Friday, July 1, 2016

New Web Address!

Hello Followers,

I have shifted to Wordpress and you can catch up with me at

Hope to see you there friend :)


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Curious Case of the Mother Tongue

My mother tongue is konkani but being born and brought up in Pune, my first language somehow became marathi and konkani was sidelined. Marathi has become so integral that my sister and me converse in marathi while with my parents it is a blend of konkani and marathi, they speaking in konkani and we replying back in marathi. The kind of situation most of the NRI kids have, common term of communication being english. 

27 years in Maharashtra and then suddenly I am sent off to Chennai and the language barrier almost killed me. I was always cribbing and complaining that Chennaites can't speak english or hindi and are adamant that they will speak tamil only. But then I looked back at Maharashtra, what different are we doing? We are also hell bent that you speak marathi with us. Maybe the little brighter side was broken hindi can be used as a means of communication in Maharashtra. That was just a little respite. But the problem remained the same. I used to be pissed off that even in office meetings people used to converse in Tamil. But it was the same case in Pune, many meetings happened in marathi.

Then it dawned on me, an outsider will always feel that he/she is not treated fairly and that the localites have a upper hand as they know the local language, which is true even if a bengali goes to Chennai or a tamilian travels to Maharashtra. We are so self centred that we view our problems as huge without taking a holistic perspective of the situation.
After coming to the US, the rife between languages increased with same language speaking people geling more than as an entire Indian community. When we go to get togethers, all of us (mind you all of us and not just Telugu or Tamil folks as we keep on complaining all the time) make groups and start conversing. It is natural, we are comfortable in our mother tongue and but obvious will be more at ease in a similar group. This is fine when we have people from all languages in a gathering. But what happens when majority are of one language and just one person is an outsider? That is where the problem arises. The majority is happily yapping in their language while the outsider is pretending to surf the mobile, cursing himself/herself on why he/she is here.

Here is where we need to evolve. At least a few folks from the majority group should try and include the outsider in the conversation. All of us communicate in english outside our homes in the US, can't we extend that courtesy to the person in the gathering? It shouldn't be just the host's responsibility to make sure everyone feels included irrespective of the majority. If someone in the group speaking your language is speaking in english with you,  try to take the hint and do not reply back in your mother tongue.

Languages were made for people to come together and communicate. But we are using language to make barriers and separate ourselves from the rest of the world. We are making small hollow pockets within our community and passing on the same culture to the next generation.

Language is so beautiful that even when you don't have a common language to communicate - your expressions and gestures say a lot in this situation. To give an example, just a couple of days ago I attended a function in my community and a friend's mom who doesn't know english conveyed to one of our friends that the decoration she did for her daughter's event was fantastic with a broad smile and like this  - 
Wasn't that easy?

I have learnt the hard way to include everyone in conversations because I was an outsider for a long time and I understand how it feels to be not included into conversations in a gathering. I still tend to slip into my mother tongue but mostly get back into my 'include all mode' :)

It is hard. But if we do not do it, we are losing out on the whole essence of languages!

So the next time you have a gathering, can we attempt to make it an all inclusive party? :)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Stop Judging, Start Living!

During my solo trip to India, I had a stopover at JFK and this is an episode during my trip which made me think about how easily we judge others and pass predicaments which are uncalled for most of the times.

I had a 3 hours stopover at JFK and was sitting at the terminal when one of the Aunties approached me and requested me to make a phone call to her son. I gave her my phone and she had a talk with her son and later she sat beside me. Here is a glimpse of the conversation which happened between us -

Aunty: So are you a student?
Me: (I get that a lot due to my tiny frame). No. I am married and stay here with my husband.
Aunty: Oh! I see. How long have you been married?
Me: 4 years (And I knew the next question which was coming).
Aunty: 4 years!! Where is your kid then?
Me: We don't have kids yet.

Aunty makes a nasty face. I ignore. I am hungry and I take out the dry snacks I had prepared at home. I offer some snacks to Aunty.

Aunty: I don't eat outside stuff.
Me: It is home cooked by me. You can have it.

Aunty gives me a suspicious looks and says: You cook?

Me: Yes, I cook to survive. Why did you think I cannot cook?
Aunty: You are wearing orange bright striped pants and a funky t shirt with such short hair. By no means you look like you might be entering the kitchen!

It was then I realized, how easily we stereotype people and pass judgements. It is not that I am guilt free. I have also done that on many occasions. I have also labelled people based on their looks, their lifestyle, their friend circle or even on their dressing sense. I have labelled people as 'easygoing', 'uptight', 'haughty', 'nerd' and so on and so forth.

Image Credit

Now when I think about it - how narrow minded I was to call names without really knowing the person. What right do I have to judge people based on some initial scrutiny? How easily we talk about other people and pass judgements without even knowing the person fully. I believe this is how we do character assassination of others and don't even realize what harm we have done!

