Monday, May 30, 2011

Gratitude can change your life

'Life is what you make it' has now made it to Number Seven on Top Ten fiction list of Hindustan Times!
It is indeed a joyous moment. There is also an article [ it has a nice picture of me too ;-) ]  in Times of India Mumbai,yesterday, which features me and a few other blogger-turned authors.Click here to read the article.

I have been flooded with mails and I am truly overwhelmed by the amount of love and appreciation I am getting from all of you. On my FB page, I finally had to put  up this message (to which I again got so many responses too!):
Hey guys,
Till now I had managed to reply to each and every person who sent me a mail. But now the mails have started POURING in with my second book. Struggling to cope with this many!! Please bear with delay in responses :)
Much love!
Many people write to me saying my life sounds like a perfect life and it seems like I live in a fairy tale! Some openly say they are jealous of me! I find that emotion really hard to understand!I have worked hard to get everything that I have today.(touch wood) My life is just as ordinary or as enchanting as yours. It is just that I always look at the brighter side and I do feel very  fortunate for all my blessings which I keep affirming.

One thing that I have truly learnt from life is that what Jerry and Esther Hicks keep teaching is indeed one hundred percent true. The laws of attraction do work. Positivity does work wonders. Once you understand (and practise) this simple but profound key, paths magically open up.(I am indeed a believer of Rhonda Byrne's Secret).

So many people tell me that I am one truly positive person and ask me how I can be so happy all the time. Trust me, I have my really down moments too (ask my husband and kids and my closest friends), but I crib only rarely. Even in the bleakest of situations, I am indeed able to quickly bounce back and see the bright side.

Handmade Journal Hand Pictures, Images and Photos

One of the things which has worked for me to be able to do this is journalling.I do maintain lots of  journals. One of them is a hand-written little gratitude journal in which I simply write down things I am grateful for. I do not do it every day and I update it whenever I feel particularly good about something someone did for me or something that happened. Once I write this, it is a total 'pick me up'. 

If things are not going right for you, if something that you want very badly is eluding you, if someone has been really unfair to you, if the one you love has left you, if that promotion at work has not been happening, if life is totally treating you bad, then it is indeed time to GRAB happiness. Start a gratitude journal today.

Here's how you do it:
Walk into a nice stationary shop and go through the journals on display for sale. Run your hands on their covers. Look inside and see if there is adequate spacing. Do you prefer a plain one or one with lines? Do you want one with handmade paper or do you want a sleek modern one? Do you want a mole-skin one or a leather bound one? Choose one which makes you feel totally happy.

Now choose a nice pen too and keep the journal and the pen beside your bed. You are ready to start.
At the end of the day, write down whatever little thing has made you feel good. You are not allowed to write any negative things in this journal. Did it rain today? Did the smell of rain make you feel happy? Write it down!

Remember there are no rules for what you can write or how much you should write. Write it as long as it makes you feel good and happy. The only rule is no negativity.
All my entries start with date and time at the corner and has the title 'Things I am grateful for today.' 

The more you get into this habit, the more you find things to be grateful for. You are at peace with yourself,because suddenly you realise that there is truly a LOT to look forward to in life, which you have been ignoring as the blanket of negativity which you had earlier enveloped yourself with, was clouding your judgement.

Try it!  Follow it sincerely. Believe in it and it will indeed change your life and fill you with happiness and peace.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

With love from Maldives.

There are vacations you take  and then there are vacations which make you feel you're living out your dreams. It isn't hard to figure out which category my current vacation falls into. The last four days I have been living in paradise.

I wake up and I feel  that someone has turned me into a character and put me into a picture post card. How can every single thing be so perfect, so tranquil, so serene and so fill me with  so much joy? This is truly THE BEST vacation I have ever had. As cliched as it may sound, it is true. I am in Maldives right now , sitting on my ocean deck of my water villa, surrounded by the sea which has multiple shades of blue. It feels as though all the blues of my painting kit  have opened up and poured themselves into the water--cobalt blue, prussian blue, aqamarine blue, peacock blue, sky blue--name it and it is there. The pictures here are not photoshopped at all--this is how it really is! It is out of the world. It is amazing. It is tranquil, serene-- a piece of paradise, right here on earth. This is Nature in all her splendour.She is comforting, she surrounds you with peace and she fills you with a contentment that makes you feel so good to be alive. This is what real beauty means to me.

