“What did you do for lunch?” “Oh, I had a salad downstairs” “Oh, alone?!?!” “Erm…. yes.”

Why does our culture constantly place a taboo on being ‘alone’? I just don’t get why there is an instant look of pity that follows such a conversation…

Being alone helps me be with people better. I fully believe that is a pre-cursor to be comfortable in your own skin before you can be with someone else. But more importantly… people should be encouraged to spend time with themselves because it is fun. 🙂

I saw two pieces of change recently –

1. A cafe in Chinatown called ‘The Study’ that very thoughtfully left a book on each table and implicitly encouraging ‘loners’

2. This lovely quote from the Art of Loving

“Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.”
– Erich Fromm, Art of Loving

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I took a trip to Bali two weeks ago. I LOVED it! Bali is such a magical place… full of happy smiles, sun, sea and art.

There are many aspects to the island – there is dirty Kuta, hip Seminyak, beautiful Nusa Dua and cultural Ubud. So many contrasting personalities in one place.

However, after a few hours in Seminyak, I felt that the whole community just existed for the tourists and there was nothing really defining about the place.

Ubud had its own energy and its own purpose – people actually lived in the place to make a livelihood for themselves – they cultivated their paddy fields, they created art and dance and music and yoga… there was an air of assuredness from the place. I got the sense that Ubud would continue to exist long after Bali stopped being a tourist destination, that it had a higher purpose than just existing for others. I fell in love with the place and I am really looking forward to going back to live there for a extended period of time.

While customer service and tourism are probably considered worthy ideals for most of Bali, it didn’t feel too genuine to me. Bali is going to be a hot tourist destination only until some other place comes along, boasting a better selection of restaurants and beaches and an even higher level of service. I think a community needs something more meaningful and innate to sustain itself and attract others.

That led me to reflect on my own life. I am probably going to be a lot more interesting and attract a higher quality of work and people to me if I defined my ideals and lived up to them. Living just to please others seems like a waste of potential. “Tourists” will come and go but ultimately you need a higher goal for yourself and work towards that to be self-sustaining.

The Israel – Gaza Conflict

The situation at Israel / Gaza is so complicated and apart from feeling bad for the death of civilians reported in the news articles everyday, I didn’t really understand what the fight is about.

I spent an hour trying to comprehend the conflict today. I still don’t have a fully formed opinion on it but from what I can see, this centuries-old war is not ending anytime soon… 

Some facts:

– The conflict started right from the time of Moses… but really took off after the West (i.e. US and the British) intervened during WW1, WW2 and with the Zionist philosophy popularised. It has been sporadically continuing since (with increasing frequency), with peace talks between the two entities being a complete farce.

– There are no defined borders for Israel and Palestine – Israel keeps growing as it assumes control of Palestine

– Israel is the single largest benefactor of US aid and is using the money to kill hundreds of civilians at Gaza

– Hamas is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the West. The mission of Hamas is to obliterate Israel. Hamas receives a lot of funding from Iran.

– Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel killing hundreds of civilians. Israel blocks them using its state of the art Iron Dome technology.

Some useful articles and videos to understand what is happening:

Israel and Palestine: 

Hamas intro: 

The history behind the conflict: 

The Economist’s take on the issue:  

I broke my hand three weeks ago. It started out as a sprain, blew up into a hairline fracture and 3 X-Rays and 2 doctors later, I was (and still am) stuck with my left arm in a sling. It hasn’t been the best of times, these past few weeks… 

But time heals all wounds, especially fractures 🙂 and I now have some observations to share:

1. Don’t Rush

It all started because I was rushing to get from one place to another.

The golden rule used to be “don’t be late”, now I have changed to to “don’t rush”.

Don’t rush to catch the bus, don’t rush against a deadline, don’t rush to get your foot in the door and don’t get hassled. This is one mantra I am repeating to myself constantly: “Slow gait, nimble mind”.

2. Learning to ask for help

I had difficulties right from tying a ponytail to locking the door when I learnt how to live with just one useful hand. Asking for help for every single thing was definitely hard and a great humbling experience. I hated having to ask for help to open a door, to get a seat in a crowded train, to get dinner during the weekend, mainly because of all guilt trips by brain put me through. I’m still learning to ask and accept help graciously and cheerfully. If nothing else, it makes the help-giver feel better about themselves.

3. You can get used to anything

For the first few days of my arm being in a sling, I was downright miserable and constantly longed to stretch my hand. Now, it’s not so bad… I’ve learnt to work around it. This doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to having two fully functional hands, its just that I know I can live with myself without bringing the house down.

4. The whole world runs on cause and effect

This one deserves a blogpost in itself 🙂

If this isn’t “character building”, I don’t know what is! 

New-Age Fairy Tales

When I was growing up, I was a big sucker for fairy tales, and all the version I listened to or read always had a Prince Charming to save the lovely damsel in distress. There was hardly any variation in the ending… it was always a “and the beautiful princess lived happily ever after with her Prince Charming”. While that is not a bad ending, I think it just enforced the gender stereotypes on us since we were little girls. I can still see the same thing happening with my young 6 year old cousin. She demands Barbies for her birthdays (as I did), loves to dress up, and playing House is a favourite activity. And of course fairy tales with Prince Charming saving the day is a great favourite.

I catch all of the Disney fairy tales at the theatre as watching them leaves me all warm and fuzzy. I’m happy to note that the recent trend of movies have been very heart-warming and different! Love still saves the day and of course there is a happy ending… but the “True Love” is reflective of all kinds of love and not just that of Prince Charming. The princesses also look more human and imperfect and less Barbie-like.

First there was Brave – a lovely movie about a spirited girl who fights for her own hand in marriage and learns to accept and love her mother for who she is. Then came Frozen – another awesome movie on sisterly love, and one that I related to very well. The latest once was Maleficent – a movie on Sleeping Beauty being woken up by the true love of a mother, and not some random prince who looks at her for the first time. 

I think it is very important to not create the gender stereotypes right from a young age, when minds are so impressionable… and the new-age fairy tales are a step in the right direction. I hope my cousin (and other little girls) get to watch these movies and grow up to be strong and secure about themselves. 

On Vulnerability

I watched this TED talk yesterday and really loved it. 

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability#t-840284

My big takeaway from the talk was this: 

We often try to numb the feeling of vulnerability, since it is associated with negative feelings (insecurity, shame, fear). But by numbing vulnerability, we also numb joy, creativity and the ability to love.

Enjoy feeling uncomfortable. You can go up or down only after you step out the door…

All’s right with the world.