Category Archives: True Stories

Pursuing Dreams and Sustaining Love – With Juli and Vivek Cariappa

“Follow your dreams, Chase them, Grab them..” Oh! we have been numbed by these “inspirational quotes” that stares at us a zillion times as we lazily scroll our Instagram / Facebook feeds every day. So for a change let’s talk to a couple, who  actually rolled up their sleeves and moved on to pursue their dream that felt crazy enough to people around them. What kept them moving forward was their  shared dream, the will to work hard, the determination to live a life with conviction and a whole lot of love.

Juli and Vivek Cariappa met as students in Delhi in the 1980s.  In 1986 they left their well paying jobs in Delhi and moved to Heggadadevana Kote, located 60 kilometers from Mysore to become organic farmers.  Their Krac-A-Dawna farm now is spread across 40 acres where they grow over 35 different vegetables – many of which are supplied to luxury wildlife resort Orange County. They also produce grains, spices, cotton, and make their own jams, soaps, clothes and dyes. They also retail organic clothing on UK-based website Just Clean Cotton

SoulCafe spoke to this lovely duo on their shared dream, sustainable relationship and more. 

SoulCafe:  Tell us a bit about how your “organic” journey started? 

Juli & Vivek:   When we began, the word ‘organic’ referred to a term in organic chemistry in most people’s dictionary, there was no appreciation of things natural. 1980`s were the Green revolution days. Pesticides were good, we were told that one could not feed the world without chemicals, and they were good.  We knew what we didn’t want and so we set out to really define what we did. We wanted the freedom to do that. We wanted to be happy, we wanted to be at peace in a world that was full of strife, competition and inequality. We were ready to work hard for our chosen path. We searched for a way of life that would enable us to live with dignity and self respect on our own terms.

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SoulCafe: In 1986. When the two of you started off with 14 acres of land in Halasnur Village as novice farmers, were there self-doubts on how your dream is going to turn out?

Juli & Vivek : When you are living your dream there is no question of self doubt, as your dream becomes your reality. You and the dream/reality grow and develop organically. Doubts and questions become part of self realization. When you are 21 you don’t really know much about doubt, you don’t have enough experience to worry about doubt, especially when you are having a lot of fun!

SoulCafe: How did you ensure that your self-sustaining lifestyle remains economically viable?

Juli & Vivek : Well we had only a certain amount of money so if we wanted to make it work we had to make it viable within the lifestyle we chose. Viability is also about survival and so innovation is driven by necessity. We both had different skills and were open to acquiring more in the quest to make it work. Economic viability is an essential part of sustainability. We worked hard at keeping to a lifestyle that ensured sustainability. You could say that a lot of people we knew were very cynical about our ability to make it off a piece of land, especially coming from our background as city kids, that also made us more determined to make it work.

SoulCafe: How important is it to have a shared dream in a relationship?

Juli & Vivek: Essential! You can’t waste time and energy  justifying all you want to do. But you also have to have the space to discuss, argue. And the humility to some times bow to the other persons ideas and try something out even if you don’t agree. Our modern world is all about personal ego, that often ruins a good friendship and takes over the dream . Can`t let that happen because the dream is bigger than either of you. A shared dream is essential in a relationship that has to sustain and grow. How can one live another’s dream ? Without the dream being common ground how can there be equality in a relationship ?

A shared dream is essential in a relationship that has to sustain and grow. How can one live another’s dream ? Without the dream being common ground how can there be equality in a relationship ?

SoulCafe : “Sustainability” has been your theme in life. How do you keep love sustainable over the years?

Juli & Vivek:  Keep dancing! Sometimes together, sometimes on your own but always keeping the present real. “Here and now” keeps the love real enough to hold on to it. And love is always bigger than two people, it affects all that you create around you. In our case our children, the land, trees, animals, it is dynamic, ever-changing, bigger, way bigger than what the two “we” began as. Keeping the relationship fresh and exhilarating is essential. Have to keep in focus the fact that we both are here because this is where we want to be. Never get in the rut of taking the other for granted!

SoulCafe: Are there other interests that you both pursue?

Juli & Vivek: It’s difficult to explain to a non-farmer this thing of interests! That is a very reductionist term. Life abhors reductionism, our very nature dies when we box all our different aspects. Don’t know how to answer this question. Life is our interest  we pursue it . When you live a life not of your choice then you do need “other “interests to reduce the drudgery and the sense of alienation in your life. If on the other hand you are living your life on your terms , doing what you want, how you want, with whom you want , where you want; then where else would you rather be? Nowhere, than right here! We do have interests other than working on the farm though, Juli plays the flute, we read, write and Vivek finds opportunity anywhere to ride his bike !

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Life is our interest  we pursue it . When you live a life not of your choice then you do need “other “interests to reduce the drudgery and the sense of alienation in your life .

SoulCafe: What were the advantages and challenges with home schooling the kids and raising them close to nature away from the Urban lifestyle?

