November 19, 2012

[Experiences] All in the Name of Work!

"What do you do?", not "How do you do?", has always been the defining question asked of someone. I, for one, have tried to answer this, in ahem, so many ways! After nearly 15 years of meandering along a winding path with many dead ends, I am now looking back at it, with a laugh here, with a thought there and I invite you to join me in my walk backwards.


Mind-Voice: "You see, my sister is a doctor. She's always roaming around with books, heavier than her. Why on earth, would I go through all that pain? Besides since I'm so great at Maths, always scoring centum in all my exams, undoubtedly, an engineer and where else but Anna University."

Obvious: Being the topper in school; Scoring a centum in Chemistry (I forbid you to ask me any formula!)
Precious: Scoring high in Tamil and English

Actually: Anything and everything in the world
Really: Engineer and Doctor

Electronics and Communication Engineer:


Mind-Voice: "What am I doing here? All these machines, line drawings, workshop, ICs are freaking me out. I shouldn't be here. I am going to be a psychologist... mmm no wait, writer... mmm no wait IAS officer... no, no, no, social activist.... Okay, okay, I hear what you're telling me, I've started this, so I should finish it.... I still haven't decided what I'm going to do, but here is this software company calling me for an interview, let me attend it and see what happens. " 

Obvious: Having no arrears in all of my 8 semesters (I still don't understand how I achieved this feat!)
Precious: The only S(Excellent) grade I got, was in first semester in English; Meeting the guy who would put up with me through all my crazies!

Actually: ME, MS, MBA.. again many things under the sun
Really: Electronics Engineer, Software Engineer, Software Engineer, Software Engineer (Not a typo!)

Software Engineer:

Mind-Voice: "I am just sitting here reading novels and newspapers. Just running these test scripts. Everyday I come and sit before this computer and the world thinks I am in a great job, but does this really make me happy?...  When will I go abroad? ... Now, I am here in the US, travelling, doing all the things I've always wanted to, but then why this emptiness that does not seem to go away, no matter what I do" 

Obvious: Gaining 5 years of software experience
Precious: Gaining the friendship of clients in Minnesota, USA.

Actually: Law, Journalism, Theatre, Business, Gemstone Appreciation... (This is not fiction, but fact. Software has this unparalleled capacity to bring out from deep, the wild desires of people!)
Really: Program Analyst, Manager, Center Head, President

[I ended this phase by meeting and marrying the guy, I mentioned before. From this point onwards,  I seemed to do nothing "real" or "regular". I kept running fast in seemingly bizarre directions.]

Director, Mellinam Education:

The How:
I had quit Software for deep reasons like didn't have any meaning for me and on-the-surface reasons like too long a commute. Newly wed, I took on Madhan's wings and thought I could fly with those. It was later I realized, that if you want to fly, you have to grow your own. He wanted to start a school. So, I wanted it, too. From school to pre-school to creating our own educational material to a new-age Tamil rhyme book, we ended up with this novel product called iPaatti. With Haiku in me, we put in passionate and hard work to release this product. It got rave reviews. But what's more important in business is not the ability to produce, but to sell. And I didn't have that skill. As Madhan became busy with other roles and responsibilities, I, the new mother lacked the drive to keep this company going. A feeling of I'm not really doing much while having the great-sounding title of "Director" kept nagging me.

The Wow: 
Obvious: Setting-up a company; Being everything from the director to the office-boy!
Precious: The lesson that to truly be somewhere, I have to seek and chart my own path.

Qualified Education Agent Counsellor, Australia (QEAC)

The How:
When I realized that iPaatti wasn't doing it for Mellinam and me, tried to explore other options. One of it was taking up a QEAC Exam and helping Indian students choose the right course of studies in Australia. As I had been so confused about deciding my path, I had this noble intention of helping others decide. But then I finally got the meaning of the statement we hear during every airline travel, "Before you help others, please help yourself."

