Sunday, 27 September 2015

A year on this island

It's fascinating to move to a whole new country, start a whole new life with whole new people!
This blog post is to mark a year since my move to this country, which soon enough became "home away from home"

As I'm counting down to my 25th birthday, here are 7 (because for some weird reason, it's my favourite number) learnings from my last year, which in ways more than one, moulded me into a better person (as I'd like to believe) and I trust will guide me well in the future as well:
(in no particular order)

1. A penny saved is a penny earned
This was my first stint with financially independent living. For calling dad over every little thing or just catching a bus home, was just not an option! Earning my livelihood as an Emergency doctor; paying my own house rent and utility bills, on time; signing up for critical illness, hospitalisation and life insurance...etc! Things I often wouldn't be involved in when I was back home, now were things I was sitting and discussing with close attention, with a financial consultant! And thus, I was managing my finances, as well as saving for a rainy day! I learnt from Prantik, to save first, spend without fear later - which gave me so much more financial freedom!

2. Live life with a little spice
I never did much cooking before moving to Singapore. But here, I had to cook to survive! And as my grand-aunt would say, "If you like eating, you should learn to cook it!" Easy it sounded, but what was most amazing however, was the realisation that I actually liked cooking! I'd listen to Saavn Radio and chop and stir - over the year I've surprised myself by recreating mum's recipes and of course, mom-in-law's too - right from Cholay Bhature, Paav Bhaji to Beetroot cutlets; Cream of mushroom soup to Tomato rasam; Reshmi Paneer to Thai Green Chicken curry; Pesto pasta with saute'd vegetables to Appam with Vegetable Stew and even Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani; Kerala Vermicelli Payasam to Gulab Jamun - my culinary adventure has been so much fun and exquisite, to say the least! And a home-cooked meal has the secret ingredient-love! And nothing beats that, ever!

3. Do what you love, Love what you do
I did have teething issues, working in a completely different environment; with more electronic documentation every hour than I did during my entire year of housemanship back in India; working with people from different ethnicities and work culture - but, it was a fun-filled upward learning curve and the people were very helpful and supportive. And soon enough, I was loving it and it only translated to happier working hours, increased productivity and obviously happier patients :D It always feels fulfilling to be on the receiving end of appreciation and time and again, it only reassures that this is the place I want to be and I couldn't be happier!

4. Work Hard, Party Harder
I had an erratic work schedule and I learnt to work around it, to spend time with my husband and of course, our gang of friends. There were fun birthday and anniversary celebrations; even a wedding in between! Additionally, movies over the weekend and Sunday brunches, exploring new cafes and cuisines which was like a blessing in disguise for a foodie like me - bonuses include the Kebab and Biryani Festival at Raffles Hotel and from down south, the OnamSadhya. We also threw in fun activities in between, like watching F1 Grand Prix from the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands, walking nature trails (MacRitchie), visiting the zoo and bird park, Diwali lights and house parties, BBQ at Labrador Park, Secret Santa gift exchange during Christmas, watching plays and screaming at music concerts; and not to forget, the crazy fun singing and dancing that followed a few tequila/Kamikaze shots :P

5. Take Vacations - Make Memories!
For the truth is - we can always make money; we can't always make memories. And I'm so fortunate in having found a life partner who believes, just as much as I do, in the power of making memories; and thus we feed our wanderlust. I'm more of the meticulous planner while Pran, is the more spontaneous traveler. We thus, enjoy the best of both worlds! Our travelogue kickstarted with a lovely relaxing honeymoon at Lombok, Indonesia - snorkelling amidst the colourful schools of fish and even turtles, is still a memory I revisit often. We spent Valentines' Day at Melbourne, having grabbed last minute tickets to the starting game of the Cricket World Cup 2015 and a day later, at Adelaide, ticking off one of our bucket-list items - India vs Pakistan World Cup game! We had short yet sweet holidays with the family - with my folks, at Poovar, Kerala at a beautiful golden sand beach resort; and with his folks at Selangor, Malaysia, living in villas over stilts, enjoying the most gorgeous sunrises ever! We just got back from a splendid break with the friends at Galle, Sri Lanka (look out for my next blog post on that!) and I'll be honest, our vacations for the next quarter of the year have been planned too :P