Just because I was wearing some unconventional clothes doesn't imply that I cannot cook. Just because someone is rich doesn't mean he/she has got it all sorted. Just because someone had a baby the very first year of marriage doesn't imply it was a mistake. Just because someone had a baby after 5 years of marriage, doesn't mean they had marriage woes. Just because a husband and wife are staying away, doesn't mean it is the money they are after. Just because a girl wears a short skirt, doesn't mean she is inviting rape. Just because a guy talks well with you, doesn't mean he is flirting with you. Just because the girl is talkative and open, doesn't mean she is asking for it. 

Let us not be too fast to judge and give our verdict. Better still, let us try to stop judging and evolve from the vicious cycle of stereotypes. Let us stop judging people by the preconceived notions imbibed in us by the society. Let us open up our mind and be our own judge.

You only live once! So stop judging and start living!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The tamasha of my life!

When we were watching the movie Tamasha, amidst a bored and disengaged audience I think I was the only one who was completely engrossed in Ved's story. The movie is about Ved, the protagonist who is bundled in a set routine and a fixed life with no space for spontaneity or following dreams. While the Ved, Tara (female lead) met 4 years ago was so not like the present Ved. The struggles Ved goes through to be that 4 years back Ved is what the movie is about.

Image Via Hindustan Times
The movie may not be Imtiaz Ali's best of works, but the message it portrays and delivers is powerful.

The story touched a chord in me as I could so identify with Ved. Throughout my school life, I have been this serious geek girl who did not play sports or did any fun activities. I was bananas about my studies (humor intended) and that is what I did. I was shy and kept to myself. This was not due to any social pressure or parental nagging, it was just the way I was! Or the way I thought I was! Slowly this shy and silent self became my identity and I got wrapped in this personality stamped as studious forever.

I remember a time during our school picnic when some fun loving girls were dancing in the bus while returning from our picnic spot back to the school. And in the spur of the moment, I too stood up and started dancing which was so not me. I enjoyed it. But my enjoyment was short lived as the next day one of the guys in my class came and asked me what was wrong with me? Why did I have to dance like that with those girls in the bus. Why this did not suit me at all! It was when I realised I have been trapped in this personality forever. At that moment I knew I will be always like this and will have to live with it.

Since then I stuck to my serious personality with a fear of what people will think and say if I do what I really wanted to do. I wanted to do journalism but instead I went for the classic Microbiology realizing soon that it was not my cup of tea. I did not take up journalism as I was told that I am not cut out for it and should instead go in Research. After graduation, I had to shift gears as Research was not what I envisaged myself doing. I finally jumped into the MBA bandwagon and completed my MBA in HR, still being the Pradnya who took grades very very seriously. 

I worked 5 years in corporate doing my work diligently and always being on my toes and bouncing new ideas. I received accolades from my seniors and I thought it was natural and the only way to move on with my life. I still was the Pradnya who took my job very seriously and always kept on thinking what my colleagues think about me, are my seniors happy with my work, am I doing enough at my workplace? 

And then life changed upside down. I left all that back and came to US. I think coming to US on a dependant visa has been a turning point in my life. I started writing and I think it is then that I started loosening up in real sense. I have an extremely liberal and supportive husband and that made the whole difference. Post marriage itself I had started to unwind a little but it was never extreme. As I started writing again, I felt a sense of elation and euphoria. Finally I was doing what I really loved! It slowly started unblocking my apprehensions and letting each strand of my hair down. It gradually liberated me and I started breaking out of my mould and reinventing myself or rather being my real self.

A girl who would seek everybody's approval at one time, today does not care for anyone's approval as long as she knows what she is doing is right. A girl who wore what society prescribed, wears quite 'unapproved' wardrobe today without thinking twice of what will people say.  A girl who kept to herself, goes out today and boosts others' morale. A girl who had a set routine all day long, does impromptu crazy (ok, not so very crazy) things today. A girl who never smiled from the heart, laughs like a crazy woman today!

2 years ago when I had come to India for my sister's marriage, I was here for 2 months and I met only 3 close friends of mine in those 2 months. That's it! Today when I am in India, my writing has taken me to places and made me meet new people. In a span of 15 days, I met many friends - some old and some new! The change is noticed by everyone at home and outside. My parents are awestruck with this new Pradnya and my in laws think I have been reincarnated ;) They love the new bubbly always smiling me :)

Did I always wanted to be this Pradnya? Deep inside, maybe yes! Would I have been this Pradnya if I had not come to US? May be not. Am I happy being this new Pradnya? Oh hell, YES YES YES!!!

For all those who are still in their forced avatar self, let your hair loose once and see what magic happens. I know following our passion can be difficult and we have financial and family responsibilities, but at least once try to pursue what you love! Do it part time, do it as a hobby or if it is possible make it your livelihood. 