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Juli & Vivek: Being away from the pressures and the telescopic -judgmental view of urban living, we could teach them about life in a very different way. Experiential teaching, as we worked I think made them very different in some fundamental ways. But you will have to ask them. We spent a lot of time with them and could also become more than parents, more like friends. That was sometimes confusing for them, where to draw the boundaries, but then every life has its challenges. All kids at some point compare themselves with others. To a certain extent we could shape their value systems, keep inessentials out of the picture like caste and religion.  Our two sons are farming and our daughter lives in Bangalore working in a marketing job.

SoulCafe: Do you think as a society we are now more receptive to people pursuing their dreams than we were 30 years ago?

Juli & Vivek: Difficult to say. There are more options probably and self-employment is not so strange nowadays but dreams have to be themselves re-evaluated. There is so much virtual reality today, that people live with every day, that its difficult for people to distinguish between that and a dream to make a life. Things are too much at a touch of a button, and if you don’t have to work hard for it, its easy to lose interest, so easy to take things for granted, to keep working at it is tougher .

SoulCafe: You both are among the few who have tried to make the world adjust to your dreams. What would you tell the youngsters who are dwindling between their dreams, and comforts of a stable lifestyle?

Dignity, self respect, peace and satisfaction do not come from a big bank balance . The young need to look beyond greed, ignorance , fear and guilt.

Juli & Vivek:  You have to get out there and do it. Stability is something your parents might want for you but its not the stuff that makes dreams come true. Unless you live it, fight for it, how will it become yours? Often fighting yourself for the easy way out is the hardest thing. Life is easier materially these days and that is what people value, but its not the stuff of dreams. Life is made of failures that teach you and successes that make you reach higher. It is their world view that the young need to change. Cosmetically being different is neither enabling nor self defining. the change has to be from the inside . There is where today the young fear to look . Dignity, self respect, peace and satisfaction  do not come from a big bank balance.The young need to look beyond greed , ignorance, fear and guilt.

Amen! Thanks a lot Juli and Vivek for this Soulful conversation!

Here is a beautiful video on Juli & Vivek’s  organic life.

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“Bachelor Girls”- In conversation with filmmaker Shikha Makan

Shikha Makan is a filmmaker and writer. She is also a prominent ad-film maker in India and  is one of the few women directors to have lent her craft to the ‘automobile/bike’ category. Her short experimental film “Linger” was part of the festival circuit in 2011.

SoulCafe caught up with Shikha to talk about her latest feature length documentary “Bachelor Girls” which  raises an important question about freedom of women in urban India, in the wake of housing discrimination faced by single women in Mumbai.

SoulCafeWhat is your inspiration behind making a documentary on this topic?

Shikha: It began with a personal experience that translated into a search for reasons, and led up to unraveling this issue in a film. I am an ad-film director but for me making a film on realities of single women facing housing discrimination felt a very important thing to do. It was not just to raise a voice against it, but also to throw light on our social attitudes that continues to look at women from a ‘gendered’ perspective, even in 21st century urban India. This unveils an important fact, that our society is negating the journeys of women into independence and self-reliance, by such discrimination. With the news of the film traveling across mediums, the issue has sparked a debate, the way it should have and I am glad that we are speaking about it.

SoulCafeWhat were your biggest challenges in making this documentary?

Shikha: Once I started researching for the film, I found so many resonating, stories of women, who came into the city, from various places in pursuit of their careers, and were denied a space to live. So finding stories wasn’t the most difficult part, but convincing them to share on camera was, at times. I understand the reservations of those women who chose not to speak. Real estate professionals and housing society members were skeptical too, and refused mostly.

I strongly feel that Indian society has not evolved at the same pace Indian women have in redefining their identities.

SoulCafe: A recent survey showed that there are now 71 million single women in India which is a 39 % increase over the past decade. Do you think the society as a whole still needs to come in terms with the economic freedom of the modern Indian women?

Shikha: Absolutely yes. I strongly feel that Indian society has not evolved at the same pace Indian women have in redefining their identities. Today people may opt to remain single out of choice, but in case of women it comes with a big price. Even if she is urban, educated and in control of her life, for the society she is not good enough, without a ‘care-taker’.This is a clear paradox, as on one hand we exalt the freedom and empowerment of women, and on the other hand, reject the very empowered women, when she is at our doorstep looking for a roof above her head. I also think there is a complete absence of dialogue in our understanding of traditional vs modern today. We are becoming a modern society but are not willing to look at the challenges in the transition. We just find our comforts in passing judgments and labeling things.

We are becoming a modern society but are not willing to look at the challenges in the transition.

SoulCafe: Isn’t it equally difficult for urban single men to find rented house/apartments?  How do you think it’s different for single women?

Shikha: In the course of my research I did come across many single boys/men speaking of not finding homes. But men never get viewed through a ‘gendered’ prism. No one questions their clothes, call them names, slut shame, or wonder who is their care-taker. For a woman it’s a double whammy, first you are woman, and alone, hence not in line with what society expects of you and if you protest, then you are dismissed as a wreck and a troublemaker. Having said that all kinds of discrimination need to be questioned. My film is a human story, though I have taken a woman’s voice. And it really speaks largely about the way we treat each other in our society.

