All things new

Sakal Times
Saturday, 30 December 2017

With the onset of a new year, comes a sense of novelty. Here are people who talk about their new choices

With 2017 calling it a wrap, it’s the dawn of a new year tomorrow, beckoning new beginnings, new hopes and new dreams! On this note, we bring to you the thoughts and feelings of people who have recently stepped into new territories — professions, countries, relations, religions and genders. They tell us all about the good, bad and ugly of it!

The culinary shift

Rekha Kumari joined the Hilton Hotel, London as a sous-chef after quitting her teaching job at a nursery school

As they say, it is never too late to begin. I took up a professional course in culinary art at 38, while I was still continuing my job at a nursery school. After continuously striving hard to strike a balance between work, education, assignments and looking after my family, for almost two and a half years, I made the switch from being a school teacher to working in the kitchen in one of the biggest hotel chains in the world — Hilton Hotel as a sous-chef and trust me, a switch is no cake walk. While it has been just a few days that I quit the school job and started managing the kitchen in the hotel, I feel this was my calling that I had to listen to. I am proud of my decision and the amount of efforts I have taken in the last two years. I had kind of foreseen the challenges that would come my way, but I wanted to give my best shot.

Unlike my previous job, where I worked for only four hours a day and enjoyed weekend holidays, here I won’t be able to spend enough time with my son as the work shifts are erratic and sometimes will require me to work extra hours on festivals. There won’t be those adorable kids around anymore and most importantly, I will need to create dishes that the guests like. But I know this will help me create a new identity for myself. As an Indian, there are a certain challenges when exploring and creating dishes from across the globe and making them palatable to everyone.

While I was too nervous when I got the offer, my son boosted my confidence and made me believe in myself. I am loving the feeling that I got a new start before the year ended and the New Year will bring some more opportunities and challenges for me. I am all set to embrace both. The fact that a girl who didn’t know cooking is serving meals to hundreds of people under the guidance of great chefs, gives me the kick to be better at my job. I believe everyday is a new beginning and a new challenge and we all must seize the opportunity when we can. 

Hate the cold, but love to play in the snow

Gaurav Joshi moved to the United States of America (USA) and speaks of the drastic changes that followed

Moving to a different country is a constant battle of equals. You are nervous about leaving behind your home but you also look forward to new experiences. It’s a significant learning curve where you learn to survive cultural shocks and learn a whole new set of social taboos. It’s like you hate the cold but love to play in the snow.

Cultural shock — People carry dogs and put children on leash (lookup leash accessories for children).

Food items — Nothing seems natural unless it’s marked organic in which case it’s way too expensive.

Milk comes in different types — whole milk (this is closest to what we have in India), 2 per cent fat milk, 1 per cent fat milk (which is essentially white coloured water and people prefer 2 per cent, even Indians who “hate India” once they are here.)

People think “water is boring” and drink only flavoured water, or worse, drink only Coke/Pepsi type of beverages (a friend of mine is a physical therapist and she said she gets patients who drink only Coke/Pepsi even when they have severe sore throat for they never ever drink water. It’s like they were never educated to quench their thirst with water.)

People are quite different: You will confuse the hell out of them even if you use a term different from a usual one. Giving your phone number to someone? You need to call out every digit, you can’t say ‘double’ or ‘triple’ or number of repetitions in number. 9778? Say Nine Seven Seven Eight. If you say Nine Double Seven Eight, no one will understand.

Looking for a hoodie with a chain? You need to say ‘a hoodie with a zipper’. How spicy do you want your food to be? Say normal spicy and the waiter will get confused. You need to say ‘regular’ spicy. But yes, there are so many cuisines here to choose from!

You might miss having social life the way we have in India. People are too friendly but too individualistic also. Dollar power!

People are disciplined. Social discipline (traffic, law etc), personal discipline (honesty, trust). Bottomline being, you would live here if you prefer luxury and standard of life over a typical Indian social life. You would live in India if you prefer otherwise.

A speechless experience

Manjiri Limaye has given birth to a baby boy a month ago and says that her son teaches her something everyday

I am learning from my son’s actions everyday. Like when he is crying, it means he wants me to feed him or his gestures when he wants to sleep.

