How to stay positive during a lockdown.

Ever since the lockdown began, I observed my enthusiasm levels dipping by the day. WIth hubby, too, at home, my schedule went for a toss – Netflix and Amazon playing all day long, gave me zero peace to work on my writing.

I need peace and quiet when I sit down to write. But, with the movies and the web series tempting me, my writing took a back seat. Yes, I lost all self-control and got lazy.

In a week’s time, though, the restlessness began seeping in as I wasn’t indulging in any creative activity that has usually kept me busy and happy–neither writing nor art. That’s when I changed my schedule. Well, how long can one watch TV?

With writer’s block hitting me hard, I turned to art to help me stay afloat, and here’s what I created this month. One drawing per week that took me around 2 to 3 days each to complete. And I enjoyed every moment of creating these pieces. I haven’t done anything like this earlier as I preferred smaller, less complicated designs. But, now I am addicted to it.

I have a few plans up my sleeve (although I know plans never go our way, but, still) that I would like to bring to fruition someday. Until then, I will work on such drawings and reap the benefits–both, creatively and emotionally.

Every artwork is created on an A4 size drawing paper using 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 0.6, 0.8 mm leads Micropens, and 6B and 8B pencils for shading.

KATHAKALI DANCER:

Art by Shilpa

 

AUM:

Art by Shilpa

 

NANDI:

Art by Shilpa

 

THE BUDDHA:

Art by Shilpa

 

 

Art is a favorite activity, other than writing, and is a sure-shot way to keep my anxiety and boredom at bay.

It also encourages me to get out of my comfort zone and try out something new, something challenging, which not only helps me improve my craft but also brings back my lost enthusiasm and joy.

6 WAYS TO STAY POSITIVE DURING A LOCKDOWN:

  1. Take some time out for yourself, even if half an hour, to do something that you LOVE.
  2. If you can’t think of any activity that might interest you, take a walk down memory lane, to days of your childhood, and try and remember what it was that made you feel alive. Do it now–even if it means playing board games with kids, or dancing to the tunes of your favorite songs, even if you can’t dance. Who is watching, anyway? Everyone’s busy with their gadgets. Dance for yourself!
  3. Pick a new hobby if you are bored of the ones you indulged in up until now. Maybe reading, or drawing; even if you aren’t comfortable doing it, do it. Do it for fun, nothing else.
  4. Start with something simple and do it daily. In the half-hour or even 10 minutes you find for yourself, do that activity–read 2 pages of the book you chose, or doodle whatever comes to your mind, or write a letter to yourself.
  5. If you find it boring, put it away and get back to it only when you feel like it.
  6. Over time, push yourself and make the transition from simple to complicated–read a chapter, make an entire drawing, or write a 1000-word essay.

In a matter of days, observe yourself feeling alive on completing the activity and watch the ennui vanish, slowly and steadily.

Of course, there will be days when you will not want to do anything, at all. Just follow your heart. The urge to indulge in the activity needs to come from within. And it takes a little bit of practice to cultivate the habit, so you will need to be a little bit strict with yourself.

But, do it…do it for yourself, because if you don’t, who will?

 

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De-stressing with art

 

 

 

Route 15 – Highway to hell. Book Review

Route 15 – Highway to hell, an anthology publication by The Hive.

Genre: Horror fiction.

Publication date: 11th March 2020.

Length: 366 Pages

Format: Kindle Edition

 

SYNOPSIS:

What happens when 13 writers of horror are trapped in a bus on a stormy night?

They try to outdo one another with blood-curdling, spine-chilling tales.

Each horror tale is narrated such, it intrigues and terrifies you! WIll you survive the journey?

TRIGGER WARNING: 

This book contains scenes of abuse, violence, death, rape, and swearing. It includes instances of children being harmed.

 

MY REVIEW:

I wasn’t a fan of horror, ever. I would make sure I looked away when a horror film popped up while surfing the channels. So, of course, reading a horror novel was a complete no-no for me.

But, a couple of months ago, I came across a Facebook group – The Hive – that invited writers to test their horror-writing skills, or indulge in horror-writing fantasies they may have had in their life, and I totally fell for it.

Writing horror felt like a natural skill to me, as I came up with a mini tale of 100 words every week. And, now, I am a complete horror fan!