I have painted a few sea-scapes over the last few days but I am too lazy to upload those pictures. This post too, I initially thought I would come back to India and then blog. But it is different when you are right there--living in this moment. It would take me just a few minutes and so here I am sharing a few pictures with you, which will give you an idea as to what I am raving about.

 Blue skies. Clicked from our flight into Maldives. We took a direct flight from Bangalore which brought us to Male. From Male, we took  a sea plane to this island we're staying at. Maldives is made up of 26 Atolls. There is no single word in English language which captures the beauty of these atolls. They truly have to be seen to be believed.

This is a picture of the sea plane. Yes, they land and take off in the sea. It was the first time I was flying in a sea plane. I had only seen them in movies.

I couldn't resist clicking this picture of Satish as we waited to board our sea plane. He did not know I was clicking. I love this picture of his :)

 This is  where the sea plane landed. We walked from this jetty to the island. The accommodation is luxury personified. Satish clicked this picture of me as we were waiting to be shown to out water villa. 

The water villa is just that--a large, posh, tastefully done up home in the middle of the ocean. There is the gentle sound of lapping water as I type this.And of course a million shades of blue.

It was raining the day we arrived. That added to its beauty. It was so romantic. It was our second honey moon. (We have been married 16 years now) and it set the perfect mood for the holiday :)

This was the view from our deck, as soon as we arrived.

Soon it stopped raining. We went snorkelling.
 The sea life is indeed amazing. 

You forget every single thing when you are in the water, swimming with the million fishes. The coral reefs , the myriad colours, the different kinds of water life you see--it just feels ethereal. You almost expect to see little mermaid swimming along you and you expect to be taken to the palace of the ocean king under water. It is a totally different world.
 I don't have any snorkeling pictures because we were too busy getting carried away :) Besides, I do not have an underwater camera :)

 You can see the water villas in the back ground. Of course, I could not stand still for long and I had to leap in joy :)

 And this is the blueness which has me enchanted. I have a thousand photos of the blue. I completely love it. I can live here surrounded by this for the rest of my life and I will be happy :)

I like this shot of me which Satish clicked. I am sipping a cosmopolitan. I would like to say that I am thinking some deep philosophical thoughts about love and loss, and how things change. But really, I am just thinking about how nice my drink is ;) .

I like how he captured this one too. :) Here I am just trying to stop the wind from blowing hair into my eyes. :)

That's all for now folks! I am heading out for a swim in the ocean (once more).

Have a HAPPY day! Banish negativity.
Life is indeed beautiful and too short to be away from the ones you love.
PS:1. If you want to see more pictures,drop a comment and let me know and I will do a part 2 of this post, once I get back.
2. Just submitted this post on Indibloggers as a part of 'what does real beauty mean to you?" contest.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A promise and a birthday

In my last post, I had said that I would write about what a true friendship really is.
The best example I can think of is two of my husband's closest friends--Arati and KP, whom he was friends with right from the time he was a carefree bachelor. They have known him for more number of years than I have.They live in Delhi. He has so many stories with them, which I wasn't even a part of. I met them for the first time, about six months after I got married. They are one of the nicest, sweetest and loveliest people you will ever come across. I was proud and happy that he has such wonderful friends.

Today, sixteen years later (that is the time Satish and I have been married) we are still the best of friends. Their daughter is almost 18. She is a chip of the old block and she adores my two children as much as they adore her. When we were visiting India, from the UK, we stayed with them. At that time, their daughter Geetika, made a promise to my daughter, that on her birthday, she will be there with her to celebrate it, no matter whichever part of the world we are in. She would certainly come. This was way back in August last year.

