Let there be light…

The drama of 2020 was due a cinematic horror film release…. Last year none of us would have even fathomed the destruction, the death or the depression that 2020 brought in plentiful.

It was an odd year to say the least…We learnt a lot… and most of us will definitely admit that. Whether these were lessons we wanted to learn or not… they were taught to us and we had little choice but to comply.

This year taught us self reliance. To be alone with ones self and more importantly with ones’ demons was something we had to learn. This required denial, negotiation and eventually acceptance and we had to learn to be ok with who we are…faults, flaws and all.

2020 taught us the importance of family and friends… when we were alone.. it allowed us to learn how to lean…For a person who always believed I was all I needed… I realised I needed a village… Thank you to my Family , Neelima, Gaurav , Ankita, Sachin, Puja , Ahmad, Nosh, Yusuf, Amit, Shalinie, Amar, Natasha, Deepak, Shalini, Sid, Eika, Aashni, Gautam, Minal, Nam and Ronak and all those who put up with me and celebrated the unimportant moments of 2020 and still made them super special.

I learned to give.In my small , silly way and by feeding all the animals I could find, I learned how important it was for me to give. Aditya and I fed dogs, cats and crows and looked after all those we could and in turn we were blessed with unimaginable love and puppy kisses…

2020 taught honesty. In it’s harshest, most scary, most naked form- wee learned honesty. But most importantly , we learned people could take it, not judge you for it and you weren’t looked as weaker, sadder or less because of it.

We learned kindness… kindness towards others but most importantly towards ourselves!

We also learned gratitude. Aditya and I got back to office June 1st and since then every day we’ve been at work , we have felt lucky , felt proud, felt special.

2020 has brought us 2 of our greatest quarters ever but that has required a true mindset change. This change was necessary, I’m sure; but may be we should try and not wait for a pandemic to make or feel a change in our lives!

It gave us clean roads and clean air but we had to wear masks to move around… It was almost symbolic of the fact that we have been given so much goodness but it took a pandemic for us to realise its’ importance.

It made the world smaller but disallowed travel anywhere.

It terrified us , scared us, but taught us… my 2021 hope is to learn with open eyes but without fear. To try and see and be grateful- grateful for each moment, for every friend, for every experience and for every trip,

My year ended with steroid injections – fitting for a year that passed… but I know it’s only to make me stronger, wiser and more grateful!

Where 2020 brought us fear, I hope 2021 brings us joy and kindness. Let’s make it an incredible 2021.

P.s. (Palat says)-: Happy new year… let’s be a new improved 2.0 version of each of ourselves the next year!

My Death Sentence.

“You will never move again. Your brain has been compromised and you’ll be left side paralysed. You should have come here sooner.”

These were the first words I heard from a Doctor in 2005,on the first Monday of June after I seem to finally awaken from what seemed to be a long, very uncomfortable ‘sleep’ from the Friday , 2 days prior

“Don’t believe me ?” He challenged, his eyes beaming with what I can only describe as sadistic pleasure….” Try… make a fist with your left hand… go on now- try!”

Not one to give up a challenge, I tried in vain to make the fist and hopefully punch his smug face; but the hand wouldn’t listen… and so my right hand covered my left protectively and made the fist, which still refused to punch him or move in any way much to my great dismay!

That day was like a death sentence. To say that my brain had been compromised , was shattering. I knew that if all my hopes and dreams went to dust in my life , I still had my brain and now I was told it was ‘compromised’, whatever the heck that meant.

Now there are 2 ways to look at every situation- 1. Curl up and die. 2. Get up , dust yourself off and start over.

I got up and restarted.

This year has been like that.

We all suddenly woke up from the new year hangover to be locked down and scared. With very basic, worrying news we didn’t really know what was right and what was just rumour- #FakeNews. And the rumours abounded and the fears kept increasing.

The doctor that I had ,knew so very little. He was afraid to tell me he didn’t know what was wrong with me and just tried to scare me. Had he been successful, I would be no more than a whining , bed-ridden woman, angrily typing out a blog with one hand! Not only can I use my left side, most people, in fact literally every one except from me, wouldn’t even be able to tell there was anything wrong with it, ever!

And that’s what our newspapers sell- fear and more fear! That’s what runs the TRP’s on channels and sells thousands of newspapers.

