Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hotel Centaur. Room 3014.

On our 6th day of the J&K tour we arrived in Srinagar and were put up in a hotel called Centaur. At first look it's massive. It's on the banks of the Dal lake, spread out on a humongous piece of land, nearby the shopping area and an upscale residential area. As we entered the gates I noticed lots of greenery, wild vegetation growing in place of a manicured lawn. About 150 mts into the gate we approached a gigantic building with chipped paint at places and moss growing on walls. We entered a wide lobby stretching end to end and beyond that we saw a magical view of the Dal lake.

Once we got our room keys we all started our trek to find our rooms. Now we had to find our room among 250 rooms. The inside of the hotel was like a maze and when I was walking the halls I felt like I was in a university. There are probably some 10 wings in this hotel. Ma changed my room from near to civilisation to a room in a godforsaken wing. And we were the only 2 guests who were sent there. Room 3014.

Just that morning I was watching a horror movie on tv starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. I didn't register the name. Anyway, that movie had a serial killer hunting a party of teenage kids who were on the island on vacation. That's EXACTLY what I anticipated when I approached room 3014. As it is I was freaked on top of which we weren't able to find the lights in the room. Curtains drawn shut, lights not on, tv not switching on; imagine the looks on my brother's and my faces. For lack of connectivity I started playing on the iPad while my brother left me alone to find the tv technician (yes, my brother's priorities are set in stone). I sat like that for close to an hour. Our luggage hadn't even arrived then and I couldn't leave the room since my brother was gone. For lack of anything to do I started working on my Faceversary blog series. I was completely lost in writing when I heard a door bang. I thought maybe they moved another of my group's family to this wing and I got out to see who it was only to find that mine was the last room in the corridor and the neighbouring room was locked. Ok now I was officially creeped out. But I had enough lessons in psychology and L&D sessions to rationalise the noise. I went back to my room and started thinking of logical reasons for that noise. A little later my brother came back and told me he couldn't find our parents. About 15 mins later a door started banging continuously which went on for a few minutes. For all the pride my brother & I take in belonging to the Kshatriya class we were complete chickens to check out what was happening. Once the banging stopped we walked out to find out which room was the source only to find nothing.

When we went back my brother tightened the cable and we had tv to entertain us. Oh and what were we watching? The Ring. Yeah, good choice right. Our luggage was finally delivered by an old man who could barely walk without dragging his feet. We asked him if there were any guests in the neighbouring rooms; he said no. We asked what were these locked rooms; he said these are old rooms that have some discarded furniture and junk. So the big question was, where was the noise coming from? A couple of hours later we left to go shopping and told Ma that this room was way too far from everyone else's and we weren't comfortable. After we came back from shopping we got the room changed to one that was less creepy (By then I had realised that the whole hotel was creepy). But we still had to go back to get our luggage so the old man came along with us. I asked him if there was any story or history of this place and he started narrating a story that made me grab my luggage and run to my new room.
                   "This hotel was built in the 1930s when the British still ruled. Because of the beauty of Kashmir it attracted lots of Dukes &  Duchess used to stay here when they came to visit. During the freedom struggle a group of Kashmiri freedom fighters mercilessly shot all of them. After a few decades it was reopened only to be used again as a military base during the Kargil war. This hotel has seen many deaths, lots of bloodshed, independence & wars".

So that's how my Srinagar stay was. Have you thought of the story every place has? Just like a human, every object has its own story to tell. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck" -Dalai Lama

When I was in college studying management, I was predicted to be one of the most successful persons in our batch. I certainly was on the way to becoming it. I participated in organizations and events in and outside college and felt superb about it. One day when I was showing my American friend around the city she asked me if my ambition is to work in one of these corporates and I said, "No, I have bigger ambitions". Then I got a highly coveted job with one of the world's best employers and I started working in one of those buildings. 

Inside Raheja Mindspace, Hitech City, Hyderabad
So let’s go back two years. When my final year began and I was enrolling for placements, I took a systematic path to it. I sat with my uncle who’s a career counselor and drew a timeline. He asked “Where do you see yourself at 30?” and I said, “I’m running my own business.” And then back-tracked from there, put down where I see myself at 27 yrs, at 25 yrs, at 23 yrs, and so forth. I took it a little further and told myself where I saw myself at 50 yrs!

