Veterans and Diversity this Wimbledon Season


Scrolling though the draws in this year’s Wimbledon, I couldn’t help notice the stark difference between the ladies and gentlemen’s section of the draws. While there was diversity and an open playing field on one side, the other had very predictable favourites (FYI – mine are the Swiss ones). While there is a significant amount of diversity at one end, the other lacks any succession plan.

With so many inspirational players in the gentlemen’s draw belonging to one generation, I wonder how long this can be sustained. When they all retire en mass, I often doubt if I would take an interest in tennis.

The ladies, though, give me much hope. The story of Wimbledon so far is definitely about a certain fifteen year old, Cori Gauff who played her idol, Venus Williams on Court No.1 on her very first Grand Slam. From her shot making, to how she handled the big stage, and her humility thereafter — thanking Venus after the match — is awe-inspiring.

I hope she goes on to achieve many more wins (she plays later today) and retains her focus, grace and composure.


Earlier today, I learnt about the number of moms (Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Evgeniya Rodina, Maria Martínez Sánchez & Mandy Minella) playing on the circuit. It amazes me how these players continue to compete at the highest level, digging up reserves, beating not just physical strains but also fighting a patriarchal system. There are far more fathers on the tour, as compared to mothers, who are forced to quit due to lack of child-care facilities at most courts around the world (barring the four grand slams).

Mother’s Day may have gone by several weeks ago, but these heroes do not need a specific day to celebrate them.

Thank you, ladies, for inspiring us with your grit and determination.

Related read: some other posts I’ve written about tennis.

Finding priorities


Everyday, while performing mundane tasks, such as doing the dishes, I open the YouTube App on my phone, and allow it it show me videos that it has learned to curate for me. For the most part, the app gets it right — US-based late-night political comedies and TED talks.

Today, this talk popped up in my feed: “How to gain control of your free time.” I had watched this video before, but because my hands were engaged (and because this is a great talk), I allowed the smartphone to remind me of how wasteful I have been of my time.

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam says that when people say they don’t have time for something, what they mean is, that it’s not their priority.

When something is a priority for us, we make time for it, no matter how busy our lives are.

I have experienced this first hand, several times. Including, as recently as, last month, when I got around to digitise my mother’s art, in time for her 60th birthday. My previous attempt was way back in 2015. And after four years, with enough motivation to drive me, I finally opened shop on Society6 (This announcement should, and will be, a separate post) .

Under virtual dust

At the end of last year, one of my regrets was not having maintained this blog much. Two posts in a year was a dismal number, considering that the previous year saw me celebrate my 300th post during the NaBloPoMo.

I have several unfinished drafts and ideas — some that are many years old, and some only in want of a ‘featured image’ to go live.

As this video reminds me, somewhat harshly, blogging isn’t my priority anymore. And that is an unhappy thought. Why did I stop doing that which I absolutely loved?

The answer: The decline in my writing on the blog has coincided with my use of Instagram.

Most of my blog posts go through multiple iterations, with me reading, and re-reading them, to make sure it is something worth reading. There is this burden of responsibility, to do justice to the reader’s time. On Instagram, however, there is lesser pressure to write.

I do realise that this pressure about ‘quality of writing’ is pretentious. Clearly, I blog for very selfish reasons.

Another reason, is the decline in community participation — or more appropriately, the narcissism factor. Back when WordPress had ‘featured posts’ on its homepage, and ran Weekly Photo Challenges, there seemed to be a greater incentive to post (read, greater likelihood of ‘likes’). Blogging was chance to discover, and be discovered. (The Discover tab on WordPress now is rather uninspiring)

I found Instagram to be more engaging. Words are less appealing than pictures. Those who couldn’t be bothered to read, are happy seeing pictures (and that includes me). Today, Instagram is what WordPress used to be — fun.

And so, since that NaBloPoMo in 2017, when I gingerly opened my Instagram account, writing has moved to another platform.

Finding a way back

Over the past two years there have been so many exciting things I should have written about here — in my safe space — but didn’t get around to. (I published on four different platforms, travelled to new places, let go of toxic relationships and put myself on a path to heal myself).

Most nights, I lay awake simply because there are so many ideas jumping in my head, waiting to explode (here’s why).

This, rather impulsive post, is my attempt at making a comeback to blogging. Will it succeed? Only time will tell.

A whole new world


(Continued from “We’ll draw a green thumb”)

I watched my father-in-law poke a few holes into the bag with the screwdriver. He left it in the corner, and turned around to find me in a happy daze.

Here I was fretting about the lack of an actual ground. ‘One can’t possibly compost without a hole in the ground,’ I thought to myself. And there he was, coolly collecting all the kitchen waste into a plastic bag to make a compost bag in our tiny apartment balcony.

After my in-laws returned to their home, we continued to add kitchen waste to this make-shift compost bag, excited about harvesting compost.

But something wasn’t quite right.

For starters, it smelt bad. Very, very bad.

And it was super soggy – dripping brown smelly liquid wherever we kept it.

And then there were the maggots. Lots of them.

I was sure that I wanted to compost waste, and was determined to do so. But was it to be as yucky as this? Neither of us had any idea. And so we shot the question out into the electrical void – the internet.