There is nothing in this world which is as satisfying as doing what you love!

Ved and me are following our passions, he happy with his tamasha and me happy with my words! Are you following yours???

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

15 Minutes in a Mumbai Local

Last week my boss and me were in Mumbai to tick off a few important tasks from our agenda. When we did our booking, my boss made absolutely sure that her America returned colleague does not have to travel via the over crowded Mumbai local. But alas! Destiny had some other plans for us and all the meticulous planning by my boss went for a toss as we entered Mumbai!

We were supposed to reach Dadar station at 10.55 am and as the station was nearing we asked one of the fellow travellers whether the next station was Dadar and he very authoritatively said yes. We got down at the Dadar station and were waiting patiently on platform 6 for one of our friends who was supposed to pick us up. We waited and then called him. The conversation between my boss and the friend was something like this -

My boss: D, where are you?
D: At platform 6, the station master says the train is running late.
My boss: We have reached Dadar. Stop joking around and come and pick us up.
D: Arey baba, seriously train nahi dikh rahi yaha. (I cannot see the train here)
My boss: Which direction is the train track from where you are standing right now?
D: Right
My boss: Then you are at the right side. Platform no.?
D: 6
My boss: Can you see an indicator on top? We are below that indicator.
D (thinking to himself, what on earth is she talking about?): What indicator?
My boss (started cursing): ****,*****,****
Me: Shweta, we have got down at Thane!!

Ha ha ha! That was it! We told our friend that we will take the next local and come to Dadar now from Thane station.

Image Via Indian Express

My face goes crimson red, no not due to anger but because of anxiety. My palms start sweating. Traveling in a local! I start thinking of various reasons to avoid it. I tell my boss, Shweta that I will go back to Pune. She thinks I am kidding.

She gives me the first lesson of Mumbai local travel - get your laptop sack in front so that people don't pull/push you with your sack at the back. I think she is joking but then realise she is serious as she takes her sack in front. I still don't do it thinking it to be funny.

The local arrives. Looking at the mad crowd, I tell Shweta let us take the next local. She pulls me in front of her and as numerous women board the ladies compartment I am automatically forced into the local. We have to get down after 3 stations and standing in that crowded local with luggage starts becoming a nightmare. Women are pushing and making way as the stations arrive. I am being swinged between poles. At one point I think of pushing everyone out of my way but cannot. I stand there amidst these Mumbaikars wishing Dadar comes soon enough.

I look at people around me. Pregnant women also travel in these locals, I feel embarrassed about my self. They can travel in her and I am making such a big fuss. I see college going girls very handily speaking in their headphones with their friends standing as if they are strolling in a garden and talking. I see women discussing office gossip. I hear women discussing home problems. I feel the pulse in the local of Mumbaikars for whom this is just another day unlike me. And then I realize, how a local binds all of them together where many of them spend a considerable amount of time in here traveling.

As Dadar arrives, I am pushed out with force easily with the women heading out in full speed to their respective destinations starting their just another day in Mumbai. While I thank God for letting me survive this ordeal and feel jubilant as we see our friend finally on platform 6 of Dadar station!

They tell me it was off hour and hence the local wasn't crowded! I smile to myself thinking where would  I have been in a rush hour local!

Salute to all Mumbaikars and their spirit for making each day count and making me realize in awe how each Mumbaikar repeats it every single day!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Week Three of Old and New Friends

Week three of my India trip has been a blend of meeting old and new friends! 

This week I decided to spend some more time with my parents and hence kept my outside meetings to a minimum. And yet, I met so may people!

I first met Amruta and her talkative daughter Avanee. Amruta and me were in the same school, but we never really spoke that much then or were close. Recently she gave me pat on the back on my 52 weeks of adventure stint and since then we have been chatting. I also took her advice on my tattoo and she was one of those who assured me that it doesn't pain. Thanks to that, I finally did my first tattoo.

Our talk during our meet was more centred to school days and how I wasted those days doing nothing but studying! How naive we were then and how different today's kids are! Avanee sat super awesome for the entire time, talking about her favorite movies and songs. She is a good kid with a fine taste in cinema, I must say! Here is to new bonds - 

My first pout ever!!!
The next meeting was with a fellow Toastmaster Yogiraj. Again, same school but no talk then. I started following Yogiraj's posts after seeing his TM photos. He is a Competent Communicator today and working on his next level. Can you believe - he has always won the Best Speaker award for all his speeches till now? That is a big feat and I respect him for that! He is even competing at the District level - International Speech Contest. My best wishes with him :)

Our talks mainly revolved around TM, some philosophy with choosing a word for the ear concept, blogging and his life when he is sailing (he is in the merchant navy). Unending stories unravel when one Toastmaster meets another Toastmaster!

