Familiar Words, Unfamiliar Situations

Week 2

Detail, Detail, Detail!

Getting into the minutiae of people, places and emotions is what writing is all about. The reasons for doing so may be varied – One, a writer may have the tendency to gallop away with events and finish a story she is trying to tell in hardly any time. Two, writing is all about describing moments and the more granular the description of these moments, the better!

Character Portrayal by other writers:

Graham Greene: repetition of feelings in order to stress on them, description of physical characteristics of the character, description of the character’s surroundings – shops, asphalt roads, description of not just the details that the character notices but others too. Usage of these details to portray the character’s inner feelings (a la the wild moors and Heathcliff’s character in Wuthering Heights)

Kate Atkinson: details of the character’s thought process – his fears, his anxiety, his insecurities from early childhood and how that affects his behavior while courting a girl, details of his routine actions on a daily basis.

Pointers for Character Sketch:

Straight from the notes in the lesson, because this seems like something that will come in quite handy when I do begin writing my own story.

  • Is there an opportunity to add the thoughts of your character?
  • Can you situate your character in relation to a particular location?
  • Does what your character says in their dialogue tally with what they think, or is there a discrepancy?
  • Can you smuggle in some details about your character’s back story, their life prior to when we meet them?
  • Can you try to infer how your character acts in the world – for instance, are they overwhelmed or in some sense out of control or are they hapless?

Ordinary Words, Vivid Imagery:

The words that a writer uses need not be exotic or difficult to understand in order to create a good story. Even the most limited of vocabularies consist of words having exciting origins and all that really matters is how one uses simple words to paint ordinary situations in extraordinary light. This enables a writer to describe situations in a meaningful, easily understandable, but at the same time unique manner.

“The vehicles on the narrow road were whizzing by at astounding speeds, on a warm Saturday night. From the hilltop that we sat on, they looked like hundreds of shooting stars, only these starts weren’t lighting up the sky, but they set ablaze, if only for a moment, the man-made concrete serpent winding around the hill.”

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Writing Spaces

The things this course is making me do!! They place so much importance on things that I had thus far considered far too inconsequential – the place where one writes for instance! I usually write best when I am in my own room, either sitting at a desk or on my bed, depending on the time of the day and the degree of tiredness I feel, but most importantly depending on the topic that I am writing about. But now, I am being asked to “Imagine two different venues for writing – one that seems most suited to you, and one that you would find bizarre or too difficult. Write a paragraph describing two writers at work, one in each of the venues.” So, here goes!

Week 2

Most Suited Venue:

Nick Derider sat at the desk in his room, with a mug of piping hot cocoa, typing away furiously on his damaged-but-still-working laptop. He couldn’t wait to start writing his latest blog post. He just knew that this one was going to be his most special post yet – it was about his favorite sports hero after all! There was no one around to disturb him at this late hour, the closest person being his oldest friend and now roommate, Evan, who was sleeping fitfully in his own room across the hall. Nick liked writing when there was no one around him. He felt like every single word he wrote was a conversation with his inner-self and he felt most connected with his core when he was converting his myriad thoughts into words. It was a shame he never wrote when he was around people though. If only some of his friends and colleagues could watch him writing this piece about Roger Federer, they would have seen beautifully raw emotions flit across Nick’s face- from joy to sadness, from anger to passion, from disgust to longing – it was all there. And maybe then they wouldn’t call him stoic, aloof and emotionless like they usually do!

Most Bizarre Venue:

She sat at the edge of her chair in the tiny, crowded room, located at the foot of the staircase, surrounded by her classmates and a few seniors from college. The college editorial team, which she was a part of, had been asked to move out of their usual room, owing to some renovations and they had chosen this room of all places to be their interim office. She had hated the sight of this room right from the first day she had seen it – ‘The Common Room’ was easily her least favorite place in college. Her resolve of never stepping into the room had been broken! She sat in the room in intense discomfort, trying and miserably failing to write a 200 word article for the college magazine! This was a last minute assignment, and when she had tried to protest, the editor had told her in no uncertain terms that if she couldn’t churn out the article in half an hour, she would no longer be a member of the editorial team. She sat there staring at her laptop’s screen – at the blinking cursor on the blank page, silently waiting for the deadline to be up so she could go home. She may no longer be a part of the editorial team, but at least she could now step out of, and never return to the Common Room!