Route 13, Highway to hell, is the collective effort of 13 writers and The Hive. And, I am proud to share with you that a mini tale by yours truly also features in this book!

Although I now enjoy horror, I prefer psychological horror stories instead of those that have blood and gore, galore. I still have to develop the nerves to digest it all.

Here are the 13 stories and their writers:

  1. THE PURPLE GRAVE, by Jaya Pillai
  2. WELCOME, by Sarveswri Sai Krishna
  3. PASTEL OF THE PAST, by Priya U. Bajpai
  4. ILL-CONCEIVED, by Meha Sharma
  5. KILLING MURAKAMI, by Venkataraman Ganesan
  6. THE SILVER BEAST, by Srivalli Rekha
  7. OLD MACDONALD HAD A FARM, by Varadharajan Ramesh
  8. THE HAVELI, by Anshu Bhojnagarwala
  9. THE ARTIST, by Yatindra Tawde
  10. THE ADVENTURES OF A VIRGIN, by Tina Sequeira
  11. MACABRE MELODY, by Sreeparna Sen
  12. MEMORY OF A FACE, by Kanika G.
  13. THE CASE OF THE SEANCE, by Ell P

These stories are all connected together with the conversation that takes place between the 13 writers as they travel in the bus on Route 13, sharing their experiences with the supernatural.

Here are some of the stories that made me fear the dark:

WELCOME, by Sarveswari Sai Krishna, was one psychological horror story that really had me sweating nervously. It plays on your mind and is so fantastically narrated, it has you in its grips from the word go!

KILLING MURAKAMI, by Venkataraman Ganesan is another story, that is something you might not have come across in any horror story. It’s different, and keeps you guessing what’s around the corner as you turn the pages.

OLD MACDONALD HAD A FARM, by Varadharajan Ramesh – my favourite author – gives you the heebie-jeebies. This guy knows how to grab your attention, keep you riveted to the narrative, and finally, lose your sleep and peace of mind with the twists and turns in the story! Trust me, you will begin regarding nursery rhymes with doubt and fear after you are done reading this one.

MACABRE MELODY, by Sreeparna Sen, is simply terrifying. You just dive into the story as soon as it begins. The atmosphere she has created is certainly worth capturing on the screen!

And, THE CASE OF THE SEANCE, by Ell P, is scary till the last word.

Frankly, each and every story in this collection is so brilliantly narrated, you get a taste of every ingredient that goes into making a horror story.

Be it the development of the plot, creating the ambience needed for a horror tale, the characters that are black,white and grey, the accompanying histrionics of those characters, and not to forget, the props–the blood, the gore, the shrills and the thrills–every story offers these to you on a platter.

If you are a horror fiction fan, then these stories are for you. Short in length, but sure to leave their mark on your psyche long after you are done reading them, they succeed in bringing about a sense of dread, the kind the genre has been tailored to accomplish.

The short stories are followed by 13 mini tales (100 words tales) by other writers who participated in the weekly writing projects at The Hive.

 

MY RATING:

4.5 stars out of 5.

If you are above 18 years of age, and a fan of horror, then just go, grab a copy and enjoy. It would be the best way to spend these long days of lockdown!

 

How to minimise mental stress in a crisis.

Today is day 3 of the 21 days lockdown in India.

I would be lying if I said I am dealing with it very well because I am NOT.

My anxiety hit the roof yesterday when I was watching the film, Contagion. If you have seen it,  you will know how very similar it is to what is happening in our world today.

But, if you haven’t seen it, then I would suggest that you DO NOT WATCH IT, even out of curiosity.

*(Just stay away from films that deal with infections, pandemics, alien invasions and the like. We don’t need any more of it to add fuel to fire and  increase our anxieties.)

Yesterday, when I stepped outdoors to buy some meds, there were a hundred thoughts swimming in my mind:

How long will this crisis last? When will the tides change? How are the daily wage earners coping with the situation? What will happen when the stocks deplete and we are left with nothing?

What will happen to the destitute residing on the streets? And, how will the stray animals survive, with no humans frequenting the public areas, no eateries or shops running, and no one leaving any food for those poor souls?

I returned home with a heavy heart and couldn’t focus on anything. Even as I type this post today, my mind oscillates between hope and despair.

