Friday, January 10, 2014

Cure the Crisis

Little experiences in life add so much to the way you do and see things. One such event is what I want to talk about here. 

A few years ago I volunteered at this little charity which runs during Christmas for the homeless people - it was a small unknown place and I loved being a part of it for my time there. I remember it as being enjoyable, also a bit frustrating and very exhausting (I know....I am so bad). I thought a bout it as a nice thing to do and left it there. Though the thought crossed my mind that I could do more of this, I never got my act together. 
This Christmas I picked it up again. Having known that I have days off during the time and not much to do I decided to enrol myself with 'Crisis at Christmas' who are perhaps the biggest organization in all of Europe doing work around homelessness.

Not knowing what I really wanted to do, I put my name as a general volunteer. If you are a professional, you can also add yourself for Kitchen duties, IT Support, Medical Services and such others. A general volunteer could be doing anything from serving meals, to sitting at the information desk, to manning the entrances and exits, to keeping a check at the luggage lounge or the art and craft centre, the shower facilities and so on. 
A complete volunteer led group that it is, you could see some really amazing organization of tasks, duties, roles - everything just seemed to have run so smooth. Each of us had another volunteer paired with us for every activity, so it never really felt like you were in it alone. It gives you a chance to interact with all the other wonderful people who give up their personal time to do this and understand why they connect with it. It's inspiring to hear the story behind why they choose to do this, also interesting and perhaps  a reality check on how we are so engrossed in our lives that this experience is somewhat surreal. 

Crisis arranged an induction programme for first time volunteers to give us an idea of what to expect, the do's and don'ts and it was such a well planned presentation that I was already quite sure that the process would be smooth.
It's amazing to see professionals  - doctors, dentists, hair dressers, masseurs, advisers provide their services. 
The kitchen staff ensuring that the people (our guests as we learn to call) get proper meals - a hot plate of food. The shower rooms are kept ready so they can have a warm shower, the IT room is ready with computers for the people to have a little cyber space, the TV room and cinema is showing movies everyday, the art & craft room is open for the creative lot, sports rooms with table tennis, luggage room to store their belongings, tea & coffee all day long.
It was great to see the happiness when they had their hot shower and came out all fresh, the excitement to know that they can get a haircut or enjoy a full hot meal with a dessert. They were thrilled to know there was a masseur, Relieved to know they can leave their belongings overnight at a place where they don't have to worry about it being stolen.

These were things that are so inconceivable to the normal you and me. How often do we think whether we cannot have that simple hot shower or a meal a day or get a haircut and look presentable ? Perhaps Never?  
The worry that you have to carry everything that you possibly own always on you. Can't leave it anywhere....don't have a place to leave it. 
It's hard to imagine and live knowing that as the night falls and the crowds recede, the shops close, businesses end there is no place to go, that a new footpath, garden bench, parking lot needs to be searched for a place to retire for the night.

That very thought makes me count my blessings, that I am so lucky to have been born, raised and living a life where everything is kinda normal where my worries seem so small when compared to what some of these people have.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The List is Ready - Resolutions - 2014

I started this madness last year where I thought of making a part of my things to do for the year public - I felt accountable, responsible and it helped me keep a check at things, I am kinda pleased with the results and am taking the plunge again to publicly show off how big an idiot I am (yet again!) 

As crazy is it may seem I am publishing this again.  My list for 2014 is ready and this is it! I have taken it easy on a few things - no hard set goals this time, I had to omit a few out as it's not entirely in my hands - dependency is a bad thing! and I have some items not published here and lets see how well I can keep up to that. 

I had to carry over a couple of items from last year and continue working on a few others  but have a longish list of new items too. Exciting, Driven and still a little scared about a few of them - Let's see...only  time will tell. 

Here we go....

Make a Daily Habit  - I must say I do keep up to it quite well, however, the past year saw me going through a Love-Hate relationship with books - I want to change the status to a simple 'Like' and want to set aside at 30 minutes to an hour a day to read. I want to make sure I don't have gaps and would like to read everyday. 