The Wow:
Obvious: Clearing a difficult exam with very short preparation
Precious: The confidence that I can take up any exam


The How:
Again having started an Education company with just ideals, I wanted to equip myself with knowledge. So, on a twilight evening, walking in IIT, I decided to take up this MA(Education) course from IGNOU. A baby was to be born shortly but I decided to take this course bravely. Learnt a lot of great stuff. Was inspired and motivated by the IGNOU material. No person taught me, all my learning was from books and it happened to be the best education I had got so far in my life. It also introduced me to qualitative research, that I completely fell in love with. Exploring meaning from words was something after my own heart.

The Wow:
Obvious: Raising a baby and completing 10 papers in 1 year; Producing an original research work for my thesis.
Precious: The truth that it doesn't matter where you study, with whom you study, only how much you enjoy what you study.


The How:
So fascinated I was, by my MA(Education), that I wanted to pursue higher studies and this exam was a requirement. Many people I talked to, said that I had to write the exam, multiple times, to clear it. I decided to give it one shot. Prepared 4 months for this exam. 

The Wow:
Obvious: Cleared it in the first attempt; Ability to be a lecturer anywhere in India for life.
Precious: To tell from personal experience, "You can prepare your way even to the moon."

International Journal Publication

The How:
Having truly enjoyed my research work, Madhan encouraged me strongly to publish my article. So pruned my 100 page dissertation to a 15 page journal article and submitted to an international journal. They accepted.

The Wow:
Obvious: Getting published in a international peer-reviewed academic journal.
Precious: The joy of writing, editing and being published.

PhD Aspirant

As in the beginning, when I wanted to take up engineering in Anna University, once again I made the mistake of wanting something for the sake of an institution. Now it  was a PhD(Humanities and Social Sciences) in IIT(Madras). After endless reading about action research, water pollution, I mixed a cocktail with these elements and my good intentions of cleaning up my city. Thus, I ended up with a very clear image of a very fuzzy idea! Surprisingly, I was shortlisted for an interview. My research proposal was very dramatic. I had envisioned doing action research with students of IIT and other Arts colleges towards cleaning up Chennai. They are not professors of IIT for nothing. After having the good fortune of entertaining them for a short while, I wasn't selected in the interview!

The first time in my entire educational journey, I had failed to get something I wanted. I crashed. Completely. In my scheme of things, I never saw this happening. There I was in my mind's eye, studying in IIT, doing some amazing research... I had put in so much hard work, sacrificing the time I had for my husband and my son. This shouldn't be happening to me, I thought. It took a very long while to get out of the feeling of dejection. Slowly, I climbed out. I saw all the reasons I didn't get into this. It was not about getting an education. It was once again for the wrong reasons and life knocked me out rightly this time. This was the best thing that happened to me, in this entire path.

After this long and complicated journey, turning back at every dead end, thinking it's towards something huge, I have finally discovered it's not about the magnitude of the degree you get, the institution you study or the place you work. It's about how you feel deep inside about the work you do. It may be a very small thing that fills you with immense satisfaction!

At this point, I feel I have found that small thing and unlike the rest, I feel this one is here to stay! Well, partly because, Madhan has threatened that if I don't stick to this chosen path, we are going to have five children and I am going to exclusively take care of them. No..........! But seriously, I am now growing my own wings to fly in my own sky.... and soon, I will take you with me.

October 22, 2012

[Reflections] A Moment of Madness

(A person whom I've known from my childhood and whom I have admired since, ended her life recently. I wish I could have said these to her, when she lived)

Have you stood there, on the edge of a very deep cliff, real or imaginary, thinking "This is it", "There is no point in going on" and "I just want to end it right now and here"?

If you have never ever, consider that you've lived a very fortunate life and applaud yourself for your amazing attitude.

For the rest of you, if you have wanted to end it all, at some point or other, for some thing or the other, as I have, applaud yourself louder for being there, facing it in the eye and walking away unscathed. Not many have flown free through these fierce jaws of death.