Now Covid is here to stay for a bit and yes the virus, like most will mutate and change. But rather than selling and propagating fear; what is necessary is to be smart, be clean, sanitise, take precautions, stay away from people, test and WEAR A MASK! The people propagating the fear would rather not do that, they’d rather roll over and play dead… but then you must realise, this disease, nor the next nor the next aren’t leaving. You have a choice- to learn to be responsible and work with it or roll over and fear monger or hide! I’m not saying go out, be irresponsible and not to heed warnings or rules that the government puts forward; what I am saying is this disease is here to stay and if not this, it’ll be something else, what’s most important is that we learn to work responsibly with it and keep positive.

I hated the words ‘new normal.’ Post covid every one says the ‘new normal.’ Post my diagnosis , I too lived with a ‘new normal.’ But actually we each live a ‘new normal’ every single day. Because each day we go through experiences and feelings; we meet people and deal with situations that make us deal with tomorrow differently. Hence it shouldn’t take covid or multiple sclerosis to teach you the words ‘new normal.’ Every day is a new day for you and me and hence a new normal exists every single day!

This year was a frightening flashback to 2005 for me. I was scared, had misinformation and this was propagated and sold as fact. It took me time to learn what I needed to learn and to gain the confidence to stand up not just on one foot but on both!

We have one life and we have one way to live it. I choose to live it responsibly but joyously. I mean that’s what got me up… my left side didn’t fix over night. It took time and tears but I healed and learned to live with my multiple sclerosis (yes, non curable). The world will heal too. We just have to help it heal and not keep pouring salt (fear/ irresponsibility) in it’s wounds!

P.s.(Palat says)-:Whenever any one says they love my spirit, I smile; but in my heart and my now in my ‘compromised’ brain that honestly this was my only choice – to just live.

It’s an MS Day…

It’s an MS day and though that may mean nothing for some and confuse the rest… I’m going to try and explain it the best I can.

I have multiple sclerosis.

On most days you wouldn’t know that because between my fiery, quick speech and the fact that I literally never stop doing something, you’d be actually more than grateful if I breathed a second or spoke a bit slower…! Trust me , even Alexa prefers that I speak slower! 🙂

But then there are the MS days… they creep up ever so stealthily and then it’s boom! It’s pain. It’s exhaustion. It’s pulls where I didn’t think pulls could happen… and pains where I didn’t imagine muscles or nerves or anything.

Those who know me worry, those who love me hurt… but it gets better and what I really need is everyone’s combined belief and prayers that this will end! Know that I may be cranky, pushy and a bit more difficult than usual… and for those of you who are wondering how that’s a change from who I am… It’s just that on these days I find it hard to be the powerhouse I like to imagine I am so I have to push just a bit harder to make what I find to be normal to me, to just happen.

So today is an MS day… I’m stumbling a bit… walking around a bit funny, holding my back in pain and then sometimes my left arm and then sometimes my fingers; I’m finding the day longer than usual but I’m happy to be at work. I’m finding the words longer, the typing slower, the focus requiring more energy of me, the food harder to eat, even though I carefully chose my favourite foods and the little annoyances, annoying me more than usual!

Some MS Days are a lot worse. The pain is terrible. I sometimes slur. And I often walk funny… so though today is an MS day… it’s one of the easier ones and that’s awesome!

You have to find the highs even in your lows or else you won’t learn to look for them.

I’ll head home post work, have a cold shower and jump into bed with a mindless comedy or a crime drama that’ll allow me to quickly crash and wake up tomorrow to a better day I’m sure… cos today is an MS Day.

P.s.-: Had the most incredible shoot last week and every time I feel even a little bit low it gives me joy to know that I had such a great, great week! Pain is often overcome by happy thoughts and puppy cuddles!

Absolute Power Farce- News and Social media!

And the week was a sapping week… The lack of sunshine didn’t really help the mood. We had London weather, without any of the cool breezes or nips in the air. It didn’t help that the MS pain is returning ever so gradually warning me with new pains in areas that I didn’t think could feel pain in and some I’d actually never given a second thought to.

And then there was the news or what I now masquerades as the news. It is however now no more than a bunch of people shouting as loudly as they can, listening to nothing but the sound of their own voice and doing this on repeat! Every channel, every ‘debate’ eventually disintegrates to a contest of ‘who has the loudest voice?’

And what is lost- is quite simply the news.

