Author Archives: Arpita

About Arpita

Arpita is currently working in Unilever, Bangalore as a data analytics product owner. While being passionate about how data shapes modern lives, she is enthusiastic about the creative side of life. Reading, writing, travelling, and more recently, making videos excite her. Arpita loves great conversation, so feel free to drop a note on her blog anytime!

Somewhere in a quaint town

She walks under a clear monsoon sky after the dark clouds have just subsided. It’s hot and sticky. She is wearing a black pencil skirt and a green t-shirt. In her mind, she visualizes that she looks beautiful. She wonders if the people around her are looking at her as she passes them by. Women her age in pencil skirts are not quite common in the suburbs. In her heart, she feels a flutter of excitement, the kind of excitement women can only feel when they are looking their best. Yet, in another part of her heart, she’s scared of unwarranted male attention. So she keeps her head up and looks straight, taking special care not to pay attention to the people she passes by: the idle elderly man chewing on something in the mini garden in front of his house, a middle-aged man in blue checkered lungi on his scooter looking in her direction.

She is out to do her chores, to send a package at the small bookshop that doubles up as a courier place & afterwards, to frame a photo. It’s just before dusk. The tiny colourful shops in the marketplace are just opening up. Some men are throwing splashes of water in front of the shops to settle the dust, a ritual they have done since the first day they opened their shops. Some men sit in chairs, talking to the shopkeepers across the road. She catches slices of their conversations, usual banters about the latest political gossip.

At the bookstore, the familiar man greets her. He must be sixty or older, but too thin for a man his age, so she can’t be sure how old he really is. He smiles at her.

“How are you?” she says.

“It’s going,” he says.

She waits as the man ties a package, an old cloth bag, with thin light brown threads.

“This is going to Vizag,” he says as she continues the last line of the thread.

“What is it?”

“It’s a blazer. The boy has some function there, asked his parents to send this.”

She looks at the package closely now. She feels it’s a tad small to hold a man’s suit – maybe the parents have squeezed it in as hard as they could. She wonders if the faceless, nameless boy would be annoyed when he receives the package. Would he calls his parents and say, “Couldn’t you send it in a bigger box? And why didn’t you send the original bag? It’s all creased up now!”

“Do you send stuff internationally?” she asks the man, thinking about faraway places where she will never send things. Earlier, if things turned out differently than it did, maybe she would. Now, no more.

“No. Many years back I did. Now, you need all modern tools – you need computers, you need to be skilled enough to operate it and do the work. If I had a girl like you working here, someone who knows computers, maybe I could have continued it.”

The man looks almost lost in his thoughts. “I’m struggling with even national orders now. So many orders that I can’t take.” He shakes his head and goes towards the back of the shop to keep the package aside.

“Here’s mine. Mumbai. Rakhi for my brother.”

“Sure,” he comes back.

In the mean time, another customer has come to buy pen. “Do you have a pack with pens of two different inks?”

“We don’t get those kinds of packs very much anymore… but here’s one.”

“How much?”

“Twenty five rupees.”

The man brings a wrapping paper.

“No, don’t wrap it. Just give the wrapping paper to me. Need to get a chocolate as well,” says the customer. He hands the money and takes the pen set & the wrapping paper. He folds the wrapping paper in places. She almost says to him, “Why are you folding the wrapping paper? It will have creases!” But she doesn’t. She simply watches him make neat rectangles, feeling uncomfortable with the perfect white creases that will show up when the paper is unwrapped.

Twenty minutes and three more customers later, she is finally done with her own courier. One had come to get an exercise copy for a schoolkid, another to wrap a chocolate box and the third one to refill ink.

“Come tomorrow for the tracking number,” the man says.

“No problem, I’ll call you if I can’t come and get the tracking id.”

“Take care now,” the man says.

By now, it’s dark. The shops from a distance look like a bundle of colours & lights. She walks towards the small shop with hundreds of framed photos on the walls. In her hand, she has the photo she is going to get framed. The only memory, the only luxury that she would allow of him, as a bookmark to the chapter of life she wishes had never ended.

Taking stock of the year

We’re in June of 2022! I remember reading this a long time back: why does time seem to move faster as we grow older? The answer to that was that one year is a high percentage of our life when we are younger. For example, when you are five, 1 year is almost 20% of your life. But as you get older, that percentage shrinks and time feels like it is moving faster. The answer had made sense to me then.