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Writing Rituals

This week’s first lesson is all about listening to a number of accomplished writers’ Writing Rituals and figuring out what works best for me and what doesn’t work for me at all. I’ve added an approach that I am not really keen or excited about, but I do not want to disregard it just yet. So I’m just going to leave it out here; maybe I’ll just end up using it one day!

Week 2

Best Suited Approaches of Writing:

Writing late at night – when things are quiet and the rest of mankind is asleep. This kind of holds good for me during daytime, given am by myself during the day, my closest friends and family are asleep haf way across the world at this time, and things around me are usually quiet. But when I look at my old blog posts, I can see that I did some of my best work during the night. One of the writers says that writing during the night is better because of our proximity to our dreams! WOW, what a delightful idea that is! He also thinks that one tends to get trippy/ hallucinogenic while writing at night. Not the worst of ideas if you ask me!! 😀

Least Suited Approaches of Writing:

Morning Pages – writing as soon as you wake up, in order to harness the sub-conscious mind. A big NO! I have no thoughts other than “I hate waking up this early! I hate the alarm!! I hate this entire universe!!!”. I have absolutely no thoughts that would be considered worthy of noting down in the morning, other than those that include homicide or genocide or mobile phone break-icide. Zilch! Zero! Nada!

Middle Ground:

Somewhere between the two is the third method described – writing absolutely anything obsessively, without any meaning or structure. This denotes almost crazy writing that borders on having a nervous breakdown using words! While this may be too difficult for a mild control freak like me to wrap my head around, this does sound like something I can explore. Maybe expressing myself without trying to make sense of absolutely everything would be cathartic in a way and who knows what I might stumble upon in the process!!

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Character Development – A Moral Science Lesson! Hehe, JK!

It is a bright and sunny day here in Charlotte. Days like this were such a rarity in Seattle, especially during this time of the year! Thanks to a room awash with sunlight, centralized air conditioning and the two little rabbits playing in the grass just outside my french window (yes, the new apartment complex has rabbits! And manicured lawns and many, many trees! For someone who lived in a house surrounded on all 4 sides by houses, with annoying peeping-tom neighbors in Chennai, this feels like a vacation that I doubt I deserve!!), I am able to fully appreciate the gifts that God bestows upon you, even when you resist. And then there are things that you hope and pray for – all day, all night, all year long and they still do not happen.

God is like that weird uncle who gifted you Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’ on your 10th birthday – when all you’d wanted was a pink bicycle or a box full of chocolates. You stare at the Booker Prize Winning book – at its moss green colored cover with a tiny pale pink flower printed on it and curse under your breath, but manage to fake smile and say “Thank You” anyway because if you don’t, your parents would later kick your rear-side (literally if you’re particularly badly behaved, or figuratively at the least). Then you proceed to bury the book in the bottom shelf of your cupboard in disgust after the birthday party and forget all about it till you rediscover it years later, during a particularly boring summer vacation after having completed your X standard board exams. And you FALL IN LOVE! With the magical Ayemenem, with exotic sounding terms like Kochamma, Mammachi, Kochu Parambil and Esthapapichechen kuttapan peter mon, with the idea of living in a tiny town filled with whimsical yet depressing characters who know and follow Marxist-Leninist theories, who refer to one another as comrades, who are di(e)vorced widows with dizygotic (I think) twin children, who are kind-hearted paravans who perish at all too young an age, who make jams and marmalade at Paradise Pickles, who forget societal boundaries and believe in that one true all-encompassing emotion called Love!

