Can We Touch Void?

tumblr_np0z0gwNpp1qbv0vko1_400Something I had read on the subway, somewhere between my daily journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan, some time in the constant changes of my self-transition.

The thought lingered with me  enough for me to note it down in my phone, and transfer it over into my notebook. My mind takes me back to it time and again, and yet I don’t think I have fully understood its essence.

Yet today, I thought of it for a different reason. As I was watching Dan Barber speak in an episode of Chef’s Table, he said something that is, on many levels, so profoundly true, “Isn’t our life one attempt to fill a void after another?”

A world renowned chef, whose life is exemplary of cultivating passion for more knowledge, more perfection, his story started like many great others’, with a tragedy, the death of his mother at the age of 4. A void that was left then, he continues to try and fill today. Can it really be done? I guess we will never know. His one true passion was born amidst this void, a young boy cooking for himself to satisfy his hunger in the absence of his mother, today he is a chef, not just satisfying people’s hunger, but also changing the entire culture around how we should be consuming food.

I thought several times while watching this episode (especially when he spoke so ardently about bread) – why am I not so passionate about something so specific? Why don’t I have some niche of passion that was inculcated from an early age? That’s when I realized, it’s not about how specific your passion is, but about truly having one.

And for me, it all comes down to stories.

I’ve been fascinated by a good story from as early as my memory serves me. So powerful, so real. From the fiction of Harry Potter to the literature of Shakespeare, the words that captivated me then, have me spellbound even today. Somewhere along, this passion for good stories, gave birth to my own creation, my writing.

Today, after many versions of this story itself, I have found a niche in my own writing – experience. Because isn’t that the only thing that lets you feel the life you live?

Eating food is an act, tasting the flavor is experiencing it, that is what you remember. And somewhere in giving you that little taste of life, is a chef’s story – that right there, is my passion, telling it.

Maybe that’s the way I fill my own life’s void – yes that’s how it all started. In stories I found a place of belonging, in writing, I felt being understood – by myself and all of those who will read this and understand what I try to convey through my words. But more importantly, you will feel the experience of a connection, of my words and your thoughts, of my anecdote in your story. That’s what life is, right? A series of anecdotes – some your own, some borrowed, some shared, all woven together in one story.

So yes, we may not be able to touch void, but we certainly have the ability to touch lives. Because as different as we are, we are still the same – diverse in experiences, yet united in the story of mankind.

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Do We Have No Choice?

screen696x696This week’s New Yorker hosts a compelling read by journalist, Ben Taub, titled We Have No Choice. It is a story of young Nigerian girl, Blessing, and her journey from Benin City to Europe. The article covers so many topics. or should I say inhuman situations – human trafficking, prostitution, refugee conditions, smuggling, violence, blackmail – , those which need to be addressed, those on which no matter how much light is shed, isn’t enough.

Ben’s effort to communicate the story in all authenticity comes across immediately. It breaks off into different facets that are essentially a part of the migrant’s journey to escape the stagnant, poverty stricken conditions of a place which is home, onto “promised greener pastures”.

The naivety of the people living in these situations, it makes me believe, these are people untouched by the so called progress of the world, the leaps in technology and education, the politics and diplomacy. So then, when a broker tells the young Blessing that he can get her a job oversees so she can support her poor hard working mother and siblings, to her, the choice is simple. Of course she trusts him, that’s an innate human quality – you are taught to be wary, you are born to trust.

In a land where food and water is scarce, education cannot even be a topic of contention. Does that make it ok to exploit these simple minded humans? When did we start making such choices, rather why?

Dialogues exchanged between the reporter and smugglers, “Why can’t we live? What do you want us to do? How are we to eat?!”, provoke a thought to the origin of these people’e profession. When it comes to survival, you really end up having no choice. And yet somehow my heart goes to them, these people who are just trying to live, because isn’t that the most basic human right – of life?

This article belongs to the recent present, you see hints of the regular world, with the references to WhatsApp texts and automatic gates, that amaze these young girls, the same ones who have fought to see the light of the day – which in contrast is more amazing?

Here we are, most people of the world, sitting in the comforts of our homes, too busy with life and technology and social media, too busy to think about the other side, of people and places which very much exist in our very environment, that cannot, correction, should not be classified as belonging to the same planet, same age of humanity.