The news is supposed to be about facts reported almost dispassionately, allowing a watcher to be challenged to think, to form opinions and to be informed. What we now have is a market place of screaming individuals whose opinions actually do not and should not matter. I , as a viewer would like to think on my own, make up my own mind and form my own opinions- but apparently that’s definitely not entertaining enough. A news program begins calmly, immediately moves in to a bout of shouting and then ends and we start the farce all over again!

And then there’s the joy of social ‘media’ where everyone now feels that they too are the media and whether they make it to TV is not the point, they will broadcast their opinions whether or not they are fact based. They will sensationalise. They will troll. And they will do whatever it takes to gain more eyeballs.

Today’s news and social media is not about reporting the news – it’s like a boxing match except here there are no winners.

The truth gets lost. Facts get destroyed and lives are shattered. Legality and illegality don’t come in to the mix. We the audience are the judge, jury and executioner and that’s far too much power. As they say ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

P.s.(Palat says)-: In between all the negativity and shouting, remember to take a moment to listen to that inner voice of yours…you’ll be surprised at the calm you feel

The Politics of being a Woman

Now none of this is to allow you to infer my personal feelings on the current Sushant Singh Rajput case or my feelings on Kangana Ranaut, but this week was an embarrassment!

Whatever the final outcome of the SSR case may be; the hounding of a woman as she entered a CBI space for questioning was deplorable. Not only did we not maintain ‘social distance’, we invaded her space as if she had no right to even move or even have space. We poked, prodded and pushed her and captured every humiliation of hers and devoured it in glee.

And then we disallowed a comment made by Kangana and decided to abuse her in public and then proceeded to tear her office down which she spent years to own and build.

In one case we took away the freedom of woman to be able to be- to have even basic personal space and in the other we took away the right of free speech. Why should a woman be allowed an opinion at all?

And the criticism I have is not whether these women are right or wrong but how we went about making our displeasure/ opinions known. We asked for the CBI, but then when they come in, we still don’t think justice will be served by them? We still think we are better judges of character and that a public humiliation is what a woman deserves? We want freedom of speech; but only if what she says is what we completely agree with. A woman can’t or mustn’t have a contradictory opinion to a man and god forbid he’s a powerful man; then the only recourse must be to break down her home and shun her away from a place she’s paid for , built and lived in cos after all she doesn’t deserve a home if she has an opinion contradictory to yours!

I have always been of the opinion that there is often no right or wrong; but a grey area where often the truth resides. But humiliating women in public is not a grey area- it’s a black, black area which cannot and must not be tolerated. Whatever yours or my personal opinions may be on this – there is a right way of handling the situation and a wrong way of handling the situation and we went very, very wrong.

P.s.(Palat says)-: Take away all your personal opinions and just close your eyes and imagine for a moment she wasn’t another woman; imagine she was you. How would you feel then?

The Big Depression

The gloomy days don’t help and the natural disasters and unnatural disasters (Beirut) make every day greyer and longer. Then there’s the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a cure for Covid or any end for this pandemic in site. Add to that the daily suicides, desperately sad photographs that make every newspapers front pages, gleefully plastered with depressing headlines, it’s hard!

It seems to take every ounce of joy that I’ve stored in reserve to give me the strength to wake up every day. With the Multiple sclerosis playing up thanks to stress , these last few weeks have been painful.

And so I’m going back to the basics – to relearn joy.

I used to hold a class called i-Be Your Own Hero. This was a self help class that motivated you to look for potential where you didn’t know opportunities existed. A friend reminded me about this last week and I’ve started all over again- to retrain myself to look for joy. This allows me to go back to being a kid and be bad for just a bit. It allows me to cut myself some slack and allows me to celebrate the smallest of joys.

In a world that has systematically been breaking and with news channels who are earning by spreading fear, hate and divisiveness; it’s going to take time to build ones self up to see the colours in the sky- without Insta filters.

Michelle Obama has talked about depression.Others have too. Help lines are being overrun with calls.And yet they reach barely a fraction of society.

Now’s the time. Now’s the time to know you are not alone. Now’s the time to be happy- even if you’re not, even if you’re sick (like me), and tired and are low…we’re going to have to look for our own joy.

In this week I’ve found joy from Magic (my mini me), laughing at an impromptu standup that a friend did (thank you Amar!) , writing a new script and by playing Mono deal

P.s.-: Happiness is a choice we need to make. When all else goes against us, we need to make our own happy.

She died.

And she just died.

I read a post yesterday where a girl I knew posted on Instagram that she was on her deathbed and a few hours later she was dead.