Now a year later I was at my first employer. Since our office culture doesn't take very kindly to formal wear I put all those new, tailor-made formal pants and skirts in the back of my cupboard and brought out all my casuals. The first day I entered office I was ready to take on the world. I was ready to be one of the most successful people of my batch. I knew that I studied in an average college and even though I was one of the best students, I was still an average person. The point is, I was average and I knew it. So I gave myself some time to soak in the changes, understand the mentality and get into that groove. It’s human nature to take some time to adapt. And then I made the biggest mistake.

I told myself that I wasn’t as smart as everybody else.

Trust me when I say that it’s the worst mistake one can ever make. Nobody’s words hit you as hard as your own. So because I wasn’t as smart as others I wouldn’t actively participate in discussions, just be a passive observer. The irony is that one of my top five strengths is ‘Command’. Add my personal problems to this and you get a mess.       

Months went by and in December I was dying. My mind was blank. I couldn’t concentrate on work; I couldn’t understand anything. I was dying to just get away and I decided to go to Singapore. My company was kind enough to give me that time off and Singapore changed it all. After ten days in Singapore I said to myself, “I can’t leave like this. I didn’t work hard in college to leave things mid-way. I will go back and I will give myself six months. I have to go a step further in the next six months.” So I came back and threw myself into work. And the three things I’ve lived by since January are a Constantly ticking internal clock, Gain knowledge and expertise and Do. Everyday I would go work with a sense of urgency telling myself that I don’t have much time left. On my calendars at home and work everyday I strike out the date at the end of the day to reinforce the time limitation. I placed a white board next to me, on outlook started noting down what I do everyday, wrote down important points on post-its and sticking them on my monitor. My work became my competition and my escape so much so that there were times I left office only around midnight to come back at 7 am the next morning. And my favorite part was acquiring new skills. Since I came back, coding and excel have become my pet. Figuring out logic became my drug. Soon you will a Facebook app made by me!

I’ve learnt to make my manager my confidant and it’s worked out pretty well. After three months when I asked her if I’ve moved forward since December, she said I’ve had exponential growth J. I went home and cried that evening! Now I have another three months left and a new problem at hand- I don’t know where I want to go after these three months. Ah well, I’ll deal with it as it comes.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunayana Sen

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"A man's errors are his portals of discovery." James Joyce

I had expected my life to be relatively smooth like the blue line in this graph. However, the red line with the spikes and drops is more like how my life was in the past year.

In my previous blog post I invited all my readers to watch this discovery through a series of blog posts and I'm going to do this in three parts. Let's start with the event that set off an avalanche of changes.

When I left college I promised myself that the next relationship I would be in would be my final, my forever after so I would have to choose very carefully and be absolutely sure before I got into it. Yeah, so it didn't happen that way. On May 16th, by the pool at Novotel after work he asked me, "Sunayana, will you go out with me? Please say yes or I will jump into this ditch!" And I said yes. What made me say yes? He's bengalee, he's good looking (Apparently, only his girlfriends think so), he doesn't smoke, he's hard working and he likes me; everything I wanted in my life partner. Besides, how can I say that some guy will be my forever after if I don't give it a try? I'm not going to fall in love in just one day; I'm going to have to spend some time building a relationship. So I said yes. What did I learn at this point? Don't be too rigid. Give it a shot, take that risk.

Days went by and we said our I love you's. His first gift to me was a beautiful pair of silver earrings which I NEVER took off. It made me feel complete. His next gift- a traditional gold ring from his hometown. Needless to say, I NEVER took it off. I introduced him to my parents and Baba's first words were, "I'm very happy you chose a bengalee boy." I got him home, Ma cooked for him, parents chatted with him, his parents asked about me everyday, kept asking him sharp questions to see whether he really loved me, he introduced me to his didi, he asked me if I would marry him; basically all was good. What did I learn at this point? I learned that I have a lot of love to give and I can be somebody's rock through thick and thin. And you know what, I loved that feeling.

Then five months later he told me he kissed another girl.