All smiles!
The next meet is a special one! Meeting my MBA best buddy Devayani. We were three very close friends - Devayani, Rohini and me. It has been 10 years now and we are still very close. The best part of our friendship is each one of us has been a part of all the ups and downs in each others' life. We may be apart by distance, but we are close via our hearts. It may sound cliched, but it is true. Rohini is in Bangalore and we are waiting for her to fly down to Pune.

Meanwhile I met Devayani who is in Pune. It was my special request to her to get her daughter and oh my god.... Mukta is a junior Devayani with all the incessant talks. When Devayani used to talk with me, Mukta very innocently used to say, "Aai mala pan sang".....subtly hinting ti include her in the talks too. She is adorable and her sweet babble just made my day!

When we were leaving, Devayani asked Mukta to give me a flying kiss. She did that reluctantly. However after going a little ahead, she looked back blew the sweetest of kisses towards me. That image of hers will always be etched on my mind!

Friends Forever!

Working with Stylewhack is always exciting. Ever since I have come to India, we are grabbing every opportunity to sit and strategize. One of the things I am enjoying being here now is the events I get to attend due to Stylewhack. One such event was watching the Marathi play Don't Worry Be Happy and meeting the stupendous duo Spruha Joshi and Umesh Kamat. I loved sitting in the first row and watching this enthralling play. Tune in to Stylewhack to get a review of this play. 

The awesome duo!
I also met Shradha, my MBA friend. Again, we weren't close then but we bonded over Game of Thrones and have been having some common interests. I hogged on Pav Bhaji with her and in that food coma forgot to click a picture. It was nice chatting with her on all topics right from who is doing what after MBA. We spoke about our favorite books and my writing. It was so nice to catch up with her after 10 years!

This week was full of stories! I am in Mumbai now with Shweta and it is going to be one fundoo trip. We already have stories of our day 1 here. Wait for next week for some Mumbai diaries!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Week Two of Memory Collection

I am in second week of collecting memories. The week one was exhilarating! And week two had its own charm. Let's see what all I did this week.

The week started with meeting an old friend. 10 years ago we started our MBA together and here we are now, 2 very different people than what we were 10 years ago. Siddharth at that time was a completely gutsy fellow, not afraid to talk his mind and also to give a piece of his mind to people who needed it ;)
I met him this week and he is a transformed man. A doting father and an extremely mature human being. His rudeness has vanished and what I saw was a down to earth, calm and mature Siddharth. I hated his audacity in college, but today I think his audacity has rubbed off on me and I would not care a damn for anyone who is here to bring me down. I will not sit quiet if injustice is happening in front of me. I will not just sit and brood that things are this way and cannot be changed. I am a gutsy woman today!

This one is for Sid and his audacity :)

To our friendship!
I am waiting for our entire MBA gang to get together now, which will happen sometime in April when Rohini comes from Bangalore and we catch up.

In the course of my writing, I meet many new people sometimes via the internet and sometimes in person. Another such connection which I made through my friend Rohini is the super friendly couple Priyanka and Abhijeet. I have been doing some small writing assignments for Abhijeet and thought of meeting them during my current trip. The highlight of this meet was super yummy butter chicken and manchow soup! Ha! This happens when you come to India after 2 years, food does become a highlight of meetings! ;)

This was before the food came! Post food we were numb with foodgasm :)
I was meeting them for the first time. But I did not have the anxiety of being on my best behaviour or thinking how should I be in front of them. I think I have come a long way today where I do not have to pretend to impress anyone or be super conscious about what others perceive about me. To be frank, Abhijeet and Priyanka made me so comfortable that I forgot that I am meeting them for the first time :)

Having said that - I had an experience where I thought there were 11 judging pair of eyes on me and to be really honest, I was a little scared. Yes, this was the kitty party of my MIL's friends which took place at our home. I carried watermelon juice in a tray and served everyone, trying to gauge if those eyes out there were judging me or assessing me (I never had any groom seeing sessions, so you can understand how this felt!). But then I realized, these women are here just to get together and laugh their heart out with their friends. Slowly my anxiety dissipated and I was my normal self chatting with them.

I had baked a cake for one of the Aunty's birthday celebration. It was my first attempt at baking in a pressure cooker and I wasn't sure how good the cake will turn out. But everyone around liked the cake and that made me really happy. 

I baked that! :)
 What can I say of this group which filled the house with laughter and noise. Coming from US, it was a little difficult for me to digest so much of noise but I liked the energy and camaraderie flowing in the room. These women were pulling each other's legs, making fun of each other and the most important fact of all - 'enjoying life'. All of it made me believe - 'Age is just a number'. When they left, they left a part of their energy back with me.

The noisy gang!
So this was my super fun week two. I am at my mom's place now hogging on all kinds of fish. There can be no home as cozy as your mom's for sure. 

My week three has some exciting plans. Keep an eye for some good times coming next week :)