Now, with some more experience, I realise time moves faster when we are busy. If we are by ourselves, alone in solitude, with no one to share our thoughts with but ourselves, we spend a lot of time living in our heads. And time moves incredibly slow then. If you are retired and without a partner, perhaps you will realize this. The reality is when we have lived our lives and have nothing more to look forward to, time kind of slows down too. As if to give us more space to reflect on a life lived well.

This year, so far, I have mostly been living this idyllic life in my hometown. We had a couple of family trips to visit some relatives. My uncle had passed away earlier in May, so we went there. A couple of weeks after that we had a memorial to commemorate the first death anniversary of my dad. A bunch of our extended family came down to our place, some of them almost a decade later. It was good!

I think if I had to summarise, so far this year has been about family. About going back to the roots. There is a family trip planned in July; I am very much looking forward to it. There’s a cousin’s wedding on the cards. Another one at a discussion stage as well. Meaning, that we get to see more and more of the family as we move on. It’s great!

This year, for me personally, has also been about growing more as a woman and getting to know myself more. There have been certain aspects of life from which I have been shying away including beauty and skincare, clothing, investing in self-care and feminine relationships. I have always been a more work-oriented person. But this year, I am trying to consciously focus on relationships outside of work, prioritizing living a whole life than just in parts. It’s good so far.

There’s still a part of me that wants to stay a child though. A part which is sometimes frustrated with how stressful and mundane adult life could be. But there’s also another part which is growing more comfortable balancing different things, having too many rings in the air.

There has never been a better time to be alive!

Caring a little less about work

Today is a lovely day! I woke up to thunderstorms and rains at 6 and then went to sleep again and woke up at 9 AM. I could afford to do that because it’s a holiday today. Eid Mubarak to my Muslim friends!

It’s May and the temperature is comfy 27 degrees Celsius. I am sitting on the bed next to the window, typing this away. Outside, there’s the pitter-patter of rain on rooftops and treetops. There is a white oleander downstairs brightening up to the rains with its lovely white flowers. Farther away, there are the big jackfruit trees with their dark green leaves and the wood apples with their recent crop of lime-green baby leaves. I love looking out the window and being greeted by this water-washed green. It is beautiful! More importantly, the light that’s filtering in through the window has a translucent quality, the quality of glass or clear water. That and the temperature makes my day!

You won’t believe the thing I’m researching on the internet today.

How to care less about work?

I don’t think this is a very relatable problem. I suppose most of us have very clearly defined boundaries when it comes to paid work. If one is paid for it and based on how much they are paid, they work. If they are not, they couldn’t care less. Many of us have this inherent compass which helps us judge how much work is worth our time and pay and accordingly say no to extra work.

Not me. I should say I am one of those Type A personalities who are too detail-oriented and want everything done right. I strongly feel it’s based in how I was raised. I was taught to do exceptionally well a school. I was promised that the world has amazing things in store for high achievers.

Then I grew up and I realized the world does not always work like that. There’s an upper limit to how much money/success you can earn at whatever stage in life. And I’ve come to realize over time that spending hours extra at work for mere thousands in an annual bonus isn’t the success perhaps my elders had envisioned for me.

But I can’t stop. I can’t stop my ambition to be good enough for my internal standards (which are perhaps always higher than what my bosses have for me). I have always been asking for more work because I wanted to know more. I wanted to be in a position where my voice has value, and I can get things done in the “right” way. I wanted to be someone to reckon with, someone people look up to and respect.

I do realize now what I missed out on in all of these. I forgot how to care about myself. I never learnt how to care beyond work and care for the people in my life. To really understand what is important in life and what isn’t.

And so, on this beautiful day, what I am searching for on Google is how to care a little less about work. It’s not with the intention to cheat at work and work for 3 hours of work when I get paid for 8 but more about saying no to the less important things. I think that can only start if we give enough importance to our personal lives. It comes by putting our whole self first, even before work. You are your investment. If you don’t look after yourself, no one else will. And you’re not just who you are at work. You are someone outside of work too – who is that person? Who does that person support in their life? Is that person present enough for the people in her life?