6. Gift Love
Pran and I were blessed to have a lovely wedding #SocialShaadi, spread across 2 cities, over a week! What added to the beauty of it all, was the money we managed to raise along with Milaap, for causes we believed in - education and vocational training. We also raised money for 2 institutions in our respective home towns. And thus, our wedding had a whole new dimension and with this spin, it had so much more meaning. Our marriage thus kickstarted on the grounds of giving. And love only multiplies thus. It is said that "it is in giving, that we receive" but I completely believe that unconditional giving is a form of divine love; and Pran and I aspire to give each other and others, not just material gifts (Pran surprised me with gifts to mark 1 year as well!) but more importantly, quality time, always.So, when we just chill at home, watching Scandal on Netflix or just play Scrabble on the diwan, we know, we are basking under the warm glow of love.

7. Keep Calm and Love Yourself
The journey of the past year has only gotten me closer to myself and more in love with life. I'm grateful for the umpteen opportunities life has bestowed me with and I am enjoying learning new things each day, and adding more items onto the "must-do/must-try" list. Amidst my seemingly busy schedule, though not so religiously, I do make time for yoga and kriya, for blissful meditation sessions, for walks by the beach, for red moon spotting, for indulging in frozen yoghurt or milk tea with lychees, for lying on my couch and losing myself in the pages of a book. And of course, with this blog, I've reignited my itch to write and express myself as well :)

These are so simple lessons yet life-changing. And I'd swear by them, every single day!

We visited the Ganesh temple, on Ganesh Chaturthi to give thanks to the Almighty for all things bright and beautiful ...  for a fun-filled year gone by...

I have no idea what life has in store for me, but if the last one year was an indicator of any sort, I can say, the rest of my time here in Singapore is going to be rockin' for sure!

A week marking a year on this island!
A week of reliving memories.
A week of gifts, of love.


Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Feeling Alive

So last weekend, Prantik and I decided to go on a low-to-no (added) sugar diet for a week. The idea was to reduce packaged and processed foods, say no to carbonated drinks, packaged juices, ice-creams etc. We had a heavy heart when we had to shove the Milo tetra-packs away; we were allowed one home-made coffee a day. And thus, the terms and conditions were set.

Day 1
I remember myself craving for the usual cream-cheese bun, that I end up having as "lunch" for the lack of time, on usual days. But that day, each of us got a break, enough time to grab proper lunch. I remember calling Prantik up and panicking for I wasn't sure what I should eat! He said I could have normal lunch ie. rice and vegetables, chicken for the protein. And so, I produced my Kopitiam card and had some rice, with green leafy vegetables, chicken curry and curd. Not too bad. A decent, balanced meal that. So, I am not trying to lose weight; on the contrary I'm just trying to have my meals (not skip them, thanks to work!) and whenever, I do, ensure I have healthy calories.

Day 2
I was working the evening shift. So I was back around 11pm. And I had had time to grab some light dinner at my workplace. So, then I called Pran up. And asked him to get into his running shoes. I got home and quickly changed into comfortable shorts and a tee; and then, off we were. I haven't run in years, 5 to be precise. So, my stamina as expected had hit rock-bottom. But, I must point out, the distance doesn't really matter. That first step does. Going out, forcing yourself to get those knees moving (yeah, I have knee issues which at a point in time, severely restricted my dancing and badminton playing, thanks to the excruciating pain!). It felt really good to be jogging under the night sky, with my life partner.

Day 3
Another evening shift; but I hadn't had time to grab dinner. So I got home and quickly ate some food that I had cooked prior to leaving for my shift. Food in the stomach ensures the blood supply rushes to the abdomen to assist in digestion; which makes one lazy and sleepy :P But, we pushed ourselves to head out that night again. For if the first step is important, the second is crucial. Post-dinner is usually not recommended but we were left with no other option. So, down the same round we ran again. Little traffic, sounds of nature, and soft breeze. Cannot get any better. I think I ran lesser than the previous night but that was expected. Walking back into the apartment complex, we were happy we pushed ourselves.