My film is a human story, though I have taken a woman’s voice. And it really speaks largely about the way we treat each other in our society.

SoulCafe: Nowadays, from watches to washing machines, almost every product has been coming up with “empowerment” ads that feature strong, independent women who make their own decisions and live a life in their own terms. In reality how supportive is the Indian urban ecosystem for the growing number of strong, independent, upward moving single women?

Shikha: That is where the dichotomy lies. Today, in Indian advertising, ‘Women Empowerment’ may be as fashionable as it can be effective. But I want to ask, if we have equal opportunities for women? Are women getting paid equally? Is our system open minded to seeing more women take on assertive and top positions in leading professional industries? Urban women will tell you stories of discrimination at all levels. Along with the information about emancipation and equality, we also need to sensitize people through education, in the way we bring up our children, and very importantly in the way we uphold basic human values. Our Urban ecosystem is in a state of flux and chaos, where consumerism is driving ideas of who we want to be. There are merits in such movements but we also need to introspect and look within. I am not sure if we have a culture that encourages questioning power and authority and finding constructive solutions. At the seat of power, unfortunately Patriarchy continues to rule.

SoulCafe: With recent Bollywood releases like PINK bringing to light social issues pertaining to single women in India, do you think the mainstream movie industry is ready for a change?

Shikha: I think mainstream Indian Cinema time and again has been making films on women’s issues. Though percentage of such films comparatively continues to remain low. The interesting part is that the subjects are becoming more uninhibited, bolder and in the face. I haven’t seen Pink yet, but I certainly hope that it will have some social impact.

I think the first big step towards making a change is to begin ‘talking’ about a problem and ‘accept’ that it exists.

SoulCafe: With “Bachelor Girls” getting released, what is it that you truly hope for?

Shikha: I hope I am able to release the film on an online platform soon, so that more and more people are able to see it. I am also holding a series of private screenings so we can carry the discussions forward. I think the first big step towards making a change is to begin ‘talking’ about a problem and ‘accept’ that it exists. Bachelor Girls is hopefully and positively moving to achieve that.

The film will be screened in Bangalore soon. For updates please check  Bachelor Girls Facebook page.

We wish you the very best with “Bachelor Girls” and hoping to see more such films that bring to light issues which need open discussions.

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Photo credit : Riva Bubber

UNDEFINED

8th of December 2015. It is her wedding day. Sandy was helping Divyakshi to wear her white and golden embroidered “pat-mekhela-chador”. She looked serine as the first ray of sun-light after her bath but, her eyes were restless. They were searching for someone. I asked her, “Divyakshi what’s the matter? Is something bothering you, dear?Sayar’s Divya just looked towards us and shook her head in dis-agreement. But her mirror (the eyes) witnessed her lie.

With trembling fingers Divyakshi placed “sindoor” the symbol of her transformation from lady to womanhood over her forehead. I left the room & saw the dark handsome guy with an average height, waiting eagerly. He was sitting all alone and so I joined him.

“I cannot wait. Can you manage Joy?”, he said. Placing my right hand over his shoulder I said smiling, “Will give it a try”.

“It’s getting difficult for me. Will you please?” saying so he took my hands within his and warmly pressed them. His head still bowed down. I stood up and left the room in silence.

We had been friends from the first days of our graduation. It has almost been 10 years. We all have gone separate ways, but still today when we meet it seems nothing has changed in between us. It feels like a complete time-lapse.

Sayar had made a complete arrangement of proposing Divyakshi. Being the first relationship of our batch the complete batch was super excited. Finally, when they were left in the midst of the island “Umananda”, Sayar kneeled on his knee and proposed Divyakshi in a full filmy manner with his famous sayari rehearsed by him thousands of times before us, “ Mera dil ek mandir hai; sTum uski murat ho; Khuda kassam tum bohot khubsoorat ho- My heart is a temple, You are the idol within ,By God’s grace you are the most beautiful.”

A roller coaster of excitement pounded in every heart of the college for Divyakshi took almost a month to reply to Sayar’s proposal.  Meanwhile, the rumor was spread ‘Sayar” leaving the college for unknown reasons. This news didn’t take long to reach Divyakshi’s ears. She decided to reply the proposal.

Our batch’s fresher’s meet day. After the team’s dance performance on “A.R. Rahman’s Vande Mataram” Divyakshi & ‘Sayar’ were left alone in the green room. No one knew what was going on within the room. Finally, after ten minutes ‘Sayar’ came out with a gloomy face.

“Hey did she accept your proposal?”, we asked him eagerly.

He remained silent and just surpassed us without uttering a single gesture. Taken as a dis-approval of the proposal disheartened we left for our hostels.

We felt defeated as the “jugad” done for Sayar & Divyakshi in the past 1 and ½ months done by us had gone in vein.

Within the next few days puja vacations were to start. Among all the excitement of leaving for home after a long time somewhere the proposal story of Divyakshi and ‘Sayar’ was forgotten.

