Tag Archives: love

Being REAL – The “Velveteen Rabbit” Way.

The slogans of  “Being Real”, “Being You” buzz around us more often these days. With a few quotes tweeted, some posts shared and by becoming part of the  forums of our choice – we think we are portraying our REAL selves. Honestly, being REAL (yes, the REAL in caps) ain’t that  easy in a world filled with “mirages of perfection”.

Sometimes when I feel lost on my quest to find answers, I take refuge in the timeless stories from my childhood, and these stories become my guiding stara guiding star that’s always reassuring and lights up to help me find my way. One such story is the children’s classic  “The Velveteen Rabbit” (written by  Margery Williams). Timeless as the book may be, it’s a story that speaks to our deepest anxieties about our quest for becoming REAL.

The story revolves around a stuffed toy – a velveteen rabbit that is gifted to a boy on Christmas. When rabbit is introduced in the boy’s nursery, he realizes that he is a simple toy among the myriad of toys that are more sophisticated than him – having moving parts and operate on switches and batteries. The poor little rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse – the oldest toy and hence the wisest one at the nursery.

Here is the piece of conversation between the velveteen rabbit and the skin horse that answers the question on “Being Real” in its most simple, yet profound way.


Velveteen Rabbit : What is REAL?

Skin Horse –Real isn’t how you are made, It’s a thing that happens to  you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.

Love makes us Real. The love for one self and for others is what makes us Real. When we allow ourselves to be deeply affected by someone we are in essence, becoming more “Real” through our openness. The best way to understand the word intimacy is to read it as “Into-Me-See” – When we allow someone to see ourselves, as we overcome the fear that our real selves is unlovable or not good enough – is when love grows. As someone put it – Love is the mutual beholding of one another’s realness.

Velveteen Rabbit – Does it hurt?

Skin Horse: Sometimes but when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.

Without our armor of pretence, we open ourselves to be disliked by some, ridiculed by others but only when we open up being ourselves  – true connections, creativity and meaningful life happens. Hence once you are “REAL”, you grow beyond the “hurts” from the ignorant few.

Velveteen Rabbit – Does it happen all at once, like being wound up or bit by bit?

Skin Horse – It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.

Being REAL is a process. It doesn’t happen all at once. It is a process that can be slow, painful, and hence doesn’t happen to everyone.

Skin Horse –

Once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

Once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.

True that! Once REAL, you can never be UGLY and you can never go back to being UNREAL again! And I sum it up with Colbie Caillat’s  soulful song – ” Take your make up off, let your hair down, take a breath, look into the mirror at yourself –  don’t you like you? Cause, I like you.” 


The Warmth in your Heart!

A letter to your Own Heart! From one loving Heart to another!

Just pause, maybe even for a second and feel the warmth in your Heart.

A warmth that belongs to All Life!

Some call it Gratitude, some Compassion and some Heart

That’s the most beautiful thing about Wisdom, Beauty, Truth and Love

 It doesn’t belong to any one of us.

It’s always from and for the bounty of Life

At the Feet of this Mystery of Life, as it reveals itself deeper and deeper,

I find Love at its very core,

I find myself utterly human, my very real insecurities, my constant battles,

The ever present tension of the world and helplessly so.

There is a strength in that,

In holding it all together and surrendering without fighting or succumbing.

An exquisite tenderness and freshness, moist eyes and hands grounded, as hard as iron.

The sooner we acknowledge that we’re failures at this thing called life,

The easier Grace can take over,

And take over it will. 

When things seem rough, and the absurdities of life seem to take control.

When all else fails..go to your heart.

In genuine surrender, just pause,

Maybe even for a second and feel the warmth of your heart.

That’ll do.

The “Andamen” Couple: Partners in Love and Work

Running a business with your life partner and pursuing a shared dream might sound like an idyllic dream. It definitely gives you the chance to build something from scratch, to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. But starting up a new venture does come with it’s own perils. Navigating through the rough terrains of starting a new venture together needs immense  mutual trust and a high level of maturity that is  respectful of each other during times of disagreements.

Let’s meet one such copreneurial couple –Siddharth & Satvika Suri . Siddharth is an adrenaline junkie, passionate photographer, ardent squash player and a complete world explorer.   Being a National tennis champion and a classical music singer are few of the many feathers on Satvika’s cap. Leaving  their jobs in the United States they started “Andamen” – weaving Indian stories on highest quality men’s wear.

SoulCafe: Tell us a bit about your “Jab we Met” story. Did you ever think about starting your own venture then?

It started in college – we were class mates, studying economic hons in St. Stephens. We started dating and a few years later we tied the knot. At the time we started dating and then even when we got married, we had no plans of working together – we were both happily working in very different businesses.

SoulCafe:  What inspired you both to leave your corporate jobs in the United States and start your own venture – “Andamen” back in India?