My daughter would time and again tell me "Mummy I am waiting for my birthday..Geetika didi said she will come." I would gently remind my daughter that people do say things like that in the heat of the moment, but they forget later and she will be busy with her exams and she may not be able to make it. I was just being realistic as I did not want my daughter to be disappointed later on. My daughter would nod sadly and did not know what to say.

Today is my daughter's 10th birthday and guess what--yes, Geetika has flown all the way from delhi, just to be with my daughter! I am so overwhelmed by this gesture of theirs. Arati and KP told their daughter that she has to honour a promise made to a friend. Geetika has just finished her 12th standard and is busy giving her entrance exams--yet she has taken the time out to be with us, on my daughter's birthday. All to fulfil a promise made to a friend.

This is true friendship. It has stood the test of time. It continues to grow and there is an unbreakable bond here.

I am blessed indeed to have such friends in my life.

Happy birthday, my darling Purvi!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Things change you see.

Things change you see

Sickness in the pit of my stomach
Spreads outward like spilled wine
Tipped carelessly on a white table cloth
Holding in the pain
Tightly knit
Sewn lips
Even though dying really
To end it all.
Desperately seeking closure (not susan)
So memories long held (now meaningless)
Can be obliterated
Without loss of further face (Eternal sunshine anyone?)
But the pain , all pervasive
Like cancer spreads
To all parts of the body
Till the head numb with grief
Finally stops pounding
And succumbs to silence.

Suicide-  a causal word now
Causes not a stir
And what pierces most
Is that he still does not know.
Even remember.

Things change you see.

© 2011 Preeti Shenoy

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

This is a poem I wrote a few days ago. Most of my poetry is dark and sad, very unlike my posts which are peppy and so full of life (usually). Mostly the lines in my poems just 'come to me out of nowhere' and I scribble them down quickly on a piece of paper before they vanish from my head. If I do not write it down immediately, the moment passes and they are gone forever. 

Poetry, like Art , cannot be explained. It just can be interpreted in any way you like. Either it moves you or it doesn't. That is the beauty of it.

Today, a news item in Times of India, prompted me to post this poem on my blog. Sometime back I had blogged about growing apathy  in urban environments towards suicides and how we can do our tiny little bit. 
(Please read the post if you haven't read it before continuing further)

On Sunday night, Bangalore city claimed yet another suicide victim. Ruchi Shandilya who was just 25, ended her life by hanging herself from the ceiling fan, in her apartment, near Ulsoor lake. She has worked with manoviraj Khosla for three years. He is holidaying abroad and when he heard of her death,  he was shocked and   completely shattered.  She had been married for the past three years  to Prashant Kumar and her marriage had run into rough waters. There were constant fights. On Friday, after one such fight, Prashant stormed out of the house and moved into his friend's place.Ruchi later constantly tried to contact him but he did not answer her phone calls. On Monday morning when he returned home, the sight that greeted him was Ruchi's dead body hanging from the ceiling.

What truly breaks my heart in this story is that Ruchi repeatedly tried to reach out. I can empathise completely with her pain and her desperation (Please read my poem again now, it may make better sense.) Can you imagine her agony for her to have taken this extreme step? It is easy to say "People have fights all the time, why should anyone take their life for that?" Fact is it is not that single fight which would have caused her to end her life. It would have been the last straw that broke the camel's back.

The strongest signals which a person likely to commit suicide gives out is "I cannot go on anymore." They may not say so in so many words, but they may reach out. Suicide is rarely a spur o the moment decision. It is not like how it is shown in the movies. For more information about clues and warning signals click here. 

Suicides can definitely be prevented by talking about issues. And for talking one needs a trusted friend, a confidante and sometimes just somebody who cares enough to listen.

Had Prashant picked up Ruchi's calls, her death would probably have been prevented.
If Ruchi had a close and trusted friend whom she could have called when Prashant did not respond,  her death might have been prevented.
If someone who knew Ruchi cared deeply about her, her death could still have been prevented.

What I feel most hurt about is, nobody really cares..For most people, this just a story in today's newspaper which will go into trash pile tomorrow.