Breaking news from our college campus after puja holidays, “Sayar & Divyakshi hitched up”. It was party all around. “Cutest Couple” was the name adored to them. All around the campus the only gossip was about this couple. They were teased by seniors adored by juniors and loved by batch mates.

A year passed by. It was Divyakshi’s birthday. We the “Gang of Eight Evilest” hanged together at the restura “La Fista”. Sayar was to throw the party for his better half. The food was ordered.

This long pause of food’s arrival is the most tempting thing always. So, in order to kill this unappeasable time the oddest game of all, “Truth & Dare” was played by us. A beer can was used to nominate the turns. Some chose dare & some the truth. At one moment of the game we got so involved that we started choosing only truth.

It was my turn now. The question was for Divyakshi, “How do you look your relationship with Sayar? Is it love or just mere attraction?”  The only reason behind asking the question was Sayar. He was a lucky go happy guy who shared every tit-bit with us and was very serious about his relationship with Divya aka Divyakshi .Whereas Divyakshi shared only room with us not her emotions.

Divyakshi was darn upset with my question. Some of my friends were with me & some against me. By the time we returned to our room each one of my roomies were dead against me except Sandy who thought that although my question was brutal yet it was true.

This incident was buried somewhere in the deserts of the past.

Sandy and I returned completing our Post-grads. We decided to have a get together of the “Gang of Eight Evilest” at our famous “adda place” “La Fista”.We reunited again. Everyone was happy & excited. Divyakshi & Sayar came too. We all were meeting after almost five long years. We had grown more matured but the madness prevailed. We talked laughed and quarreled. Time lapsed back.

As evening passed, Sayar was requested to spell one of his sayaris. Although at first he didn’t want to but then he spoke, “App meri zindagi me thi to meri bagon me ful hi ful the, Par jab se aap ruth gaye mano bahar hi humse ruth gaaye, Gairo ne to chor hi diya tha; Aapne v saath chor gaaye…Kante to zindegi me kam nahi thee Ki aab Rab v hamare duwayon se ruth gaaye, Janemaan jabse aap hamse chuth gaaye- When you were in my life there were beautiful flowers in my garden, But from the day you got angry over me even the flowers are angry over me. The unknown people had left me long ago and even my near & dear ones had left me. There were no fewer thrones in my life that even The Almighty has stopped hearing my prayers, my beloved from the day I had lost you”.

It was then we realized “Sayar & Divyakshi had a break-up”. The situation turned tensed and sensitive.

Suddenly, Sayar got up to leave.

Divyakshi got up too & holding Sayar’s hand said, “Wait, have loads to talk about”.

Sayar hesitated,” No, I am getting late, must leave”.

Divyakshi replied smiling, “This must have been my line”.

Through the severe pain of emotions a smile escaped from Sayar’s lips.

He didn’t turn back and said, “Some other time dear, not today this isn’t the right time and situation. You look beautiful wearing my favorite color blue & my life is still in Blues”.

Sayar left and Divyakshi stood watching him leave. Tears escaped her big beautiful eyes as if they had been waiting to fall.

Sandy helped her to sit & I forwarded a glass of water which she finished almost in between the tears & gasp of deep breathes. After a long pause we started talking again.

Her eyes now turned to the best mirror to show how deeply scared she was as if something had ripped off from her life.

She spoke, “I never wanted to leave him .He was the one who had taught me what love was. Yes, Jazz you were right at first it was just a time pass sort of thing but then as time passed by I just couldn’t think my life without him”.

She heaved a deep breath and continued, “But then everyone has got a breaking point. He tried the best to keep our relationship alive. It was I who stepped back. Yes, yes I who stepped back”.Divyakshi was fueling with emotion. It seemed to me she was angry with herself. But we kept quiet and.

“I was selfish. Yes, I am selfish because I cannot dare to go against my family. My family who too means a lot to me even though it’s not perfect likes others. Yes, I am selfish because still today I miss him in every moment of my life. Yes, even today I want to feel the same with the partner whom I had chosen .Yes I am not afraid to say that I shall miss him all through-out my life.” Her anguish gushed out.

She cried aloud. She wept hard as if she wanted to repent for everything. Without thinking of the crowd she shred herself free from the shackles of gustiness. We watched her silently.

For the first time in these years of our friendship she had broken down. Tears rolled from her eyes and she re-spoke, “But then I had to choose between the two- my family & my love.”

She quivered with emotions, “I, I, I am not so bold to choose love. It, it, it was still in starting phase. God knows if I had taken the right decision”

“Throughout my life I have seen my mom & dad fight like animals who had also done love marriage. My childhood has gone through nightmares. I, I, I used to sleep with cotton plugged in my ears so that I cannot hear them quarrel.” She stammered.

“If love marriage means to fight everyday like my mom & dad then I don’t want that love. If love means insecurity everyday then I don’t want love. I face the brutality of love marriage everyday & I just don’t want that to re-happen in my life. I need security. Yes, if money is the security then I need that security.” She choked.

