Friday, December 31, 2010

As January rolls in

Hi there,

First of January. There is something childishly optimistic about a 'New Year'. The fact is, a 'new start' to whatever you want to do, can be done on any day of the year. Yet there is some joy, some anticipation, some excitement as December 31st passes and January begins.

The newspapers carry so many adverts about new year bashes. It is almost as if there is a compulsion to 'do something' for December 31st. Almost anyone I meet seems to ask me the same thing "So--what are you doing for new years?"
Somehow, the noisy pubs and clubs and bashes and dos and loud parties (commercially organised with a Bollywood diva or a celebrity singing and dancing) with a room full of drunken strangers isn't my idea of welcoming the new year. We usually stay at home for new years. Sometimes we have good friends over, sometimes it is just the four of us.  (Satish and I and our two children)

If it is just the four of us, we usually have a 'party' on the terrace. We play some nice 'fun games' (I think  up some really unique games and usually my son and I are in a team. We play against my husband and daughter in the other team), and we stay up till midnight. When the clock strikes twelve, I light my hanging lamp. (see photos. This is my prayer space)

We then pray for our loved ones, our families, our closest friends and for all those people who matter to us. We spend a few moments in serene silence, wishing for the very best but most importanly offering gratitude to the Universe for all that we have.

We are so fortunate (and so are you if you are reading this) to have a home, to have food on the table, to have good health, to have people who care about us and to have so much love.

We then hug each other,wish each other and go to bed.
We have had this ritual on for many years now.

So when people ask me in surprise "What? You aren't going to party?" I find it hard to explain to them, the joy in silence, serenity and peace and most importantly the joy in being with your closest ones(I cannot even imagine leaving my children at home and going for some party  to some hotel on new year!) to welcome a new year. I just smile and say "No, we will be at home only."

This year though, we would be spending it with immediate family.

However you choose to welcome the new year, whether you are partying (with or without a bollywood diva--hey--to each their own) or whether you are at home, whether you are alone or with friends, here is hoping that you take time to contemplate on where your life is going. Steer it gently, nudge it, prod it and then just leave it alone after you have given it your best shot.

It will all turn out perfect in the end, just the way it was meant to be.

Cheers and the very best wishes for achieving all your goals !

Love and warmth

Monday, December 27, 2010

Silent Words

Words  rising to the lips
From the depths of the heart
Held back as prisoners.
They’re not free to leave
Or live.

Squashed they must be
The desire they contain within themselves
Squelched with no trace
For they belong neither to you
Nor me.

Yet they strive
To exist within boundaries
Refusing to die
But struggling to live

They rise like smoke
Spread against the sky
Forming letters bit by bit
That can only be felt within the soul
Silent words.

Each of the letters
Contain a world of their own
True to the deepest core
Yet unsaid, unexpressed
So pure yet so tainted

Unable to be quiet
Any longer
They scream in anguish
Echoes scream back
‘I love you too’.

© 2010 Preeti Shenoy

For more poems click here. Some poems have already appeared in print. Kindly do not reproduce without permission.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Age is a matter of feeling not of years--a wonderful birthday

Many people shy away from birthdays. They feel only children can celebrate their birthdays. Yet others feel every single day comes only once a year, so what is the big deal about birthdays. Some feel bad that they are another year older.

But my views on birthdays are different.I truly go all out to do something special on the birthdays of those closest to me. Do I expect them to return the favour? Of course not! It is not like I would feel disappointed if these people do not wish me or give me a gift.

However, when someone close to me, does make that extra effort, it does make me feel really special.(on my last birthday when I was visiting India from UK,  one of my closest friends flew from Delhi just to spend the day with me and that made my day truly unforgettable. In fact, this  story of our friendship will appear soon in the Indian edition of Chicken soup for the friend's soul).