In any relationship, fights are inevitable. In life problems are inevitable. But what is needed is talking about it. One cannot cut off from loved ones, the way Prashant did just because he was angry. The least he could have done was pick up her calls. He owed her that much. After all, they must have had something between them, for them to get married. 

But things change you, see. (and that was meant sardonically).

1.The protagonist in my second book, 'Life is what you make it' survives two suicide attempts. It is based on a true story and hence suicide prevention is a topic close to my heart.

2.If you have even one single dependable friend and a true friend, hold on to them. They are worth their weight in gold. (I will blog about what makes a dependable friend in my next post).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Great joy in a small thing

This is a painting I did for a good friend. When I was in the UK, there was only one person who would call me very regularly from India. It was this friend. Most of these phone calls would end up in us howling with laughter, as we would talk all kinds of nonsense and silly things, which we both would find hilarious.For me, it was a welcome break from my writing, which was truly emotionally exhausting. (when you read my second book you will know why).

We still keep up the phone calls and the good thing now is that we're in the same time zone, unlike when I was in the UK, when I had to keep checking what time it would be for him, in India. Now I can just pick up my phone and call him whenever I feel like.

This painting  is done in acrylic on canvas.It measures 17" x 12". (A3 size). The beauty of it is that, it is done using ONLY three colours.All the myriad shades of blue are obtained by mixing just three basic colours--Prussian blue, Titanium White and Ivory Black. I loved the blues in the picture.

When I finished painting it, I called him and told him about it. Then I told him that I would also get it framed for him. In my usual, honest and frank manner I told him breezily "I will choose a frame for you which will go well with almost any decor. You will not know what frame to choose--and a wrong frame can really kill the beauty of the picture."
He was silent for a minute and then he laughed and said "Thank you very much for your supreme confidence in my ability to choose a frame."

"What do you know? As though you will be able to choose. You are not an Artist. You know only to make money," I shot back.( He is employed at an International Bank).

He laughed and said I was right.

A right frame truly enhances a picture. The variety of frames that are available  in the market (try getting something framed) is indeed mind boggling.
I was glad I chose this one. (an ornate one or a dark frame would have not suited this picture at all).

The picture is now ready to hang and my friend was super-thrilled with it.

So am I.

Strange, how small little things give you such disproportionate joy! Maybe that is the magic of Art.Or who knows, perhaps the magic of friendship. Either ways, I am happy to create  a thing of beauty that will last for centuries.It is such a heady experience and I am thankful I have my Art.


Flipkart has a  really nice policy of offering huge discounts on Best-sellers. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my book 'Life is what you make it' is now priced at just Rs.60/- ! What is more, for those wary of ordering my credit card online, you can just pay cash on delivery! You call them, they deliver and you pay cash. I have ordered many books through them and they are really prompt. The books usually reach you on the 3rd day.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A little note from me to you about a not so little thing.

We were expecting a good friend for dinner that evening. Satish and I had finished all the preparation for it. I had rushed upstairs to my bedroom to change, when I  saw my laptop lying open and I could not resist checking my twitter stream. A tweet I got in my timeline, made me sit up and take notice. It was from someone I do not even know.Someone whose twitter id is  @Ronald_3847  had tweeted that my second book 'Life is what you make it' has made it to the longlist of Vodafone-Crossword Book awards! It was announced on IBN Live . He had even given the link. I was so excited I could barely speak. With a pounding heart, I opened the link and sure enough, my book was there on the long list. 

I flew down the stairs (yes, really flew) and hugged Satish and I started crying. I was so emotional. He had no clue what had happened. "My book is in the longlist, it is mentioned in the longlist," was all I could manage to utter.A few minutes later, I had calmed down and the the first thing I did was ask Ronald for his phone number which he immediately messaged me. I called him and thanked him.
He was so amazed that I actually bothered to. This is what he tweeted:

"Wow!! just got a call from the author of the best selling book@preetishenoy herself..thank u so much M'am. It means so much!! "

To me, it seemed the most natural thing to do. I never even thought I had done a 'big thing' by calling him up and thanking him. The way I saw it, he was kind enough to care to inform me. He had read my book and had loved it and he was genuinely thrilled for me. For me, that was all that mattered.

