Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sketchbook Story – The Girl with Blue Hair

art by chandana banerjee

Blue and tied in two carefully-careless ponytails, the color of this little girl’s hair makes her stand out in the crowd. It’s not just her hair…it’s her. She’s different. And I’m glad to say, she takes it all in her stride and is happy to be who she is.

A combination of sweetness and spunk, Joy, in her ice-lolly colored dresses and rosette hair bands is making the most of the last summer blooms. Before lava-like heat floods the place, the little girl is out to play, reveling in the colors, in the rhythm of nature.

Chattering to herself (and to her tiny friend), she plays with the fairy, who lives in the corner of her garden.  Joy paints the flowers in jewel tones, sips tea from a tiny tea cup, reads a story book, lolls around on the grass. She plays in her garden, on her own and with her fairy friend, soaking up the summer and the simplicity of the days.

Joy’s formula for joy: sunshine + color + laughter + making the most of 'now' = happiness J

P.S Every Wednesday, you’re invited on a journey into my sketchbook, where you can help yourself to a short story. A story or a bunch of words, a doodle or a painting to treat the child in each of us. To lighten up for a moment when the grown-up world is whizzing up to speed with its constant busyness. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Good Morning Monday + A Picnic & Playfulness

Good Morning Monday & Hello New Week!

The last Monday of April 2014! In another two days, we’ll be waltzing into May – but hey, be sure to dance your way into the new month because April 29 is World Dance Day.

This past week was both frenetic and fun. Like two sides of the same coin, we did both – worked and waded through the heavy summer days, and made time to enjoy ourselves and infuse some joy into our life.
Yesterday, we went for our first family picnic at a nearby park. We spread out an old bed sheet, tucked into treats, lolled around in the lap of nature and had a good time.

Talking about picnics, I went to one after ages (what about you? When was your last picnic?)! We’ve dreamt about doing more of these several times, but always chicken out for a quickly devoured breakfast on the couch. But just doing a simple thing like this – a picnic at the nearest park, made me realize how we can take a regular day and turn it into something special with just a basket, a rug/old bed sheet, some eats and a bag full of childlike delight.

And hey, we also took a bunch of photographs while we were there. Well not ‘we’, but my husband S. He can weave magic with the camera. In fact, learning to snap the everyday life and capture the joy in the regular is on my ‘To-Learn Wish List’. To turn this wish into more than a mere desire, I’m enrolling in this week-long online photography workshop by Beryl Young for wannabe mom photographers. It’s totally FREE! 

Check it out here and see if you want to join me to kick start your ‘career’ as a Mom Photographer.

How are you planning to add play into your week?

 Photo credit: Sandeep Banerjee

Friday, April 25, 2014

What ‘It’ did to me, and how I was healed

I landed upside down on a terrain called New Motherhood. With jagged corners and steep pathways, this terrain, this phase, this time of life is hard as it is. But add to it a sense of fogginess, a feeling of nothingness, a state of just existing and you know that you’re missing out big time. You’re missing out on the precious moments of beauty, the brimming-over love that fills you up along with all those postpartum hormones and aches, the luminous memories that you make and carry through your life in a pocket in your heart.

In a nutshell, you’re experiencing all that is difficult about first time motherhood without being able to register or relish the sparkling beauty in this phase, this journey.

Somewhere deep inside you, you know that something is not quite right. You know that you’re supposed to feel differently. You know that you don’t like your current state of being. But as much as you want to break free from the shackles of this perplexing condition that you don’t want to put a name to, this all-enveloping haze of dullness, this robot-like existence…you just cannot.

Oh yes! I tried very hard. I talked to myself. I tried to find the logic in the situation, the key to open the cage. But the more I tried, the more entangled I became, the more the tides of this nothingness pulled me down, the more these reams of fog knotted up around me.

And so there I stayed, my head swathed in thick fog, my heart shrouded in sheets of ice. Like the ghost of a person frozen in time, there I stayed in this dark realm for many months after my son came out of the NICU.