My birthday that just went by (It was on 21st December, I turned 39 and I am very proud of my age  unlike many who try to hide it :-) ) was truly one of the best ones I have had in a long long time. The doorbell rang at 11.30.p.m on 20th and there was a bouquet of red roses, a chocolate cake and a wine बोतल  (the delivery slip said 'botal'- heh heh) that was delivered. The sender was another of my very good friends. There was also  a card that said " The good thing about being forty (39) is that you can appreciate twenty five (26) year old men."  I wondered why my friend decreased his age by one (outside the bracket) and increased mine by one (within the brackets) .When I opened the 'wine बोतल' it turned out that it was actually a whiskey bottle! Of course I texted my friend immediately to tell him about the mistake  and he texted back saying "Oh #$%* I will kill them" which I found sweetly amusing (and I chuckled inwardly). I texted back hastily (before he set out to kill them :P ) saying I drink whiskey too and it was okay :-). Then I switched off my phone as I knew that I would be flooded with midnight calls and texts. Very smartly, he called up on Satish's number and of course spoke to me  and wished me and he said "You thought that if you switch off your phone I won't call you or what?"  Somehow the effort he made to reach me, truly moved me. He also explained the mystery behind the card when he told me it was a famous quote by Collen Mc Cullough  who said

"The lovely thing about being forty is that you can appreciate twenty-five-year-old men." :-)

On the next day (which was my birthday) I was again totally swept off my feet when Satish told me that he had taken the whole day off to spend it with me. My two kids and he had planned surprises for me throughout the day! It began when the doorbell rang and my three conveniently  vanished, leaving me to answer the door. When I opened, there was a bouquet of THIRTY NINE red roses (Oh my God!) and two teddy bears and a black forest cake! But that was not all--- Every hour, they had planned a surprise for me! It included a lovely spa package, an extremely moving poem (which he had composed and framed and which spoke of out 15 years together), a hand written book and a lot more! Each hour there was a thoughtful gift and a surprise (which I oepned in between the many phone calls I got wishing me). I was truly flabbergasted, astonished, overwhelmed.They took me out to a marvellous place in the evening. The  best was yet to come. When we came back they asked me whether my day had been great (Were they kidding?! It had been marvellous!) and what gift I liked the best (it was undoubtedly the framed poem composed by Satish). Then Satish gives me THIRTY NINE cards! (OH MY GOD!!) He had taken care to choose each card and he has a truly wicked sense of humour (as many of you know from his guest posts. Incidentally he too has been published in Chicken soup for the father's soul). Some of the cards moved me to tears and some of them had me clutching my sides with laughter. He had written such lovely and such hilarious things. Then he also gifted me a diamond ring (with seven natural diamonds!) and matching diamond ear-rings.
 For me, more than the value of the gift, it is the thoughtfulness that goes into it, that counts. More than the diamonds, I still valued the poem and the hand written book. I absolutely was swept away by the effort he made.

Sometime back  Ramesh of Business Musings  who is also a dear friend, had gifted my son (on his 13th b'day)  a very thoughtful gift--a lovely photography book. Ever since then my son has been experimenting with the camera on the manual mode. I am his favourite model (as his dad and sis have considerably less patience than me :-) ) and on the day after my birthday, my son clicked these pictures of me (with camera on manual mode--can you believe?!) which I totally love and which manage to express exactly  how I felt about my birthday :-) I am sharing these pictures with you.

And now reflecting back on my special  day, I am convinced three times over that the BEST present of all is the presence and love of good friends and family, all blissfully wrapped up in one another :-)
Ps: And a big thank you to so many many of you who sent me messages wishing me. I think I have replied personally to each one. I truly appreciate and value the wishes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You deserve to feel wonderful

A good friend of a good friend died  two days back. It was all of a sudden, a cardiac arrest. I have met the person but cannot say that I am a 'friend'. Yet the death did affect me.

What is it about deaths (even of people we do not know)  that affect us all so much? Is it the warning of our own mortality? Is it because we're truly powerless in front of it? Is it because it is a stark reminder that life is indeed fragile? Is it because it is a jolt of  fact presented to you in a manner  that screams that today indeed might be your last day?