I passed a glass of water to her. With shivering hands Divyakshi somehow took a sip from the glass and respoke, “But, but I cannot live without Sayar. Yes, Yes I am selfish damn selfish. Hope someday you all forgive me for what I have done with you dear friend Sayar. I pray he gets the best girl in the world who shall heal all scars I had given to him and he forgets me for good for always.” Speaking her last words she left  hastily without waiting for us.It was then we understood the depression which our friends had passed through.

Our re-union had taken place almost two years back and today is 8th of December 2015. Today is Divyakshi’s marriage. Sandy & I have arrived with Sayar to witness the beautiful event. She is dressed ready to be someone’s bride but not Sayar’s. As promised to Sayar by me I brought Divyakshi.

Without saying a word Sayar embraced Divyakshi tight, kissed her softly on her forehead & whispered in her ears, “You look gorgeous, really gorgeous. Have a beautiful life ahead. Shall miss you, always and forever.”

Divyakshi hugged him back and said, “Don’t worry we shall meet again”.

Sayar didn’t answer but whispered, “Come with me. There is still time.”

Divyakshi hugged him more tightly and sighed; “Not now it isn’t possible.”

Somewhere within my heart I wished, “Go girl go, just disappear with him.”

Sayar heaved hard. Leaving Sayar’s embrace and adjusting her bindi with a fake smile Divyakshi said, “Do come to my new home”.

We started to leave & Sayar turned back to have a last look of his Divya. Sandy & I left them alone.

When he finally arrived to join us he said, “The last look of her is damn driving me crazy man. Her silence has always killed me. I could never get through the tough block of ice behind which she always hid her emotions. Hope she took the right decision.”

We trio, I Sandy & Sayar strove down to a long drive and after a long pause Sayar spoke, “ It’s not love anymore. No, no, no, I don’t want her in my life anymore but still I cannot see her with someone else.”

“You know she accepted the proposal of this guy with whom she is getting married the very next day we both broke our relationship. If she didn’t love me then why did she play with me for four long years?” This time too I and Sandy were the listeners.

Sayar swallowed a lump of emotions and re-spoke, “But then can one be into a relationship for four long years without being in love. Is it possible to carry forward an act for such long? Yes, I agree I made mistakes but then I, I tried hard to maintain the relationship. I was ready for sacrificing everything but then why did she step back. I do understand her limitations and her duty towards her family but how will she live in the drama she has got entangled into? God save her”, he prayed.

After a moment he smiled and said, “For he has saved me from her”. Sayar laughed hard but we knew it was just to cover his pain.

Within my mind some lines of Rabindranath Tagore started murmuring, “ Shokhi vabona kahare bole, Shokhi jatona kahare bole, tomra je bolo diboso rojoni valobasa valobasa, Sokhi valobasha kare koi , se ki keboli jatona moi,Se ki keboli chokher jol, Se ki keboli dukher aash, Loke tobe kore ki sukheri tore aamono dukhero aash-Oh my dear friend what is tension? Dear friend what is pain, you all sing all day & night about love and love, Oh my dear friend what is love. Is it so painful? Is it only tearful eyes? Is it only pain? Then why do people being in so much comfort want to get the taste of that pain”

And we trio drove along in silence for long. We stood by the road side of the national highway to Khanapara. It was around 12:30 a.m. Sayar brought three cups of tea for us and we tossed, “For a happy married life to Divyakshi”. Sandy added, “And Sayar get the girl with most beautiful heart as his life partner”.

Sayar whispered with damn gravity, “Pyala adha bhara hai ya adha khali, Pyala adha bhara hai ya adha khali, Yeh to dekhne wale ke upar me hai. Bus itna hi baan paya yaroo aage ki line banne waali hai”. Saying so he laughed & we both joined the group trying to help him soothe his pain a bit.

How much I wished that day the “Cutest Couple” gets hooked back together. Who was responsible for this Divyakshi or Sayar? Who had betrayed the emotions of the other?Were they not bold enough to break-off the social barrier, the communalism or was it mere luck oriented?  Why everything wasn’t picture perfect just like a movie? Why was I so helpless for not being able to support both of them soothing their pains? Why? Who was to be blamed? Why even being detached each wanted the good of the other? What is the name of this relation?

Sayar as if had listened the conversation of me with my soul whispered in my ears, “It’s Undefined, dear. I can never hate her neither can she ever forget me”.

Sayar continued, “I have realized that nothing can be picture perfect. Because, hopefully the greatest director of our lives has thought what should be the perfect in ones life’s cinema & still thennn”. We hummed together, “We have long long way to go before we say goodbye”.        