I digress!! The point that I was trying to make is that this book that the uncle gave me on my 10th birthday, that I so hated at the time, till date remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. (It was the reason I fell in love with the type of books that I so enjoy reading and that I hope to write myself one day – books that are about real people – flaws et al, their raw emotions, in the most obscure of settings, describing their ordinary lives made extra-ordinary by virtue of their simplicity and the fact that they embrace this simplicity with all their heart). I still find it hilarious when I think about how pissed off I was when I first received this book. And often wonder if I’d have wanted to become a chocolatier had I gotten that box of chocolates that I’d originally wanted (I’m kidding! I know I’d be out of business in a week by virtue of me eating all the chocolates that I’d make)!

It is amazing how things just work out in life! I wonder if me being here on an H4 visa (sigh!) is the only reason why I have the time and luxury of sitting down with my laptop at 2 PM on a Tuesday afternoon, sipping on my hazelnut flavored coffee, learning the ‘Start Writing Fiction’ online class, while being distracted by the jumpy little rabbits outside my window and reminiscing about one of my favorite books of all time, instead of focusing on my writing task for today as a part of the course! I’m pretty sure it is! 🙂

Getting back to the actual task at hand, below is a 200-odd word Short Character Sketch that my class requires me to write.

Week One!

Character Sketch

Alekhya – 26 Year Old woman with cascading dark hair, an infectious smile and a razor sharp mind. Her eyes crinkle and became almost invisible every time she smiles – one of the reasons she still likes wearing glasses in spite of having gotten a vision correction (lasik) surgery a few years ago. As it turned out, Alekhya fell in love with her glasses the minute she realized that she did not depend on them anymore.
At 5’7″, Alekhya is considered a tall woman and the 20 kgs that she recently lost only supplemented this notion. She prefers wearing comfortable clothes, usually in the colors of blue, beige, white or grey and loves accessorizing with what are considered “men’s watches”, large ear-rings and bangles; she hates wearing jewelery around her neck. She calls her dressing style traditional meets casual-chic meets bohemian. She realizes that these styles are contradictions in themselves, but that was the whole point, in her opinion.
She is the eldest daughter to her banker parents and has two younger siblings – a brother and a sister. Having grown up in various parts of the country, she learned many languages and made many friends. A content writer by profession, she loves her job, but hates her colleagues at the new work place.

This was a relatively easier task in comparison to yesterday, maybe because I have been thinking about this character for quite some time now. It was fun giving her a name and writing down a character sketch about her though; this is something that I hadn’t thought about doing before. I did find the 200 word limit a little restrictive though. Here’s to hoping that I can paint a more complete picture of the character very soon 🙂

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It’s raining, it’s pouring!!

The last few weeks have been hectic as hell. They’ve involved packing up an apartment, moving cities, dealing with health issues, silly arguments with the husband, feeling guilty about arguing with the husband, apartment hunting, moving in and trying to settle into the new place. Phew!! I’m finally settling into a routine here in Charlotte and trying not to miss Seattle too much.

And this fine Monday morning, my Google Calendar Notification alerted me of a course that I’d joined a few months ago and had forgotten all about, as was expected. The course in question is called “Start Writing Fiction” – it is free and is taught online. Score!

Given my tendency to draw from personal experiences while writing anything – be it a blog post here or even while trying my hand at poetry (don’t laugh, I’ve won prizes for my poems while doing my under graduation! That my competition comprised of 20 fellow students who were previously chilling out in the college canteen and had to be dragged to take part in the Poetry Writing Competition by our English Professor due to a shamefully low turnout at the competition venue is another thing! :D), I figured that if I intend to fulfill my dream of writing a book without actually disclosing all my life’s deep, dark secrets and those of my friends and family, I better learn to separate fact from fiction; or at the least, figure out a way of masking facts in such a way that they appear to be fiction!

From what I see in the course Introduction, I will be writing quite a bit in the following few weeks and I intend making a note of everything that I write as a part of the course here in my blog as well, because you know, I can! And also because the course instructor told me to! 🙂 So, here goes!!

Week One!