I also expressed a heartfelt thanks to two of my closest pals who had helped while writing the book. Then I promptly burst into tears and cried some more. Forunately  the friend who came for dinner provided enough distraction  and he was overjoyed to hear the news too. This is what he tweeted:

My friend @preetishenoy's novel topping all charts. Its called 'Life is what  you make it'. Way to go Preeti! Proud of you :)
How much I wish  my dad was alive to see this day. He would have been ecstatic and I can picture him proudly telling his friends about this achievement of mine. It would have meant a great great deal to him.

The best was yet to come though.There was another surprise in store for me. A week back, the book made it to the best seller list on Flip-kart and yesterday, it made it to Number three position where it currently stands.

The mails that I get praising the book have now increased threefold. I am so overwhelmed with the response this book is getting and I am humbled and moved by how much it touches people. A large number of people ask me if Ankita (the protagonist of the book) really exists. As is mentioned in the "Author's note" which appears at the end of the book, the answer to the question is 'Yes'. Real life Ankita indeed exists and her story is a true one. It was a story which I simply had to write, as it was a powerful and a deeply moving tale and a very inspiring one at that. Even as I write this, the real life Ankita leads a full and complete life, despite her Bipolar Disorder (BPD).
 In India and China alone more than 10-15 million people have Bipolar disorder. The saddest part is there is no awareness at all about it, in India. For more information  on bipolar disorder and all about it, click here.

There is no cure for Bipolar disorder but it can be managed and what is needed is people (family and friends)  closest to those having BPD need to be aware about the dos and don'ts  (a really useful link worth reading) if someone close to them  has it. BPD is also associated with a high degree of creativity. Several celebrities have it (recently Catherine Zeta Jones was admitted to the hospital for it) and it has also ended up taking lives of those who have it. I have spoken about it in my radio indigo interview here.

Among the tonnes  of mails that I have got so far, I am reproducing below  a mail from Varsha Tiwari  (with her permission of course). which kind of sums up so well what most people say in their mails to me. This is what Varsha said:

Hey Preeti,
Firstly, congratulations on your second book. I finished reading it yesterday. Liked it. Loved  it. One really weird thing happened while I was reading it. I cried. I don’t cry watching movies!!! I didn’t cry watching Titanic or Taare Zameen Par either! (Don’t worry, I am not stone cold :-):-)) .. Just that while I am watching a movie , or reading a book somewhere in the back of my mind I know that all this is not real. But I do not know what happened while I was reading 'Life is what you make it'.
                Actually, I’ll tell you what happened. I felt Ankita was actually telling me her story. I forgot I was reading a book. What I want to say is that so genuine were the words and the way they were expressed, that it didn’t feel they were words on paper. They felt like the voice of a girl really talking to me.  I was so identifying with her in the beginning (especially the part where she says that there is a liberating feeling being in an all girls’ environment .. me being from an all girls’ school myself!) that it felt I already knew her.
                Somewhere I also realized that if you have made her sound so genuine, then writing her inner most feelings would have definitely taken a toll on you. Did you feel a slight heaviness after you would intensely write the suffering part ? I am sure you must have. But a good good job!!
                I somehow did not really agree with the title of the book considering the story. I mean please don’t mind but Ankita was extremely helpless when she was suffering. Yes, she did later do what she felt was her true calling ,but for that tough phase , life was not what she wanted to make it. Just a small thought I wanted to tell you. You don’t really have to consider it :-)
                But, I loved your writing style and thank you for not writing a silly chick lit or a story about IITians or corporate ppl. Thank you for sharing a lovely story with all of us. God bless you :-)

Well, to Varsha and to everyone of you who has read the book, I do want to say that it felt so real, simply because it was!

I do feel very grateful about the adulation and love I receive from all of you. Writing is a very solitary occupation and one has to travel to that dark place inside one's own head even when one does not want to go there.

Your words, your praise, your comments do matter and they mean such a lot.They make me want to write more and more and they really do keep me going.(I have started working on my 3rd book now)

Thank you so very much. 

With love