Don't bank on the memory - Pick up the diary again. Don't write stories (as we know what happens after a couple of months), don't write only sad things (as we know we will never read them). Just pencil in a what happened that day and make a note if something nice or not so nice happened. Come on... that should not be so hard! 

Get out of the Comfort zone - I could rename this 'Conquer a Fear' - All this while I have either been driving people away from me or driving crazy those who stay. I want need to learn how to drive. Enough of laziness, enough of pushing things around, enough of escaping.  Need to learn how to drive - and this time in a correct methodical way.

Explore a Passion- Pick up the camera again and stop being (just) a smart phone photographer I can't completely say I have discovered my passion but Photography is something I have enjoyed doing. I want to take this up as a project and work towards it. The actual project may take another year or two, but I want to start my work on it. At the end of this year, I should at least have the content, a plan, research done. 

Be Good with Food - I don't think I eat a lot of unhealthy food but definitely want to keep a check at what's going inside my body and not go too crazy with junk food. One thing I consciously need to act on is not to waste food. I tend to cook too much and the rest is not used or I buy too many things and have to throw them as they have expired - Need to stop this.  

Change a tad bit of the lifestyle - Wake up Early - something I have 'NEVER' managed to do. The past year was the worst, I slept late, woke up late and ended up at work really late on so many days of the week. I would like to wake up nice and early and have some time to eat my breakfast and not skip it. 7am is the aim now.... would love to make it 6:30!  (Currently it's between 8:00 - 8:30am). I would definitely do a lie in every now and then, but I'd want the majority of the days to be an early start. Let's see! This will be hard. 

Stay Connected -  I'll take the lesson from mom again 'You do your bit and don't expect the other to do the same for you'. I have realized that my happiness lies in being connected to the people I love - family & friends and I don't want to run into months of not staying in touch. I want to get through the year knowing that I stayed connected and not thinking that it's been 6 months and I don't have a clue.

(Try to) Give up something - I'm tempted to write no alcohol for 2 months again. But, I would say restrict - may be not have a drink every week. If I can skip a couple of weeks in every month I would think I've done well here. 
I want to add a second item - biting my nails :(  which has 'NEVER' happened until now.   

Need to stick to these: 

Stay Fit - Have enjoyed the gym from the past 3 months. I need to just keep at it and not quit. The Plan is to maintain the 3-times a week workout to stay the way I am if not better it. 

Do something for someone- Volunteering has been good but the 10K run was good too. I want to do another 10K this year and enroll in at least 3 different volunteer activities. 

Do something you like-  Write, Click and Travel - as fancy as they may sound, I would like to do more of all this and in a way they can be interconnected. Write at least 3 blog posts per month. Write all travelogues till date and the on the new travels (hopefully) I take. 

Keep the Faith/Keep the Culture- Two Festivals to celebrate  -need to really work on this one. 

Carrying Over from the Last Year:

Try something again- I want to grow plants and NOT kill them. My aim is to maintain atleast 5 pot plants which I hope will nourish under my care.

Better planning - this is a wide topic. To start with its planning holidays, planning for activities during the  weekend,  planning my time when I go home - If someone asks me what I did when I last visited home, I dont have much to say - I want to change that. 

That is it! So, I guess it's time to start working now. If you managed to get through till here, Thank you and Wish you a very Happy New Year. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

London Diaries - Time for a Cuppa - Yumchaa

Firstly, lets get this clear. Yumchaa is a chain of tea shops now sprouting up at many different places in London but this one I am talking about is a Yumchaa in Camden Lock overlooking the little food market and the canal and makes you feel like you have walked into one of those quaint little tea stalls tucked away in a little alley in a perfect little town.

Stepping into the rugged unfinished walls and decor just makes you ease out and feel relaxed that nothing around you including you needs to be in an orderly way. Just let go, sip tea and be with yourself. 

The selection of teas are remarkable. My post, many months ago on tea was the first one to take me into the world of different teas, but this took me to a whole new level.  
You can pick from black, green and white (never knew they existed). The tea leaves are places in little mugs which you can smell into and read through the description of what goes into the tea. 

