Bigger than me!

There I was dressed to the nines, feeling excited and also teary eyed. I kept telling myself that this is such a ridiculous feeling. Who gets teary eyed at conventions? So, I walked into the ball room, pretending to have it under control and started talking to people around me. I started hearing things like “This is so emotional”, “It gets me every time”. I realized that I was not alone in my “nerdy-ness”. I was with fellow nerds! Ah, the sweet feeling of belonging.

All this fan fare within me were the plethora of feelings at the Toastmasters International Convention in Washington D.C . In order to understand why I was teary eyed, we have to go back 13 years in the past, when I first heard about Toastmasters. I joined the club because I felt alone in a foreign land; wanted a sense of belonging. My life moved on. I survived my life initially and then slowly learned to thrive in my life and with my life. Toastmasters was still a part of what I was doing but reflecting back, I think I was half-a*sing my way through Toastmasters ! And as with everything, you get from Toastmasters what you put into it. What I am eternally grateful for is my relentless curiosity about myself and about my life. It was that curiosity that made me go within me, challenge myself in ways that I thought was not possible.Through my personal (r)evolution , I committed to myself that I am going to leave a legacy for women in India and around the world and I am going to do that by being the best version of myself daily! There I was, smug with contentment. I found my purpose and that is that ; till the curiosity within me reared its beautiful head again a few years later.

“Living my best life with the best version of myself is still playing small. I think you can dream bigger’ said me to myself. “Why?!” shot back the mirror. “Because when you commit to something way bigger than yourself, then you give yourself AND everyone else a chance around you to be a better version of themselves. Do you not owe that to the world?”. “Silence”; “Sigh”;” Why do I ask all these questions to myself?”.

After the initial argument within me died down, I recognized the truth behind committing to something bigger than me. I am not going to give myself an out; there is no half-a*sing my way through life. In asking this question of myself, I realized that what I was doing earlier with Toastmasters is reflective of what I was doing with my life too. I was committing to certain things in life and not so much to others because commitment in those areas meant a whole new level of vulnerability. I was not evolved enough to think along those lines YET.

Then, I learned to embrace those parts of my life, which required more courage from me. Once you learn to stand on your feet fully, then you learn to lean on others too, knowing that leaning is not a burden but a welcome act of interdependence, both for you and the giver! Right around the time when I started to dream about visions that are bigger than me, I attended the International convention in DC and that was when I realized that I already am a part of something so much bigger than me. Ergo the teary eyed damsel, dressed to the nines in the ballroom!

With ~140 countries represented across the world in one single stage, with men & women across the world speaking about servant leadership as though it was their second nature now, I realized that all the half-a*sing that I did with my life earlier was most appropriate for me at that point in my life. Because there were lessons to be learned before I could commit to something bigger than me and embrace it with authentic audacity.

Now, I can and will commit to one of my big desires – to be the International President of Toastmasters International – to leave a legacy for women around the world that it is possible to HAVE IT ALL. And HAVE IT ALL by including all, by being an embodiment of feminine leadership in a world that has more managers than leaders, where masculine models of leadership are celebrated and welcome more than the feminine forms. Towards that end, I am going to continue to become more of who I am ; I will continue to become the leader that men & women like and respect, creating a space where people feel they belong, that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Will world peace be far away, if I did this ;if we did this?

TI-collage 2016

Collage of pictures from Toastmasters International Convention 2011 – Washington D.C’ Paying tribute to both India and the USA – the girl & the saree is made in India and the jewelry & shoes made in the USA! ūüôā Also featured in the collage is the District 46 members, receiving their accolades on the big stage and CEO of Toastmasters International – Daniel Rex


Healthy Relationships

healthy-love-and-relationships Recently, I had a chance to discuss the ways in which abusive relationships, be it at work or elsewhere, can be prevented, which got me to thinking about healthy relationships and what, in my personal opinion, will allow us to  create such relationships in our lives.

  • Know yourSelf first:

I think this is a key ingredient- to know yourself intimately, what makes you joyous, what your non-negotiables are, what your triggers for bad behaviors are. In my mind, this very act of self awareness is Love. You just can’t find the right someone, right for you, if you don’t know yourself. This does not apply only to romantic relationships but across all areas of life.

  • Nourish yourSelf :

Life is an ongoing journey and I think it is important to take care of ourselves – mind, body and soul. Eat healthy, move the body in ways that bring us pleasure, enrich the heart through soulful meaningful connections, fall in love with yourself every day – flaws, greatness and everything in between. Rinse and repeat this cycle, whether you are single or in a relationship, whether you are 16 or 60.