(This article was first published at – http://verseslife.blogspot.in/2016/04/undefined-relation.html)

 

 

Soul Cafe Fairy Tale Moment : Deepa – Sid

Our greatest joy comes from these Fairy Tale moments at Soul Cafe! Especially when we hear it directly from our Cafe Mates. These moments are our “Caffeine” that keeps us upbeat & kicking as we  move forward on our journey towards building Soul Relationships. Much love to you Deepa and Sid! Sharing your fairy tale moment with the world!
Hello Soul Cafe,
This is Deepa Sai writing to you from Chennai, India. Till April I had been a late twenties-single-something  who had been tired of all the online dating services India had to offer . I accidentally spotted Soul Cafe’s advertisement on Facebook. I really loved the tagline, “building soul relationships”.  While the other sites boasted of hooking up, hitching, romance or dating, I was appreciative of the fact that Soul Cafe believed in the idea of trying to create meaningful relationships among people. Having mastered  in Psychology and Social work, I was thoroughly impressed with Soul Cafe’s story which had it’s basis on Psychological studies and research, propagating the concept that people ought to bond over in-depth conversations, understand one another completely in order to understand if they are compatible with each other, instead of depending on superficial ideas like social or financial status or just physical appearances. While a lot of dating sites promoted the idea of short term relationships and sleazy affairs, I loved Soul Cafe’s take on building lasting relationships with people regardless of sex or location. I registered out of curiosity and I loved the concept so much. It was a very private space for me to express my feelings, interact with a lot of people on deeper perspectives and make friends.
I could hardly believe that I was going to meet my soulmate there in the next few days. Siddharth Iyer, owner of writeupcafe.com who had registered with Soul Cafe to find out how this online forum worked. He had posted a couple of pictures on Soul Cafe . My curiosity piqued and I found myself getting attracted to him . I checked his profile out, his blog and decided to  befriend him in various online platforms. I was afraid that he would not be a frequent visitor and would not know that I had requested  to be his friend. But I couldn’t find him on other platforms. Being a follower of his blog did not give me any significant advantage either as I would be labeled as just another reader, so I had my fingers crossed about this.
To my astonishment he did add me and we started exchanging messages on Soul Cafe. After a considerable number of days I gave  him my number and things rapidly escalated from there on. We met each other on May 8th. A month has passed since and I am betrothed to him. We would be married by the end of this year.
Siddharth and I wanted to express our gratitude to Soul Cafe for being the means to our beautiful miraculous fairy tale ending. We wish Soul Cafe all the very best and  hope that many more people find their soulmates there. As we part with our Soul Cafe accounts, it is on a happy note. Our experience has been memorable and we wish the same for its members as well.
Thank you for bringing that smile on our faces.
Yours truly,
Deepa and Siddharth
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Meet the couple who quit their jobs to embark on a transformational journey

Most of us fantasize about quitting our day jobs to listen to our inner calling – to pick our bags, jump on a caravan and head on a spontaneous backpack trip. And here we are – stuck in our cubicle, staring at our laptop screen and wondering what to cook or order for dinner. Let’s be practical – we have mortgages to pay and life ain’t any Imtiaz Ali movie (mostly) :).

People who follow such inner callings are indeed inspiring – and one such couple is  Saurav and Devapriya who published a book called “The Heat and Dust Project: The broke couple’s guide to Bharat” (part of a trilogy). It is a rollicking saga based on the true stories of a couple who quit their jobs, picked up their backpacks, traveled on a shoe string budget of Rs 500 per day  and experienced eccentric encounters over thousands of kilometers.

Saurav is a commentator on energy, security and geopolitics, contributes regularly to World Politics Review and The Diplomat.  His first book – The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power was published by Harper Collins in 2010  While Devapriya  is the author of two popular novels – The Vague Woman’s Handbook (2011) and The Weight Loss Club (2013).

SoulCafe spoke to this lovely duo on their journey,  the Heat & Dust Project and above all the transformation in their relationship.

SoulCafe“She wanted to write and he wanted to understand India that is Bharat and that was the birth of an idea – The Heat & Dust project.” Was the decision to quit your regular jobs, move out of the comfort zone that one is so used to that easy? What were the most difficult aspects that you had to convince each other?

” A decision such as this, is never easy. There is always the anxiety of having to leave a stable source of income. But it was a mutual decision. One that did not really involve convincing each other. We both knew it was a difficult decision to take, but also knew that it had to be done.”

SoulCafe -Should life be planned or should it be spontaneous? Who is the planner amongst you?

” Let us put it this way, life gives you just enough leeway to plan your own spontaneity. Of course, a larger corpus of savings before we left our jobs would have helped. (laughs).  But neither of us is a classic ‘Type A’ person and we have seen the limits of planning as well. Though during a journey such as this there has to be some semblance of planning, and I (Saurav) was the purveyor of that.”

SoulCafe – Has this extreme budget travel been your Ultimate Relationship Test? Did living in extreme budget constraints bring out the best and worst of each other?

“It certainly has been a major test of sorts. A tight budget naturally reduces the choices that one has in the material world and that leads to either compromise or conflict. I think our book documents instances of both. But when you take away the cushion money offers, it is then that you see the truth about a relationship whether good, bad or ugly.”

But when you take away the cushion money offers, it is then that you see the truth about a relationship whether good, bad or ugly.

