Must have been love

obelix in love
Image courtesy google.

Rushing through to catch the flight she realized was early, and sat down for the much needed cup of coffee, the man before her definitely a has been, fifty going on fifteen. Something very familiar about him.  He looked up at her, there seem to be an anticipation of recognition.

“Aren’t you, Jojo’s sister?”

“yes,” the voice the face they were familiar like a fading echo, at 50 she had got used being called her professional designation, and madam, “jojo’s sister heavens !!” she thought she had overcome it years ago.

“Okay you don’t recognize me,”



Ozzie..Oswald Machado the youngest of the Machado brothers the only one who did not invoke a deep crush and puppy eyes. Maybe because he was the youngest, maybe because he was so every day, we met him at school, at the classroom, at the playground. He was the fall guy we handed to the teachers; he was guy who copied our homework.

“You know Olli don’t you” of she knew Oliver  the lead singer in the band, every matchmaking mama shook her head in despair, he was spending too much time with Seema Andrade, and  rehearsals than his studies he was already two grades lower than his peers, but Oliver brought home the laurel’s from every cultural meet.  Looking at him, she thought,”uh! Teenage crushes, it’s like flu, you find a remedy for it, and it lasts for a couple of days. If you don’t then it still lasts for a couple of days.”

Funny she thought there is always that one guy who gets a hold on you. Not like your best friend’s bother who gets you in a headlock the kind of hold. Or the little kid you’re busy babysitting who attaches himself to your leg kind of hold.  She was thinking epic here, life changing, the can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t do homework, can’t stop giggling, can’t remember anything but his smile kind of hold. Like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr.Darcy … like the song one sang into the hairbrush-microphone in the hostel on top of your lung with your roommates on a Saturday night… oh! Yes, the eighties chart busters, the songs that Olli and Seema sang, only we thought it was us instead of Seema, the Eternal Flame’s the Must Have Been Love’s and the Take My Breath Away’s.

indispireFunny she thought, if one looked up the dictionary, for the meaning of the word crush, it says, to break into powder or very small pieces by pressing, pounding, or grinding it. It could also be press or squeeze something so hard that it breaks or loses its share. That’s what happens with a crush, one literally saw stars, and every ragged breathe one took felt like one was trying to breathe through the broken glass. There is something about first love that defies duplication. Before it the heart is blank, unwritten, afterwards the walls are left inscribed and graffitied. When it ends no amount of scrubbing will purge the scrawled oaths and sketched images. But sooner or later one finds that there’s space for someone else, between the words and in the margin.

Th’ an’ broken pencil

wowWriter..Coffee…broken pencil.

Ashit looked around, he could see the coffee dispensing machine, the broken pencils in the recycle bin, the writer though was missing.

Ashit knew this smell a familiar smell of moving on. The guest would move on, leaving stale memories of them behind. As a house keeper Ashit had seen many of them, they were all in the same format… writer…coffee… broken pencils. Nobody would believe that they all wrote about different stuff strange isn’t it.

He had learnt all what he had to learn about people from grandpa, grandpa had taught him well, about people those who loved to get dirty and fix things. They were the ones who drank coffee at dawn, beer after work, and then there those who stayed clean just appreciating things. At breakfast they would have juice and drink a glass of milk before bed. Finally there were guests who did both, were the kinds who drank tea.

He remembered the writer Amitav, who was there to write his book on the seedy side of life in a tourist town. That day Amitav’s lady friend was telling him

There was something about the flat on top his mother let out; it seemed to attract a lot of people. Ashit thought of his mother, she was a single parent, one of those rare women of her generation who chose to like the bohemian way.  In the early days at Chennai where he was born, the sniggers and smirks embarrassed him. Then they had moved to Pondi, the township had accepted his mother and him with no questions. His aunt had visited them. It was the first time he saw another side of his mother,

“What do you want,” she had asked glaring at her sister,

“Just coffee… you know black my like soul” his aunt had replied. It was as if something had dissolved. ‘Ashi, I need a refuge, I need some gossip too, to get my book complete. I am dried’ his aunt and declared.

Very softly his mother had replied,”Go sip on gossip and the coffee talk for me to chug.”

His aunt had looked up with askance, and his mother smiled rather kindly, “its okay, I’ll be in the kitchen giggling like a school girl if you need me.”

When Ashit had to make a career choice, he decided that people spent years and money studying to be doctors, lawyers, actors, dancers, business executives and scientists – when one became an author, you could be any of these things and you didn’t need a degree or certificate all you need is an imagination, a dream and an open mind. That’s when he started the writer’s lair. A quiet haven for writers that over looked the sea, a small garden, his cottage had an extensive library. In addition to the guest card to the public library. He had put in Wi-Fi, and of course connected with publishing houses. Who would rent his place out for their writers?

It brought Ashit his steady income, and the intellectual interaction, it gave him his space and time to write. The writer’s haven came up because his mother and he had thought a writer is a writer not because she wrote well and easily, because she has amazing talent because everything she does is golden. But a writer to them was a writer because even when there is no hope, even nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.