  • Set boundaries with grace:

This is a touchy subject but I think it is equally important, man & woman alike, regardless of culture & ethnicity. Setting a boundary with family or friends or at work does not mean that you love or care for them any less. It means that you care for yourself too! The key ingredient is to do this before resentment builds up and you explode. Even if that happens, it is okay. Because now you know what you cannot tolerate and it is okay to set up the boundary for your own sanity.

  • Opportunity for growth:

I look at relationships as opportunities for personal growth. I get to learn something about myself in each and every interaction. Does this make me joyous, or is it draining, is it disrespectful, is it nurturing, supportive? Once you start to take personal responsibility for what you are experiencing in a relationship, even if it is with yourSelf, then the opportunities to change the trajectory of that relationship is immense.

It is our God given right to be loved and love. I wish you that, starting with yourSelf first.

healthy-relationships

Fresh start

Seated impatiently in a car, sandwiched between several other cars, buses, motorcycles, I was wondering if I was secretly rich enough to charter ¬†a private jet to take me to my destination. Realizing that I am not, I waited, learning to be patient and reminding myself to repeatedly to suspend judgement about the situation. After several misdirections from well meaning passers by, I finally arrived at my destination, slightly agitated, scared and nervous knowing that I was late.¬†I was escorted to a room full of expectant faces. I didn’t know how to respond – should I apologize for my delay or should I say hi first? I could tell that they were waiting for me. My thoughts were disrupted through a collective attempt from everybody in the room to find me a good seat. I switched four times in a span of 3 minutes. ¬†At this time, my nervousness increased further and I was now extremely busy judging myself. If you are wondering what this hype is all about, this is a description of my first visit to Mecon Toastmasters Club in Bengaluru, India¬†


 As the meeting unfolded, I relaxed and found myself laughing a lot, quite loudly at times, much to the amusement of the master of ceremonies. The entire meeting was peppered with motivational speeches, priceless lessons, insights from day to day life and a mild(?!) jab at all the cultures of South India & Maharashtra, the state that is controversially considered North India by all of the South but really is Central India. 

Source: quotesgram.com
All the needless judgement that I was engaged in about myself was melting away. The newness of the Toastmaster proceedings in India were growing on me.When I left back for home after the meeting, I felt light hearted, joyous. It was not until I woke up this morning, I realized what had happened at the club meeting. I was surrounded by people who knew how to have fun, who knew how to push themselves, who embodied kindness, who had an uplifting word for every single person in the room, so much so that my inner self-judge let go and succcumbed to the Love. My eyes welled with tears this morning when I realized what a good company can do to my soul, to anyone’s soul. The meeting was a good reminder for me to suspend needless judgement of myself first. When I stopped judging myself for being late, for not knowing the rules of the Toastmasters clubs in India, for not doing a good speech evaluation, for so many other things that I thought I could have done differently, I relieved the tension & nervousness within me and started to enjoy everything around me. Aside from a personal growth opportunity, the meeting also became a source of joy for my soul and am exceedingly grateful to the Mecon Toastmasters Club for unwittingly teaching me this lesson, just by being themselves!¬†

Source: www.wordbypicture.com



Planning to travel

Courtesy dreamstime.com

In the previous post, I wrote about what travel means to me; specifically what the latest sojourn meant to me. I had realized in the past few years that I liked to get away like this quite often. 

If you have traveled even a bit, then you probably know that it can be a drain on the pocket. A few years ago, I was too “cool” to care about the cost, to care about how much $ comes in and how much leaves.¬†
One day, something changed. I wish it was something dramatic that I could write about but it was not! Something just changed. I started to play a more active role in my budget, something that I had been avoiding like a plague. I tried several budgeting tools, gave up because of the complexity and after a few attempts gave up on budgeting itself. 

I finally hired a financial consultant just to help me get a handle on my budget. I started off my budgeting process on a simple excel sheet- keep it simple! hey, it worked. Now, I started to have an idea about what the inflow and outflow of my money. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed to see where I spent a lot of money. And shocked to see how much my travel was costing me yearly. So, I started to save for this known yearly expense. I decided on what the yearly budget is based on the past trends and figured out the money that I can set aside monthly. When I broke it down to monthly savings, the idea became more manageable. I then set up an automatic savings plan that will pull this money from my checking account into a different savings account set aside just for travel expenses. Out of sight; out of mind!

When it is time for me to quench the thirst of my soul, I don’t have to break the bank or give up on my idea of joy and pleasure.¬†


To break it down, here are the three simple steps:

  1. Keep budgeting simple 
  2. Plan Ahead 
  3. Set up an automatic savings 

I have been following these three steps for the past three years. I have not perfected this art to a science yet but I am off to a good & consistent start.

Travel and Soul

Courtesy: http://www.carmenvisser.co.za

Every once in a while, I feel the urgent need to run away from the loud and urgent things so that I can hear the the quiet and important things. I have declared several times in the past that travel feeds my soul. 