I am writing this post for myself, really, along with several of you, who could be experiencing a surge in their anxiety levels and feeling helpless, just like me.

Who feel lost, and alone, during this time when we have also been asked to stay away from each other. True, we are in constant touch through social media but is that enough to find solace and seek the warmth that we all so require in today’s dark times?

Thankfully, for us all, there are psychiatrists, therapists, and medical practitioners, who keep sharing tips to help us face the turmoil.

My psychiatrist, Dr. Chetan Vispute, has begun an Online consultation and counseling session to help those overwhelmed by these tough times.

He also shared a few tips on mindset shift during a pandemic that can help you deal with your monsters.

Mindset shift during a pandemic

 

A few friends also shared some easy tips to help me cope with my anxiety, and I am sharing those with you all.

I am well aware of how to care for my mental health in a crisis–I have done it earlier–but, in today’s anxious times, I tend to forget those basic To-dos that have otherwise helped me deal with the complexities that came my way.

So, here are a few dos and don’ts you need to remember whenever you are having difficulty facing the situation:

5 TIPS TO FOLLOW IN A CRISIS:

1. BREATHE:

It’s always the one thing we forget to do, be it in a crisis, or otherwise. A friend reminded me about its importance as I shared with her my anxieties, as did a psychologist friend, who sent me a message about breathing slow, focusing on my breath as I inhale and exhale.

Just BREATHE. Count the number of times you breathe, say, a minute or two, and watch your anxiety dissipate.

 

2. LIVE IN THE MOMENT:

We, humans, have the tendency to always float away into the future. Seldom are we in the here and the now.

Our future is uncertain; we have no idea what turn life could take, so the best thing we could do for ourselves is to focus on the moment that we have with us, and do our best.

Is there anything else that we can possibly do that could alter the course of our life? I doubt it, for we never know what course life takes!

 

3. STEER CLEAR OF DARK IMAGININGS:

This is something I fight with each day. Frightening thoughts increase my anxiety, and as much as I understand that I need to change my mindset, I fail to do so.

Being in the moment and thinking good thoughts will definitely help me through these tough times.

I so need to remember these words, each day, every day.

Good thoughts, positive thoughts, happy thoughts, peaceful thoughts.

 

4. SHARE YOUR FEARS WITH YOUR CLOSE ONES:

I have started doing it now.  Earlier, I would feel guilty sharing my worries with others as I felt that each of us is fighting battles on a daily basis; how can I burden my people with my fears?

But, it’s in these moments when fear has seized the entire world, that we need to talk about things that trouble us.

Doing so will definitely help us cope with life better as we have a shoulder to lean on. And, we all need a shoulder to lean on, a patient ear to hear us out, and a hand to hold as we walk through this menacing maze.

5. THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS:

Four words that I repeat to myself when in a crisis, but which I seem to have forgotten in the past few days!

Nothing in this world is permanent. Every moment comes to pass; good times, bad times, tough times, happy times, they all pass.

The time that we stare at today, will pass, too.

Let’s consider ourselves lucky that it’s teaching us precious lessons for life.

 

CONCLUSION

Our mind is our biggest, strongest weapon. In a time of crisis, it’s how we use it that decides how we fare as a species.

So, let’s put our mind to good use; let’s fill it to the brim with positive, happy thoughts; let’s also use it to give us the strength and support we need today so that we beat the monster and win this battle.

 

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Staying positive in a crisis

 

 

10 tips to stay happy in difficult times.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HAPPINESS

March 20th has been celebrated as the International Day of Happiness since 2013. It is organized by the United Nations with the belief that “happiness is a fundamental human goal”.

The theme this year is, ironically, “Happier together”! Ironic, because of the social isolation that is the rule of the day thanks to the crisis we face today. Fighting the Coronavirus needs us to be in isolation so that we stay safe and keep others safe, as well.

So, celebrating the Day of Happiness by living happier together seems unimaginable, isn’t it?

 

STAYING HAPPY IN A CRISIS:

‘Happier together’ actually focuses on celebrating what we have in common rather than what divides us. Today, our suffering is the common factor that unites us the world over. It’s not just confined to a particular country or race; it’s a crisis every individual the world over is staring at.