SoulCafe – Has this experience changed your outlook to life- individually and collectively? How has this experience changed your relationship? Has it helped you see each other in a new light?

 “It has. We aren’t the same people anymore. We both find it difficult to settle down to the rhythms of city life. This experience has definitely brought us closer. We know that we have each other’s backs and that is fundamental to a relationship. Most importantly, this journey has made us respect each other more than we did before.”

We aren’t the same people anymore. We both find it difficult to settle down to the rhythms of city life.

SoulCafe – How different are your personalities and what are those key aspects that keep you together in difficult times?

“We are both similar at the core. But outwardly, Devapriya is an affable, even charming person. I am more of an introverted person, given to dark moods. But I guess the key aspect that keeps us together through thick and thin, is trust.”

SoulCafe – When you set out to travel, did you experience a plateau phase- in terms of the initial euphoria dying down, and finally coming to terms with reality? How did you support (or tear each other apart) during this phase? 

Oh we kept hitting troughs and crests throughout the journey. The breakneck pace that we inflicted upon ourselves ensured that kind of emotional movement. And we have documented this rather candidly in our book.”

SoulCafe – How important is personal space in your relationship? Was it put to test as you traveled together for so long?

 “I think this journey has actually helped us in that sphere. We can now share the same space while inhabiting our own little worlds without dissonance.”

SoulCafe – It’s fascinating to see backpacker couples on Instagram and read their blogs. How different is fantasy from reality?

I am sure what they put up on the internet is a reflection of reality. But so is whatever else they choose not to put up. Our book is more tuned to the layered experience that backpacking provides.”

SoulCafe – From a regular working couple to living a not so regular life – you have seen life transform. What would be your piece of advice for couples who are pondering over taking an offbeat path to pursue their passion?

Do it together. This journey is best undertaken together. And stick to whatever you have decided, together. There will be phases of intense anxiety, but that too shall pass.”

This journey is best undertaken together. And stick to whatever you have decided, together.

SoulCafe – The heat and dust project is the first book of the trilogy. What’s in store for the readers in the coming series?

The first installment of ‘The Heat and Dust Project’ series is called ‘The Broke Couple’s Guide to Bharat’ which is what you are referring to. The next book in the series is called ‘Man, Woman, Road’ and it chronicles a three month journey from Delhi to Kanyakumari via the length of India in the heat of summer. Believe me, nobody will be disappointed with what we have to share with that one.”

We wish this soulful  couple all the success with their up coming books in the series and also many more adventures in life. To read more on their project check out their website: http://www.theheatanddustproject.com/

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An Unspoken Relation

 

14th of February 2016. Almost 2:00 a.m, late night I wrapped study and thought of retiring to bed.

After the whole tiresome day I almost went to sleep, but, a vibration alerted me. I picked up my mobile. The husky voice spoke, “I am leaving. Always be happy. Shall miss you, dearie.” The phone hangs up. Shiver of emotions passed through my body. I crouched back on bed. Tossing throughout I remembered the time we had spent together.

‘It was during post-graduation days we both had met. He was dark-handsome guy of our class. Everyone called him Mono da. I being most talkative the weirdest natures of Mono grew both me & my bestie Sandy inquisitive about him, his quietness and his restless sad eyes.

During our educational tour to Gangtok we learnt from a close friend of Mono named Dipon that Mono had gone through a terrible breakup after being in a relationship. As friends we tried to ‘heal the pain’. Slowly, we four became good friends. Every soul in the university campus adored us. There wasn’t a single day when this group didn’t meet.

But, all of a sudden something went wrong. It was the end of our post-graduation days. Mono & Dipon stopped talking with us. Although Dipon dared to smile when we both passed by Mono didn’t even look towards us. Everyone started enquiring, what had gone wrong in between us? This freaked me & Sandy.

14th February 2011 – We decided to have an end to this drama and so waited for their arrival at Vasu’s tea stall, our once adda place.

Mono and Dipon arrived almost at 7’ in the evening. Although stunned, instead of running away they entered shop. Sensing my anger grow Sandy placed her hand over mine to calm me down. I kept quiet. Sandy with all patience asked, “What’s the matter, Mono? Why have you stopped talking?”

Mono stared towards us. In his husky voice he replied coldly, “To forbid my soul being re-scared. Losing my beloved friends who taught me to relive my life is even bigger than my past pains. This is an unspoken relationship ever experienced by me in life. I cannot bear the pain of losing it. It’s better to live with the pain before you both finally leave”.

Quietness prevailed. Almost after three months we sat together. Laughter of past had transformed to unknown emotional numbness. Unexplained silence prevailed. We wanted to speak our heart but were left dumfounded.

We did go separate ways and have never met again in the last five years from that evening onwards. Till today technology has kept us connected.

I prayed aloud, “May they be safe. May this ‘unspoken relationship’ be alive for ever. May we four re-meet & relive the moments we had spent.”

From doorway came the completion of my prayer, “Amen”. I saw Sandy standing and smiling. Behind her I saw the ray of hope ‘dawn’ peeping through the window pane.