Facts & Fiction

Writing a 50-100 word paragraphs with 1 Fact and 3 Fictitious Elements and then the reverse (3 Facts and 1 Fictitious Element)

1 Fact/ 3 Fictitious Elements

The Emperor poured his heart and soul into building the Taj Mahal in his wife’s memory. One the final day of construction, he stood watching as workers gave final touches to the architectural marvel. A construction worker quickly covered her face with a veil as she passed the emperor by. She gazed down at the crypt in the monument’s heart, silently apologizing to her chamber maid, whom she had poisoned  in order to help fake her own death. The Empress hoped that the maid’s mortal remains being laid to rest for all of eternity in the magnificent Taj would be payment enough for her sins.

3 Facts/ 1 Fictitious Element

It was the happiest day of her life. She had gotten only two hours’ sleep the previous night, but her perfect make up and silk couture dress made her look fantastic! Congratulatory messages and blessings had been pouring in all week, but she knew that no one was happier or prouder today than her parents! She walked into the ornate venue with bated breath, accompanied by her beaming parents. And she heard the announcement “Will the graduating class of 2015 please take their seats. Dean Selanor will address you shortly!” An MBA degree from an Ivy League – her childhood dream had finally come true!

This was sooooo much harder than I ever thought it was going to be! Hope tomorrow is a better day for my ego and for the “writer” in me!

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How To Survive and (Try to) Thrive on H4

All my life, I had a clear vision of what my future would hold – I’d be happily married to the best guy ever and have a great job, and neither of the two were ever negotiable. I’d seen my mom not only balance, but also love her career and her home in equal measure and always thought that I would follow suit. I never thought that staying at home was an option and frankly, I did have a tiny bit of contempt for girls my age who chose to get married and follow their husbands to whichever corner of the earth these gentlemen lived in, sacrificing their own careers, forgetting their own choices and needs in order to become a devoted homemaker.

So you can imagine how difficult a decision it was for me to quit my job post-wedding and move to the US, where my husband is currently working. But marriage is about embracing changes and accommodating your spouse’s interests too and all factors considered, this made the most sense for us as a couple. Also, the fact that he and I were friends for a considerable period of time before we got married and that I knew fully well that if some day the roles were reversed, he would do the same for me in a heartbeat was a major factor in my decision.

While my previous post on this blog describes the happiness and excitement about making this move, this one is intended to describe the flip side of it. And if I may be so conceited, I hope that this post will maybe help someone who is in a similar position today, as I was (about) a year ago. So here goes!

Stage 1) To Move or not to Move – When everyone’s a Judge of how You should live Your Life
The first thing that hits you after you decide to quit your job and move countries is the amount of judgement directed at you. Take my word for it, everyone from your dad’s office colleague you’d never met to your acquaintance from college WILL have a very strong opinion about what you’re about to do.

Two months after I moved to the US, this friend of mine rather disdainfully told me that instead of sitting at home and chilling all day, I should try to find myself a job. This, after I had explained to him (before I moved) how the H4 visa works and how there is NO legal means by which I can be gainfully employed while on it in the US. Now, I get that he was coming from a good place, but that day I really did feel like the most insignificant person on Earth. Because as much others judge you, the worst judgement of all comes from within. I doubt that I can ever explain in words the amount of internal conflict and turmoil I felt while making this decision. And having to constantly explain this choice of mine to others is downright insulting!
So, to all those well-wishers out there trying to “help”, please stop! The H4 visa is, without a doubt, one of the most restrictive visas of the world and if you can come up with advice on the lines of “just go find a job”, then trust me the person you are advising has researched and thought things through a million times more than you have.

The silver lining though, is how much my aunties and uncles get me these days! I can safely say that nothing I have done thus far in life has made any of them as proud of me as going off to the US to be a housewife has. I remember basking in their collective delight and trying really hard not to wonder if I was officially entering “aunty-dom”; and that was why for the first time ever in my life I felt more acceptance from them than from people my own age! 😛

Stage 2) The Visa Process – When the Visa Officer thinks that You have the IQ of a Potato
The next step for me was to get an approved visa from the US consulate in Chennai. The first day I had to go to a rather shady looking “office” (which I really hope was a work-in-progress), near Teynampet to give my finger prints. This took about 30 minutes I was done for the day.