Staying happy in such a scenario, for us, could mean steering clear of spreading false news, incorrect information about fighting the virus, and respecting the advice that comes from the medical fraternity.

Keeping those in our prayers who leave behind their families to help treat us, make life easier for us despite the threat to themselves is what we can do to share some happiness in today’s grim scenario.

Spreading cheer, stories of hope, and correct information about how well we are fighting the virus and saving lives are the things we ought to do to spread happiness on this day.

We know not what the future has in store for us. So, why not believe that someday this, too, shall pass; that someday we will come up with a vaccine, and that we will learn a precious lesson from all that we are facing today and change the way we live?

Happier together could also be celebrated by being there for each other, giving hope through the social media and not spreading fear; sharing fun stories and videos, too, to reduce the stress that we suffer from the constant barrage of news and information about COVID -19 and sharing useful information about self-care that could save us.

After I read a really scary article about COVID – 19 yesterday, I thought of something that I needed desperately to reduce my anxiety levels.

Today, I would like to share my list of HAPPY THINGS TO DO with you all.

 

10 THINGS TO DO TO FIND HAPPINESS IN DIFFICULT TIMES:

1. MAINTAIN A DISTANCE

First of all, as my friend Shailaja Vishwanath suggested, “quit watching every piece of news on the Coronavirus that bombards you on the Internet. Turn off the phone and reach for the newspaper. Focus on the positive news that trickles in announcing the number of recovery cases and the low rate of mortality for this disease.”

2. LOOK FOR ENTERTAINMENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

If you do wish to spend time on social media, then the best things to watch on Instagram and Facebook are animal videos, makeup tutorials, children and animal videos (they are just too adorable!), cookery shows, baking videos, how-to videos where they show you how to de-clutter and minimize stuff from your home and life.

How to find happiness in difficult times

These are not only entertaining and amusing but also helpful and informative. You learn a lot from these and also enjoy a burst of hearty laughter from watching kids and their animal friends in action!

3. YOGA AT HOME

Exercise at home. YOGA is the best form of workout that you can do when confined to home.

How to find happiness in difficult times

It is not only gentle on your system, but works from the inside to the outside and refreshes you like nothing else. It will also help you stay strong apart from keeping you in a happy frame of mind.

4. READ

READ good books! I downloaded 10 books through KINDLE UNLIMITED and now have a lovely stock of books that keeps me entertained all day.

How ti find happiness in difficult times

You know what Stephen King said about books?

Books are a uniquely portable magic!

So true, isn’t it? And magic brings happiness! Read some good books and share them with your friends on your timeline. It’s your chance to be happier together!

How to find happiness in difficult times

5. MOVIE TIME WTH FAMILY

Watch good movies. There’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, and god-knows-what-else where you can pick a movie of your choice and watch it with your family in the safety of your home. Such a happy time you will spend with your family!

6. CONNECT WITH FRIENDS

Call up your friends and loved ones and have those hour-long phone calls you put off doing during busy days. I spoke to my bestie yesterday for an hour, and to another friend for half an hour today. There are a few more I intend to call up soon and have a good heart-to-heart talk with. Perks me up every single time!

7. ENJOY A BOARD GAME

Play board games with kids, or cards, or any other game you played as a kid. You are working from home these days. Take a break and bring out a game you could play with your babies. I am sure you will be transported to your childhood. Just watch how it thrills you to bits.

8. DE-CLUTTER & DE-STRESS

De-clutter! Watching Marie Kondo will inspire you to clean up your home–something you otherwise have hardly any time for! And, believe me, de-cluttering feels SO GOOD!

How to find happiness in difficult times

We just did when we moved house earlier this month. The kind of stuff we discarded–books (yes, books, too!), crockery, furniture, clothes, accessories, and what-not, it felt so light! It also made me wonder why we gather so much stuff all our lives when there’s not a single item we will be carrying with us “up there”! Just let it go!

You used it, you enjoyed it, now let it go and make some space–just empty space–at home and see how good it feels. Less of dusting and cleaning, too, you see!?

9. CATCH UP ON YOUR SLEEP

Sleep. After you are done working, playing and cleaning, go, hit the bed and doze off!

How to find happiness

You don’t have to wake up early to rush off to work, or school. Your body will bless you, really! You require that sleep you otherwise take for granted.