Have you guys ever faced this in your life? How do you slow down?

It rained and I made some fruit juice…

I just finished making some fruit juice for myself the old-style way. The fruit was a wood apple, a typical summer fruit in West Bengal, India. I have always loved the sweet taste of it. My mother made the best juices out of it when we were younger and were thirsting for some drink on a hot summer day. She makes them even now – I love ’em.

Today my mother and brother are both out, today being a Saturday and all, at our family medical store. It was my dad’s shop back in the day, but my mother regularly helped out. Now she’s become the proprietor and my brother goes and helps out once in a while. Voids fill up. It’s beautiful.

So I broke the wood apple by hitting it against the floor – it broke into two nice pieces with a clean crack. I scooped out the orange stuff with a spoon in a big bowl. Then, I kneaded the orange thingy with my bare fingers to smoothen it out. Then I poured some water and made it into a drink. Of course, I had to filter out the seeds and the fibrous parts with some effort. Then added some sugar, and voila! I had a lovely drink ready for myself. It felt nice, to make my hands useful.

I was reading this book today “Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon. In that book, the author talks about working with your hands. About how ideas stem not just from sitting in a static position but from moving along, being in the motions. I agree. I walk a lot. I walk while I talk on the phone. I generally go for a walk. Walking is the only exercise that I ever do. It’s the only exercise I can get myself to do regularly. And I do think when we are in motion, ideas come our way.

By the way, it rained today. I thought the entire April would go without any rains whatsoever, but today was the last day of April 2022 and there were rains! It was good.

In the last post, I spoke a little bit about marriage. I’m thinking I’ll likely talk a lot more about it in the coming days in this space. This space has generally been the space for me to talk about anything and everything that is on my mind. I also want to talk about it because talking about it in a public forum makes me uncomfortable and I want to move past it.

As I have been looking at the Indian arranged marriage scene for the last two years or so, I have gone through many stages. I think I have to be truthful and say that for the most part, I hadn’t comprehended what an important life decision this was. While I think I have always known this in my core, that I could be a great person if I were married to the right person, part of the right family, but when it came to the thick of getting married, I wasn’t so sure what to look for. Now, don’t get me wrong – I like myself single quite much and I’m not saying I need a partner to make me particularly great. But I firmly believe that with the right person by your side, you become a better version of yourself.

I often tend to have self-doubt. This is why I need someone who can reassure me that I am on the right track from time to time. I need them to be supportive of my dreams. And I want dreams that are not just my own, but theirs too. I want a good story, a good life and a good family. And I want to work at it, with all its hardships and ups and downs. But in the end, I want to be able to sit down and feel proud of the life that we made together.

I haven’t come very close to finding a person like this yet. The pandemic especially made it hard. You couldn’t bring your whole self to this. But now, I want to. I want to step forward and own the life that I want to build, together with the person who can be the right person for me. I don’t know how it will come to be as of today, but I feel like something will work out. It always does.

What’s your idea of the right life partner?

Life update

It’s the 18th of April. I am sitting on my bed, my little green laptop table in front of me as I type out this blog post. It’s extremely hot these days, here in my part of the world. I think the maximum temperature today was 41 degree Celsius. And we have had no rain for the entire month of April so far, which is kind of unexpected given the amount of rain we saw during winter this year.

It’s been a while since I have written something here. In fact, the whole thing about writing something was just a spur of the moment decision – based on a conversation I just had with one of my close acquaintances.

I suppose some life updates are in order?

I recently got a promotion at work, which was pretty great considering the fact that I have been working towards this for some time now. Also, this is the first real promotion that I actually worked towards, so I was very happy when it actually happened last Thursday. Somehow this particular promotion felt really important for me: it’s like proving to myself that I am capable of taking up more responsibilities in an organization as big as mine.

I join the new role fully in July. I’m looking at these 2.5 months as the best that I can make in my old role, but also use this time to finish some long-pending work at home. When I am into work, I give so much of myself in it that sometimes I just cannot meet a lot of family commitments. I’m hoping to use this time to make up for some of it.

Next month, it’ll be a year of my father’s death. It feels surreal that we haven’t seen him for an entire year. Yet, in our hearts he’s present as ever. To this day, all of us can remember him by his words and mannerisms in each and every situation.