It is said we are living in a digital age, with options too many, choices a few many more. We make a choice every breathing moment, about how we live, work, eat, sleep, of people we like, dislike, or matters we deem important, or not. We make a choice to do good, or not. We make a choice to be good, or not. We make a choice to empathize, or not. We make a choice to be human, or not.

Yes we all have a choice. It’s time we stop acting like we have none. Because there are people out there, far too many, who really don’t, and yet they fight to survive, they hope to not only live, but live better, to not only believe in good despite all evidence pointing otherwise, but be good.

You don’t have to be ashamed of your privileges, nor guilty, but simply remember, that in each moment that you face a choice, be sure to make the worthy one – because you can, you have the privilege to.

Who Do You Want To Be?

A top pick from one of the most frequently asked questions, I’m going to say from age 3, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”

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The difference between who you are, and who you want to be, is what you do.

What’s wrong with who I am? Simple, yet unsaid.

A lot of questions raced through my mind while listening to Shane Koyczan’s TED talk  – a plea for more acceptance, more courage, more oneness. One thing he said, struck a cord with me, something I’m sure not a lot of us have thought of. We all talk about the negative connotations or labels, we as people get throughout our lives – skinny stick, stupid, naive, shameless, impractical, unrealistic, some of the many of which only I have earned; but have we ever thought about the fact that not only us, but our dreams too get labelled – stupid, unrealistic, impractical among the many responses to the answers of the very question that we are asked again and again, “Who do you want to be?”

Writing. The essence of me, my purpose, it’s not something I’ve taken to just recently – it’s something that has been a part of me from my very early days. Writing essays and descriptive POVs on Shakespeare, decoding poetry through my own words, these are my most cherished memories from school. I was lucky enough to be nurtured into a larger love for the English language, not only by my school teachers, who recognized my love for words and stories, but also my grandmother, who was the epitome of literature and storytelling in my life. I started believing my worth in words, when my school teacher, Mrs Joshi, started reading out my essays in class, to a time when she even had our Principal, Mrs Matthew, take some time to read a couple of them. And so, from then my love for words turned into a full bloomed romance, a saga I live through even today.

But if you asked me then who do you want to be? A writer, would have been a misplaced thought. And yet, I did just exactly that – write. My poems, my essays, my excerpts, all to myself, till one day I decided to become a part of a non-profit foundation, one that sponsored education for girls whose families couldn’t afford to support them, whose background was filled with hardships yet determination. Their experiences were so real, so inspiring, they couldn’t be left untold. So, I began to tell them – their lives, my words, and more stories.

Many years, many dreams later, and after many versions of me, today, I am a writer. I wish I could say this was a journey of my determination, where I persisted and persevered to prove others wrong, to prove that becoming a writer is a realistic dream, that it’s real, that I know in my heart this is who I want to be. Unfortunately not.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It took me many roads to explore who I want to be. It took me until recently to realize and own the writer in me. It took me enormous amounts of self-awareness and dedication to act like one. In all of this, what did help me is, I never stopped writing. Today I live in the world of data, information design, and visualization, marketing for the most part – it’s what I came to New York to become, a marketeer, a storyteller.

Somewhere along that journey, a great many conversations after, bundled with self – awareness and purpose, I still believe in the power of a good story, and all I want to do, is tell it.

Today, I look for stories –  in numbers, in people, and in experiences, day or night that’s what I look to do – tell the story. So here I am, marketer by day, writer by everything else, but above all, a storyteller.

Here’s my medium, and my writing, a million stories to explore, and many more ideas to translate, execute.

The reason – it’s who I want to be – a conduit for sharing stories and experiences, building connections. This is what drives me, makes me.

Although I may not have known how to get here, although this may not even be the final destination, I want you to know that in your story, it’s never the end until you say it is. And you know why? Because you are the storyteller and it is your story. You design it.

Don’t look for answers to people’s questions, look for questions that drive you, reasons that shape you.
Because if you have a dream, a real passion for something, you will find the answers;
because the how is rarely as significant as the why;
and because, if you have a why you will always most definitely find a how.