Day 4
I had a night shift which meant no night run. It also meant, 3 meals, at regular times :D For sometimes, while exercise is good, eating the right foods is equally stressed upon. Staying home, one can end up binging on junk food. What does one do then to manage temptations? Get rid of them! If there's no junk food at home, you can't really have them, can you? Stock the fridge with nutritious goodies - snack on fruits,raw vegetables or even dry fruits; stir up salads if you like. So, when I felt hungry, I'd pick up a custard apple or some Arabian dates, instead of Lindt Lindor :D

Day 5
I slept through the day after a South Indian breakfast with my night shift partner; and I binged on Grey's Anatomy episodes later through the hazy evening! I chatted with my mum and laughed out loud. For if what you feed your stomach is important, what one feeds their soul is paramount! I was all set to spend the rest of the evening at home; however, Pran spells spontaneity! So, he suggested we head out for dinner, to celebrate our 9th month anniversary (belated). So, I put on new clothes sent by my parents and new accessories, which were sent as Rakhi gift by the brother; and headed out for North Indian dinner with the husband. We loved the ambience at Kinara, Holland Village and the food was delicious as well. Butter Chicken rarely goes wrong! Some indulgence that! But we stayed off alcohol and desserts. Not bad eh?

Day 6
The next day, after my shift, on the SG General Election Day, we headed out to catch some movies. We were able to watch back-to-back movies, Kadambari and Welcome Back, the latter with the friends' gang. The movies were a stark contrast to each other; we enjoyed them both. More importantly, we stayed off the oh-so-tempting popcorn and coca-cola combo, that usually accompanies a movie spree. For sometimes, what one doesn't do works wonders, way more than what one may do! :D

Day 7
Finally an off day, over the weekend! But we overcame the lazy bug and though our alarm clocks deceived us, we managed to meet Shilpa-Shivanu for a morning walk at the beautiful MacRitchie Reservoir Park. We had done a different trail earlier in the year, so this time we went on a different one, including the boardwalk. The lush greenery and the calm waters is to behold. To be amidst such bountiful nature, along with good conversation with friends was indeed a beautiful experience. Fresh morning air always rejuvenates like none other. We followed that with simple brunch at a garden cafe, Canopy. We ordered super-fruit/detox juices and some eggs, mushrooms and toast. We liked what we ordered and would probably head back to the place, some time in the future.
Later that evening, as planned, Prantik and I headed to the Tanjong Beach, at Sentosa, to partake in the annual yoga event - #SoulScape. There were hundreds of people, of all races and religions, gathered with their colourful yoga mats. There were fun counters, where one could pin positivity or paint on the common large canvas (Namaste/Om/EatPrayLove etc). The Sunset Yoga session (led by yoga teacher Saumik Bera) was really good; which was later followed by moon meditation and another yoga session (by Cristi Christensen). The combination of yoga, music and dance and of course, meditation by the beach, under twilight was simply gorgeous and an experience of a lifetime! Thoroughly enjoyed all the vibes of enthusiasm and positivity. Peace!

And thus, we wrapped up the week, feeling rejuvenated, feeling positive and feeling alive...

A week of watching our physical activity and diet.
A week of focussing on our breath, and listening to our hearts beating.
A week of feeling alive and at peace...


Sunday, 6 September 2015

Inside Out ©

Last weekend after a sumptuous 26-dish "OnaSadya" - the gastronomic feast served on a banana/plantain leaf, we headed for a Pixar animation movie with friends - "Inside Out"

It was a simple movie, about the "little voices in our heads" (And, no these are not the twisted, hallucinatory voices.) These are just our varied emotions talking to us, on a daily basis and in ways, perhaps unknown to us, how they actually run our lives.

There have been many ideologies and philosophies about life's guiding forces and energies. Be it the Nav Rasas, the Seven Chakras, the Tri Gunas or just a single unified divine consciousness - God, the higher Force; but at a very simplistic, individualistic level, if one were to understand and identify what really governed our day-to-day lives, the simple answer would be thoughts and emotions. And this is what exactly the movie is about. 5 prime emotions. (Ya, I've never quite understood, how most of these are actually 'odd numbers'! Anyways!)

