2022 taught me the value of health. For the first time, I got into a fitness regime and made walking a constant parameter of my daily routine. Losing 11 kgs, walking 10k steps, and eating less junk food brought a positive change in my physical and mental health. Though I can’t do 10k steps anymore because of tendonitis, I don’t go a day without walking, even if it’s just 2.5k steps.
2022 is also the year of travel and outings. We squeezed time out of our busy schedules for gastronomic adventures, multiple day-outings, a trip to Mandarmani, going home to Berhampore during Durga Puja, and taking a vacation to Goa during Diwali. We feel grateful for the time we spent with Baba, my in-laws, and close friends.
A year ago, I had a ligament tear that rendered me incapable of doing basic movements. My medico husband took me to an orthopedic surgeon when the pain went from bad to worse despite the medicines and treatment. After innumerable x-rays, blood tests, and MRIs, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. It took around two months for the diagnosis and detection.
To say I was scared and disheartened would be an understatement. I was depressed and frustrated beyond words. My inability to attend to simple chores like holding a glass or walking to the washroom became a nightmare. I couldn’t type for more than five to seven minutes because my fingers would swell up. So many nights went away when I wept silently at the writing desk at my helpless situation.
I almost lost hope of getting back on my foot, literally and figuratively. The senior surgeon had cautioned me to lose weight on priority. My knees were unable to hold my weight. After a fortnight, his medicines started showing results as my pain subsided slowly. I started altering my food habits to include more greens and less junk.
When I visited him after a month, he told me I could start walking at a regular pace. I wasn’t allowed any other exercise – not even jogging. On Nov 13th, 2021, I took my first step toward fitness. I walked 3k steps within 50 minutes. A fortnight later, I was doing 8k steps within one and half hours.
In December, I got a fitness band and started 10k steps per day. I walked on the terrace for nearly two hours to meet my daily target. Sometimes I had to do it in two shifts based on my other work commitments. I started writing Raya’s third case. I met my step target and wrote 50 words daily. I wasn’t still able to write much because the rheumatoid pain wasn’t in control.
From January to date, I have walked every day. Even if I missed the target on one or two days in a month, I had zero no-walking days. And I walk anywhere at any time. When I can’t go to the terrace, I walk in my room, in the corridor, on my balcony, and even in the basement when I go to pick up my son. To say it wasn’t easy would be unfair. It was a mammoth task to convince my mind that I couldn’t afford to be happily fat or rather obese any longer if I want to survive.
It took me six months to finish my third novel, but I managed to bring it up from 50 to 1000 words per day. But I’ve stopped stretching it beyond a thousand or eleven hundred words because the thrill and consistency of my schedule motivate me to get out of bed daily – be it for fitness or writing.
July has been my best month so far. Though I missed two days to meet the designated 10k mark, I overachieved the limit on a couple of days, keeping the average over 10k. I managed to lose over 11 kgs in seven and half months.
Though I have a long way to go as far as changing my dietary habits is concerned (blame my obsession with food), I’m working on striking a balance between walking and healthy eating. But I’m also no longer the girl who cared a damn about health and fitness because she thought she was happy and active.
The routine will stay the same until November when I have my next check-up. Until then, I intend to continue walking towards health, conscious eating, and consistent writing. Keep me in your prayers as I fight against the odds to resume a normal lifestyle soon.
On 29th May, I celebrated my birthday with the three men in my life – my father, husband, and son. After a decade, I asked my father to buy me a new dress on my special day instead of my usual requests for books and journals. When Ma was around, she refused to listen to my resistance; birthdays always meant a new dress. After she passed away, I never found any joy in the ritual of a birthday dress as a gift. Eventually, Baba let it go.
But this year, I decided to celebrate for two reasons – I had finished writing my second novel, and I finally had the three special people in my life under one roof on the day. From cutting cakes to ordering food, we indulged in small moments of happiness. But we also shared these little joys with those who keep us going through their support – our cook, house-help, driver, security guard, and a few more helping hands. I’m going to cherish these memories for a very long time.
On the professional front, I completed numerous rounds of editing the book and sent the initial documents to my literary agent. We are working on the marketing plan and publisher details. But, I finally decided to take a break from the second novel (BTW, it has a new title; stay tuned for the announcement). The next item on the priority list was to get my first dose of vaccination. Getting a slot on the Cowin app seemed tougher than cracking UPSC exams.
Fortunately, my residential area organized a paid vaccination drive for the 18-44 age group in collaboration with Apollo hospitals. Thanks to an alert and aware husband, we managed to get a slot for me for 3rd June. From document verification to getting jabbed, it took me less than twenty minutes to complete the process. Except for the pain in my left arm that subsided after nearly two days, I didn’t have any side effects.
June is a month as precious as May since we will complete a decade of our married life on the 20th of this month. While it’s been more than twenty-two years of knowing each other as friends, best friends, and a couple before making it official, the past one-and-a-half years have taught us both to cherish every opportunity of hope and togetherness.