Writing days had to be protected with ruthlessness. the last guest had moved on, and Ashit picked  up the pencil, the only epithet he had for it was…

Free from ivory-tower
the pencil twirls
across the footpath”
― Santosh Kalwar

Telling a story that empowers.

The Banni tree
The speaking tree

I met my friend Malavika after a long while. For the past 10yrs, I have been hearing the same story, how, her partner took advantage of her at work, her husband was loving yet detached, financial challenges, tension with sibling.  Coming to think of this most of us are dealing with similar issues not that she is unique, but what struck was the reinforcement that was occurring that was playing out her story.

We all have stories to say, but quite a few of us are stuck in a story and it becomes our reigning drama. When we are stuck in one drama maybe it is time to look at the story we are creating, and rewriting it to a more empowered storytelling. After all, each of us have our own life story it is filled with relationships and events, that help us shape who we are and what we believe to be true about the world. Depending on our perceptions and willingness to grow. Our experiences can feed negativity and patterns of playing victim or it fuel a life of empowerment and continue self development. It is the story we tell ourselves about what happens that makes all the difference.

Let’s take a moment and look at the story we have been creating for ourselves on an ongoing basis.  If we are feeling empowered, peaceful and have confidence to handle things, then we have been framing circumstances in a manner that serves us well. On the other hand if we have a lot of resentment and guilt and feel that life is pulling us down we need to retell stories of past and present events from another point of view. No matter who the characters of our stories are or what they have done we are the only ones who can define the role we play in our lives. Taking responsibility for our story allows us to learn, grow forgive and find compassion. Most importantly it allows us to move on to a better future.

When we understand, that what we are telling is just a story, it is not happening anymore, it just a string of words, we can just crumble and throw our past in a trash can, then we could figure who we are going to be.

We can pick a story that empowers us, it could be the proof our own resilience and creativity.  This generosity also allows learning what we need to know.

Bringing her story to you…

sheroes 1Above all be the heroine of your life not the victim—Nora Ephron

The past week, I have been living the aftermath of the Shero summit, seeing remarkable women, achieving remarkable things facing remarkable challenges. If the hero of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s cycle has to break his own comfort zone, the Shero’s challenges are not only her own comfort zone, it is also breaking the prototype and the unwritten rules of the society that she must deal with.

One remarkable Shero that I met was Shraddha Sharma, her profile said she was from Bihar, now immediate thought was oh! No not one more of the North Indian young upstart. But her story could be any girl in India of any generation. I thought generations are more generous but not really.

Shraddha sharma
Shraddha sharma

She remembered trying to achieve and being told to stay in her place.  And pray what is her place, until she is married it is decided by her socio-economic background, and believe me the middle class girls pull the short straw.

After that it her status seems to freeze on being Mrs.XYZ.  Yes even to the day, unwritten rules like,

  1. Wife tends the hearth.
  2. Wife does not earn more than the husband
  3. Wife is not more qualified than husband.

We also have a prototype for the woman who succeeds, girls who are to do well in careers, have to turn into men, I mean if no make up and androgynous clothes are choices without compulsion then  its fine, but girls who do bother to look like men are automatically labelled less, brainy, less geared to hard work and their achievement always seems to be an accident.

yourstory (4)More important we have a prototype for success, you have to have the right parents, go to the right school then join the IIT/IIM  fraternity go to the US  marry the boy from your backyard chosen by your parents that is your moment of crowning glory.

Basically like Shraddha Sharma shared through her journey most of us go through these question

  • Do I belong to the fraternity that I have stumbled into—so we go just that little step more to belong.
  • Do I deserve the success I have – so we go just that extra step to prove to ourselves and the world that we belong.

Shraddha Sharma, Tanvi Dubey  and your charming intern(apologies I forgot her name.)of thanks for documenting the journey of so many women.

yourstory (1)Saluting the Sheroes—

Tanvi Dubey   Yourstory media

Deepa Govind  homepreneur

Anu Krishna   Head Business Development

Sweta Shahi   Scrum Master      

Minal chatterjee   Freelance Communication Consultant.

Tavleen Mehendiratta         founder   

My story is slowly killing me.

xammi tarot readerMy story – dying slowly

In the burns ward the more terminally ill ones would be heavily medicated. They would be in and out of lucidity voicing their inner truest stories. In absolute honesty they would spew out their frustration, anger, and resentment about their jobs, their immediate family  sometimes it is very painful for the immediate family to continue care giving. This is actually the story that they have built around themselves over the years.

We hear of great healthcare personals who suddenly fall ill, well that is the story they tell themselves, and put their own health on the back burner.

Death creeps inslowly, due to anger,frustration collected by running from one achievement to the other that are visible and displayable, each subsequent achievement supersizing the other. Forgetting other things in life.

If we were to write our lifestory, giving ourselves points from 0-5 on different areas of our lives like family, healthcare, fun, career, finance, physical, spiritual it would be very interesting what our honest stories are.