(in alphabetical order ;))
1. Anger
2. Disgust
3. Fear
4. Joy
5. Sadness

A week I spent by myself, primarily - in silence, predominantly - paying attention to the inner voices. :) I must say, it was an interesting exercise to actually be mindful of all the thoughts and emotions splashing through the ocean of my mind, and just let them be.

I used the time to do stuff that I haven't made time for in some time. So I read, I caught up with Grey's Anatomy, I went for solo walks accompanied by the pleasant evening breeze and when I felt lazy to cook, I just settled in watching random movies on Netflix, with some honey-glazed fried chicken and Bundaberg ginger beer. #Joy

Amma often makes stuff he likes like Appams, Puranpolis, Besan Laddoos, so I've even asked her whose mom she is?! Haha! There were even moments of pseudo-anger when they'd not share with me what they were planning (they call themselves the Conspiracy Team!). #Anger

But big picture, it's all 'Joy'. I'd often eavesdrop on the fun conversation that went about at Bangalore, as Prantik spent time after work, at home with my parents and brother. They teased me, laughed out loud - it was so endearing to see them bond thus. We are truly blessed to have parents and parents-in-law who are truly all-embracing and forever-giving. #Joy

A singular moment of low was when my hormones ran havoc in my body (yes, a monthly affair in every female's body); and some reason, augmented by isolation-of-sorts, it decided to overpower my physical self; additionally, an upset tummy added to the woes! (Mental note: No more outside food this week!) #Sadness

But again, I popped in a pill; focussed on my breathing; did what I had to do, and ignored that voice completely! And let 'Joy' reign over the uneasiness and thus, empower me :) It was also nice to be able to meditate together with my Mum in Bangalore, as Guruji guided a session in Orissa. All thanks to technology! Long live FaceTime :D  #Joy

There were times, when Pran would be unreachable. I knew he was on the road, traveling somewhere. Maybe his network was bad, maybe his iPhone battery had died (which is most often the case, thanks to his excessive phone usage :P) - all very logical explanations to why he wasn't picking my call. But, the stupid nagging voice in my head, makes me fear the worst! It's annoying, it can potentially leave me with palpitations and insomnia! Ugh #Fear

But then, I just pray and surrender. And hope earnestly, that I'm being unreasonable. And he's safe out there. His phone's silent/dead. And he'll call me as soon as he can. And sure enough, he does! Phew! Praise the Lord. To listen to his calm voice (reminds me of our long distance days!) and have him laugh at me when I tell him I was getting worried, simultaneously calming me down too with his kind words; I chide myself for being silly and laugh along. #Joy

Sigh! The heart-wrenching picture of the toddler in red, and dead, at the beach; a result of the Syrian war; went viral on social media. Hundreds of people fleeing the war-struck state, trying their luck to cross the deadly waters and find safer ground for themselves and their families - with no place to call their home - the life of these refugees is indeed filled with misery - all of it comes with a feeling of helplessness...Especially the account of the father, whose son (and other son, and wife) had thus died was agonising to say the least. The general state of worldly affairs... sigh!  #Disgust

As I battled with the sense of disillusionment that accompanied such news; work brought me back to the present. Working in the Emergency Medicine department is a blessing indeed. It teaches one to focus on the matter at hand, to multi-task, and amongst many other things, to be face-to-face with the reality that "Life is Short" and thus, always, "Choose Happiness". And that's what I did.
I caught the early morning train to the airport, to pick my husband up at the airport. While chasing dawn break, I read "O's Little Book of Happiness", a refreshing collection of anecdotes (which I'm thoroughly enjoying). I had my favourite South Indian breakfast, Onion Uttapam at Ananda Bhavan while Prantik sipped on Bru coffee. We spend good time together, watching a Rom-Com later at night, while savouring sparkling Moscato, way past midnight. Thus, also commemorating a year since we got this current rented apartment and of course, a belated 9th month celebration. #Joy

Simple days. Simple joys.

A week of being alone yet not.
A week of listening to the inner voices.
A week of choosing happiness.