Monday, July 2, 2018

Dreams do come true - Have the courage to pursue them

Today, my heart is exploding with immense love, gratitude, happiness, and pure bliss. I am walking with my head held up high and reminding myself of what we have achieved. My eyes have been moist for 2 days now and I can’t stop reminiscing every stage of this journey. Every failure, the fear of uncertainty, all those mistakes and the learning that came with it, starting from the scratch, getting to know tiny nuances, practicing, practicing even more, learning as we progressed, getting a lot better and then finally succeeding. Probably this is what it feels like when your dreams come true.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to do my own production – lights, cameras, actors, dancers, costumes, props, and audiences cheering us on. Oh! those cheers! Those loud, never fading cheers rang in my ears like they were real. No matter where I ended up in life, I’ve always wanted to be a performer.

9 months ago, I put together a team of equally enthusiastic people. People who shared the same passion as me, but even more talented. A team, that we referred to as “Prod Core”, a team that would end up spending every minute of the next 9 months working on this project, a team that would discover their own flair for craft in the next 9 months, a team that would overcome every hurdle and completely crush it, a team that when stands together is capable of taking down the city with a storm, a team that’s so close-knit that we call it “family”. Abhishek, Anusha, Ashish, Jaspreet, Jyoti, Mounica, Nikita, Nitin, Pooja, Satish, Shibani, Sumit, Tanya, Tejal, and Yogesh (in alphabetic order 😉). That day (27th September 2017) everyone parked their lives aside to make this dream a reality. My dream became OUR dream.

The good old Royal Drummer days

As we moved forward, we quickly realized that there’s so much more to be discovered. None of us knew what we were getting into. The more we explored, the more we grasped that this wasn’t going to be easy. Right from booking the venue, to conducting auditions, to looking for a non-profit partner, to writing a script, to overall project management – all this with our regular 9-5 jobs were some of the initial challenges we faced. All 16 of us spent every evening of the initial months at my house working till midnight and then we would retire for the day, only to start again next day. But as time passed, we kept adding more members to our family. Team Redmond Indian Cultural Association (RICA) was one of the first additions who selflessly agreed to partner with us in our expedition. They understood what we were trying to create, and they became a part of our day to day struggles.

To sow the seed of good karma, we also partnered up with Sukarya, and decided to put on the show as a benefit performance for their mission to help women and children in the slums of India. Now, the pressure was on and we had nothing. No prior experience, no money, no venue, no resources. We were in this all by ourselves. “We” were all we had.

We started spreading the word, conducted auditions lead by Pooja and slowly we saw our family grow from 16 people to 55 people. As the family grew, there was a risk of losing sight of our core values – karma, building a family, creating a happy place, spreading joy. A lot of people had told me that with a group as big as this, it’s not possible to be a family. I’d like to challenge those people and ask them to come, look at what we’ve created. It’s an unbreakable bond between 55 people who look out for each other, laugh together, cry together, and stand by each other. Family isn’t always blood. It’s people in your life who want you in theirs. It’s people who’d love you no matter what. This is my family!

After our first successful audition

Throughout this journey, we’ve faced many such situations where we felt discouraged, lost and honestly, we didn’t know if we could do this. Like, we lost our venue in the middle of our journey, and our potential sponsors were turning us down. So basically, until February, we had no money and no venue, but we had 55 hopeful eyes and a strong will.  

No one can make our dreams come true for us… it is our job to get up every day and work towards it… We came up with a plan and set goals that will help us achieve that plan. And then we got to work. Not just for a day or a week or a month. But for as long as it took to accomplish our dream. We treated making our dreams come true as our actual jobs – we showed up on time, put in a full effort, learned from our mistakes, reviewed our performance, pivot when necessary, tracked our progress each day, then got some rest to wake up tomorrow refreshed and ready to get back to work. It took a toll on a lot of us, but we were there to cover up for each other. We held each other through thick and thin.