10. SOAK IN THE SILENCE

Just sit in silence. Don’t do anything for a while. You don’t need to do something all the time! Just for 10 to 15 minutes every day, sit and relax the mind. The poor thing is under constant attack from a hundred distractions all day, every day. It, too, needs some rest, doesn’t it?

How to find happiness

Go on, give it a break. Put away your phone, books, and everything else, close your eyes and sit. Do nothing.

Dream, if you want to, of a distant land, and conjure up a fantasy world. Or, just sit and listen to the sounds that you hear all around you. I bet you will hear some that you never knew existed!

So, what do you think?

isn’t it really simple to be happy? Hey, this brings to mind a line from an old Hindi film I saw years ago:

It’s so simple to be happy, but so difficult to be simple!

In these tough times, let’s all look for the simplicity that we left behind, eons ago, for in that simplicity, we will find a world of happiness–happiness that will make our life a whole lot better and fuller than we have been living all these years, don’t you think?

And, while we are at it, why not just live in this moment? Why not take a day at a time instead of wondering about life in the future?

Think over it.

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10 ways to happiness in difficult times

Milk Teeth – Book Review.

Milk teeth, by Amrita Mahale

Genre: Fiction

Publication date: 22 November 2018

Length: 312 Pages

Format: Kindle Edition

 

SYNOPSIS:

Ira Kamat and Kartik Kini are childhood friends residing in a building in Matunga – one of the first planned suburbs of Mumbai. A meeting is taking place on the terrace of the building to decide the fate of the crumbling structure and the future of the families that have been residing there for years.

Ira is a journalist who hunts for stories on corruption that’s rife in almost every government organization in our city. Kartik works in an MNC, living a life that he has concealed from his parents all through his youth. And, between the two of them, is the city of dreams with its vividness, its vibrancy, and its ugly underbelly.

 

MY REVIEW:

I first heard about the book from a friend, who suggested I read it. Some days later, I read about it being recommended by Twinkle Khanna in one of her columns. It is a story set in my city; how could I not grab the link shared by my friend when he offered it to me? And, boy, what a story it was! Riveting, engrossing, unputdownable–I finished it in four days.

It paints a vivid image of the middle-class families residing in this building. Their lifestyle, their mindset, their values, their language, all of it reminiscent of a typical middle-class family from Amchi Mumbai.

The plot of the story is the resident’s fight against the redevelopment of their building – Asha Niwas – by the owner of the building. The tenants want to continue staying in the structure even in its dilapidated condition. Either that or they expect their landlord to hand over the keys to a new flat in the high-rise that would be built in place of the building.

The characters are relatable. The older generation clutching their old-world principles, and the younger generation striving to change with the times; embracing the new lifestyle, fighting to bring about change in their society.

It particularly resonated with me because a couple of months ago, my father, too, received a proposal for re-development of the row houses in his area. It was just a letter that did not need any immediate action, but it affected me and my nephew so much, the anxiety was palpable.

I have lived there since 1977, so, of course, I am in love with it. It may be more than 40 years old, but it holds so many memories for me. My nephew has lived there for a mere 10 years and yet, he, too, couldn’t envision leaving the house and moving into a high-rise. So, yes, I could very well relate to the apprehensiveness of the characters on receiving the news of the re-development.

WHAT I LIKED:

The humor, the characters with their eccentricities, the atmosphere of Matunga that was so perfectly captured by the author, the romance that’s a part of every aspect of the city–all of it was so evocative, so gripping, it was almost tangible!

WHAT I DID NOT LIKE:

Not much to report here, but Kartik’s backstory felt unnecessary as it somehow seemed to disrupt the flow of the story, and felt predictable in places. My eagerness to learn about Ira and Kartik’s life had to be curtailed to endure the lengthy story about Kartik that didn’t feel exciting. At least some part of it.

MY RATING:

The romance between the characters felt fresh, unlike the usual romance stories that I read ages ago. The characters felt alive, with their idiosyncrasies, their annoying habits, and their old-world charm. I wished there was more to the story when I reached the end.

So, all in all, this was a lovely, breezy story that had me hooked right till the end. I would recommend it to readers in their early twenties, right up to their forties.

I give it 4.5 stars.

 

 

*This is my Review of the Month for the Review Collection at LovelyAudioBooks

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