The next day was my interview at the US Consulate which is located near Gemini Circle. 2 hours and 3 long queues later, I was bored, tired and annoyed about having to wait so long in spite of supposedly having an appointment. Anyway, I was finally at arm’s length from the visa officer and there were a couple of people ahead of me – a petrified looking young girl and a guy who looked like he was about my age. The visa officer started grilling the poor girl about why she wanted to do a Masters in the US in environmental sciences after doing her under graduation in Chemistry. She gave an answer that I couldn’t hear, but I assume it failed to appease the officer, as his face proceeded to turn into ten shades of red as he got angrier by the second. He finally shouted his rejection at her and asked her to leave – sad and visa-less.
I was beginning to worry at this point because as luck would have it, the visa officer seemed to be in a really foul mood. Next in line was the guy, who from what I heard was applying for an L1 visa. The officer proceeded to question him about the nature of his work (Mobile App development, if you’d like to know) and I was mentally answering his questions and at a few points, correcting him in my head when he was answering incorrectly. I guess the visa officer was not as technologically aware as I was 😛 and so he seemed satisfied with the answers the guy gave and told him that his visa was approved. Off went the happy guy and I was next in line!

Now, I had no illusions about the interview and knew that this was for a dependent visa and the officer wasn’t going to ask me any technical or academic related questions, but I braced myself for at least some amount of grilling, given that he appeared to be the strictest of the 4 other interviewers in the room. What happened though was that he took one look at the fact that I was applying for H4 visa and his face changed; he looked at me like I had the mental faculties of a potato and very slowly asked me
“When          did          you           get           married?”, followed by
“Which         city         is              your         husband       working       in?”.
THAT WAS IT. That wrapped up my visa interview and I was sent on my way with an approval of visa. While I was happy that the long awaited interview was finally done, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment at being asked such mundane questions. And for the very first time in my life, I wished an interview had been tougher than it actually was. Because at least when the interview is difficult, you know that the interviewer thinks you are capable of (or should be capable of) answering such questions. And that was step one of my self doubt and confusion regarding my move to the US on H4.

Stage 3) Prepping for D Day – When you Pack Your Bags with memories; because they sell clothes in the US, don’t they?
After the visa stamping comes the biggest task – packing! With an allowance of two check-in bags weighing 22 kgs each, you would think that packing wouldn’t be all that difficult; but you would be wrong! In my case, a large chunk of the 44 kg limit was taken up by the homemade masalas, sweets and other “Indian stuff you cannot get in the US”, courtesy my parents, parents-in-law, aunts & uncles and friends.  Half of the suitcase space was then taken over by my shoes. I packed in 8 pairs if I remember correctly :D. Then come the random trinkets, photo frames, books, journals & what not that remind me of home and happiness, that I knew I would absolutely need to keep my sanity. Agreed they had no utility, but if I was leaving behind everything familiar and safe, I would need my safety blanket and that is exactly what these things were going to be. No way was I leaving them behind.

And in the remaining space, I tried to fit in the clothes – and failed rather miserably! I left behind two 6 foot tall wardrobes full of clothes back home and my mom still complains about it 😀
Now this obviously was a bad choice, because as expected, every time I go shopping for clothes here in the US, I see that they were either made in India or Sri Lanka or Indonesia and I try really, really hard not to think about how much money I could have saved had I just shopped for these clothes in Coimbatore or Tirupur, or just packed a tenth of the clothes I left behind at home. Also, I use exactly 2 out of the 8 pairs of shoes I brought along, because the ones I’ve shopped for in the US are so much cuter and fit so much better. I truly cringe every time I think of all the wasted luggage space 😦

If I were to do it all over again, I’d pack my suitcase with homemade masalas and foods (you get almost all of the known branded Indian stuff here anyway), our standard OTC medicines, clothes, things like chai filters, wooden base and rolling pin for chapati (we bought one here at the Indian store and I almost had a panic attack when I saw the  $30 price tag), a few stainless steel vessels (they’re super expensive here, so I now make do with non-sticks and plastics), and then I would have tried to fit in the shoes/ hair dryers/ gadgets, etc., if I still had space (you anyway find better ones in the US).