In my twenties, I hardly thought about death.(At that age, who cared really!) But now, the older I get, I find myself realising more and more that every single day that passes, brings you closer to the date of your death. We all come with expiry dates and the clock is ticking.

 Most of us, especially if we're parents, hardly live for ourselves. This is more true if you are a woman. Somehow I find that men do not feel as guilty if dishes are piled up in the sink and the house is a mess. They would probably still grab that  mug of beer and catch that cricket match or football game or NBA match or whatever sport he is into. It is more likely to bother a woman who'll probably wear those dish washing gloves and get down to cleaning before relaxing a bit. (I am yet to meet a woman who says she can unwind completely in a dirty house).

But I am digressing here. The point I am trying to make is that all of us deserve to feel great about ourselves, every single day. Our loved ones too deserve to be made felt wonderful. Life is too short for quarrels, for petty misunderstandings (it is truly petty if you view it against the fact that for all you know that person may not be alive tomorrow), for harbouring grudges, for feeling down about whatever is worrying you right now.

There is nothing you can do about death, but there are several things you can do about life and the way you live it.

Here is my list to ensure that each day is a day well lived :

1.Express love:  Hug and kiss and tell my loved ones that they matter a lot. Somehow, expressing my emotions is very important to me and I am demonstrative by nature. (If I am annoyed that shows too even if I try to hide it :P ) There are many who are not able to express what they feel, even if they want to.  They feel it is understood. But the fact is even those people  who claim they are uncomfortable, secretly  like it if they are hugged and kissed. (Who does not want to be loved?) When I was doing my Masters, I remember reading up several case studies that demonstrated the importance of touch. This is a good article if you wish to read more about it.

2.Show Compassion: How is showing love different from showing compassion? It is perfectly possible to love somebody deeply and show no compassion. A case in point might be an overly authoritarian and disciplinarian parent who feels that showing love, hugging and/or kissing is a sign of weakness that may spoil a child. Compassion means looking at the situation from the other person's point of view and empathising by considering their needs and feelings. I have a few friends who feel offended if I am not available to them when they need me. They are unable to see it from my point of view and sometimes they sulk for days.

3. Make time for things that matter to you: To me, reading is very important. So is spending time with my children and spouse. I ensure that no matter how busy I am, I am available to the children when they come from school. It is very rarely that I have not been at home to greet them (with a hug) when they arrive. I also read to them at bedtime and then spend at least half an hour with them. Usually they cuddle up to me and tell me so much about their lives. Similarly I ensure that when my spouse comes home from work, I get exclusive time with him. I do not take phone calls at that time. We sit in the garden and have a cup of tea.(without the kids). It's truly one part of my day that I look forward to.I read every single day and I cannot live if I don't have a book to read.(currently I am reading two books and i always ensure I have enough stock of books to read).

4.Wear smart clothes:  I wear  comfortable and smart clothes that make me feel terrific, every single day and I just do not  save up the clothes for 'special occasions'. If you have not read the poem 'Millie's mother's red dress', do read it. It is a wonderful poem. When my dad passed away, one of the things which affected me most was giving away the new T shirts that he had never worn. I had gifted them to him and he had wanted to wear them immediately. But my mother (like Millie's mother) told him to save it and wear it when they would come to visit me the following week. There was to be no 'following' week. I still get goosebumps and a lump in my throat when I recall how delighted my gardener was when I gave away those T shirts to him.

5.Make time to  call up a friend and talk and laugh: Life always seems better after a phone call to a good friend, more so if the friend is a positive, happy person. Often I find that a problem talked over with a good friend does not seem such a big problem after all.

I am sharing here a poem which summarises what I believe in and follow:

To Have Succeeded

To laugh often and love much:
To win respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the approbation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give one's self;
To leave the world a little better,
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch,
Or redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
And sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived...
This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

To me, that would be a life well lived and when it is my time to go, I'd have no regrets, saying my good-byes.


ps:  If you have your own ways to live a fuller life  that you can add to the list I shall update the post (and credit you of course) with 'addendums'.

