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!

Living with uncertainty

It’s not new that the pandemic has pulled us all into a state of uncertainty. But it’s only when it merges with your existence that you really begin to see the disarray.

A lot of you perhaps know that I lost my father to Covid 19 in May. Mourning the loss of a loved one is tough in itself. In this case, it was intensified further by the fact that we did not have anyone to stand by us in this time. On top of that, I caught an ear infection and have been having a low grade fever for over two weeks. My brother has been coughing for several weeks now. We, however, have tested negative twice for the virus.

One can imagine what all of this combined means for us as a family. Leave aside the fact that we have been wearing masks in the house for over a week. Leave aside the fact that you second guess your own test results every single moment that you think about it. Leave aside the sleeplessness, the constant state of worry that one is in. Life still must go on. Food needs to be cooked, baths need to be taken. Even if your heart breaks, you must get back to work, because you must hold onto every shred of normalcy that you can.

Work gives one a sense of purpose. As the world shuffles and realigns itself around me, I’m still glad to have things around me which are same. The work goals remain the same. While my managers are understanding about my availability and bandwidth, there are still soft deadlines to be met. I gotta buck up and keep going.

My brother bought a new phone today because his old one just gave up on him – and something as simple as seeing him set up the phone gives one the impression that life continues in its own cycle. I ordered a hard disk myself because I no longer have storage on my laptop – thanks to all the videos I shot for YouTube.

Standing today, I don’t know what tomorrow will look like. When tomorrow comes, in hindsight we will know how the story played out. With the benefit of hindsight, we will feel like this was always meant to happen. But in this moment, I’m living and breathing an uncertainty. Of life. Of hopes and dreams. We can only take one day at a time and hold onto as much normalcy as we can. Whatever it takes to get to the other side, whatever it takes!

Creative Block Minor

I’m re-reading this book called “On Writing” by Stephen King. I bought it way back in 2016 when I was serious about being a writer. While I was writing the first draft of the novel I am currently working on, I thought I’d remind myself of the basics of writing, as suggested by Mr. King.

I am actually quite proud of the way the book was going so far. My goal for April was to finish the first draft and I was able to do that. The goal for May was to finish the 2nd draft and that’s where the big problem is.

Of course, I am going through this period of mourning. It’s an unprecedented loss in the family and it will take a long time to get past it. That said, life goes on in its own flow. What I am trying to do right now is get on with that flow, tell life let me move on and really focus on things that would leave a lasting impact.

However, now that I am reading the book, having gone through the emotional roller-coaster that I did, somehow everything feels bland. The challenges of my characters, the situations they are in, feel so simple, so easy to overcome. Yet, some months back, that was what my life was all about.

Somehow, I am jealous of the characters’ lives, of the simplicity in their day to day. On the other hand, however, now that I have seen a very different aspect of life, I want the characters to be much more life-like. Like they are living, breathing individuals.

One thing is for sure, it will take me few months more to finally hit that publish button on this book. Until then, I’ll probably write for you all here.

The show must go on!

Couple of days before my father passed away, he wanted to come back home. He called us from the hospital in the morning, asking to be discharged. We thought it was a temporary burst. But he called again in the afternoon, this time demanding that he be taken home right away, despite the potential outcomes of us trying to take him out of the ICU.

He was heavily oxygenated and experiencing breathing troubles and chest pain. Perhaps he knew the end was near. He just wanted to be back once in his familiar circumstances, next to us, near his parents’ photos.

We could not bring him home.

My mother said, when my father was initially sick with Covid and at home, he’d mentioned that he would perhaps not get a chance to meet anyone ever again. My mother shrugged it off, thinking how people think negative thoughts when they are ill. Maybe, he really knew.

Do people really know their time is up?

Families that are dealing with Covid do not get much closure. Your loved one is fine one day and the next day they are being hospitalized. Then, all of a sudden, you hear the news they are no more. You don’t get to perform their funeral because you need to be safe. All in all, it is surreal.

We still are in a state of shock of whether it really happened. We still feel perhaps one fine day, he’ll just walk up the stairs and knock on the door and if we open it a tad too late, holler, “Where are you all? Open the door right now!”