Stage 4) First Few Month is the US – When you L00ove your spouse but blame him/ her for all your troubles in life
I landed in the US after a grueling 36 hour flight – thanks to the fall intake students’ rush and the fact that all tickets around Aug-Sep were sold out or at seriously inflated prices. Luckily though, my tickets were on Singapore airlines where even the Economy seats are super comfy and if you’re on the Airbus a380 like I was, you can have a lot of fun just strolling around and checking out the fabulous double-deck of the aircraft. After sleeping through the first week of tiredness and jetlag in the US, when the husband cooked and cleaned and generally just pampered me no end, I was quite happy and relaxed. And oh, I always thought that jetlag was a fabricated concept made up by snooty people staying abroad, but rather sadly and painfully realized that it is not. For instance, when I was “jetlagging”, I’d be awake one minute and drop down asleep like a log the very next, bang in the middle of the day!

Cut to the next week, when a new routine was slowly setting in. After the husband left for work at 9 AM, I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted to do. I’d have already cooked breakfast and lunch by then. And apart from some random tidying up and laundry, I had a good 8-9 hours to myself. And I thought of all the wonderful things I could do in this time – read to my heart’s content, explore the neighborhood, meet new people, learn a new skill or a language, the possibilities were endless. Especially after having recently worked in an organization where working 10-14 hours a day was a norm, I truly thought this was God’s way of rewarding me for all my hardships in life till date 😛 I felt like the world was my oyster and all that jazz. Add to this the fact that Seattle is such a beautiful city, with so much to do, and that my husband is this active-outdoorsy-travel junkie, we ended up travelling and discovering new places almost every weekend. We also caught up with old friends living in other cities and I had a gala time overall.

Unfortunately though, around this time is when I started missing home like crazy. From what I’ve heard (from friends in similar situations), this is a standard pattern when you move countries. After the initial excitement of all these new experiences wear off, you usually start missing home around the 2-3 month mark. I even started missing my job in the God-awful organization where I used to work! And I did the easiest thing that I could do – I blamed my husband for making me give up my job (which he told me I shouldn’t, unless I wanted to) and move to the US (which he again told me I needn’t, unless I wanted to). But frustration knows no logic and the poor guy had to bear the brunt of all my drama and tantrums. Luckily for me though, he has the patience of a rock and handled my frustrations pretty well. And after about 2 weeks of anger and self-pity, I finally realized that I had to suck it up and make the best out of the situation and more importantly, own up to the fact that this was MY decision and now I had to deal with it.

Stage 5) Settling into a Pattern – While You were busy perfecting that Chicken Biryani recipe, the world was moving forward – all guns blazing
The 3 – 6 month period was by far my most unproductive one in the US. I had gotten used not going to work and was getting used to the humdrum of being an H4 housewife. I was just sitting on my ass all day long, perfecting my cooking skills (I learned that there were about 10 different ways of making a Chicken biryani, would you believe it :O), reading, binge watching all kinds of series on Netflix, taking naps and basically doing nothing useful with my life other than maybe reading a couple of great books.

I realized that I had fallen into a rut. My family and friends were half a world away and we couldn’t speak as often as we did earlier, everyone was busy doing something or the other with their lives. Actually, everyone was making progress in their lives – in their careers and otherwise, while I was just aimlessly coasting along. My wake up call came when one day my mom asked me what a normal day at home was like for me. When I explained my routine to her, trying to make it sound more dignified than it was, she told me in no uncertain terms that I was wasting away my life, and putting myself at a serious health risk – both physically and psychologically. I was living, in her words, a lazy-post-retirement-from-work life at the age of 29 and that just wouldn’t do.