The entire team stepped up and together we created magic! Jyoti, Sumit, Anusha, Tejal, Pooja and Jaspreet focused all their energy into finding us a venue on such a short notice. The branding team created world class marketing material for the show. From video snapshots, to posters, to logo, everything was beyond exceptional. Nitin, Shibani, Jyoti, Sumit and Urvashi are loaded with talent. Along with Apurva, Poorva, Mounica, Harsh and Amol, the branding team nailed it. Because the branding team was making such good progress in creating a buzz on social media, the sponsorship team started advancing at their end. Mounica, Pooja, Tejal, Jineta, Anusha, Yogesh, Gaurav, Poorva and Harsh came up with some brilliant sponsorship ideas and together we reached out to potential sponsors. Initially, the thought of asking people to invest their money in a new group, made me uncomfortable. But the kind of talent this team was showing me, I could walk down the street and convince random folks to invest in us.  Suddenly, everything was falling in place. Now we had enough money to invest in costumes and props. Sakina, Urvashi, Mumal, Jineta, Apurva, Tanya, Abhishek, Sumit, and Casey created some props that left the audiences spell bound. It certainly didn’t feel like this was our first production. The level of props made us look professionals. The actors (Abhishek, Tejal, Poorva, Annwesha, and Siddhart) were practicing all day, everyday. The dancers didn’t take a single day off either. If you’ve seen us perform anywhere, you’d know that my dance routines tend to get very high energetic. Spending that kind of energy every day is no joke. But the commitment entire team showed is commendable. We walked around with tired bodies and sleep deprived minds for nearly 3-4 months.

The script written by Abhishek, Yogesh, Shibani, Nikita and Jaspreet was relatable and deeply touching. To do justice to this script, Satish and Abhishek, along with Shibani, Nikita, Yogesh and Ashish directed every scene with so much attention to detail. Every scene was mesmerizing, and every shot was breathtaking.

Until you step your foot into it, you never realize how much work it takes. Such was the case with sound and lighting. I have seen Jyoti, Ashish, Aalisha, and Gaurav exchange messages at 2am while working on music. Ashutosh spent hours to make sure the lights did justice to some beautiful projections Shibani, Sumit, Nidhi, Urvashi, Pavan, Nitin, Jineta, Ankita and Nilanjan put together.

Miracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.
Managing 55 people was one of our biggest challenge at this point and that’s where Abhijeet, Tanya, Anusha and Tejal stepped up. Creating schedules and accommodating everyone’s requests. I’m not even sure how they ever got any sleep. Somewhere down the line, we brought Abhijeet into our team. He was that one missing piece from our puzzle, and we saw everything fall in place thereafter.

A big shout out to Pooja and Paresh for helping us with stage management. And another big applause to Shibani, Sumit and Anup for documenting this entire journey through their gorgeous pictures.

I am sure I am missing a lot of people here who’ve helped me fulfill my dream. A big thanks to every person who put their life and soul into creating what we did.

I am also extremely thankful to my husband for being so supportive throughout this journey. For playing the role of a single parent for days when I didn’t get home in time. I could do all that I did, only because I knew you were there. And lastly, my very supportive parents who have always taught me to chase my dreams rather than regret later. It’s because of this support system that I can afford to take risks in my life.

It took a huge portion of my life to believe that I was capable of putting so much effort to make my dreams come true. But now, I am ready to take on the world. One step at a time. One theatre at a time!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Three days is Long. Three years, too short!

Someone pinch my “baby boy” seriously 3 already?!?! Okay, at some point I will stop calling you my baby, at least in front of others.
It feels like just yesterday I was writing a letter to you on your first and second birthdays. A minute ago we were celebrating the fact that you were finally walking—right around the time you turned 18 months—and now? fast forward (I mean REALLLLY FAST) 3 years and I’m so in love with this character that you have become. 