The internet informed us what was going wrong. The short answer: our compost was out of ‘balance’ and had too much moisture*.

To solve our immediate composting crisis, we added shredded newspaper, and left the bag slightly open, in the furthest corner of our balcony. Next step: we decided to get a proper composter.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and we welcomed our Kambha.

The Kambha is a terracotta composter made by a Bengaluru based NGO, Daily Dump. There really isn’t much to it: three earthen pots with holes on the sides. While the top two had a rope mesh at the bottom, the third one was closed at the bottom. They stacked up neatly. I marvelled at the simplicity of its design.

We watched the instructional video and transferred our (now utterly disgusting) waste and added some of the ‘remix’ material supplied by the organisation. The ‘remix’ material and the terracotta absorbed the excess moisture, and within a couple of days the compost stopped smelling.

As I learnt soon enough, the compost pile is as much a living organism as you and me. Needing a well balanced diet, breathing in oxygen, and exhaling carbon dioxide. And if it is malnourished or there is something wrong with its digestion, it emits a foul smell.

As for the maggots, they stopped bothering me. The composter was now a self enclosed eco-system. The compost pile was its earth. And a host of creatures grazed on its lands. With the plastic bag out of the way, the air around the compost became more breathable, and the fruit flies joined the maggots. Soon the land sprung shoots of large fungi, and even a sapling here and there. And the fungus gnats appeared. The maggots slowly reduced in number, as the competition for food grew. And then came the spiders – the top of the food chain, preying upon the insects.

All the while the kitchen waste continued to reduce. What was first green, yellow and purple slowly turned a rich, dark brown colour, and it smelt sweet – like Mother Nature.


* The long answer comes in a separate post!

Circular Dependency


On a hot and sultry Sunday, I step out to go to the market. It seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the local roads. Perhaps it has. In the daily hustle and rush to the workplace, subtle things go unnoticed.

Of course the roads are nothing subtle really. One misstep, and the pothole can trip you. It would probably by fair to call it an obstacle course. I wonder if professional athletes train on the by-lanes of Delhi.

But today is different.

Between me and the market, stands a bright, black strip of tar.

I never thought the sight of roads would be so delightful. Like a weary traveller in a desert, I rush towards, what is possibly, a mirage.

I take a step, and my shoes grip the road. The tar has not yet dried out. I can hardly believe that after so many years, we have smooth road. I walk along, sceptical of it all. A while later, I let down my guard, and begin enjoying every moment of the sticky grip the road had to offer.

But thankfully, it doesn’t take long for me to return to reality.

Towards the side of the road, there is a patch of road which has not received the fresh coat of tar. It looks absolutely dry, and almost perfectly circular. It is almost as if it was deliberately left out, just to prove that the road is, indeed, new.

This circular patch presents itself every few metres, like milestones—only much more frequently.

Strangely, I feel reassured. A new road was too good to be true anyway.

* * *

Can only go up from here
Benches in various stages of construction on Tiger Hill. Considering this is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the place was in shambles when we visited. On a positive note, it can only go up from here!


I’ve pretty much wasted my free time today listening to old Shania Twain songs. I have a bunch of ideas I’ve been wanting to write about. But today, all I want to do is listen to songs by Shania Twain.

Going through the drafts of my blog, I unearthed this post — written 3 years ago, but never published. Quite like the pot holes of our streets, my blog swallowed this one whole! Oh, well, it’s on lazy, slightly confusing days, like today, that a draft comes in handy.

So who are you listening to today?


Photo taken with Moto G3. Click/tap to enter my Flickr Photostream.


This is post #10 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Stop


I read a blog post today that, at first, irritated me. I typed out a comment, pointing out that the article had a sectarian and elitist outlook. Then I stopped myself.

I stopped because I felt it would be useless. I have come to believe that certain thoughts are ingrained in our sub conscious, and any change in opinion can only be brought from within — a realisation, you may say — and not from preaching.

The author had written about not understanding a different culture, and still criticised it as being backward.

I wanted to write that making such assumptions without even understanding why things are the way they are, was not fair, but I stopped myself.

I stopped because I saw myself making assumptions about the author’s motives. I did not know what the author saw that made them make the observations that they did.

I stopped because I was doing that very same thing that I had set out to make ‘right’.

And that is what I learnt today.

That silence isn’t necessarily a bad reaction to negative thoughts. And, perhaps, that’s what we need in today’s hyper-reactive world of 140 characters (or 280), that jumps to conclusions based on partial information, and can’t wait to throw in a comment.

Sometimes, we just need to stop.


This is post #6 in this year’s NaBloPoMo, or as Ra calls it Nano Poblano

NaBloPoMo = National Blog Posting Month = Thirty straight days of blogging

Welcome view


Welcome to the view
The setting sun, behind the Aravalli hills, viewed from the entrance to the viewing area at Sajjangarh /  Monsoon Palace

I wanted to write about the stereotypical portrayal of Rajasthan – a traditionally attired instrumentalist, strumming his Ravanhatta and playing Raag Maand and perhaps the most popular, and misinterpreted Rajasthani folk song “Kesariya Balam”. But I’ll shut up this one time, and sit with the Rajput royals and look out for the monsoon clouds atop Sajjangarh in Udaipur.