When I was learning how to swim my coach would take off my tube and fling me into the water and I would frantically kick my arms and legs just to stay at the surface. Know that feeling? Yeah that was what I felt when I heard this. It took me seven days of a roller coaster ride of emotions to finally be happy for him that he found someone who could make him smile. It was the start of Durga Puja then and I vividly remember standing in front of the new idol and praying for the first time in many years (I was an atheist for a few years). I started believing in God that day. I said, "If she is who makes him smile, I'm happy for him. His smile brings me peace and I always want to see him smile." And that's a prayer I've said everyday since. The next day he came back to me. I weighed everything and made a conscious decision to give it another shot. This point onward began my self-discovery.

So he came back from his vacation, we got back together, mutual friends gave him loads of shit about what he did and I remained his rock. Did I forbid him from talking to this girl? No. People told me that was my biggest mistake. At that point it didn't seem like it. At this point also it doesn't seem like it. I did the right thing. Why?
"Try not to be a man of success, but a man of value."
Albert Einstein 
So I have to tell you about this girl for you to understand why. This girl is known to be a dumb s**t. She slept with/made out with a couple other colleagues and others and is known to be "too dumb to even make fun of". She had two friends in this city both of whom are my colleagues and they abandoned her. Not only abandoned, but proactively cold-shouldered her too. My entire work circle (her only social circle at this point) was being a bitch to her. She had no friends. She wasn't getting a job either. Everywhere she tried, she got rejected. She's jobless. (Yet she had the time & heart to go partying everyday) He was the only friend she had. Oh and she lives four buildings away from mine. Now what did I think of her? Until this point I hadn't heard anything about her from him other than "she's pretty". The only thing I thought about her was that she has very low respect for herself and others. I strongly believe that someone who would agree to be the other woman, kiss another woman's man knowing that he's taken and entertains a man's infidelity has zero self respect. And this goes for men too. But other than this, I didn't judge her to be a "dumb s**t". I also believe that there are some people who you connect with who you show your genuine self to and there are others who see only a part of you and judge you. I thought maybe he was the friend she connected with. Now one thing this experience taught me is that genuine friendship can be your oxygen. I didn't want to take away her only friend from her. Not even the devil deserves to be friendless. He was also helping her find a job by refining her CV and going over some concepts and I didn't want to take away that either. She needed help (which I offered also; I offered to be her friend too) and he was helping her (Eventually she got a job to which a friend said to him, "Your girlfriend is finally socially acceptable").

So yes, I let him be her friend. Also because I didn't know what insecurity felt like and I don't like dictating people's actions. And if he really understood his actions, I wouldn't need to tell him what to do. But then we couldn't sustain our relationship and we finally moved away from each other and I left the country. And that was the best decision I made that year. The Singapore trip was a trip that changed everything. That deserves a different post altogether.

What did I learn at this point? I learnt what fear feels like. I learnt that I have immense tolerance. And what I have more than anything is Faith. Even through all the episode with that girl, I kept praying to God that he should finally come around, that he should find that strength in him to stop making the same mistakes and put his foot down when he starts feeling weak. I kept asking myself if I made an error in judging his character and my instincts say no. And I trust my instincts more that anything in this world.

I came back a month later and found out he was dating her. Yes it was a struggle everyday to walk into office and see him and not talk to him. He was my talk-to-person for career related things and on many occasions I almost walked up to him to talk about his views on what I did. Since I came back I had two breakdowns but slowly I got a grip on myself. And this is when I learnt that I'm a strong girl, much stronger than I give myself credit for. Believing in Karma also helps. A few guys happened during this time and this was my testing period. I didn't follow the path of rebound and have flings with any guy who came to me. I'm proud that I kept my values intact and stayed true to myself. My biggest win in this.Believing in Karma helps here too! Our mutual friend recently told me when she was moving to Delhi that he should apologize to me. No he shouldn't. One should apologize only when they believe they have gone against their values and when their conscience says they have been wrong. Otherwise, it doesn't mean a thing. And what did he do? Just what every regular guy does. I'm the one who should apologize to me. After all, I was the one who let this happen to me.