I wish it would happen that way.

As we battle this pandemic, everything feels so uncertain. There was a point when I was saving money for retirement. Most of it is automated, so I haven’t put a stop to any of those. But all the additional investments that I used to make have been put on hold.

Life is so, so fragile. You plan one thing and another happens. I know hope is our only way to move forward, but when you’re this low, sometimes, you’re afraid to even hope. For my dad, I had written so many positive chants. I had visualized positive outcomes with him back home and us doing the things he’d love to do. All came to nothing.

Yet, till the time one is breathing, and breathing fine, one must be grateful for all that is. Once you close your eyes, for the final time, the world stops. There can be no more dreams. No more expectations. All debts are squared off, all credits are collected. It is the end.

While it is not, the show must go on.

Forging new relationships off the crumbs of that are no more

Both my father and mother grew up in large families. My father had seven siblings, my mother had three. Of the two, my father was the one who liked socializing the most. He was someone who would try to connect with a random stranger, ask them where they were from and try to find a common acquaintance in the most absurd of ways.

Now that my father is gone, we have been getting so many phone calls from so many different people who have been touched by him in some ways at some points in their lives. There have been relatives with whom we had fallen out of touch, few who we have never spoken to before, several with whom we sort of stopped contact because of differences. In spite of my mother’s frustration, my father kept up with them all. He never would explain why it was important for him to stay in touch with people. He fought with my mom when she got upset about him calling people who didn’t speak to us.

Now that he is no more, those people are calling us and treating us with so much kindness. When our hearts are so broken, their voices and the way they speak about my father are helping us cope. It reminds me how powerful keeping in touch is.

We have all taken our lives for granted, our relationships for granted. We do not forgive easily, we hold onto hurt and anger. Yet in times like this, every morning when I wake up and feel fine physically, I feel gratitude. Even when I console my grieving mother, I tell her that while we have lost something, we still have so much to hold onto.

I try now to spend a bit more time speaking to friends and relatives over the phone, trying to get to know them, learnings bits and pieces of their lives. Maybe this is how I am subconsciously channeling my father’s spirits.

It’s true what they say: the people we love may not be physically present with us, but they are always with us in spirit. It’s true because when you’re faced with a loss so deep, you learn to base your decisions not just by your worldview, but by those of the ones that you lost. In that way, our dead are never dead. They live in us as long as we live. Or as long as we keep them alive in our memories.

Mourning the loss of a parent

After eighteen long days of battle with Covid-19, my father finally left this mortal world yesterday morning.

As an adult, if you are lucky to still have your parents around, worrying about parents’ health is in that long-list of adulthood worries. While I was in Bangalore, I worried about this day in and day out, picturing how it would be when something of this sort might happen.

It did happen, and happened in an unexpected manner. Very few people with Covid need to be hospitalized. Fewer still get a cytokine storm (lungs inflammation as the body’s response to the virus) in the third week of the disease. My father was among the choicest few. In the end, the man who always took deep breaths and did all sorts of physical exercise and yoga to stay fit, struggled for air in his lungs.

Our loss is permanent, but because we always knew this was a possibility since he was hospitalised, we are coping okay. Tears well up in the most minute of occasions, but we have learnt to wipe them and think of more positive things and distract ourselves.

As of now, our hearts are blameless. We have stopped going into loops of ifs and buts. We are telling ourselves that we did the best we could. Our father did the best he could. The doctors tried their hardest.

I sent out so many positive vibes to the Universe, but the Universe had other plans. You cannot dictate terms. We are so small in the grand scale of events. Once you remove yourself from the daily life and take yourself 9,000 feet above, you realise these are but minor blimps in the cosmic chain of events. Grief is temporary. Loss is permanent. Memories will sometimes make us smile and sometimes make us cry. Yet, while we are in the cycle of life, we just have to walk on: eat, breathe, sleep and hopefully help spread a little bit of positivity in the world.

If you’re reading this and are going through something yourself, I am hear to listen to you. Do feel free to reach out. I wish your good health and emotional resilience.

How to stay positive in times of crisis?

If you’ve read my last post, you perhaps know that my father is fighting Covid and is still on high levels of oxygen support in an ICU.