 

 

 

Just An Ordinary Instant

joan didionIt’s the little things you know, the ones you tend to take for granted, the ones that are so innately a part of your routine, of you, you tend to forget just those, just why they are, so routine, such an integral part of routine.

A conversation about grad school took me back to last year, to those days that played, that still play such a crucial role in my own journey. I was trying to remember, what it was like, that routine. How vividly do I remember it? Barely. But that feeling, that experience, ask me about it anytime and I can talk at length.

What I do remember distinctly are all those final presentations, when it all came together, all we had worked for, sometimes collectively, other times all alone. For me it meant so much because it was just so real, every pitch made, every case read, every question asked, every insight found. After a long time this world, which I think of as stories, had ignited a spark within me, reconnected me with a passion that is my most defining quality.

I carry it with me today, ever growing, as I grow, a part of me, in my new routine. I’ve started to immerse myself so fully in my day that I’m not able to tell beginning apart from end. Right or wrong, it’s what I need, for now. If you want to do something, go all in. Right?

Most definitely.

You may have a thousand questions along the way, maybe a million doubts. But if you have that one thought, the why, your why, the one that makes you feel happy, or more so, at peace, in the end, that’s all you need.

Take it from me, someone who is constantly questioning her purpose, her calling – the answer to this always comes from your most routine days, you simply have to pay attention.

A data analyst by day, writer by everything else, I found my answer somewhere in between my connection of the two – of insight, an insight, to explore, design, and connect experience in its truest form. As the saying goes, one may forget what you said, but one will never forget how you made them feel.

So go feel, really feel each moment, soak up this thing that you live, life, because that’s when it is happening, just in every ordinary instant.

A Missed Flight

So I missed my flight. A first.IMG_1375

Running across the line for security, down the escalator towards that god forsaken gate B35 (of course it had to be right under, way down to the left), I felt the ache in my feet, the shortness in my breath – “Give up”, “Yeah you’d like that, right?”

I dragged myself to that gate, almost tripping over my half worn shoes, stumbling to the counter, “I’m on that flight! Please!”

“Ma’am, are you going to Amsterdam?”

Oh man! Was at at the wrong gate? Wrong terminal? Had I not checked, and rechecked these details? I confirmed the gate number only to realize the flight had already taken off. 6:26 PM. Just a minute over. That should teach me a lesson.

Truth is, I could’ve left earlier. Did I have to run that report then? Probably not. But did I need to know the answer to if I could – hell yes!

So here I am, at the bourgeois airport restaurant – a sandwich, a Coke, my laptop – what more do I need?

Now I’m thinking, why am I so happy to miss this flight? As excited as I am to meet my sister in SF, celebrate her big day, sitting here, simply gazing at all these flights against the clear twilight sky, doing the things I love the most – this is happiness.

I’ve recently found the same joy in design, as I find in my writing. Design in numbers. That’s me now, designing numbers. And I plan to own it.

It’s been a busy week, a week of change. This weekend, a whirlpool of excitement.
So really, this extra hour at the airport, it’s exactly what I needed – to think, reflect, catch up with myself.

Even a year ago, I could never have had this perspective – so positive, grateful – which now sets the tone for my life. I find positivity coming most naturally to me, gratitude, even more so. Because really what is the point in anything? Like all things, what begins must end, what’s remaining in between is this thing we often forget to live – life.

Every new experience is worth living, worth remembering. We never really lose, only learn. And me? I want to be a student for life!

 

 

Do You Have The Right Brain?

Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 9.56.04 PMHow are we as humans different than things?

To compare, who wants a broken brain any more than they want a broken thing?
Ever thought that the two things that differentiate the living from the non-living, is the ability to think and feel. Then within this living, what makes us humans superior?

The cognitive ability of reason.

I wouldn’t even go as far as saying empathy, because we can all agree animals are capable of expressing empathy, sometimes far better than us, humans.

So then, when the only thing we, the human race, have, originates from the power of the brain, we only want the right kind.

No risks, no outliers, nothing left.

But who’s to say our very ability of cognitive reasoning, of decision, doesn’t deceive us from real value, meaning, in life, of life? Who’s to decide the broken brain has none? Who’s to say we can even decide anything, if in fact, we cannot even reason to decide this.

 So much for the right brain, right?

My Worst Enemy

Myself.