That was a wake up call as good as any and I realized that day that Netflix, contrary to what I had started to believe, in fact was not my Soulmate 😦

Stage 6) This part of my life, this part right here? This is called Happiness 🙂
This was the point when I really started to weigh my options instead of being depressed about and blaming the dependent visa rules in this country. The way I saw it, I had three choices –

  • Take up volunteering (I think I’d have to write a separate post on this one)
  • Study something (though having just recently completed an MBA, I really couldn’t see what value doing a generic course just for the sake of it would add to me)
  • Do everything that I had been wanting to do all my life, but never had the time to!

I chose the third option and trust me, I haven’t ever been happier in life! I started with what was easiest for me to do – Online Certifications. So many organizations and universities offer online certifications these days and you wouldn’t believe the range and variety of topics they offer – from Technology to Tantra, Photography to Psychology, Analytics to Art; the possibilities are endless. And if you look hard enough, a lot of these certifications are for free! It is an amazing way to learn right from the comfort of my home and at my own discretion in order to stay up-to-date with trends and of course, it would add so much value to my resume when I get back into the job market. And if I feel like I need a break from job-related certifications, there are a host of other interesting options too – I could maybe become a certified Gemologist or Lighthouse keeper. How fun does that sound! 😀

Next on my list was mastering Driving. It really helped that driving is much easier here than back home, given the automatic cars and overall more disciplined drivers (my husband thinks that it is more about them being chickens than disciplined, but anyway :P). It took me a couple of months to get my license here and unlike earlier (I’ve had a four wheeler license in India for 9 years and drove a car about 4 times in all this time) I now actually drive around a lot on my own and have become a very confident driver too. I really do consider this one of my biggest achievements. Also, you can rent the coolest cars out here! I’ve driven everything from the Nissan 370z to a Ford Mustang to a BMW convertible to multiple SUVs – fun, fun and more fun! If nothing else, this should be motivation enough for anyone to learn driving here!

One other thing that I’d always wanted to do but never had the time/ courage to, was to learn to play a Musial Instrument. As someone who doesn’t have a single artistic bone in my body, growing up I figured I’d be better off directing my energy at things that I might actually be good at. But as they say, unless you step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself, you would never know what you’re capable of! So I went ahead and bought myself an acoustic guitar and turned to YouTube tutorials for help. It has been about a month since I started and I am now a proud, very average player of 3 easy chords and a basic (happy birthday) song!
Trust me when I say, this is by far the most challenging task I have encountered in my life. When I started off, while my left hand would hold the proper strings in place, the right one just refused to strum, and vice-versa. A looot of practice and patience later, I think I’ve finally managed to coax my brain to try and make both my hands work properly at the same time! I think playing a musical instrument makes you a much more sharper and focused person – something that really helps when you are not working or studying and helps ensure that your brain doesn’t become rusty.
And if I had appreciation for musicians earlier, now I am downright in awe of every single one of them!! It takes great talent and then some more to create and/ or play music! Truly, hats off to every single one of them!

And finally, I have decided to act on the single biggest dream of my life – To Write. I’ve started working on it and am in the nascent stages of writing my own book. It may take me a year to finish writing one, it may take me ten; the point is that I have finally started and that is something I am very proud of. And I have to acknowledge that I might not have gotten started had it not been for this unexpected break in my career. And just for that, I would never ever regret this decision of mine.

Summing up, the H4 visa is not as bad as it seemed to be when this phase of my life started a year ago. And for everyone else out there in my shoes, please believe that this can truly be a blessing in disguise. We may be losing out on a lot of opportunities and prospects, but with the right mindset, this period of time can become the most rewarding one of our lives.

All we need is some inspiration and a dream or two! 🙂

Disclaimer: This blog post isn’t by any means meant to be/ striving to be an exhaustive list of options available to spouses on H4 visa. It’s a purely personal take based on my own experiences and those of a few close friends. 