On the personal front, we’ve been looking at prospects for my marriage for a while now. I have not been in any relationship, so there wasn’t someone to get married to right away as I was getting ready mentally and emotionally for this. And as with everything which we are trying to do right in our lives, these things take time. I have spoken to a few guys in the past 2 years or so, but there has not been any significant progress. In these two years, I have gone through multiple phases: frustration at not meeting someone, helpless at the prospect of not having settled down while lots of people around me have, a sense of peace at knowing that my life isn’t necessarily worse off for me being single to finally, thinking of a life that I spend all by myself, but not necessarily feeling sad about it, because there isn’t really missing from my present life in the first place. I realize that I am quite happy at where I am in my life right now, and I am looking at marriage to only make things better from here on.

As of today, I am fully on-board with the idea of marriage, but with the right person and at the right time. I know I am fully ready, and hopefully that might mean that things would work out soon.

This is it for now, but I will be back again with more things to talk about in the coming days. How have you all been during this time? Do let me know in the comments.

Be my Lake

When we interact with each other as individuals, we share our energies. We share our thoughts. These thoughts generate tiny ripples in other people, so much so that they may be moved to act in a way they otherwise would not.

In life, most of us are rivers. We are in a constant state of flow. There are streams of dirt and dust that we accumulate throughout our journey, but our flow keeps us going and keeps us fresh.

There are probably very few people we meet in life who are lakes. Self-contained bodies of water that are pure and unperturbed by the dirt and dust of quotidian life. These people are precious because when you sit with them for a few minutes, in peace, you can see your true self reflected. They, by virtue of doing nothing and just being themselves, reflect a version of you that you may not be consciously aware of.

Not all of us will be lucky to meet such people in our lives. Most of us have to be at peace with the fact that we will be rivers and we will meet more rivers like us. Our waters will mix, swirl, generate tiny waves and in that process, dirt and dust would float, sediment, sink and even dissolve.

But sometimes, in rare moments of introspection, we may be lucky to find ourselves at peace. Maybe because the wind is not fierce, maybe because the beauty of the moon has no pull over us. It takes a lot of time, and effort, to reach here. And in this instant, we hold the power to be lakes ourselves and mirrors to all who come to our banks, in our paths of interaction.

But one must be careful, because sometimes, the power of our interactions may be so strong that we lose the calm of our waters. It may be so strong that small ripples break out on our surfaces and we lose who we are.

Love is powerful. And sometimes when we love someone we make them rivers too, even those who were lakes once. But in the end, when all is said and done, may it be that our lovers return to being the lakes they were when we met. Because that is who we fell in love with, and in the process, loved ourselves a little more too.

To be at peace with randomness

For the last two months, I have been going on regular walks in my small town. It took some time to get used to my beat because I was confused about whether I wanted to take a different route every day or continue on a specific route. After several days, I settled on the one that I currently take.

As I get out of my house, I am greeted each morning by four of the puppies on my street, who are the most eager in the mornings to show their excitement. They climb on my legs with their pointy paws and want my attention. I spend a few minutes with them and commence my walk. On the route, sometimes I meet a neighbour who I say hi to. I arrive at a small commercial junction where there are carts selling hot food to morning commuters and stationery shops and pharmacies. I cross them and walk along a big abandoned park. I walk through school squares and corners where men in soiled clothes fix tyres of bikes and bicycles.

In so many days, I have gotten familiar with the little black pup who plays by the roadside in a specific spot, next to a small shop that sells tea, biscuits, chocolates and I suppose cigarettes as well. I have gotten familiar with a specific house that seems to be raising chickens. Yet new things happen every day on familiar routes. For example today, I was stopped by a blue car by a young girl who stuck her head out and asked me the directions to a neighbouring school. She was not in a school uniform, so I was wondering if she was coming to meet a friend or just visit the school because she wanted to take admission there.

Another day, in the house that is raising chickens, I saw a young man get into a fight with a dog. The man seemed to be keen on keeping the dog out, but the dog kept barking and showing her disagreement at that. After having been around dogs for a while, I know a little something about dog barks. And this specific one was a tone of complaining, it was almost humane, as if like a negotiation. She was not aggressive, she was not scared as she barked. It was almost like, “I want to be inside, but you’re not letting me. I am so not happy about that.”