I had not met her for a few years but I had been aware of the work she was doing and she was doing well. She seemed happy and with so much to live for. That’s the thing with social media… we only see what others want us to see. This is more often than not a version of a life that’s way more rosy and picture perfect than it actually is.

And in between all the happy posts and the video shares and comments… In between all she wanted us to see, she didn’t post about her getting sick or her cancer.

She just posted her final hours and she just died.

A deep dive into social media, I realised she’d found out a short while ago… just basis the fact that she stopped posting photographs and started posting throwbacks. A strong, fiery girl, I’m sure she fought till the very end like a star. Never asking or needing pity or unnecessary kindness she handled this dreaded disease bravely!

But then it took her and she just died.

It made me so acutely aware of how transient life is. We’re always planning for the next big thing, we’re waiting for something, wanting for something… never really content but this could all be over in a second ! All of it, all that we are, is so temporary and could change in a flash of a second. In times like these I have never been more aware of this- our mortality.

If we wake up every day…it’s a good day. If we wake up every day healthy… it’s a great day!

It’s hard that it takes deaths, suicides and pandemics to put these things into perspective sometimes.

P.s.(Palat says)-: This shook me to my very core. An Instagram post saying you are dying and to pray… is the hardest to read and also the most sobering. Wishing her family strength and her a blessed afterlife.

Hypocrisy and Death!

#RIP #GoneTooSoon #Heartbroken

All useless tributes that mean literally nothing once someone has passed. It’s not like he/ she can read the ‘love’, ‘the tributes’, or feel ‘the sadness.’ It makes us feel better, like we’ve done something – but in truth it means absolutely nothing!

Yet another life was taken this week- I say taken, because a person was so depressed he quite literally took his own life. And the conversation went back to depression and mental health and how little we value a person’s mental well being.

But here’s the thing, if we’re depressed , we’re asked to speak about it in hushed tones. We’re not allowed to feel sad or bad cause we’re perceived as weak and unstable. And who wants to be thought of as that? Work doesn’t come to the weak and unstable. People don’t want to share their lives with the weak or unstable. And depressed as you may be, it’s a spiralling sadness towards a drain of despair for you.

And it’s all very well to say ‘ask for help’ or ‘I’m there’ or ‘I’m listening’ but let’s be honest – are you truly there? Are you actually listening? And do you actually care? In our busy lives, more often than not when we ask-‘how are you?’ We expect ‘Ok,’ or ‘Fine.’ We don’t really want to know. It’s just part of polite conversation and we would prefer the quick and easy answer instead of actually giving a damn!

It’d just be easier if people didn’t kill themselves cos the ugliness and hypocrisy of society wouldn’t be so blatant for all to see.

But a couple of tweets and Insta pics later, we’ll forget all about it and casually ask ‘how are you?’ hoping for the short, quick and easy answer.

P.s.(Palat says)-: Let’s start giving honest answers when people ask how we feel… If they can’t deal with it, they don’t deserve to be in your life any way!

Note to #Divya1.0

I am the class nerd. I am the people pleaser. I am the eager beaver over achiever and this lock down has been hard. I’ve always felt I can do more, be more, achieve more- all around just make better use of the 24 hrs I now have been given.

And I see the posts about how it’s okay to not be okay and how no one expects us all to learn a new language, develop a new skill and keep a perfect home; but somehow I just can’t let that apply to me.

And in this lonely, lonely time it’s making me quite crazy. I say it’s lonely, because even though you might be( and I am) surrounded by the most incredible people and are loved- you have way too much time too think in the gaps of silence- of which there are many.

So I am learning Spanish, finishing my second computer course and finding new means to clean that cleaning companies are still unaware of!

And I can’t wait to get back… to a new normal, to an old normal… to any thing resembling a ‘normal.’.

Things I’ve learnt…(beyond Spanish, python , C etc).