Addendums (as promised)

From Ruchira:
1)Don’t color your life with regrets and sadness for what you don’t have. Instead stay happy by focusing on the positive things! Celebrate your life – After all you only live once!
2)Always Keep learning and doing new things – It’s never too late to learn something new !
3)Travel Travel Travel – Explore this world as much as you can. It’s a Beautiful place !

4) Its never ever too late to say sorry and patch up :-)

From Pia

Not to be afraid of trying new things
Not to be afraid of being adventurous
Not to be afraid of what people would think and doing what you
Accepting life as it comes ("Whatever happens, happens for good" - My husband Vinay keeps saying this)

From Shachi:
Learn to let go easily....forgive and try to forget as well. I find this very hard to do so.
-Be authentic - I see many people who try to adjust and tune to other people, so that everyone likes them. In doing so, you sometimes compromise yourself so much that you forget being true to yourself. I try not to do that as much as possible.
-Find happiness in simple stuff - for me right now, its my baby's smile :)

From Sheila:

1. Take life as it comes with a grain of salt and quit complaining.
2. Live in the present moment.
3. Show people that you care before it becomes too late.

From Sucheta:
try anything once.
-No regrets whatsoever.
-Learn a new thing ( including an idea/concept) everyday.
-With everyone you meet: Connect. Listen. Accept. Evolve. (wow, this just summed up what I have been trying to figure out about people for days!)

From Guru:

# Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn
a life around. ~Leo Buscaglia
#Don’t compare your life with others, you have no idea what their journey is all about.
#Learn to be happy with what you have while you persue all that you want.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

One more pencil portait

A lot of people have been asking me about my Portraits. With the kind of questions I have been asked, I realised that many have doubts as to what portrait commissioning is. Also, many are confused between a quick sketch, a caricature and a hand drawn pencil portrait.

You find sketching booths in malls which give you 'portraits' within a few minutes. It is basically a photograph clicked and digitally altered by a program to make it appear like a portrait. (There is no talent, no time and no art involved here). You could easily do this with something like Picassa or photoshop.

A hand drawn pencil portrait takes me at  the very  least a whole day to complete. The finished result is a lifelike resemblance and is very realistic. (Unlike a caricature or a 'cartoon' ). Recently, I sold my first portrait commission in India. (yes, in between all the relocation from UK to India, I still found time for my art ).

It was Swati's husband's birthday and she wanted to give him a really unique gift and she wanted it to be a surprise. So she contacted me  by email (after seeing my portraits on my blog)  asking me about the commissioning procedure.She wanted me to make a portrait of her husband and her five month old baby. I work from photos and all she had to do was mail me a suitable picture which she did. (she mailed me several and I helped her choose)

I was as excited as her to be a passive player in the surprise that she had planned. I delivered it to her well in advance and the joy on her face as she saw the finished portrait is something I will always remember.

Later she told me he was really delighted and the portrait now occupies a place of pride in their home. (It feels so delightful to know that my work of art is  a part of someone's treasured moments of joy)

The portrait is done on extra smooth bristol board A3 size paper which is of  the highest professional quality.(and it lasts for centuries). The finished portrait was sprayed  with an Artists fixative to prevent it from smudging.
In case you wish to know more about how I work and what equipment I use, you can read this post where I have explained a lot of details.

If you want to see more portraits, please go here.

If you have any more questions, mail me! (ps at preetishenoy dot com)

Addendum: I had to copy past this comment by Swati here in the post:

Hey Preeti
Once again thanks so much for making this the best birthday gift I've ever given my husband. The look of pure joy on his face when he unwrapped the portrait will be one of my most treasured memories :).
Hoping you get lots more commissions :).
I really liked the way you were so involved in the whole process, even messaging me on his birthday and asking how he liked the gift. It's so good to see someone put so much into something they do - not take it as just another job.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

You are thought of.

texting. Pictures, Images and Photos

This morning I got a text message which made me pause and think. It said "
When someone messages you, don't think ki isko sms free hai to kar raha hai but think that he gives 1 minute of his life for remembering you. Stay connected.Good morning"
(For my non hindi speaking friends, it translates to don't think that the person is texting you simply because he has free texts)
It really made an impact on me and made me go "how true." ( Of course, I replied back immediately). It is true that no matter however silly the message (many a time forwarded) is, fact is the person has indeed spent a few seconds to send you the message. For those few seconds, you were remembered and thought of. 