I existed, I lived, I mothered. I went through the motions of life like a machine fed on data, like a new mother with a postpartum condition called…..

I won’t say the word. I can’t. It hurts too much to say it, or even to remember it. Because I never thought this would happen to me. After all, isn’t this something that affects people in magazines, in medical journals! Or so I blindly believed.

It didn’t happen to happy people. To new mothers like me, who’ve been yearning to cuddle their babies. To brave mothers like me, who sit by their babies in the NICU, mumbling prayers and holding them to recovery.

But I was so wrong. ‘It’ can strike any new mother, at any time. In fact, often those who have gone through a traumatic situation during or post-delivery. It can creep up on you stealthily and take you by surprise, crippling your emotions, robbing you of feeling, leaving you like a corpse existing on the yellow gleam of hope.


Today, as I live in a fog-free world, my heart brimming over with love for my baby boy, I glance back and wonder why I didn’t reach out for help – medical and emotional. And maybe, I know the answer.

But what I want to tell you is this – I came out of that haze, one slow , painful step at a time. I was healed with love. I was mended and glued back to shape by my son.

Baby N helped me heal, one sloppy kiss at a time, one baby cuddle at a time. He led me out of the tunnel, his chubby little hand in mine. He picked up the pieces of my soul, meshed the brokenness in my heart.

He showed me through his pixie smile and abundant baby love that we’d not really missed out on a crucial bonding phase, when he was taken away from me after his birth. That our love runs deep. That our mother-son relationship was formed months, years, lives before he was conceived.

As I look at him now - playing with his yellow rattle, chasing my blue slippers, sleeping curled up against me, and feel that clichéd kind of mother-love, I know that the fog has lifted…that I am exactly where I should be…that all is fine with the world and life.

That I’m a new mom and this is a life that I embrace with both arms and the whole of my heart.

Note: If you’re a new mother and reading this – if you’ve felt anything like what I did and need help, reach out. You can dash off a message to me or visit a friendly health care practitioner. In hindsight, I realized this – there is no stigma or shame in needing help when you’re in the throes of postpartum blues or postpartum depression. It can happen to the best of the mothers – and always remember – you’re just the kind of mother your baby needs. 

P.S. For those of you who're new here: What happened before I got to the fog - pieces of that journey:

Photo credit: Sandeep Banerjee

Monday, April 21, 2014

Good Afternoon Monday + Chunks of Learning

photo credit: chandana banerjee

Good Afternoon Monday & Hello New Week!

The weeks and months are whooshing by! We’re almost at the tail end of April, and we’ll be stepping into the second half of the year in a blink, I’m sure.

For me, the months are measured in terms of the ‘baby months’. Baby N is a little over 9 months and I now know what mothers mean when they say “With children at home, the days are long but the years are short”.

As the months pile up, as the days stretch and crawl and fly, as the year revolves on its axis, I’m jostling to fill up my time with learning. Lots of it. (And with all those gift certificates piling up, nothing better than spending them on large dollops of learning ;-).)

Like I mentioned last week, I’m finishing up a marketing course for freelance journalists. Its part boot camp and part interval training with exercises to flex our writing skills, build our marketing muscle and stretch our query-writing boundaries.

I’ve also jumped on to the blogging bandwagon. I mean, the-take-your- blog-up-a-few-notches bandwagon. It’s a delicious e-course by blogging diva Holly Becker of Decor8. I’d wanted to sign up ever since they’d launched this candy-party a few years ago – but it makes more sense to learn the recipe to crafting a beautiful blog now, when I have a place to curl up and write in.

So, a cupful of learning it is for me. Knowledge to nourish my brain with; new skills and information to add a dash of chutzpah to my otherwise routine days. 

How are you nourishing yourself as summer scrabbles up to speed?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What I’ve learnt so far at 30 Days, 30 Queries

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver

Last week, I had mentioned a journalism course that I’ve working my way through. 30 Days, 30 Queries taught by Mridu Khullar. A marketing and query writing e-course for freelance journalists and writers, who want to explore new markets, test their writing boundaries and add more feathers to their cap. Delivered right into my inbox every morning, with lessons that are enlightening and empowering, this course is worth every penny of its $99 fee.