Over the last few days, the emotional whirlwinds that we have had to deal with has manifested itself in many ways. My mother is struggling to eat. I used to wake up in the middle of the night amid chills. Our heart rates are perpetually fast. I don’t know enough medical science to understand how deep this is hurting us.

Yet, in the last couple of days, when my father has particularly worsened, I am trying to work out a method to cope.

My father and I have always shared a complex relationship. I have always known that I do not know how best to communicate with him. I have fought with him more than I have had a normal conversation with him.

But in this time of crisis, I have been sitting, with my hands on the walls (or sometimes sitting and holding my mother’s hands), channeling all the positive energy that I have into my father’s recovery. I believe in no God, so I cannot possibly pray to any many-faced God. I have been talking directly to my father, telling him how every second that he takes in a breath, his body is healing. All the wreckage in his lungs is dissolving and he’s regenerating new, healthy lung tissues. I have been telling my father that he has always been a fighter, and the fact that he’s in the ICU for so many days, as the world collapses around him, he’s been so strong. We are all there beside him, even though we are not physically present, we are channeling all our strength and emotional resilience towards him. This is his singular fight and only he can overcome it. But we are all in this together. I pray for the cells in his body to soothe, to calm down the hyperactivity in his tissues and focus on healing. I know that he will heal. All the world is with him and fighting together.

I know that the road from here is filled with light. Even though I am intermittently scared and brave, I know we will have the last laugh.

Fund raiser for Swapan Kumar Pramanick (contribute if you can, or help amplify):

Fighting Covid-19 – Update on my father who is battling it for over 3 weeks

We are all in a pandemic, but until someone close to us is impacted, we can never know how deep or complex this disease is.

My father was at home for about 10 days since his onset of symptoms: fever, cough, breathlessness. He was admitted to a hospital on 2nd May and up until 9th May, he was steadily progressing. His was initially put on 15L of oxygen support with a biPAP (a high pressure oxygen mask that helps it easier to the patient to breathe) and it came down to 4L without a biPAP.

Unfortunately, since then, he did not progress any further and was static at 4L up until 7th May. The treating physician was willing to discharge him at the time on oxygen support, but unfortunately, on doing further tests, they realized he still has underlying issues and is at risk (his CRP levels came out to be 70, which should be ~7). Since then, his oxygen support has steadily increased (12-15L as of 16th May). The doctors have done a CT scan and are suspecting early fibrosis.

The prognosis at this stage is bad, and he needs critical care for an undefined time period.

As a family, we were thrown into this whirlwind without much warning. Over the last three weeks, we have been going through a roller coaster of emotions, worrying whether my father would be able to fight this. At some points, we have wondered whether he is receiving the best medical care, but having spoken to many medical practitioners over the last week I realize that this disease is so new and is manifesting in such different ways that there is very little control that the doctors can exercise. Covid-19 has no cure, and everything that the patient is receiving is mere supportive care. No single test on its own can help infer anything conclusively about this disease and this is why this disease is as elusive to the doctors as it is to us.

It’s so important to stay strong in this period. My family and I are having our phases of weakness. My mother is struggling to eat out of worry. I have had nights when I have got little to no sleep, my ears pricked for a phone call which would declare the worst. I have woken up in the middle of the night, shaking, worried sick that my father will not receive the care that he needs because we may not be able to afford this financially.

If you’re reading this, and if you have fought this disease yourself, I salute your spirit. We are all in dire times and not most of us are getting to have the last laugh. If you are someone who has not been impacted by this disease in any manner so far, consider yourself very lucky. Please wear your masks and take your vaccines if you can. If you think there’s any symptom, do NOT ignore. If caught early, there is still a lot that can be done.

Please keep my father in your prayers. My brother and I have started a fundraiser to help us keep our father breathing. If you’re able to contribute in some way, please do. If not, please help amplify this message so someone else who can help, will.

Thank you for reading this. I wish you good health and emotional resilience.

Covid 19 Fund raiser for Swapan Kumar Pramanick: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-sudipto-pramanik?utm_source=whatsapp&utm_medium=fundraisers-title

The joy of writing a book

As I am currently working on my third book, my first novel, I feel blessed every day that I do have the time and the right frame of mind to sit down and add more words to the book. The first draft stood at 42K, and now that I am going through the second draft, it’s climbed up to 45K.