It’s so bittersweet how I anxiously await you to grow, hoping you shape and mold into a great person and yet at the same time I yearn for the seconds to slow and the sun to not set proof that another day ticked on by… hoping, wishing you will stay this shape and this small and this little forever…

As cliché as it sounds, on this day I am going to reminisce the day you were born.
Three years ago, after 17 hours of labor, at 5:17 PM, my perfect 8.1-pound gorgeous baby boy graced this planet with his presence. The world’s been a better and brighter place since then. You were perfect! And I’m not just saying that because I’m your mom. Look at that face…

My heart exploded the moment I saw you and you immediately grabbed onto my fingers and held on for your dear life. I remember that moment so clearly (probably because I revisited my pictures, videos, and blogs few minutes ago), your tiny hands wrapped around my fingertips and I knew immediately our connection would be forever. So many things racing through my mind but most of all I just wanted you to know that I would love you forever and that I would do everything in my power to protect you. 

I remember our first night at the hospital, when you laid next to me while I watched you sleep. Sounds creepier than it was. I felt the rhythm of your breathing. I gazed at the precious swoop of your nose, the soft flutter of your eyelashes, the length of your fingers, the curves of your cheeks. I soaked in all the little details of you.

Over the last year you’ve really shown us what you’re interested in. You love trains, cars, trucks, bikes… basically, anything with wheels. You have a real fascination with race cars, cranes, and garbage trucks. Coming up with a theme for your room wasn’t too hard for us (though, your dad really wanted to go with Garbage truck). Your newest fascination is Super Wings and Mater. It’s so funny how you pick up nuances and apply them in real life. Like the other day, we went to Shilpi and Abhi’s house and you rang the bell. When Shilpi didn’t answer the door after 3 rings, you immediately uttered, “Oh no! It’s time to call the Super Wings!”

You’re crazy funny too. Like the other day, this is what our conversation was:
You: Mom, you like Dizzy (a character from Super Wings)?
Me: No, I like Jet (another character from Super Wings)
You: No mom, you like Dizzy.
Me: No Ansh, I like Jet
You: No, Ansh like Dizzy, Mom like Dizzy
Me: No, mom like Mater
You: Moooom!  Mater is not Super Wings. Silly Mom!
Me: (I laughed). Okay, I like Dizzy
You: You like Dizzy, I like Dizzy, Everybody like Dizzy! Yay!
When did you start speaking full sentences hon?

You are a complete and utter Mama’s boy. Kind and sweet are just a few adjectives I use to describe your personality. It is engrained within you to take care of me and I’m not quite sure how that came to be. I feel safe with you since the little age of 2. Watching out for your Mama and making sure I’m okay. You have brought tears to my eyes at some of the things your little mind tells me. Sometimes when I am upset, and you say, “Mama, you need a hug?”… You know how to make your Mama turn into absolute and utter MUSH.

No matter how hard the week was—or how hard the year’s been for us—you will always put a smile on my face. You are the reason I can get through the tough times; you’re my motivation for everything. I’m grateful every day of my life for this amazing, perfect little creature we created.

Sharing. Taking turns. Looking out for others. Gentle with babies. Not afraid of the dark but surely scared of pressure cooker. Curious. Motivated. Determined. And BUSY. Your hands must be in it all. You enjoy when you are included in on big people activities. You love hanging out with my dance buddies. As soon as I pick you up from Daycare, you insist that I take you to meet “friends”. You know a few names and are still learning others. You know Muggi, Sumi, Yogesh, Bani, Mittin, and Sat(ish). Others are still “friends”, but you enjoy hanging out with them. This makes things much easier for me coz I am least worried about you when I’m in dance class. I know you’ll be fine. You make my life easy.

A few months ago, it hit me how independent you’ve become.

Like the other day, you were trying to Potty train me. You wanted to hold my hand and guide me 😊 That was hilarious and we both burst into laughter.

You don’t need me for everything anymore, and that’s hard on a mom. I thought parenting would get easier…it has in many ways, but sometimes I miss the days when you couldn’t do anything without me. Seeing you grow into this well-mannered, kind-hearted person, loving preschool, making friends on your own, developing your own identity, your own jokes, your own laugh, a great imagination and ambition to try to do everything yourself… I love the person you’ve become, but can you slow down a little?

