrance of my house; Rangoli and Diya decoration done by me.

1901849_10204760344798313_4218448072160161737_n
Our Tiffany Corner

They say that Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth enters all our homes, to bless us with wealth and prosperity. I have no problems with that idea. But can we really believe that spreading pollution and scaring all the animals and birds to death is going to please her? No it will not please her. What will please her is if she sees us doing something meaningful, like helping out the needy instead of wasting our money on harmful stuff. 

Most people haven’t read their scriptures carefully, all the scriptures of every religion have the same basic tenets. To live a clean and uncomplicated life and to love and respect others. I simply don’t believe that if God existed, he/she could teach hatred and intolerance. Or even having fun on others’ expense. On one hand, people preach God and religion, but on the other, they harbor poisonous thoughts and they spew venom on people they deem as inferior to them. Most of the times, the most religious people are also the most poisonous.

I was born on Diwali, that’s why my name is Sampada; it means prosperity and it is also one of the 1000 names given to Goddess Lakshmi. I was born right on what we call as Muhurat (The time when stars align and we can perform the Puja). Even though I don’t believe in God, I still join in all the rituals to keep my family happy. Their happiness matters more than my own beliefs. So for a few days, I put aside my beliefs and do everything I can to make them feel all festive. Though thankfully, my family does not believe in elaborate and irrelevant rituals. Our puja is simple and short.

Of course, I never ever burst crackers; primarily because I don’t want to contribute to the air and the noise pollution and child labor, and also because I miss my brother too much and I don’t feel like bursting crackers without him.

I just hope that people enjoy the festivities without harming the environment and doing something fruitful rather than believe in silly superstitions. Materialism should have no place, it is not something that enriches our lives. Those little moments with family and friends, that content feeling you get when you help someone less fortunate collectively brings out the joyousness; it will bring more peace within us.

May this Diwali enlighten the people with wisdom and bring contentment, prosperity and happiness in their lives.