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I think I’m constantly in a state of adjustment – Patti Smith

Yes. It is true.

Before I even begin, let me tell you that this is not going to be a post about self pity or praise, nor one where I pour my heart out about my past to find answers for my present;  if there is one thing I’ve learnt, it’s this – there is no place for excuses.

This last year has been the best year of my life, I mean it. It certainly wasn’t the easiest, but that’s probably why it was the best. For the first time I was betting on myself, well actually I went ALL IN – totally unchartered territory. My number 1 goal, was to become more self aware – embrace that vulnerability that I ran so far away from, face the truth about my own strengths and weaknesses, be honest with myself about who I had told myself I was, and who I really was, and most importantly be brave enough to accept it, live it. Because truth is, I was, I am so much more.

Even though this journey is painful and just starting, I’ve come a long way – to some effect, finding my own self, my most authentic form. No, I’ve not overcome my weaknesses, I’ve just stopped focussing on them.

Then why do I say I’m my own worst enemy?  Because for anyone else to take that place, I’ll actually have to give them that power. And you know what? I’ve decided that my life’s too valuable to give someone else so much power over it. 1 life – that’s all we get.

I’ve recently began reading When Breathe Become Air, by Paul Kalanithi – a memoir of his life battling his illness, and his race against time, which turned into a journey. A must read for reasons more than one. The way I took to it was because I’ve been dealing with a fair bit of uncertainty in my own life, running my own race – to compensate for a time I let go by, for decisions I took then, for things I want to learn, achieve now.

It’s been a pattern in my life, I’ve always had to work really hard to prove myself. Somewhere along, this has taken the shape of self-doubt, my biggest enemy. Just recently, I was a victim to it once more – allowing an external judgment to overrule my own sincere effort. Only this time I realized – I actually don’t have a real reason to complain, about anything. I’m living a healthy life, in one of the best cities in the world, I have a family who loves me beyond measures, I have my own people to be so grateful for, and I have my passion, my drive, who nothing nor no one can take away from me.

So, I have to stop focussing on dumb shit. This very realization, is what I want to share with you all – we spend too much time focussing on the negatives, on our weaknesses, on what others think, giving all of this so much power over your life, ultimately which you have to lead, not just live.

So here I am, doing the thing I enjoy the most – sharing experiences – because I sure as hell know I’m not the only one.

No I won’t let the world choose my destiny, I will construct it.
No I won’t wait for life to hand me what I “deserve”, I will put in the work to achieve it.
No I won’t let titles, job descriptions, opportunities create my work, I will create them for it.
No I won’t let others’ opinions define me, I will build my self awareness for that.
No I won’t let a NO stop me, I will find my own YES.
No I won’t live in my past inhibitions, I will embrace the future with optimism.
No I won’t be my worst enemy, I will be my own best strength, best self.

This thought is so close to me, I was almost caught up in it being translated perfectly. But then I realized, the how is never as important as the why.

I sincerely hope, that even if just one other person stumbles upon this thought, realize – your life is yours to make, there is nothing you can’t do, if you put your heart, sweat, blood, and soul to it. It always just comes down to just this one question – how badly do you really want it?

A Writer’s Traces

An empty liquor bottle, a couple of lighters, and then there was the pencil; all abandoned on the train track; a story.

img_1293Traces of a writer, you know the kind who writes to be inspired.
Such species, they search for larger meaning in worldly things; who take things personally, feel extreme joy and dejection as a direct effect of emotions around them.

They are frequently accompanied by ideas and thoughts, but also alcohol and cigarettes; almost because those are the only things that seem to tolerate their idealism; or then, the only things that will help mask the lack the of it in the world.

You’ll always see them carry a notebook and a pen; ready for when inspiration strikes, and words pour out like liquor from a decanter, filling not only the void in their mind, but also the chalice of stories, the kinds that people will read even a hundred years later and yet, relive that moment like it is now, present.

These are the traces I want to leave behind, some notebooks, a pencil, and a collection of stories, of life and love and meaning and more; the ones that will find a place in the life of someone, who just like me, is never satisfied with what is, and yearns for what can be; can be done.