At our workshop which is a 12 weeks recovery group, most stories seem to focus on failures, and pin a cause for the failure

  • Addiction to phone call—translates not listening to one’s inner self
  • Lack of trust

these stories give rise to the fundamental theme that drives the story

  • It is a comepetitive cut throat world
  • If I won’t do it someone else will and he/she will get ahead of me in life.
  • At we have a roof on our heads and food to fill our stomes.
  • I don’t get family time during the week.
  • These facts of life and I should face them
  • I should be greatful for what I have.

Is should do this even if it kills me seems to be a great theme. At the Landmark Education forum our coaches kept telling us, we don’t change things, because changing is fixing, we transform things and to transform what is required is a new story.

Like there was this participant who could not exercise either in the morning or in the evening because it challenged his time space.  He did have a pocket where he could exercise in the afternoon, but it is considered irresponsible to do so in the work culture. At the end of the day his story was oh! I am working so much that I don’t time to exercise, on one hand he is frustrated, he also felt extremely good about himself for being the victim of the work place culture, his sotry allowed him to be the oppressed by a system.

On a week day I cannot eat with my family because we are all busy. Well in India we slightly better off, as we still have culture of family dinner together.

What we require here is to rewrite the story at the focus. As long as our focus allows us to be victims we are dying slowly.

“When you understand, that what you’re telling is just a story. It isn’t happening anymore. When you realize the story you’re telling is just words, when you can just crumble up and throw your past in the trashcan, then we’ll figure out who you’re going to be.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

What is Your Story?

xammi- life treeWhat is your story

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.—James M.Barrie

Listening to my patients and tobacco addicts I realized we all have a story line for our lives, that story that we tell ourselves become very important in our life script. Our body tells this story to others like a cover would reveal the story within.

If like me you are on a journey of self discovery and self healing maybe you can recognize one of these themes that you have been weaving your story around…

  1. I drink too much, I exercise too little, I am overweight, unhealthy and people in my family have died young.
  2. I don’t feel I am doing a good job anywhere—home, work, family, self I’m overwhelmed.
  3. I accomplished all these things I supervise a huge workforce but I lost my connectivity to God, I lost the most important thing in my life, I lost my spirituality.
  4. I spend too little time playing with my kids. They look forward to the babysitter coming because she plays with them more than I do.
  5. I feel unappreciated and taken for granted my spouse does not understand the magnitude of my workload. work consumes all my energy.
  6. The career I have chosen and love threatens the most sacred part of my life, my relationship with my children.
  7. I have lost passion for I’ve been doing both in professional and personal life.

Interestingly most stories fall within the framework of these seven base themes. One of them is of course mine.

I cannot change this story  so far what I can do, accept the story thank it for being mine and gently let go. After which I can rewrite. This of course comes with a price tag.

Some changes take place, some beliefs are shaken but yes we can consciously rewrite our story.


The story teller.

storyteller-logoThe character—

Sameer – the story teller.

30 odd year old journalist by profession., nearing six feet lanky frame, he really looked fragile. Yet there was strength of character that spoke through the fragility. A commitment, what the poets called “Junoon” he was the boy who lived. Who lived to tell the tale. The story that’s been growing in his heart, the characters he could not keep out of his, the tale that spoke to him, that popped into his head during his daily commute, the tale that woke him up the morning.

“i want to leave the valley, Riana sahib” Sameer said, his articulate honesty was draped in a soft tone making it difficult to take offense.

“are you running away?”  Sameer was silent.

“”not running away” he said, after a while “I need fresh air, somewhere to think. ”

“have you begun to doubt.”


Good, retorted Raina, “one thing all these years taught me, is you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in”

“Sameer, men are free when they are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief. Obeying from within. Men are free when they belong to a living organic, believing community, active in filling some unfilled, perhaps unrealized. Not when they are escaping to the Wild West or as in your case to dilli, the most unfortunate souls go west and shout of freedom”

“Raina sahib, you are Dilli talking, take walk on the road, what reigns is fear, what every one of us want here in Kashmir, is freedom from fear, and talking won’t change it. But sometimes that is what we want to do the most, to tell someone, often many just want to escape those feeling, escape themselves so there is no pain, no fear, no ugliness.”


“we have seen every kind of terror, here, the so called paradise on earth.”

“that is,”

“Raina Saab, there are three kinds of terror, as  Stephen King put it, the gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, its when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And last and worst one, Terror: when you come home and notice everything you won had and been away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around there’s nothing there… that the kind of terror we have been living in since we don’t know when.”

Raina kept quiet not knowing what to say, for Sameer had summed it up perfectly,

“ and, I, am the voice of my generation, Raina Saab, ”Sameer acknowledged softly ”I choose to write because it is perfect for me. It’s an escape, a place I can go to hide. It’s a friend, when I feel outcaste from everyone else. It’s healing, when everything seemed so messed up. its at times fun when life is just flat out boring.”

harpar collins“so you have decided to move out, but silence is not a natural environment for stories. They need words. Without them they grow pale sicken and die. And they haunt.”

“Not really, but to take a sabbatical, its time my story is heard.”

Sameer had walked up to the gate by now, stepping out he said ”I could not stop talking because now I have started my story, it wants to finished. We choose where to start and stop. Our stories are the tellers of us. Chris Cleave is right in this observation.”

“khudha hafeez.”