This is in mourning and memory of all those desperate souls, who have taken to end this life, with the music still in them. I fervently wish I could have whispered these words as they took the fatal step. It is also to you and to many through you. Tomorrow you may stand in that position and I hope you will hear these words, loud and clear and throw away that thing that stands between you and life.

In the first place, why are you standing here and now, with these thoughts...

Is it because of a failed exam - What if, in a few hours, days, weeks or months, it wouldn't matter whether you passed or failed that exam but only whether you decided to live or not.

Is it because of debts insurmountable? Can I show you a future where you can be the owner of riches unimagined? Just if you just invest the energy you are putting into dying into living.

Is it because of a love unreturned? What if there was love and happiness more than you thought possible, waiting around the corner? Why, even from the same person who refused you?

Is it because of a death unconquerable? What if I could show that the one you loved so much wants you to live the life, as you would have with him or her? What if truly loving them means living with their memory?

Is it because of a vague feeling that pulls you down to somewhere deeper than the deepest pit on earth and burns and ravages your mind until you feel there is nothing but dust up there and you want this body to meet the same fate? What if I told you there are medicines and there are people you can talk to, that will wipe away these thoughts, as if it were a thing of the past?

Believe me, no matter how humongous your reason may seem, it is just as silly in the end, if it makes you end it all.

Are the voices in your head whispering...

"You are a waste of space. Of no use to anyone","You just hurt everyone around you. They will rejoice and be relieved that you're gone","No one loves you. Every one has rejected you."......

The one that needs to die today is not you, but that voice in your head. Don't kill yourself. Kill it.

Do you think your death is an answer to everything...

If you could see the thousands gathering at your doorstep crying, wishing that they had called you, that they had come to see you, at the moment you chose this fate... some stranger you smiled at, some friend you hugged ages ago, some relative whose life you changed. If only.

If you could see the guilt, the shame, the pain of your family, in a million multiples of whatever you may be feeling now. If you could see the tears of your children, born or yet to be born, if you could see the agony of the loved one, you love or are yet to love. If only.

If you could see the magic still in you. If you could see the empires you can build, the books you can pen, the lives you can touch. If only.

Walk out of the black prison of your mind to blue skies... to a beautiful, meaningful happiness you never thought possible.

July 6, 2012

[Movies] Naan Ee - Fly high!

Readers of this blog are aware that sometimes even a rocket's buzz doesn't rouse me enough to write. Surprisingly, it's a fly and it's war-cry!... And here I was thinking, "What? A revenge-story about a fly - Surely not (in) my cup of tea!"

Puns apart, the movie was a class apart! The last time I felt so high and happy because of our sibling-species in movies, was Ratatouille. The makers could have easily seen this as a super-hero fly, capable of anything. But no, it is just a common house-fly, that has a hard life in this human world. In intricate, logical advances, the fly conquers the heart of even a cynical skeptic.

A bold attempt and a sincere one, at that. The devil is in the details, they say and so is this 'Naan Ee'. I would say that everyone, from the director, cinematographer, dialogue-writer, lyric-writer to the animator, involved in the movie became a micro-artist, for it was from every angle, etched in a fly's perspective.

Odes should be written about the apt characterization of the roles in the movie. Firstly, in portraying the female actor as a micro-sculptor.
 ["நுண்சிலை செய்திடும் பொன் சிலையேபென்சிலை சீவிடும் பெண் சிலையே"
"A micro-sculpting gold statue/ A pencil-sharpening girl statue"]
Then, in the adorable charm of the male lead. His life is so short but it doesn't seem so, for what are we, but our soul and will?! This shines through every action of the fly and that is the true success of the movie. Not to miss, the hated villain! We've been thrilled to see villains pounded to our satisfaction in Indian movies, galore. Still, this actor takes it to a whole new level, in the duel between him and the fly. Likewise, even miniature roles bring jumbo laughs, in the end.
The camera and the chemistry makes you fall in love with the leads' love and feel fully its poignancy in being realized only in another birth. 

