Handmade in Pondicherry

I appreciate a well crafted handcraft, but I never choose fanciness over comfort. To me, a plain pair of flip-flops is always better than the leather-bound slippers with meticulous design. I wouldn’t even spare a second glance at the glittery, stone-studded stuff.

Having said that, when I saw these in Pondicherry, I couldn’t help but lose my composure. Not only did they catch my eye, but I almost considered buying a pair of these slippers. Now that’s unusual. Pondicherry is full of little shops like these where specialised cobblers custom-make footwear for customers. They measure the foot size and get it done within an hour. I was impressed by how soon they could deliver, and the fine finish in these footwear. They weren’t too cheap, but not over the top pricey either.

handmade footwear in Pondicherry

As Woolf said

Virginia Woolf said that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she’s to write fiction. Here’s how I take it: For a woman to succeed — or get any work done that’s worth talking about — she needs to have a room of her own.

When I first told my parents that I wanted to find a place of my own, they refused outright even before considering my concerns. I don’t blame them; they’ve become conditioned to believing that every girl moving into the city for work or going off to college needs a roommate who can watch out for her. And I don’t deny that’s every bit as true and that their worry is as every bit as valid.

Except that I wanted a room of my own.

Having lived all my life in a shared space, both with my parents and then with my brother, I craved something that I could call mine. It didn’t happen right away, and I ended up spending my first two years away from home in a shared home and hostel.

Now, at last, I have a room of my own. And I see what Woolf intended.

Every time I walk into my room, I walk into a space that looks and feels just the way I want it to. My clothes are right where I leave them — one day on the floor, another day on the shelf. My toothbrush nuzzles between my pyjamas so that I have to fish it out every evening, a small jar of ground coffee perches on the top shelf, pleading with me in silence for a coffee date. And the book I’m reading at the moment lies on top my favourite shirt, the sleeves clouding the title.

When I walk into such a sight after a long day at work, I have only thing in mind: there’s no place else I’d rather spend the rest of my evening.

When I first moved in, I didn’t know how having a room for myself would change me. I didn’t know that I would enjoy the sunlight streaming into my room through the thin yellow blinds, I didn’t know I’d wake up every morning feeling enthusiastic to face the world, and I didn’t know that I’d come to rely so much on the non-decorative, cream-coloured walls of my room to comfort and hold me whenever, regardless of my mood.

It’s been just over a year now, and even though I’m not the best tenant to the room, the room — my room — has been the perfect host.

There’s nothing special about my room. There’s no wallpaper, no posters of Hollywood actors eyeing me, no streamers or balloons to incite the neighbour’s kids.

My room is so plain that anyone but me wouldn’t want to live here. The mattress is my furniture, the floor my dining table, the shelf my pantry, and the doorknob my clothes hanger. In short, my room has become my abode, a place where I can think outside of my head, wake up at 2.50 am to write, and let my creativity run amok without a person to judge.

I enjoy going out, but at the end of it all, all I want is to come back to my room and stare at my walls. Or read a book with a coffee by my side. Nothing makes my day more complete.

Deal with it

She brims with moxie

despite needing a proxy—

the wheel-chaired athlete.

What’s the point of reality television?

If there’s one thing that drives the television industry, it’s our persistent craving for potato chips and late night binges. We’ve contained the meaning of entertainment to a single idiot box from which comes forth loud music and wailing that we glare at with widening eyes and dropping jaws.

Come to think of it, we’ve become so reliant on television shows that we no longer have time to rise from the couch to watch the sun set. We no longer have the motivation to wake up at dawn, and we don’t even have the simple sense to leave the couch for water. Why should we, when Bay Watch is on and the roommate is passing by the fridge?

Reality television has made us lazy. We’ve run headlong into a devil that’s reality. Not trying to overdo the graphic here, but television shows nowadays do more harm that the good they claim to do. Not only do we spend more time sitting idle, snacking, but we also seldom realize what’s happening around us.