 

 

A Love that Transforms, Transports and Transcends.

Having grown in a broken home (as in always getting caught in the cross fire of two ever-fighting parents), I always wondered (to the point of having no expectations whatsoever from a married partner) may be this is how it should be – we aren’t meant to be happy and peaceful. Just the way they keep repeating in several holy books – we are all sinners. We do not have the right to smile!

Being used to the heavily dominating ‘defense personal’ dad, it took years for both my brother and me to adjust and get ‘normalized’ in the society. And more importantly, take our own decisions – in matters that concern our lives or careers, especially life. It took me long years’ wisdom – that probably came with age or having faced death first-hand or both – to start loving life.

In 2008, just before I was about to go abroad for my higher studies, I met the most wonderful girl – for the second time. I had met her before (having been colleagues, briefly – but that was couple of years back). This time, I saw her in a completely different light and was surprised as where she was hiding all these years.

This time, I saw her in a completely different light and was surprised as where she was hiding all these years.

Back then, with every condition stacked against us, all we could do was to promise each other to wait till things get normal. And as we waited, she continued with her career here while I struggled with my student life there. Only thread that held us together was the will to stay committed to each other – as if we had something to prove to the world.

Our’s was a long distance relationship for most of the period. We would be on phone 24×7 (Thank God for ‘Top-up Calls’!), giving each other every little detail of our respective daily lives. Thinking up of all kinds of ‘stupid-to-the-world-but-special-to-us’ little surprises to keep our relation alive. We also wrote, more importantly. (I don’t understand when people say ‘I can’t write’ when I ask them to ‘write if you can’t talk’ – I mean we are only talking about pouring your heart out, not about writing a literary piece). Writing long letters/mails helped us to understand each other better than talking. And then we fought!

Every little squabble, every little argument, every little quarrel – brought us even closer – every time we stopped fighting and made up. We didn’t have eyes and ears for anything else. The relation to us was our very life.

I wouldn’t say we were alike. I was nothing like her. She always talked sense. I never even thought that way. She is smarter at managing finance. I am hopeless when it comes to saving money. She is much more grounded, I get excited easily. That’s an irony – considering the backgrounds we came from. Her household had a laid-back attitude towards everything in life. They mostly lived in the present. While we were brought up like it was a boarding school, and not a home – to us, my brother and me, school time was an escape. In her own thousand little ways, she complemented me the way I never expected would happen to me in my entire life!

In her own thousand little ways, she complemented me the way I never expected would happen to me in my entire life!

Let me add a little wisdom here. Most people don’t realize what they are talking about when they say we are quite alike in our tastes and interests – e.g. I have heard people quite immaturely quoting – we both have similar hobbies. Or, we like the same kind of movies. Or, this one’s epic – our favorite colors are the same! I don’t know if they really matter much – in a relationship. You can very well have different interests and still have a healthy relationship – this way you also get to give something new to your partner that they can’t have for themselves!

She gave importance to those very little things that I had importance for and the vice versa – probably that’s why we lasted so long. Even without any formal ties.

Now friends often ask me – how we managed to pull it off. That’s no secret as such but most people do manage to overlook these thing. It’s just that when together, your (combined) outlook or attitude towards life needs to be alike.

This is one thing I always tell anyone who care to listen is – to have a ‘fight’. To understand where the equation of your relationship lies, have an argument, lead that to a full-blown fight, sulk for a while, then try making up – what you get as a result is what is left of the relation!

I keep hearing people harping on love and passion and other stuff that attracted them towards each other. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But how long do you think would these last, without respect? I seriously feel respect is the booster that make us, try countless ways to continue falling in love with our own partner. Or, keep ourselves on toes to continually remain attractive for them – to keep the passion alive.

Respect is the booster that makes us, try countless ways to continue falling in love with our own partner.

When you have respect, you take care not to hurt each other. And if one gets hurt, its respect that makes you ‘empathize’. Because that’s when you realize the need to kiss and make up – every time you have an issue!

When my wife and I decided to get married in 2012, we had two choices before us – we could either waste our lives waiting endlessly for someone’s indecisiveness or we could build a happy life for ourselves and prove ourselves right.

To me, my marriage is definitely a blessing. And after all these years, I have (finally) made up my mind to have a laid back approach to view things. I have become calmer. I have learned to let go. What’s more, we are busy enjoying the new-found parenthood – yet another reason to thank each other countless more times!

Once, while we waited, I asked her why she was taking all these troubles, waiting for me, fighting the world. She said, ‘I am not waiting for you, but living because of you’. No one else had said or done anything like that before – let alone finding me okay enough to love me.

She said, ‘I am not waiting for you, but living because of you’. No one else had said or done anything like that before for me.

Friends who’ve known me for ages, even my brother, sometimes, tell me I have changed, a lot. I don’t feel any change about myself though. Probably because, when you change, you are usually the last one to know that.Well, if others do find me changed, then maybe I have. But I feel good about myself. I think I have come to believe in true love – a love that transforms, transports and transcends.