Grateful Geek: Watch the Traffic

You know that saying “stop and smell the roses”?

I do love it, but I think since winter is basically here and I’m a city girl, it needs to be adapted for greater relevance.

Watching traffic snake up third avenue from our freezing balcony
Watching traffic streaking up Third Avenue. Photo credit: Nisha Kumar Kulkarni.

So let’s change it to “watch the traffic.”

I mean, I hate traffic as much as the next person. (After all, I may be one of the world’s top 10 most impatient people.)

But the other evening, as I was experimenting with my DSLR on our freezing cold balcony, I couldn’t help but pause and notice how pretty traffic can be. (From a distance, of course.)

I think taking that moment to watch the traffic, to appreciate the color and movement and how its apart of the city just as much as the heart-stopping skyline, can be just as refreshing — and gorgeous — as stopping to smell the roses.

Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

This week, I’m also lovin':

Creative sparks + an email backlog — and not beating myself up over it + photography + Alan Cumming + an encore presentation of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower and everything related to it + hot chocolate and Jello pudding + “Shark Tank” reruns + #missadventure in “The Waiting Game” + tempering perspectives + a bigger, actually better new iPhone + reconnecting with friends + impatient iMessaging while on long airport security-like queues + afternoon hang-time with my brother + giving my body room to rest and recuperate + my hubby’s happy laugh in the early morning

Write-able Moments

Getting reacquainted with an old friend: my Canon 1000D
My Canon selfie: getting reacquainted with an old friend

When I was in high school, I used to snap photos all the time. My dad gave me his old Nikon F3 and I’d take it with me everywhere. I loved that camera.

I still have piles of old photographs I developed in my high school darkroom. Some of them good; some of them just meh. I guess I never thought much of it because don’t all girls go through an experimental photography phase?

But over the years, I harbored a secret love for photography. Maybe I’m not as talented or consistent as my father, uncle and brother — all talented photographers — but I’ve always been aware of special moments. Maybe it’s the writer in me: I see write-able moments everywhere and I want to photograph them too — so I can remember them just right.

That’s why my iPhone is full of random photos I refuse to delete.

Earlier tonight, some little voice in me told me to pull my DSLR out of the closet. And though it’s freezing cold outside, I couldn’t help but take photos of the NYC skyline and streets on our little balcony.

And it felt brilliant.

I don’t know if the photos are any good, but all I know is that I feel a warmth and joy at tapping into my creative side, whatever form it may take. Photography is no exception.

So, conclusion: I think I should take more photos. With my actual camera. Capture more of those write-able moments.

Grateful Geek: Mom’s Mashed Potatoes

I’ve never met a potato I didn’t like, but nothing in this life — or the next — could possibly beat my mom’s creamy, dreamy mashed potatoes.

Mary Poppins touts a spoonful of sugar… I disagree! A spoonful (or several) of mashed potatoes makes everything better.

Mashed potatoes equate comfort, warmth, love — and when they’re extra tasty, that’s extra doses of love.

This week, after another round of oral surgery (don’t ask), my mom’s love-soaked mashed potatoes also equate ease and healing while be surrounded by family who keep you laughing.

Thanksgiving may just be two short weeks away, but I’m already so full of gratitude for mashed potatoes…and everything they represent.

This week, I’m also lovin':

A graceful response + getting over it and powering through + Banks + a clean, warm apartment + a powerful start to the final season of The Newsroom + “Dear Daughter” and a long list of good reads to dive into + dark chocolate chip cookies + the first holiday lights + iMessage conversations + hot malt Ovaltine + mini-cakes and Veuve Clicquot + my amazing family and BFFs + five years of wedded bliss with my hubby…and the fact that he can still surprise me with so much love and thoughtfulness

Grateful Geek: Unplugged

While I was traveling the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on a sometimes intended, sometimes unintended Internet hiatus.

The result?

I didn’t miss it as much as I thought.

From Unsplash. Photo credit: Lee Scott.

Don’t get me wrong: there were moments when I was so frustrated with my lack of ‘net access, I could’ve screamed.

But after the first couple of days without, I found my mind eerily quiet. Still. Calm.

And I realized how refreshing it felt — and how important — it is to #unplug.

I’m back home now, but even this week, I’ve felt the residual pull to stay unplugged for a bit longer…or to at least take the time to be unplugged for some time every day.

This week, I’m also lovin':

List-making + so many story snippets + organizing and reorganizing + the November chill + gingerbread lattes and cups of homemade chai + early morning strolls and a late afternoon shower + color-clashing bouquets of roses + business class + my families in India + dropping in on my parents just because I can + weekday lunch with my bro and hubby + home sweet home

My Mumbai Story

An oldie but goodie: holiday lights going up during my first Diwali in Mumbai, 2010.
An oldie but goodie: holiday lights going up during my first Diwali in Mumbai, 2010.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been in India.