While I’ll resume the work related to the launch of the second novel very soon, I also intend to start writing for magazines, digital platforms, and other mediums going forward.
I hope you have taken the vaccine and got your friends and family vaccinated as well. Please help out your support staff who might find it difficult to use technology for booking a slot. And keep the mask on; we can’t afford to lose this battle.
A year back, I posted my first assignment for the MFA course on this day. A couple of days ago, I submitted the last write-up required to meet the credit criteria to complete the one-year creative writing course. Next week, I will have an MFA added to my M.Sc. and MBA degrees. But this journey is much beyond earning a certificate.
When I discovered Writer’s Village University through one of my friends, I had started questioning the rationality of pursuing writing as a full-time profession. I had trashed two manuscripts written with the intent of publishing one of them as Raya Ray’s second case.
WVU taught me kindness and compassion. I discovered a supportive writing network in a virtual world. I unlearned to learn writing like an enthusiastic teenager. I finally understood the impact of constructive criticism.
The last ten months haven’t been easy for anyone since the pandemic bringing our lives to a standstill. For weeks, it was just me and my son trying to adjust to the fact that we can meet his doctor father only once a month. While I am immensely grateful to my father and my in-laws for their support during this phase, it is writing and written words that kept me afloat. The turbulence in my mind found a way out through typed words on my screen.
While I have chosen to continue my association with WVU, I have decided to get back to writing beyond my class assignments from this month onwards. The revived state of my writing desk is the first step towards a new beginning of my renewed writing journey.
In the last couple of years, I have earned the displeasure of a bunch of relatives for not staying in touch. Some have even labelled me a snob for not picking up calls to catch up on life. Eight years of corporate life, filled with multiple con-calls throughout the day, customer queries, and work-related conversations had the phone glued to my ears. When my son was born in 2015, I made a conscious decision to stay disconnected.
Within a couple of years, I had successfully managed to rub them on the wrong side with my assumed ‘snobbish’ attitude. Instead of getting worked up about the unfairness of the deal, I took it in my stride and decided to stop giving explanations. If people didn’t understand the difficulties of raising a new-born with the husband on an outstation medical duty, they didn’t deserve my time.
In 2017, when I began writing and eventually decided to make it a full-time profession, there were quite a handful of ‘well-wishers’ who wanted me to go back to a real job. According to them, penning down thoughts was a hobby that I could pursue while continuing with a corporate job. They gave examples of their ‘super mother’ friends and acquaintances who had managed motherhood, high-profile’ jobs, and hobbies with elan.
Initially, I took a lot of pain to enlighten my near ones that I wasn’t pursuing a hobby; I was turning a passion into profession. Did they understand? Hell, NO! Some thought it was a stupid idea, some spoke about how my son was soon going to grow independent and make me regret my choice, and some didn’t even think twice before labelling me an escapist. Thus began my first step into a new profession.
Last year, I decided to get a professional degree to add value to my career. The snide remarks related to going back to academics in my late-thirties only made my resolve stronger. I kept a screenshot of the payment I made for the course. It came handy to combat those who thought my husband was paying for my third post-graduation. While writing isn’t a great paymaster, it isn’t impossible to earn the amount needed to fund my studies. Unfortunately, many in my immediate circle still have trouble understanding it.
Even today, I don’t pick up calls unless they are from my immediate family, very close friends, my son’s school or an unavoidable urgency. I prefer to revert over messages as per my convenient time, ensuring that I respond to each one. Writing isn’t a job that can have anyone working with my mind switched off. My mind is active even as I go about my daily chores. So, when I sit down to write, I shut out the world and plunge into creating a magical world. Like Stephen King advises in his book ‘On Writing’,“Write with the door closed.”
Creative endeavours require as much hard work and support as any other profession; the return on investment is much slower and lesser. But that didn’t deter me from diving into this new world after taking a 180-degree turn from my previous profession. And I am not the only one fighting a battle for creating a new identity as an author. The least that a ‘well-wisher’ can do is acknowledge that writing is a real job.
“I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s My Friend Alexa 2020″ campaign. Stay tuned to read my fourth rant post in this series.
It feels like yesterday when I decided to quit my banking job and mustered the courage to follow my heart. On 13th September 2017, I let my intentions known to the world through the launch of my blog soniasmusings.com. From 2017 until now, it’s been a roller-coaster ride of blogging, writing articles on esteemed platforms, authoring a book, and eventually choosing to do my third masters program, an MFA in creative writing. It wasn’t easy to venture out in an unknown territory, yet it was more difficult to convey that writing wasn’t a passion anymore; it was going to be my third and full-time profession. If I have to pick a turning point in my life, I would always choose this phase of pursuing my dreams.
#soniasmusingsturnsthree Three years of blogging and writing. Thank you, for the support!