I picked Wild Rose - the aroma of the rose petals with the earthy flavour of tea was just the thing I enjoyed. 

You get the rules of working through your tea (well.. nothing too strict) and get one of the prettiest tea pots to dive into the warmth.

The selection of cakes and the way they are displayed makes you wanna grab a bite. 
I've been there a few times now and would recommend as a stop over from walking around the otherwise busy Camden Market

Check Off the 2013 Bucket List

Overall, I would say 2013 was my worst year ever. The past year pulled me down every single time I tried to stand up. I was unbelievably rude, disconnected, alone and lost for most of it.  Trying too hard to please everyone and keep everyone happy, I have done no good to being sane and happy with what I really want.  Juggling away too many things, I don't think I gave justice to anything which needed it's due. 

In a way, I am happy that the worst is done and it's time for better days. Revisiting lists is good and striking things off the list is better. 
About a year ago, I had made these plans for 2013, it's unbelievable how this  year has gone by and we have set foot in a new one. I'd like to take a re-look at this, publishing it here did help me get on with it - perhaps a little better than the other personal list I had for myself. So.. here we go... 

  • Try something again- I want to grow plants and NOT kill them. My aim is to maintain atleast 5 pot plants which I hope will nourish under my care. This was a Non-Starter. Though the thought crossed my mind a few times through the year, I actually did nothing about it. A FAIL. 
  • Stay Fit- I still detest going to the gym, however the weather being cold I have stopped doing my runs too. The aim is to do some kind of exercise at least 2 times in the week ( tempted to say 3, but thats the start of things going downhill).  I haven't felt this fit ever before in my life. The ME TIME was used well.  I'd like to give this a yellow as this isn't a destination and it would always be a work in progress 
  • Better planning - this is a wide topic. To start with its planning holidays, planning for activities during the  weekend,  planning my time when I go home- If someone asks me what I did when I last visited home, I dont have much to say - I want to change that.  A complete FAIL. The one holiday we took was a super bad plan and the fact that I had 8 days left of leave with nothing to do at the end of the year sums up this item on my list. 
  • Learn something New - I want to learn how to play a musical instrument. The plan is to learn how to play 5 known tunes on it.  Did manage to learn 3.5 tunes on the Flute - still loving the instrument but a long long way to go. 
  • Do something for someone - Run a 10K -at least 1 for a charity. Managed a 10K for Race for Life Charity with 3 other friends and raised close to £300 for the cancer research. (Very Pleased). Also managed a day at Crisis for homeless people -What an experience. Hope to do more. 
  • Do something you like- Write more- at least 2 blogs per month.  One of the most enjoyable things I have managed this year. Again, would like to keep it going. 
  • Get out of the comfort zone - The Journal - This is a little project I took on myself last year but left it mid way ( like most other things). It's my collection of notes about life and living in London- need to atleast complete 10 chapters this year. Changed the plan a little bit, instead of keeping it all too serious, I took the route of writing up my London Diaries - It's going OK, nothing special
  • Keep the Faith - Visit Subramanya - my most favourite temple on Earth and haven't visited it in more than 5 years. I hope I can manage a visit this time. Yes! Thank you dear God (and mom & dad and bro) for making this happen. 
  • Keep the Culture - Celebrate at least 2 festivals this year in a simple way.  Can't really strike it out as the only one I did was Ganesha habba. Would have loved to celebrate Diwali, but was painting the house instead
  • Set a goal - 100kms in 100days - let's see! - Yes! a big strike off and I am now doing 50km every month in running. Will take it easy on this one in the coming year. 
  • Give up something - Alcohol free Month - 2 months....come on that shouldn't be hard!  - Yes! February and September (ok ok.. the shortest months!) - But, the detox was good :)

Now it's time to make a new list and I am so looking forward to it in all it's grand silliness. It does help to keep me look forward to something and I get a sense of responsibility by publishing it here. Well, I'm glad you're over 2013, you weren't really my best.