Anyways, on my walks, my constant companion is the Audible app. I have been listening to audiobooks for a while now and finally, I have proper over the ear headphones to protect my ears as I indulge in this. I just finished two books on economics:

  1. A Little History of Economics by Niall Kishtainy
  2. The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins

I recommend both books, in that order, if you are someone who is a beginner like me in economics.

I have pondered over years now, why some people get to live a comfortable life while others don’t. I have wondered often, as a child, what it would have meant to be born into a different, wealthier family in West Bengal. Or a different part of India. Or the world. Or what it would have meant to bear a different surname.

I am reading economics with the purpose of understanding why economic inequality exists and how it’s connected to human nature. Are some people worse off because others want them to be worse off? Or is it that our world, this universe, is a poem in randomness? Is it that no matter what anyone wants, in the end, nothing is in our control. Our good intentions do not change the world as much as we would like to think. The same goes for bad intentions.

The powerful have abused the powerless at all times in the natural world. Three of my puppies regularly bully the smallest one. I have to feed him separately for him to even manage eating one morsel of food. Maybe the natural tendency in this world is to survive as well as we can, even at the expense of others.

Yes, the butterfly effect holds. Yes, the actions of a few good actors can inspire others to be better themselves. As is the case with a few bad actors. Perhaps for every Gandhi, there will be a Hitler, in every generation. Collectively, over the course of our lifetimes and those of our future generations, there is no way to ascertain if as humans we will grow more conscientious and more humane. As there is no way to ascertain that the world is definitely headed for doomsday. Neither is true and maybe both are true. We as individuals are too small to grasp the mechanics that drive this Universe. All we can do is merely observe and make notes.

What is the point of economics? What is the point of astrophysics? What is the point of the theory of relativity if we truly are blinks of the eye of evolution? If in the grand scheme of the Universe, we don’t matter as much we’d like to think.

Yet, if there is no meaning to anything, how does one live 60-70 years of their lives? How does an animal as complex as humans survive its journey on this Earth? What should drive them? Because we are complex enough to understand empathy, to feel myriad emotions, to feel capable of taking actions which at least in the short term can make things better (in our opinions. Can we really make anything better in insolation for one thing, and not make something else worse off? Are we capable as individuals to make realistic tradeoffs at all times? – these are still questions which we need to think about). So if we do not give ourselves a sense of purpose, will we not kill ourselves and those who come in the way?

Maybe that’s why economics. That’s why astrophysics, that’s why religion, that’s why meteorology. We are constantly feeding the need to know more, the experience more, to fuel our brains as much as we’re fueling our physical hunger of food.

Yet, in recent times, you see the Western world looking Eastward to ancient Hindu/Buddhist philosophies. In the study of knowing oneself better. Maybe all that we want to know lies within us and there is nothing more that we’ll never need.

Maybe all paths do lead to Rome. In fact, indeed all paths do. Because no matter who you are, to dust you shall return, and that is the only truth.

We in our limited capacities cannot comprehend everything. We will not live forever to know how the story of Earth or humanity finally ends. We have to make peace with understanding that. And in the moments when we feel low, feel hurt and powerless, we should remind ourselves that there is really nothing in our power, even if we were arrogant/ill-informed enough to think so.

To be at peace with randomness, that’s my prayer. Maybe we all have the strength to endure.

Gratitude Post

Hello friends!

Hope you all are doing well. Been some time since I last posted here and good things have happened since. When I say good things, they don’t necessarily mean fabulous things that may make someone jump and say, “Yay!” But in the aftermath of my father’s death, the little things that help us get back to the normal track of our lives feel great.