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Hello Seattle!

It has been a couple of years since my previous blog post. And the gap has definitely not been for want of things to write about. Frankly, these two years has been more action packed than any others of my life. I went from being a 27 year old, supposedly rebellious, unmarried, “old-maid-in-the-making”, working woman to becoming a happily married, blissful, *gasp* home maker (thanks to the God-awful US dependent visa)! The most important change though has been moving to a new country, to a beautiful city named Seattle.

The first time I ever heard of the city was in Standard X, when our English teacher called it “See-tell” and my bestie (H) and I secretly laughed our hearts out, for we knew more about pronunciations than our teacher did. Yes, yes, we did think very highly of ourselves back in the days 😛

Fast forward a few years – I was doing my Engineering in the most obscure of colleges in Coimbatore and spending time on almost everything but studying. This was when our generation’s primary source of entertainment was still the Television and I was no different. While I was thankfully outgrowing the crap I used to watch on Star Plus (the saas-bahu sagas and the unrequited love stories with all the plastic surgeries), it was still a time when I firmly believed that F.R.I.E.N.D.S on Star World was the coolest show ever. I mean I still am a fan, don’t get me wrong, but back then I thought that Western TV was all about sitcoms and nothing else. Then came this gem called Grey’s Anatomy and right from the Pilot episode, I was hooked.

Meredith and Christina reminded me of H and me, McDreamy with all the hair made me drool, and I wanted nothing more than to grow up to be just like Miranda Bailey 🙂 My most favorite thing about the show though, was the city where it was filmed! Seattle was beeyootiful on camera – it had everything I’d ever wanted in a city – lovely lakes, sloping roads, so much greenery, beaches minus the heat and humidity, engineering marvels like the Space Needle, rains all year round, and so much more! It was the first city that I put on my bucket list of places I’d visit when I “grew up”. Twelve years down the line, I still love Grey’s! The only difference is, I watched the first season when I was back home in India and now here I am watching the twelfth season while living IN Seattle!

I’ve lived here for just about a year now and it is already one of my most favorite places. I was someone who always thought that any place other than India can never be ‘home’, and maybe at some level I still do. But in (the highly unlikely) case I’d have to live here for the rest of my life, I don’t think I’d complain.

From the little that I have seen of the US, Seattle is by far the best city to live it. It may not be as big, as grand, as culturally steeped, as sunny or as friendly as a few other cities, but it makes up for all its shortcomings by its sheer natural beauty and charm. I don’t remember the last time I saw so many trees in one place in my life (maybe in Jammu & Kashmir) and I definitely don’t remember waking up to chirping birds and a gentle cold breeze every single day of the year.

The city enjoys is blessed in terms of its geographical location. One can drive down to a beach in half an hour and drive in the opposite direction and reach astounding snow covered mountains in a couple of hours! That’s how diverse the landscape of the area is! Seattle is all about lovely trails and calm and peace – it makes you look at nature with new respect, at-least it made ME do so!

But Seattle’s natural beauty is not the only reason why I love the city. There’s so much that living away from home teaches you. I’d always thought of myself as being independent, but it is here that I have discovered the true meaning of real freedom to do what I want to do and be who I want to be. For someone like me, the infamous “Seattle Freeze” worked in my favor. This was the first time in life that I was being left alone and was not given any undue attention, and trust me, for someone like me there is nothing quite as liberating as this feeling.

But like most good things in life, my moving here came at a price. I had to give up a lucrative job (that I really liked) in a company (that I hardly liked) back home and move here to the US on the dreaded H4 dependent visa! (More on that in a later post) I’d probably never have gotten to live in this city had I not made this move. And for that alone, I will never regret this decision of mine. And these past two years have taught me that no  matter how well you think you’ve planned your life, life’s always going to throw curve-balls at you. All you can do is take a deep breath, go with the flow, make the best out of your situation and believe that its going to be OK. Why? Because it has to 🙂

 

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