It’s not unlike mobile phones. People complain that youngsters nowadays are so busy staring at their phones that they don’t even talk to the person sitting right next to them. Television shows aren’t much different. For instance, when I reach home after work, my roommates are busy biting their nails over what’s happening in X Factor, all the while stealing glances at their phones to check if they’ve received a reply on their WhatsApp chats. Not that I care much, but I’d rather go out to the terrace and take a breath of the monsoon breeze grazing along the horizon. Or take a peak at the waning moon, and count the days left until the next full moon. Or better yet, stare at the moon long enough until I think I see the American flag flapping away. For me, that’s more of a fun evening than wondering who’ll become America’s or Australia’s next top model.

I understand, though. We toil hard enough and want nothing more than to unwind at the end of a long work day. And television shows are a great mindless activity to get our minds away from the gruelling tasks of everyday life. So I don’t blame my roommates for not spending more time outside. What I’m unhappy about, though, is by using work stress as an excuse to plunge into a stream of television-watching, we’re only stressing our bodies and minds even more. It seems petty to me to have a heated argument over lunch about who’s a better singer in a country halfway across the world, on a show that’s running only for the rocketing ratings it brings to the channel. Also it’s a little sad that we depend on unknown faces and satellite connections to entertain us.

In the end, we’d have spent all our time either working for others’ benefit or worrying about others’ lives, losing ours somewhere in between the first and the second ad commercial.

Ask—you might get it

Some of my colleagues think I’m brave when I told my boss upfront that I needed a few days off of work for personal reasons. There’s nothing courageous about what I did. I just asked for my right as an employee, as an individual. To my new colleagues, however, it seemed unnatural —though in a good way. Not only did I impress them but I’ve also inspired them to an extent.

These colleagues I refer to aren’t long-term experienced folks. They’re the latest batch of graduates, fresh out of college their parents paid for, just learning to live on their own for the first time.

Rachel Green

To them, it’s a big deal that I can walk up to my manager and speak my mind without offending him or sparking vengeance. The first time this happened, they sent me a chat message declaring how impressive I had been speaking up the way I had done. I couldn’t help the laughter in my head.

Almost four years ago, I was in the same place they now are. I was so terrified about speaking to my then-manager that I’d avoid eye contact on purpose. If I see him chatting with someone else anywhere near my place, I’d take a long detour from the vending machine just so I could avoid him. I’d crouch low on my seat risking a lifetime of backache and soreness so that he doesn’t see me. Apart from the fact that he’s 20 years older than I am, he’s just a normal guy. I needn’t have worried one bit about what he thought of me or what he’d say about my preferences.

Now, however, I don’t care. I am more assertive of my opinions. But I’m also aware of the implications — I’ve learned to grow in such a way that I can now voice my thoughts without hurting anyone or my stance in the team. I’ve at last learnt to navigate the corporate world without hitting too many pillars.

Musing on how my current behaviour appears to new interns and team members, I realised that this change swept over me only about a year ago. I sat at work like on any other day, staring into my laptop like everyone else. All of a sudden, a conversation ruffled in my team, and a few moments later, I realised that my manager (not the same as four years ago) and a team mate were discussing attending a conference for which we had received free sponsorship passes.

Our manager revealed that he didn’t want to go. He sounded casual about it, too. He’s more dedicated than anyone else I know, but he doesn’t flaunt it where it’s not necessary.
I wanted to go, instead. I had heard of that event before and had wished I could visit. And here I had a chance, but I let it slip away because I was too scared to ask.

If I had asked, I could’ve gone. My manager would’ve agreed in an instant. And I know I would’ve enjoyed that conference. That’s when I learnt my lesson. It always hurts more not to ask and regret than to ask upfront. They may say no, sure, but what if they don’t say no?

Now I’m more vocal about my opinions. Most of my team has counter opinions and we’ll debate it out. But at the end of the day, we’ll leave happy that we’ve conveyed our thoughts. The more I voiced my requests and opinions, the more I realised that my team and manager prefer it. We now encourage open conversations, regardless of which party ends stronger.

That’s the essence of good work culture. Knowing that I can speak up, share a coffee break with the boss and still have a genuine interaction is what makes me want to wake up every morning, looking forward to work.