With that in mind, here are some of the things which have happened:

  • My mom started opening our medicine shop, where she earlier used to help my dad. She says, and we agree, that working this job gives her a sense of purpose in life and she is better off for it. From a mental health perspective, she seems to be doing slightly better, which is really something to be happy for
  • This weekend, I donated blood at a camp held in the memory of my father and couple of his colleagues who passed away this year – it’s good work and I felt immensely proud to be part of it
  • We have made good progress in doing the paperwork around keeping the business running, which involved a lot of running around government offices etc. My brother and I did all this along with our day jobs, which I am proud of
  • I started taking French classes from Alliance Francaise du Bengale who are holding online classes at the moment for A1 French. I am making good progress in it all through – in the beginning I was worried if I’d be able to do all this, along with the house chores as well the day job. This class involves me waking up around 7 AM in the morning, which I had not been doing for many months now so this is definitely an improvement.
  • I met someone through a language learning app who is French but is also learning Bengali, which is my mother tongue. A fact I so absolutely love. I never thought someone in Europe would be keen to learn a language which is spoken by people in just two countries. I always looked at language learning from the perspective of how many doors it would open for you in as many countries as possible
  • I also have ramped up my reading efforts – bought a Kindle this Prime Day and I am finishing at least a book within a week
  • To that end, I have also created a brand new YouTube channel in which I’m going to be talking about books, TV shows, movies and reading/writing. As you guys know, I am working on a few books myself and it felt only right to start engaging with the reading community!

That’s about all the updates I had to share as of now. How about you guys? How’s life treating you?

Things of beauty

I am sitting in my balcony, amid plants and household chaos. The laptop rests on the tiny table that I bought few days ago from a four-storied furniture shop. The tiny table was on display without much pomp. It has a green top and a picture of Winnie the Pooh with some girl (sorry, didn’t grow up reading comics). At the shop, it didn’t quite stand out, amid all the other furniture. Here, in my house though, it is a different story.

This table is what I call an epitome of cuteness. It’s multipurpose, so it serves as a surface to chop vegetables as well as a place to work on the laptop. It is a kid’s table and I love it!

I am listening to Becoming on Audible; got two months of Audible subscription free via Cred. For those who don’t know Cred, it’s an app through which you can pay your credit card bills in India. It also hosts an array of product offering which is supposed to make you want a luxury lifestyle, but I am usually immune to the charms of capitalism, except when it comes to things that are cute.

Talking about cute, did I mention I bought a cute planter and a marble queen pothos?

The weather today was comfortable. I was out and about, doing some adult stuff like groceries and figuring our paperwork. Overall, it was a good day.

Hope you’re having a good day too, wherever in the world you are. See you on the next one!

A short story project in the making

I wrote a story story. I wrote it end to end, all three thousand words of it. With a start, middle and a convincing end. Feeling accomplished!

Usually, stories come to me as an idea. At times even as a dream. But an idea still. The idea might be just a sentence or a concept. I won’t always know how to start or end the story. That has always been a problem. I start working on the idea and then it loses steam. I don’t know if I am going towards a convincing climax or I am just floundering.

Today, too, I started off with the idea and didn’t know how the story was going to end. I figured out the ending as I went along and oddly I found it fitting. And so, I finished a complete story in one sitting. I cannot but feel deeply satisfied at that.

While I was writing this story, I realized something key. Writing, at the end of the day, is about making believe in a world that they are not part of. Or, if it is something they indeed live in, make it damn relatable. But that’s the meat of it: make it real. As long as you focus on that, you don’t need to worry about the beginning, the end, the grammar, the overuse of adverbs or every other rule that makes a prize-winning book. It even makes the writing process feel easy, takes the pressure off. Know that, as the author, you have full control of the world you create. You need to give your readers just enough so they can see themselves in it, no more, no less.

I had been working on a novel, something that deals with modern day love relationships. But having gone through such a deep loss personally, the theme of the novel feels too shallow for my current mindset. I think about the problems that my characters were facing and the challenges feel too easy. I know that it’s not the right mindset for a writer. You need to empathize with your characters as you flesh them out. I know that in the world I have created in the novel, the characters’ problems are as complex as as a normal person would have, it’s just that I don’t find them complex enough to write convincingly about. That’s why I have decided to take a step back until I personally feel normal and less morbid. Until then, I am going to focus my creative energies on a story story project. Currently, I am thinking 10 short stories with 3K words each. It might end up being five stories or eight in the end, but I am looking for a quick publish. The novel was supposed to come out in Aug/Sep – I want to stick to that timeline.

Life will pass you by whether you want or not. Our time on earth is limited, so if you can create, make sure you are working towards your project and letting it see the light of the day.

On that note, before I get more morbid, let me end here. Hope y’all are doing good and having a great Sunday!