I wondered if most people who got a message like this would dismiss it as just another forward or would it make them think, like it made me think. I sent the message to fifteen of my friends.

Only four replied back. The replies were almost instant too.

Three out of those are my closest pals, my 3.a.m friends ( I can wake them up at 3.00 a.m if I really needed), or 'forever friends' (sometimes clichés describe it best), the ones I can depend on, no matter what, the ones I can trust with all my secrets, the ones I can call up and cry on the phone to (yeah, I have done that) , the ones who completely understand me, the ones I am fairly certain will be there for me, and probably the ones who complete bits and pieces of me.

All the three of the above had something more  to say than a mere acknowledgement of the message. (And even the acknowledgement had not happened with the other eleven. Perhaps they are too busy with their lives to respond to 'forwards').

 Just makes me feel grateful and fortunate to have the  'forever friends'.

And it also makes me think a lot more about 'forwarding forwards' and responding back.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Making love out of nothing at all

Anyone, just anyone ( no matter what their age) who has  ever been in love, knows just how much a song can say. Since time immemorial, men have serenaded women with love songs. (and vice versa too). There have been some  truly brilliant and amazing pieces of music that have been composed for the object of the affection, but the magic of music is such that each one hearing it, feels the emotion as though it were their own. 

Music is pure joy. Music is magic. Music is love.
Life without music is truly barren, empty and to me, it is a life without passion.(Incidentally, the only thing I watch on television are the music channels)

People connect over music. Often we find an unexplainable delight in meeting another who enjoys the same songs as we do. 'Oh,You like Kailash Kher? Me too!' and an instant bond is formed.

Songs often bring back memories too. Even the deeply buried ones that you thought were buried so deep down and so far inside that they would never surface. But music has a way of gently drawing them out and before you realise you have travelled back in time and you are standing right there at that instant when it all happened and when the song swept you off your feet. Years fade away and you re-live that moment as though it just happened a few seconds ago.

This morning it happened to me, when I heard a song. Many years back someone had dedicated this song to me.

He didn't just dedicate it, he sang it.(and he does sing well). He looked right into my eyes as he sang (oh yes, he knew how to serenade women all right) and he meant the lyrics too with all his heart.

And I know just where to touch you
And I know just what to prove
I know when to pull you closer
And I know when to let you loose
And I know the night is fading
And I know the time's gonna fly
And I'm never gonna tell you
Everything I gotta tell you
But I know I gotta give it a try

And I know the roads to riches
And I know the ways to fame
I know all the rules
And I know how to break 'em
And I always know the name of the game

But I don't know how to leave you
And I'll never let you fall
And I don't know how you do it
Making love out of nothing at all

Everytime I see you all the rays of the sun
Are streaming through the waves in your hair
And every star in the sky is taking aim at your eyes
Like a spotlight

The beating of my heart is a drum and it's lost
And it's looking for a rhythm like you
You can take the darkness from the pit of the night
And turn into a beacon burning endlessly bright

I've gotta follow it 'cause everything I know
Well it's nothing till I give it to you 

What chance did I stand against such a guy? Of course I fell for him. I fell so madly in love with him that I married him forty days later. :-) (yeah, that quickly.)

This morning when the song was playing he sang along again.
I called out to my our children and said  " Your papa sang this for me many years back."
They both listened in rapt attention with wide eyes. :-)

I am still smiling and finding it hard to wipe the grin off my face.
And as for the the song, it is still playing inside my head.