This marked my first trip back since I returned to NYC early last year.

It felt momentous.

I spent the majority of this trip in Pune, my hubby’s birthplace and home to his family. We went to celebrate the tail-end of India’s holiday season, ringing in Diwali (think of it as Indian Christmas and New Year’s) with ritual pujas and firecrackers.

It’s a beautiful time to be in India with all the festival lights, family-bonding and holiday cheer.

And though it was lovely to be in Pune and spend time with my in-laws, that’s only one version of India to me.

When I think of my India, I think of Mumbai.

After all, the “maximum city,” as it’s known, was my home for nearly three years.

After almost two years away from my life in Mumbai, returning was nothing less than surreal. Just like when I first moved there in 2010, I didn’t quite know what to expect from this visit.

I only had a few brief days in Mumbai, but in the little time I had, this well of emotion bloomed in the center of my chest as we drove through familiar places and explored old haunts.

One late night — the only free night we had while in town — while walking the streets of our old neighborhood, me and my hubby couldn’t help but look around in quiet amazement, only breaking the silence to say that our Mumbai chapter feels like it was another life.

Another life.

It’s still hard to accurately describe the experience I had while living in Mumbai. I hope that one day, I’ll be able to tell that story well. All I can say now is that it was just as colorful, complex and unexpected as the city itself.

The life I lead there is foreign to me; it couldn’t be more different than how I now live in NYC, my forever home.

It’s like like snippets of a dream I can’t quite recall in specific detail. Only certain details are crystal-clear, so sharp that they could’ve happened yesterday.

That’s why the emotion I felt while there this time caught me by surprise.

Seeing Mumbai, especially during Diwali-time and at night (when I think every nook and cranny of the city is at its most beautiful), was like running into an old friend.

A friend who’s a great storyteller and always showing me secret, colorful life in ways and shapes I couldn’t otherwise imagine.

That’s the thing about Mumbai: it awakens your imagination, turning you onto so much beauty and so much ugliness that live side-by-side.

I believe that every person has a different version of Mumbai they live in, but everyone, without exception, has a love-hate (in equal, strong measure) relationship with the city.

That’s how the city inspires and pushes you.

And once it gets under your skin, Mumbai stays there permanently, like a once vibrant tattoo that gives you a deep hit of nostalgia every time you catch a glimpse of it.

Even if you never go back, you can’t ever shake it off.

Grateful Geek: Interior Design

As I pore over interior design magazines, books and blogs, Pinterest boards and store catalogues, I have a whole new appreciation for interior design and realize how I’m exercising a new creative muscle.

My new #workspace. Photo credit: nishaksquared.
My new #workspace. My desktop wallpaper appropriately reads: “Flourish your creativity.” Photo credit: nishaksquared.

Interior design is all about curating the lifestyle and experience you want and aspire for. What could be more special for yourself and whomever you share your home with?

Creating a home space is such a process. This is mine and my hubby’s third home together, but for some reason, this feels like the most important. The most special. This feels like the space that’s meant to be the truest expression of our life as adults, as individuals and as a couple.

There’s so much thought that goes into each detail, especially if you’re Type A like myself. I don’t want to settle for less than the vision I — <<ahem>> we — have. <<wink wink>>

And as each detail is realized, slowly but surely, I feel a fierce pride and joy. I love how it’s all coming together.

This week, I’m also lovin':

Behind-the-scenes work + the Chef soundtrack + Saturday nights at home and bright Sunday mornings + Homeland on-demand and Reign marathons on Netflix + polka dot mugs + Thug Kitchen and the cookbook section at Barnes & Noble + cleanliness that’s next to godliness + Jo Nesbo + dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds + brunch reunion with my BFF + listening to my hubby mindlessly sing while he works

Grateful Geek: New Home

There was no GG post last week because…we were moving into our new apartment!

My first #selfie from our new home! Love the #NYC skyline behind me.
My first #selfie from our new home! Love the #NYC skyline behind me. Photo credit: nishaksquared.

Words cannot describe how good it feels to settle into a home of our own.

Unpacking our boxes — those we packed before moved to India in 2010, as well as the ones that were piling up in my childhood bedroom while we searched for our home — has been quite the trip. There are so many sweet surprises I’d forgotten about, like the many photos, cards and letters from my favorite people.

Now, we’re occupied with decorating! This apartment is a blank canvas, and slowly but surely, we’ll fill it with things we love. For the most part, the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom are set.

The most empty? The living room and dining area.

All of this is exciting, stressful, relief-inducing and happy. I love how each detail we think of makes this apartment more ours.