So as I sit bang in the middle of the e-course, let me give you a peek into what’s it been like for me these past two weeks.

This is how Mridu Khullar & her course are making me think, work, assess and prioritize:

1. I’m Finally sending out queries to several international magazines – a goal that I’d been scribbling and then scratching off every year.

2. I know now that writing and sending a query should not be a nerve numbing task that needs days and days lavished upon it.

3. The more queries you send, the more comfortable you get at it and the more you want to do it (yes, I’m still talking about queries!).

4. If I want to crack and continue writing for international magazines for the next several years, then it makes sense to start streamlining the information I collect, the information that forms the bedrock of a freelance journalism career.

5. As a writer and journalist, you’re always learning, even if you’ve been playing the field for years.

6. The less intimidated you are of queries, the better it is for you as a writer.

7. You get a little better with every query you write. And you get a little more confident with every query that you send.

8. It feels so good to push certain boundaries, to try new skies.

P.S.  I’ve sent 9 queries in the last two weeks. It’s almost half the number that we were asked to send till now, but it meets the goal that I’ve set for myself for this month. I've planned to send a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 20 queries in this month - an achievable goal for my life situation right now.

Are you trying something new that’s making you go out of your comfort zone in a good way?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Good Morning Monday + i heart Art

art by chandana

Another Monday. Another summer day.

Sunshine’s like sheets of beaten gold; the afternoons are beginning to boil; summer’s galloping at a steady pace. And my days are about juggling the many roles that define and fill my life with melting moments and minutiae.

I’m also taking this time think out my work plan. Do I want to pour in more time into my professional writing business? Should I re-start my health coaching practice? Can I fit in a seasonal illustration business, so I can turn my children’s art into posters and cards & sell them once-every-quarter?

Or hey, should I just go slow, taking each day as it comes, simmering my plans on the back burner? (Ah…ummm…not really my style.)

So as these questions soak up some of my brain power, let me tell you a bit about a passion that’s been consuming me for a while.


Children’s illustrations.

I started doing them when I was a child myself, but really started focusing on my style a bit over a year ago.
I ink and paint little children, capture the simplicity and joy in the everyday. The magic in our dreams. The fairy dust on the moonbeam. Lately, I’ve been painting and doodling pictures, in my journal and in my sketchbook, reveling in the sliver of undiluted happiness that drawing fills me up with.

I’ve also been taking some courses to fire up my inspiration…to help me explore different kinds of media. I’ve been at Alisa Burke’s portal, taking some of these courses.

And I wanted to ask you – are you learning something new? What is making you happy these days? I'd love to hear from you.

In the meanwhile, do stay tuned – I will be back with photographs of my paintings soon.

Good Morning Monday + Hello New Week!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Good Afternoon Monday + What I've been upto

art by chandana

Hello! I've been missing in action for the past week. And for good reason.

My mum was visiting (for my birthday!) and we had tonnes of things to talk about. Besides that, I've been busy studying and doing assignments. I've been a diligent (more than I was in my school years!) student toiling away at my lessons, trying to master the fine art of marketing for freelance journalists.

I can write a mean article, but I can be equally meek at venturing into new writing terrains, testing publishing boundaries, conquering bright new markets. So, after quite a few years of chalking up goals and then scrapping them, I finally decided to take the bull by the horns and test my boundaries. I'm crossing my comfort zone i.e. magazines and companies that I've been writing for all these years, and dipping my toe in new waters. Waters that have been beckoning me for years.

So, let me go back to my books, or in this case email lessons + assignments at 30 Days, 30 Queries.

Till then, enjoy this list of writing prompts for April (great for those of you who journal, draw, doodle, scrapbook, or want to start doing any of these).

Have a great week! I'll be back soon.
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