The thing about you that’s never changed is your excitement over everyday things, like “green Juice”. You’ve had that every day since you were 1 year old, yet still react like it’s the first time. You have what we call your “excited face” and it’s truly the best. It’s the same excitement when I come to pick you up from daycare. You run towards me and your first words are, “Mom, Green juice and chocolate?”

Last night we both curled up in your bed, read bed time stories, sang songs, and you fell asleep on my belly. I don’t always allow this, but I make exceptions when you aren’t feeling too well or are really in need of some extra cuddles. Or if I’m in need of some extra cuddles. It’s mostly latter than former. You are so snuggly and sweet.

Today, you’re getting wishes from across the world and it makes me very emotional. How else are you supposed to feel when people celebrate, cherish and marvel at the love of your life? You are already a giver, my love, and I want you to remember that there’s no religion bigger than “LOVE”. And that’s how I wish to raise you. Your religion is Love.

My hope for you this next year, is that you continue to explore the things you love and try new things. I hope you keep making more friends and show the world how bright your light shines. I’m excited to see how much you learn and hear more of what you’re thinking about.

Everyone we know mentions how sweet you are, and I hope you never lose that. I hope you grow up to be a polite, brilliant, handsome young man who is kind to others.

I’m so proud to be your mommy. I feel so lucky that you’re my son. Even though you give me a run for my money sometimes, but you have so much joy just bursting out of you all the time. You are the perfect little boy for me, and for that I’m so thankful.

Know that I’m always here for you, and I love you more than you know! And you know what? No matter how big you get, you’ll always be my baby.

With love from the bottom of my heart,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Celebrating Homeless Kids

How is any gift, or a birthday cake or a party enough to display to the piece of your heart the enormous amount of love that you carry for him? As we sat down to plan his extravagant birthday party, think of a theme that he’ll enjoy the most, and craft our way through it, we weren’t oblivious of the fact that there will be many kids who won’t celebrate birthdays this year. Their parents won’t have a home to gather all their loved ones in, or they won’t have enough money to buy a cake or present. They won’t be able to host a party, let alone think of a “theme”. We thought of those homeless kids in shelter who probably won’t cut a birthday cake this year or make a wish while blowing birthday candles. It sank our hearts to know that these kids will not be celebrated the way we want to celebrate our kid. 

Before I had a kid of my own, I had never felt so deeply and emotionally about kids. It had never struck so many chords at once, and choked me up at the same time. I was happy with the very little contribution I was making to the furry world, until this torture called motherhood dawned upon me. Now, my view lens has shifted focus and I see kids as the best thing that ever happened to humanity.
Yup! Motherhood changes you. I consciously make every effort to be a better person. To be the person my kid thinks I am.

So for Ansh’s second birthday, we decided to celebrate the homeless kids at Mary’s Place. Because every kid deserves to be celebrated. It was one of the most nourishing experiences of my life. It was sheer bliss to witness those kids have a blast. Their innocence, their carefree and relaxed spirit, and their loud- burst-their-veins kinda laughs, made my heart swell with a million emotions.

There’s one instance that will make my day brighter every time I think of it. We were playing musical chairs, and at the end it was down to 3 kids. The mothers of these kids stood on the side and were cheering on for them, as if they were playing Olympics. There was a lot of hooting and screaming going on. As the music stopped a kid made his way to the winning chair, and he instantly exploded with happiness. Somewhat, still in disbelief, he raised his arms victoriously and cheered himself on with booming enthusiasm. It was beyond adorable to watch him celebrate his win in Musical Chairs, but what absolutely melted my heart, and teared me up was the reaction his mother displayed. She was ecstatic, over the moon elated, and I don’t have words for it. I’ll leave it for you guys to watch it here. Most rewarding moment

I feel so rewarded to watch a precious moment like this. As a mother of a fairly privileged kid, I sometimes forget how important it is to celebrate every moment, and make a huge deal about it. I am thankful for the reminder and I hope to carry it with me lifelong.