I recently took such a trip because I knew I had important decisions to make, some of them life altering. As I was sitting in the airport, I asked myself if I was running away from something. I did not know. All I knew at that time was that travel feeds my soul and I really needed to get away. 

I was lost from Day 1 in the Eternal City and worse, there was no one willing to help. The Eternal City started to feel like the Big Apple – the mad rush of people, the look of disdain at the tourists, the chaos, people smoking like chimneys, the crowded mass transit and my proven ability to get lost. I was starting to wonder if I had actually succeeded in getting away. I felt the familiar sense of restlessness, confusion and helplessness. What ever happened to soul, travel and the feeding of the said soul? I literally stopped dead in my track one day, realizing that the restlessness was within me, the lack of clarity all in my head (and heart). So, I started changing the way I approached the situation. I had a plan for the day none of which was rigid enough to make me balk, put myself in unfamiliar situation which was easy to do in a foreign land but trusting myself to find my way around, asking for help, following my instincts, speaking up and engaging in simple self care. I started having several fun conversations where I taught English to the few willing and learned the romance language, albeit a little. I believed in daily serendipity because I started to believe that I have “control” over the course of the day, just by going with the flow and consistently readjusting my attitude to the constant change and always listening to my instincts. I had amazing experiences

Courtesy tobifairley.com

I realized the biggest lesson of all in losing myself in a foreign land, I came home to myself. I learned to trust myself, I learned that people are the same everywhere, I learned that I could be cheated, I could speak up, I can trust. 

Now, when I hear the words ” travel feeds my soul”, I have a first hand experience of what that means to me.¬† When I came back home, I knew that I was coming back with fresh tools to handle the new challenges that I originally did not want to handle.

Lean In and Hatshepsut

I recently read ” Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” By Sheryl Sandberg. This is one of the non-fiction books that has moved me greatly. Before reading the book, I had a negative reaction to the word “feminism”. Now, I still do but at least, I am aware of it.¬†

As I was reading this book, I also attended a lecture on “Queen Hatshepsut” from the Egyptian civilization. Well, she was King Hatshepsut and not the Queen. I was fascinated by the social norms that would permit her to rule the kingdom as a co-ruler with her 2 year old by her side as the King! As I was listening to this lecture, I couldn’t help but wonder at the similarities between what Hatshepsut probably faced and the women in the current working world face.

Before this becomes full blown gender war, I am going to clarify my position – this is not about starting a pity party for women in work place or to start a male bashing about how “bad” men are. This post, much like the Lean In book is to bring awareness to what we do & think because of our social and cultural¬† conditioning and not think twice about it. Awareness is the first step to change.¬†

Ancient Egyptians loved the concept of a dynasty because it gave them stability and the ability to flourish. A woman, being a part of a harem, doesn’t really get a say in the right to a kingdom UNLESS she steps in as a co-ruler to a “man” even if he is 2 years old. The rule is not necessarily simple as that but in order to have “career aspirations” to the kingdom, the woman has to play the game that the society warrants it. Hatshepsut did exactly that. Under her rule, which was the longest by a woman in the Egyptian civilization did well for her people. When the King reached 20 years of age, he ascended the throne and demolished all statues of Hatshepsut. Again, there is no direct evidence why he did that – out of social conditioning to establish his dominance or out of bad blood between him and his co-ruler. Click here to read more about this.

Excerpts from Sheryl Sandberg’s book – Lean In – was going through my mind – how does a strong, bright career oriented woman handle the social stigma of a “working mother”? Even as you read this sentence, what goes through your head? When I wrote the words – strong, bright, career oriented woman, what I thought was “Oh my God, how does that make me fit to have a family?”. The truth is those words didn’t say that such a woman is incapable of being a mother or unfit to be a wife but it was my social and cultural conditioning that kicked in to attach this interpretation to those words.¬†

How do you think we can continuously make ourselves aware that we are able to create true partnerships in work and life, that everybody’s life choice & desire – be it to pursue a career or to be a stay at home mom – is respected and not denigrated?

The truth, as I understand it, through the words of Rabindranath Tagore, shall set us free.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.


Magical Experience

Source: http://www.thelilcupcake.net

A while ago, I used to collect CD’s from the Putumayo CD collection. It is an eclectic collection of music, from different parts of the world. Click here for their website. I loved listening to this music; then I forgot to collect these CD’s and then I forgot that I used to listen to them. After more than 8 years, I came across those CD’s at a museum. The player at the museum store did not have any batteries to play these CD’s. I spoke to the manager, got the player fixed, listened to the Putumayo CD’s in the store, reminiscing about the magical experiences I had in the past, listening to these CD’s in my little heaven on earth. That was one magical experience for me!!