                        [Image courtesy -]
"நீ திரைகள் மாட்டினால்
உள் அறைகள் பூட்டினால்
உன் இதயமூலையில்
நானே இருப்பேன்."
"You may hang those curtains
And close the doors within,
But in your heart's corner,
I will still remain!"
The movie is intricately and beautifully interwoven. In a fluid flow, you see the music in the dialogues, you see the lyrics in the cinematography and so on... A true treat, that makes you cheer at every strike. All emotions are aroused, but like caring mothers, the makers have ensured that you leave with a smile. Also, a glow in your heart that Indian movies are starting to do class things and reaching the mass too!  

                    [Image courtesy -]
In making this fly, they have taken us on a journey to find that, what ultimately moves any man, is his mind and with that, no one is a small fry. A complete pleasure to simply sit back and enjoy how this bug bucks you up!

February 14, 2012

[Travelogue] Nagalapuram - Trek or Treat!

Sometimes we think we make journeys harder than they are meant to be. But everything was meant to be... beautifully be!

For months now, we were planning a trek to Nagalapuram. Work and routine often makes dreams distant. Still, inspired by the tales of those who have been there, decided it's a do-or-die, this weekend. Food, essentials, why even shoes were shopped just the day before and all the shopping before the night of the trek, seemed a trek by itself! With barely a few hours of sleep under the belt, we woke to a glorious morning. Journeyed by car through the concrete jungles of Chennai towards the real thing! The blushing dawn seemed to me, a bride's smile. With random games and a juke-box, the detours were brushed aside. Finally reached Nagalapuram, helped by the directions of assorted men-in-lungis and old-women-with-vadais!

Through super-bumpy roads we sailed to the huge mango tree, that seemed like the base-camp described in blogs. After breaking the fast, pretty fast, we took a path. Why do we go in a certain direction? We could have easily turned either left or right. But we turned left and that made all the difference to the journey. Seeing a few bikes near a path got us excited that we were on the right track.

On difficult paths, amidst thorny bushes, we went on searching, wanting to scale the peak. On the way, we encountered a group of guys, presumably the bike-owners. Bad news! They said they were lost and were searching this side of the hill, for nearly 45 minutes and couldn't find the stream. They ambled along with us, for sometime and then decided to give up the trek. After nearly 2 hours of walking, all roads seemed to lead nowhere and finally, we stopped near the dam. 

Dejection was creeping in. But then, a sensible thing, we did. Call the experts at the Chennai Trekking Club. There are good souls in this world. They didn't chide us, for not taking a guide. They just gave us the directions, no questions asked.

For what seemed like forever on the wrong-road trail, we were back to the point we started. Although our bodies were crying "enough is enough", thank goodness for the indomitable spirit, that steers and surprises us! Onward we marched in the opposite direction, worn out, scorched, cut by thorns and hurt by rocks. Kudos to those two kids, who were still trudging along with us. After more sun, more walk, there the sweetest sound on earth, the gurgling stream nearby. Once the eyes caught a look of the flowing water, the fire in the heart seemed to burn bright.

Through dense trees, amidst the unpolluted cries of the birds, we walked to, to finally what seemed like that place... you dream every dream of. Where everything is alright with the world. When your nature is one with mother nature! Imagine being a one-year-old, after having a sharp fall, when tears are pouring from your eyes, your mother takes you in her able warms, hugs you tightly, wipes your tears and removes your fears. The exact same feeling. The flowing, clear water, the pure notes of the birds, the swishing tress, the rushing waterfall, all doing that magical thing!

After all that strain and pain, to see the unbounded joy and wide smiles of the two kids who came along, made it all worthwhile. I believe we gave them a gift for life, about the truth, that no matter how hard the journey, in the end, there is more beauty, more peace and more happiness than you could have ever imagined. Just, if you walk on...