There’s something or the other that I keep picking up. I have become completely dedicated to my child and my life revolves around him and his needs. I am either feeding him or taking care of his other needs but I am only thinking about him all the time.

Pregnancy has been a life-changing experience and the toughest phase of my life. I have been through several struggles — physical and emotional — during this period. Post his birth too, from delivering to handling him, it’s been a roller-coaster ride. 

I think pregnancy and child birth break many notions. Initially, I had thought that if I have a normal pregnancy, I will be fit and immediately start leading a normal life. But that’s not the case. It has taken me time to get back to my routine as I needed a lot of rest.

Yes it is challenging and the challenge is not just to keep the baby fit and fine but to keep myself healthy too. I have to check if my child has had enough milk and if he is sleeping well. But to do that, I have to take care of my own health first. 

A gradual transformation

Ashwani Pundir, a young IT professional from the city, shares his new journey from being an atheist to now following Buddhism

As the new year is about to break at the dawn, embracing new faith and stepping into the new year sounds promising and exciting. I belong to a Hindu family but have been an atheist for a long time now. Daily pooja by my mother has been a part of my life since childhood, but as I grew up, I could not relate to the customs. Being a Science student, I have always been rational. Further, as I perceived electronics and telecommunication engineering, I extensively studied logic and calculations and developed a thought process of reasoning with everything. The reason for being an atheist is that I have seen many issues because of religion — people are turning to violence in the name of religion, which doesn’t make sense to me. As John Lennon says in his song Imagine, ‘No heaven no hell, only sky and earth, is what I have come to follow’.

It was some months ago that one of my friends spoke to me about Buddhism. She talked about the teachings of the Buddha — humanism, self improvement, compassion, relation between person and his environment, which I had never thought of before. I realised that it complements my rational thinking and hence it has come very naturally to me. Now I have become more aware about my behaviour and my thoughts which is really a good thing. I have come to be more calm and compassionate and have come to realise that it is okay not to rack your brains for reasoning and be so hard on yourself. I have started moving towards spirituality and am trying to connect with my inner self. I am becoming more empathetic towards others. The ego-centered self is transforming gradually, which I see as a tangible change in me as an individual.

I am liking the way things are flowing and am enjoying the inner development. I am taking my own time and going at my own pace as I want to learn more about it. I am really looking forward to be a better version of myself in the upcoming year and contribute to society at large; also to understand life from a deeper perspective. Religion has become a sensitive topic in the country today. I feel it is one’s personal choice and freedom to decide which religion to follow as faith is an absolutely a personal aspect.

Towards a more stable self

Aarav Appukuttan felt trapped in a woman’s body and hence underwent a sex reassignment surgery

I was born female and stayed one till the age of 45. Last year, I underwent sex reassignment surgery in Mumbai. I wanted to live the way a boy child lives, from my childhood. It wasn’t intentional, but the activities that I chose or my interests and my overall attitude resembled that of a boy child.

But being a ’70s kid, born to middle-class parents and living in a village in Kerala, I always had to face limitations in the activities I loved to do. I had fully realised my suffocation in a female body, when I attained puberty. I started to feel like I was caged in a female body and that I used to hate it the most. My menstruation cycles were irregular and painful too. I suffered from short temper, mood swings, and physical ailments throughout my childhood. It was only my mother who understood my mental state. She was supportive; others were not aware of my turmoil.

After I underwent the gender reassignment surgery, my physical ailments got minimised. And mentally also, I became much more stable. Hence, I didn’t undergo a counselling session. I always wanted a perfectly masculine body. And, I got it. 

I have been asked if I understand females better or if I have to assert my masculinity, the answer is ‘no’. Apart from having female bodily functions, I had never been bothered to understand a woman’s mind. At workplace, I didn’t experience much of a difference after my transformation, apart from small changes like I began to use men’s washroom.

I also met my partner Sukanyeah Krishna, who was born male, but underwent surgery to become a female. Together, we want to help children with Gender Identity Disorder, by offering them moral and emotional support. We also want to create awareness among parents about the state of their kids and the measures available for the same in modern medical science.

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