I remember when I was in college, publishing my first book, I was rushing through the process. I wanted to get the book out there as soon as possible. Now that I have a few years under my belt and more patience, I am savouring each and every part of this process.

Having worked in the corporate and also having grown up in a family that runs a business, I also enjoy the business aspect of publishing a book. I’m already speaking to YouTubers for promotions, illustrators for the book covers etc. My budget is little to nothing for this book, but I’m still going through this process to see if I can find any option that fits my budget and goal. Otherwise, I can always trust myself to pick up the relevant skills to produce the complete product to the best of my ability.

I can’t wait for this book to be sent to beta readers for their initial review!

If you’ve ever published a book, what is it that you like the best in the process?

The process of writing and publishing a book – Part 1

Even though my first book was written six years back and the second one four years back, I remember the first book writing experience more clearly than I do the other.

I was just a college kid when I was writing that first one. But even at the time, I was mature enough to do thorough research about self-publishing processes, go through a beta-reading and feedback collection process, build this blog. Today, as I am standing at the precipice of publishing my third book, that experience has informed me so much.

I have always struggled to stay with one story for a long time. So to help with that discipline, I ensured that this time I had the plot outline written down before even I wrote one chapter of the book. Once I was happy with that, I started putting words to the book. I think I stopped when I was about 20K words, definitely bored with how things were going, not just in the book but perhaps my personal life as well.

I picked up the book again in April this year, with a target to finish the first draft by 30th April. I missed the deadline by just a day (still proud) and at 42K words (as against a target of 50K).

The next thing that I did was to research the best way to start penning down the second draft. In that process, I realised I need to have another outline of my first draft, given that the initial plot points had changed. This time, my outline looks something like this for each chapter:

Context | What does the main character want? | What is in her way of getting what she wants?

This activity took me couple of days, given that I am also grappling with the pandemic at home. Once that has been done, I have started writing the second draft, taking cues from the plot outline as to what might be improved in terms of the plot, character development etc.

My goal is to finish this draft by the end of May, or latest the first week of June. This phase will involve more research. Given that I’m writing a novel about IT professionals, one of them aspiring to write GMAT exams, I need to make sure I understand enough about such job roles/exam preparation process to build a convincing narrative. I have already started speaking to people who have work experience in these areas to help me out with this. Of course, it helps that I myself know the corporate world okay enough to write convincingly about it.

Once this phase is done, I feel the book should already be in a good shape to go out to beta readers. The feedback that I’d be expecting from my beta readers is mainly on the character development and the plot, whether the story reads smooth or not.

I installed Grammarly yesterday to help me with the basic grammar issues. It’s still the free version as I am comfortable with my command in English and won’t need any help with better sentence construction/style.

Hang on for Part 2 of this process, in which I will talk about the more business-aspect of the book creation process, which involves the book blurb, the cover page, promotion etc.

Are you a fellow author who has experience in self-publishing? Would you be interested to share your journey with me and the readers of this blog? Do reach out to me via the Comments and let’s connect.

Have you finished reading Bound by Life?

Hope you’re all well in these trying times. Personally, I am going through a tough time, given someone very close to me is hospitalized. A good night’s sleep has now become a privilege. It was only last night, after a good part of the week, I finally caught an okay amount of sleep.

I’m trying my best to move on from this crisis and keep my life as normal as I can. I am trying to spend time doing the things that give me joy. If you’re currently in this situation, know that even if you feel alone, there are millions who are undergoing the same excruciating emotional wave right now. Know that I’m praying for everyone’s recovery because in this war, we can each be safe when everyone of us is safe.

Anyways, looking beyond all the negativity, I wanted to check in on something with you guys. If you’ve been on this blog last month, you might know that I was running a free book promotion of my first book of stories, Bound by Life. If you happened to get the book during the promotion, then do let me know if you’re enjoying reading the book so far. If you could, do leave me a review on Amazon. It would help me take your feedback and build onto that in my new book, a WIP at the moment.

Thank you in advance!