My Last Day in India

February 3, 2016

screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-7-10-31-pmIt had been my second winter break since I moved to New York. As excited as I was to go back the first time, I was that much more apprehensive the second time around. A lot had changed. I, myself, was in a transition, just about stumbling upon my own sense of self. But more importantly, that feeling of going home, that no longer existed. In fact that had changed to a feeling of going away from home.  I’d like to think that New York made its toughest case for me to change my mind, but that right there was the crux of it all.

In hindsight, it was the fear of familiar calling that I was afraid of – not that I was a changed person in a changed time, but the thought that maybe I wasn’t changed enough.

Along the course of that one month that I spent there, I came vis-à-vis with a lot of those familiar situations, the ones that I’d once mistaken to be my way of life.

“There is just no drive in this place. So easy to slip back into old ways, those that await with open arms, enticing you with deceptive feelings. I have to be better this time.” – 12/22/2015

For the most part I did well. And then there were times when I questioned it all. And then it dawned on me – no matter how badly I wanted to stay attached to this place, this scene, truth was that I had moved on.

“Be attached. But be detached from the effect of that attachment.” – as told to me by a very wise friend

The decision to move away from home, was mine. I felt the need to get out of my comfort zone, a place which like quicksand had been fast dragging me further and further away from my identity. The fault – my weak mind, my lack of self awareness.

Today, those are the two things precisely that I pride myself with, ever growing.

It wasn’t until the last day that I could completely accept this. Relief – that’s what I felt, and I knew, it was time to go home.

I’d like to end this post with the thought that made me write this today in the first place – a conversation with an Indian women at the Frankfurt airport, as we both waited there to fly back home.

I’m not sure how, but somehow our small talk evolved into something so precisely what I needed to hear, that has stayed with me, always will.

She said to me, “You’re still young, impressionable. Surround yourself in an environment which augments your passions, your drive. I used to think emotionally about my roots too, but now I know, your roots are firmly planted within you, you carry those values with you lifelong. I brought up my children in a completely foreign environment, one that has supported their ambitions, and never taken away from their culture. The earlier on that you accept where you truly assimilate, the better it will be for you to embrace your life. The trick is to know yourself, and trust yourself.

This was the very thought that made me think of this conversation. I’ve come a long way since then, a mind stronger and more self aware. I know I have a long long way ahead, but wherever it may be that life may take me, I know I am ready, I know I have a purpose, and it’s not the place will matter, but the people that I surround myself with. Those will be the experiences that construe my story, along with many others.

Going Gonzo

Unabridged. Unadulterated. Unbridled.gogonzo

Lately, I’m seeing a pattern in my life, where I stumble upon things that are perfectly aligned with my thoughts, only to augment my vision, enrich my perspective.

They say as soon as you start owning your own, initiate that first intent toward your goal, the universe actualizes every effort to align with you. I say it’s not the universe, it’s you.

The more I think about who I want to be, the more it provokes me to think about where I come from. The clarity of having my eye on the North Star, that has been a journey through the clouds and fogs of real experience.

Experience. That’s where it all began.

It was the search for meaningful connections that drew me to express through my words, the curiosity to explore the realm of the human mind which manifested through culture, behavior. Even as a child what excited me most about family holidays was the opportunity to live someone else’s life, for that brief period, be someone else, experience life as they know it. And as much as I liked to live in hotels, I secretly enjoyed it more when we stayed with the locals. I wanted to know everything about their way of life, I would want to eat what they did, wear what they did, go where they did. In hindsight, I now realize that’s where I started to draw from experiences, make sense of them, of people and their origin, and how that played a role in my life. Some of my most defining memories were born through others’ stories, that have stayed as vivid experiences with me even today.

The hotel concierge in Singapore, Linda – her poise, her warmth, the fuzzy family kind of feeling she exuded. I was just a child then, and yet I remember that as though it was yesterday. Her ability to make you feel that way – that has stayed with me.

Today, in the present as is, I continue to draw from such experiences, not from the facts of it, but from the feels of it. And you know what? Today I am a medium of experience, for others, our stories entwined, connected in feeling. This is what defines me, my effort, my mission – to build experiences, connect people, stories, to stumble upon.

Check out Junior Strategy – that’s where I drew this experience, and much more – from Yulia Yushchik and her POV on Going Gonzo.