This week, I’m also lovin':

Taking charge and not giving up + writing + happy feedback + channeling frustrated energy into productivity + spreadsheets + the brilliant imagination on every page of “The Bone Clocks” + great customer service + coffee: the best way to combat the afternoon sleepies! + investing in what feels good + brown cardboard packages + the perfect bedroom + kitchen experiments and homemade vegan ice cream + an Argentinian Malbec + Reese Witherspoon + my best friends + sibling bonding time + interior designing with my hubby

Presently: September 29

Getting ready for one of my #NYC strolls. Photo credit: nishaksquared.
Ready for one of my #NYC strolls. Love how autumn-friendly all these colors and patterns are! Photo credit: nishaksquared.

Letting Go Of: September…and the funk I’ve been in. This past month has been challenging for various reasons, but I’ve categorically decided to not allow any of it to distract me any longer. No more pity parties, no more indulging in self-doubt (with a hefty side of chocolate). I’m channeling all that negative, unproductive energy towards making the pivots and changes I want to make in my work and life. Just thinking about it makes me pumped!

Scoffing At: All those lists filled with “shoulds” and “musts.” If I don’t feel it or if it doesn’t feel right, no thank you. As Beyonce would say, “To the left.” As in, “Step out of my way, please.”

Making Sense Of: My brand. What I stand for. What matters most. Y’know, the big questions.

Promoting: My business! I work hard to make it an awesome experience and I realize I should share it more openly here too. Check out my website and blog, and sign up for my newsletter. There’s good stuff for anyone who wants to be a better storyteller and writer. (Thanks for tolerating the shameless plug!)

Confused By: A lot of the so-called popular things that I just can’t get into. Like hating Mondays. Like the new Indian Prime Minister, who I’m just a wee bit wary of. Like the Alibaba IPO. Like sensationalist journalism. Like SoulCycle. Like Bradley Cooper. Like Girls and Scandal. What do others see that I don’t?

Laughing At: How formulaic and over-the-top the Housewives franchise has gotten! It sometimes feels so scripted, but even if I tune in for just a few minutes, I can’t help laughing at the ridiculous crap that unfolds. Can you say #firstworldproblems?

Loving: Fall. This is my absolute favorite season. Everything inspires me.

Indulging In: Soy pumpkin spice lattes (hold the whip). Long walks in Central Park. More frequent chatting with my best friends. Tapping into my inner Jane Austen. Leisure reading at every free moment.

In Awe Of: David Mitchell’s “The Bone Clocks.” There’s no living writer who writes like him. His work is so inventive, electric, alive. It lives and breathes in your mind, long after you’ve put one of his books down. And this latest one? Well, it just may be the best book I’ve read in a good long while.

Still Inspired By: Emma Watson’s UN address last week to launch the HeforShe Campaign. I mentioned it in last week’s GG post, but its sincerity and intelligence still blow me away.

Dreaming Of: A romantic, autumnal getaway to the likes of Paris, Amsterdam or Prague. Alas, that’s impossible right now. It’s a beautiful fantasy, but maybe next year!

Eyeing: The larger, crisper screens of the iPhone 6. I made the mistake of checking one out at the Apple Store, just for fun, and haven’t been able to look at my smaller — though no less gorgeous — iPhone 5S screen the same. Sigh. Oh well, I’ll just have to wait until 2015 before making the change!

Counting Down To: Moving into our new apartment later this week! Finding a new home has been one of the longest, most confusing and frustrating processes ever. (Almost as bad as dealing with government bureaucracies. Not exaggerating. Someday I’ll need to write a post about navigating NYC real estate and its army of ineffective brokers.) But I feel an intense relief — and excitement — that we’re likely just days away from moving into our new place, and creating a home and space we love. Cheers to that!

Grateful Geek: Feminism

Earlier this week, actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson delivered an incredible speech to launch the HeforShe Campaign.

What I found incredibly smart, refreshing and empowering is her straight-forward approach to feminism. The word has earned such a bad reputation; I honestly can’t remember a time in my lifetime when the word didn’t conjure hairy legs, militant opinions and man-hatred.

I haven’t ever openly identified myself as a feminist, but because Ms. Watson reminds us that feminism is about gender equality, it’s hard to not identify with the label and be proud of what it means.

This week, I’m also lovin':

Getting out of a funk and recognizing what feels right + encouragement from past clients + an inspiring bedside manner + more examples of how not to do business + new things for a new home + a Central Park hot dog, mustard accidents and laughing at myself + letting go of the old and underused + Silk almond milk + Columbus Avenue + Liam Neeson, master PI + constant iMessaging with my best friends + afternoons at home with my mom + seven incredible years of knowing and being with my hubby