In response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Layered – explore the interplay of texture and depth.

Unacceptable


Sometimes, there are things we may like to do that are completely unacceptable to social norms. And so we avoid it.

For many, that is the way of life – to live someone’s version of life. Sometimes, that someone is a voice within us, fooling us into believing we’re in control.

What happens when you take the plunge and explore the other side of what is unacceptable?

Running away
From opportunities
From challenges
From suffering

Breaking down
Of the heart
Of barriers
Of walls

Streaming tears
Of sorrow
Of melting joy
Of realisation

What if, on closer inspection, what used to appear unacceptable, may in fact, be more acceptable?

Payasam for the independent Indian


On 15th of August 1947, the British left India. Atleast that’s what we like to believe.

Consider the following:

At a geopolitical level, we stand fragmented, perhaps permanently disabled, fighting against our neighbours, with whom we share a common heritage.

At an institutional level, we inherited a corrupt bureaucracy that mostly enjoys fat salaries for warming the bench; a political structure that upholds the time honoured divide and rule policy; large organisations that spew communal hatred to further their own interests; and a system of reservation for ‘backward’ castes which is supposed to end discrimination, merit be damned.

Even at an individual level, given that we want to teach kids only English (along with other European languages); dream of an MBA from a foreign university; drool shamelessly at NRIs during family get-togethers for matchmaking; and are obsessed with ‘fair skin’, I wonder, are we really independent?


Meanwhile, yesterday, I made some payasam on occasion of a birthday—of a very interesting person. He is quite dark skinned and born to a community regarded as ‘Other Backward Classes’. He has a luxurious palace, but give him beaten rice and he’ll be absolutely thrilled. He used to steal butter as a kid, but I believe he has outgrown that, what with today’s salted low fat, low sodium stuff on sale.

He didn’t have any fancy MBA, but that didn’t stop him from leading a small group of warriors to victory over a mighty army.

His name is Krishna. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Oh you have! Quite the ladies’ man, no? Please do take a generous helping of this aval payasam—a delicacy made from beaten rice, milk and jaggery.

Aval Payasam
Happy birthday, Krishna!

Music on the move


Of all my childhood memories, our Saturday routine has perhaps left the biggest imprint. Every Saturday, we went to the Vinayak Temple and the adjoining market at Sarojini Nagar.

Appa drove his old Premier Padmini – we used to call it the Fiat – on the near empty roads. The FM radio in the car was always set to All India Radio 102.6 MHz – that was the only station back then. It was our only source of contemporary music, and it was all we needed. We would sing along in loud voices to distorted lyrics that our ears chose to hear.

Years later, the Fiat was scraped. Our Saturday visits continued – with a new in-car radio for company. We retained the Fiat’s radio system.

Apart from the controls on her face, there was little to cover the body of that radio, save a raw metal exterior and lots of wires hanging loose. Anna rigged her up with a set of small speakers and connected it to a plug.

Some years later, we relocated. For a while we continued to visit Sarojini Nagar. But that trip was long and tiring and we began visiting a different temple nearer to our new house. The old car radio, though, was still going strong at home. She became my faithful companion while I prepared for my final school exams, and subconsciously memorized lyrics of John Denver’s songs… I hear her voice in the morning hour as she called me.

I went to college and got my first feature phone – one with an FM radio. Over the next several years, more sophisticated phones followed. And today, my smartphone has replaced the need for a radio altogether.

I don’t know what happened to that car radio system. Maybe it was given away, maybe scraped, but certainly it is in a very different shape right now as compared to what she was back then – just like everything else from my childhood:

Many shops we visited in Sarojini Nagar have shut down or changed their line of business. The market is no longer our weekly grocery and vegetable market. The roads leading to it are choked, and the mad rush ensures we keep our distance.

All India Radio is not the only radio station in town. It is surviving, but their best RJs have moved on to private stations and even internet radios – including the one I’m listening to right now. 

As the internet channel plays a classic, all my memories gather round her… 

And John Denver echoes the sentiment

Radio reminds me of my home far away


In response to this week’s Photo Challenge. To see what the world is feeling nostalgic about, visit the Daily Post.

She looked something like this

Rain Dance


One of the jokes we’ve been cracking about Gurgaon for many years, is that just pouring a glass of water on the road is enough to cause a traffic snarl. So when the clouds above rained down, it came as no surprise that the city of Gurgaon virtually came to a standstill. With vehicles stuck in jams for well over 12 hours, walking seemed to be the only way to go anywhere.

Walk…

Or rather, with half-covered drains overflowing well on to the main road, we had to…

Jump over puddles
Climb over fences
Swing around car mirrors
Limbo under branches
Crawl sideways on narrow high ground
And when someone came splashing water
Quickly turn around!

…no, in the middle of the main road, we were not walking, we weren’t wading, and we weren’t weaving… we were dancing!

Drops of water streaming down narrow channels of a Spider Lily

To see what the blogosphere is picturising, narrow your focus on to the Weekly Photo Challenge