January has been a kind month until now. My book has been getting some great responses and I have also been picking up a couple of awards for it. MFA coursework has started taking up every minute of my day. With the beginning of the mandatory courses this week, it has become extremely difficult to read anything beyond the reference materials and write very little beyond chasing the assignment deadlines.
In the first blog post of January, I had mentioned Orange Flower Awards by Women’s Web. Last year, I had made it to their shortlist for humor and travel writing. This year, the award ceremony gets bigger with celebrity film-makers, actors, entrepreneurs, authors and a host of achievers across the industries making their presence felt on the day of the event. Amidst of thousand of entries in various categories of blogging, social media, and video blogs, it is nothing short of a privilege to announce that my writing got me nominated in SEVEN categories (Yes, you read that right!). Parent Blogging, Humor writing, Writing with a social impact, Writing on Women at Work, Travelgram, Photogram and Best use of Twitter for social impact was where I found myself listed.
The ambulance rushed through the empty lanes to keep signaling the emergency its occupants were facing. Sanjay kept comforting his unconscious mother, while his wife, Gauri continued crying incessantly. The old lady had tumbled down the stairs and slipped into unconsciousness. The lady accompanying them was the hotel manager Pema who kept wondering about the ill-fate of this family on vacation.
The Government hospital functioned despite the minimum set-up and restricted facilities. The nearest private hospital involved at least four hours’ journey through the hilly terrain and the family couldn’t afford to lose any more time.
As the ambulance entered the Government hospital, most of the hospital staff looked annoyed at being woken up at such an unearthly hour. The Resident Medical Officer (RMO), realizing the gravity of the situation called his senior who assured him of arriving soon.
Pema tried comforting a visibly emotional Gauri. “It’s been a while that we had taken a vacation together. My father-in-law passed away two years back. The family had been distraught. It was only recently that my mother-in-law, Renu Bakshi had started getting back to normal. If only we knew what fate had in store for us!” Gauri lamented.
The doctors struggled to bring Renu to a stable condition. A cardiac arrest in the wee hours of the morning made their efforts futile. After obtaining the requisite permission, Gauri and Sanjay left with Renu’s corpse for the last rites.
A week later, Pema received a call from Gauri to thank her and request her presence at the condolence meeting at their residence, three days later.
When Pema reached the address mentioned in the message, she saw a gathering. Gauri attended to the guests while Sanjay performed the rituals. After the usual pleasantries and prayer offering, Gauri got Pema seated. As Pema fiddled with her mobile in the second last row, she overheard a conversation between two ladies in the last row.
“Gauri is an amazing daughter-in-law. Renu had subjected her to such inhuman torture. If I was in her place, I would be celebrating Renu’s death today”, one of the voices said.
“Renu and her husband kept pestering Gauri’s father for more dowry while behaving atrociously with her. Her father died out of stress. They didn’t even let Gauri attend his funeral. Two years back when Gauri conceived, I thought things will get better for her. But look at her bad luck, she had a miscarriage”, another voice spoke.
“It was never a miscarriage. Renu had bribed one of the hospital nurses for the prenatal sex determination. The moment Renu knew it was a girl; she forced Gauri to abort it. Sanjay kept hitting her till she agreed. And then the abuse continued in all forms – verbal, emotional and physical. Last year, it stopped for a while when Mr. Bakshi died due to accidental electrocution. That incident should have put an end to their cruel behavior. But Renu continued punishing Gauri for not bearing the family a son.” The first voice said.
Pema looked at Gauri with new-found empathy. She hoped that Gauri and Sanjay discover happiness in the future. Pema smiled as she saw Gauri stealing glances at Sanjay. But she could never hear the words that Gauri whispered while looking at her husband, “Sanjay Bakshi, you are next.”
Of late, I have been unusually hesitant to post anything that could be remotely related to writing achievements. Not that there have been many but I seem to have fallen into the vicious cycle of ‘writing less to achieve less’. I finally started my online MFA in a creative writing course last month and I was expected to submit my first assignment on Monday. On Sunday evening, I spoke to my MFA advisor from India (there are two and the main advisor is based out of the States). She had been my biggest motivation for taking up this course.
When I shared my inhibitions about the article not really making it to the set benchmark, she changed my perspective by inclining it towards ‘write more to achieve more’. This achievement could be in the form of a genuine comment of appreciation, a certificate, a trophy, a prize or even a small target fulfillment. She said every bit, however insignificant it might look to me, still matters for it gives the courage to carry on.
So, here’s one of my latest achievements as we reach the last leg of 2019 – I emerged as a runner-up in a Flash Fiction contest held by eShe in September. I wouldn’t even have known the results (announced on Oct 10) hadn’t they mailed me a final reminder to send them my address last week. Here’s the link to the entries that made it to the winning list. This competition was judged by some eminent writers in the field of literature and that is why this small feat feels special. If you have read my book ‘Deal of Death’, you would probably fathom my recent writing struggles through the name of my protagonist here.