  1. I need people… even the ones who are just acquaintances – the loud ones, the annoying ones, the needy ones and the ones I should’ve blocked. I need all of them! You make life colourful and I’m not crazy about the black and white life I’m in! So let’s bug the hell out of each other!
  2. I love plans… every day I have a new day plan and I love achieving it! Guess Nerdy Divya is still alive and thriving!
  3. I can still learn… I love learning new things, listening to lectures, trying and achieving new stuff! I love it!
  4. I hate the display pics people put up on Zoom / Skype! I need to see you rolling your eyes/ smiling or even yawning! I miss seeing expressions of people!
  5. The lockdown has been bad on my back. My house was not equipped for #WFH and it’s far too comfortable so trying to get the angle just right on work calls I have thrown my back far too often!
  6. I need to do a day/ two like this every month. I have catalogued my belongings and found everything or almost everything that can be discarded in my home and done a spring cleaning in summer! This must become a monthly thing!
  7. I love sanitiser… I have an almost unhealthy obsession with the darn thing… Needless to say the house is sanitised daily, as are our clothes, kitchen counters, hands and anything I lay my sights on!
  8. I am bad at naming pets…With the lockdown we’ve taken to feeding stray dogs and cats daily and since I can’t really name puppies , except my own well… I give them the first name that comes to mind- so we have Pinky( a girl dog who has been sleeping on Pink clay); Flocky( friends with the neighbourhood ruffian Rocky); Boti(friends with the chaiwallahs dog Moti) and the Helicopters( two old dogs who rush to me with their tails going round like propellers).
  9. I can’t document my day or my food on Instagram! Instagram for me is about memories and moments that I never want to forget and as much as the paneer makhani that I made today was Insta worthy, today’s not a time I want to remember. I want to move on. And I hope this happens soon!

As India readies for #Lockdown4.0 , I wonder , even when we get back how long it’s going to take for us to truly be back.

This time has made me truly value family, a home, support and love. I have been more honest with myself at this time and with others and I’m happy I’ve been able to and allowed to.

We will be back and I know #Divya2.0 will be a different version, but I know when I get out into the city for work or go one my first vacation, I’ll see it differently- fresher and with a lot more respect.

P.s.(Palat says)-:We’re each dealing with the lockdown differently and there’s no right/ wrong way. It’s important though to allow ourselves a break and be less critical of who we are…

The numbers will go up.

And the alcohol stores opened after 40+ days for a day and a half and crowds thronged! And then before you knew it- it was banned again- along with all other shops(excepts ‘essentials’.)

Covid-numbers increased , we were told. Social distancing wasn’t kept. How can there be crowds? 40+ days – so what?! Ban everything. Shut everything. And sure, that might seem an approach… but it’s kind of like the Ostrich approach– what I don’t know , is not scary. It makes NO SENSE!

By shutting all stores, you disallow people to get out to buy a bulb, when the lights are fused; to hire a plumber or an electrician and start their earnings again and help the person staying at home. Electricians could come, but should they need any wiring, fuses etc…. well that’s tough cos stores are shut! E-commerce stores are also disallowed from sending these items! I have tried to book a standing broom for weeks as I have a slipped disc , but guess what, that’s not an ‘essential’ item. I can book a regular broom(jhadu) though. I have that. I’m just in pain bending. Too bad!

And with regards to essentials, who decided what milk or coffee or cooking oil would be essential and which others would not. What if my tastes differ… well then tough!

And here’s my actual issue- whenever the city opens or the country opens, THE numbers will rise. They will rise because there are several asymptomatic carriers that may pass it on to people who will exhibit symptoms. We will then check and then we’ll know and quarantine.

This will happen if we open up today, the 18th or even next year.

This is not a virus that’s going anywhere in a hurry.

What we’re going to have to adapt to is the new normal- where we keep clean and healthy and maintain a decent amount of social distancing.

By shutting stores for another 2 weeks – you are just postponing the inevitable without any solution.

Let’s put it this way, if the stores hadn’t been shut- essentials, non essentials- you wouldn’t have hoarding and crowding. We should have established new buying norms i.e. perhaps having people call in with orders and then calling them to pick it up only when ready- in our grocers/ non -essential stores or employing delivery services to help with delivery to avoid lines and queues. Or allowing e- commerce companies to help in delivering items.

But by not allowing shops to function we’re just pretending to not have a problem- a problem we definitely have. What’s going to happen when the city opens up? I for one am going to stock up on bulbs just in fear that the shops after opening for 1 day may shut again and I won’t have light! And that’s what we’re all going to do.

And the numbers will go up when we get out. And then there will be more needed to be treated. But with that, more will develop antibodies and immunity to the disease.

But we will be back at work. Back uplifting the economy. Because by hiding at home if it’s not fear that’ll kill us , it’s the fact that we will run out – of supplies, of food and finally of money!

P.s.( Palat says)-: Fight smart not rashly. We act first and think later… that needs to be changed.

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