Anyway, till date, barring a couple of occasions, I have never spoken ill of her. Even today when I go to the temple every morning and after my dance classes, I pray that he's happy with whoever he is and most importantly, he be the best he can be at all times. If being with her makes him so, then so be it. If not, it's time you gave him that strength. So closing this post with something I read and say to myself every time I hear or think about him and her and one of my most important lessons-
माँ हिम्स्यत सर्व भूटानी: never commit violence to anyone | The Bhagavad Gita

Sunayana Sen

Saturday, April 28, 2012

“It takes only one person to change your”

Earlier last week I completed the first year of my career. Now I'm one year old in the corporate world! I still remember 25th April 2011 clearly, right from the moment I got into the cab to the moment I came back home and narrated to Ma the wonderful first day that I had. And what a day it was! Heck, what a year its been! This one year is by far the best year I've had. Do I wish to repeat this year? No. Do I wish to re-do it differently? No.

On my Faceversary my colleague asked me "Define this one year in one word and take everything into account". My answer? "Self-discovery".  I invite you to join this discovery as I recap this year and learn about life in this series of blogs.

They welcomed us with bouquets! This is my batch & some older employees on 25th April 2011 

“It takes only one person to change your” -Ruth Casey
Sunayana Sen 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Sitar Diaries

The sound of the Sitar is like a delicate yet strong woman while the sound of the Tabla is like a man. While played together the sound of Tabla always dominates but if you listen to the music you will notice the strength & stability of the Sitar's sound. Just like the woman who will stay at the base and provide the strong foundation to take support & grow on.

At any point of the music there will be that delicate sound of the Sitar. The piece always starts off with the sound of the Sitar & ends with it too. It remains that constant delicate sound in the background. 

If Sitar was a woman, the way you handle the Sitar accurately depicts her mood. You can raise the tempo & it may sound like ecstasy; Raise the tempo keeping the base low, and it will sound like fury; Play it slowly, just lightly touching it, it will bring you peace & calm; Play it flat & it will sound like sadness; Gradually raise the tempo with spaced out touches & it sounds like fear. 

Always listen to the sound of the Sitar in the background. It usually depicts the honesty of the mind. If you catch the pulse of the Sitar, you will lose yourself in someone else's life; you will feel ecstasy, fear, sadness, peace, fury- all of this in the few notes from start to finish.

All in a block of wood.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The world from the waiting platform

Sitting at the Tirupati railway station you see a peculiar sight of bald heads all around you. I spent an hour on the platform waiting for my train to pull in and it struck me how in places like railway stations and airports there’s a plethora of people all living different lives, with different destinations in life. Especially in India it’s enhanced with colors, sounds and smells.

Sitting in front of me is a lady with minimal luggage. In the hustle-bustle of the station she sits quietly and rearranges her bag. The most astonishing thing about Indian women from the streets is where they hide their purse. Of course, unlike us they have tiny purses just big enough to place their meager collection of money- wouldn't be more than a couple of hundreds. After setting her purse and hiding it in her blouse she moves on to rearranging her bag that is nothing more than a shopping bag made of cloth. I watch as she removes each item and boy was I stunned! I doubt our well-paid-for totes can accommodate that much! Quietly, in her own world she goes about arranging her bag, oblivious to the bald heads screaming next to her. 

Which brings me to my next source of amusement- the three bald heads. This family of five just got all of their heads shaved, except the mother. The parents are seated quietly, clearly oblivious (or used to) to the three bald heads' screaming. One bald head thinks he's Rajnikanth. He's trying to lift his brother off the ground even though he's failing miserably. After a while he's given up trying to be a hero using his brother; now he's fighting an imaginary villain. 

A young girl who’s probably younger than me came to freshen up at the water tap. Guess what, she’s newly married. Her husband is next to her and is pretty young himself. My aunt pointed out that he has similar facial features as the girl so he’s probably her brother. Even if he is her brother he can still be her husband; they’re from Andhra Pradesh after all. But whoever he is, they were definitely blushing while talking to each other. Even in this huge railway station filled with strangers, they had an intimate moment, which my aunt and I forced ourselves into.

Stations & airports are the best places to just sit and watch how the disconnected world finally connects in one place before traveling to different destinations.