It was during the second year of Siddharth’s MBA  at Wharton Business School that we conceptualized Andamen. This was in August 2014. The idea was to build a modern Indian luxury men’s  brand with a truly Indian soul that fuses our textiles and stories with global fashion. Inherent in this was a strong passion to dismiss the perception that India produces  ‘inferior’ or ‘mass’ or ‘craft’ quality fashion and cannot produce amongst the finest shirts in the world.

The toughest call was deciding whether we wanted to do this immediately or start Andamen after staying a few years more in the States. After many weeks of debates, discussions and arguments we decided that it’s the best that we bite the entrepreneurship bug immediately. We came back to India mid-2015, and our website launched by December 2016.

Soul Cafe: If in a sentence, you had to tell us – what does “Andamen” stand for ?

Just like the islands, Andamen is about venturing beyond the motherland. Exploring. Discovering the world. Yet in it its roots remaining resolutely Indian. It is that eternal duality of current and past, of Indian and Western, of unique and familiar that is in many ways a representation of today’s global contemporary Indian.

Soul Cafe: There is a story behind each Andamen shirt and a humungous attention to details. For instance, “The Gold String” shirt with vintage panels has over 2 lakh embroidered stitches and does take an incredible number of days to make. How do you decide on the stories/themes for your collection? 

Andamen-3.0-indus-147Our passion lies in bringing the beauty of Indian stories, traditions, patterns and techniques closer to the modern Indian man by making it more relevant for him. Like the stones of ancient Varanasi, every shirt in our Heritage Collection has a meaningful story behind it. The design and story telling process starts 9-12 months before the collection launches. Our design lead Amit, Siddharth and I brainstorm over various themes and finally pick out one that we are most excited about. From there we start making a mood board which involves research, talking to people, travel if required.

Soul Cafe: At a superficial level, spouse as business partner sounds like a dream – you work together, play together, and never have to be apart. In reality, what are some of the practical challenges when spouses collaborate on a business venture?

Entrepreneurship is hard. Start-ups, especially so. There are many bad days for every good day. On bad days, we’re in the same cycle together.

We’ve gone through long, tough periods at work together,  so it gets very challenging to lift each other’s spirits and motivate one another. 

It’s also tough to manage egos and taking final calls. Even though we have clear role separations, I head marketing and communication. Sid heads ops and finance, the web team and product – we end up collaborating a lot. During disagreements it’s hard to let go of egos. It’s even harder to not bring fights back home.

Soul Cafe: Do you think it’s important for entrepreneur couples to know how to turn off the business switch and enjoy their personal lives once in a while?

Yes for sure!  We keep taking mini-holidays once a quarter so that we get time to switch off. But trying  to separate work and personal lives when you’re working together as founders in a start-up is, which is like a baby of yours is impossible.

We don’t try to achieve work-life balance. Rather than segregating the two we embrace it and enjoy the fact that we are always available and can brainstorm till wee hours of the night and on weekends.

 For us, personal and professional spaces have become very intertwined. I love that I can just chat with Siddharth on mundane home things like dinners, plumbers, electricians, etc. in office.

Soul Cafe: How do you handle disagreements as business partners and make sure it doesn’t seep into your personal relationship?

We have one rule on arguments:  don’t sleep over them.

It’s usually not easy and it always means giving up egos and finding a middle ground but by and large, this rule has been worth following. At work, we have complimentary skill sets and manage very different areas. We’ve set up rules on hierarchy basis those for ourselves so that when there is conflict, we know how to resolve it. Rather than our professional relation hampering our personal relationship, which is how we’ve most often heard it to be, we’ve actually experienced that our professional relation has enhanced our personal one. We’ve learnt how to resolve personal conflicts in a less emotional and more practical way. 

Soul Cafe: How have your relationship evolved after taking the entrepreneurial journey? What are the perks of working together?

Working together has made us so much more efficient. It’s also increased the respect we have for one another. Because we have different skill sets, we depend so much on each other and that creates a lot  of respect, patience and understanding.

Soul Cafe: Entrepreneurship is an extremely challenging path to choose in itself and when spouses become business partners the personal and professional spaces become very intertwined. What would be your piece of advice to couples who plan to get into business together?

It’s a simple thing – but it’s quite hard to do. Our advice is to always respect each other and have one another’s back – especially in front of your team. Take arguments out of the work place and resolve them fast.

Entrepreneurship is a hard journey – don’t make it harder by carrying on arguments!

Soul Cafe: Tell us about your upcoming collection – the story, the inspiration behind it.

The 2017 Heritage Collection, both for Spring Summer and Autumn Winter is titled  ‘Indus – Call of the Lost Age’. It recalls the legend of the Indus civilization. The tight range of shirts  capture intricate Indus seals, unsolved scriptures, mysterious sculptures and important historic elements like ‘The Great Bath’. All of this is designed in a very modern, minimalistic way so that it appeals to the new and emerging design sensibilities of the young, confident, globe travelling Indian.

indus collection

We wish this soulful  couple all the success with their upcoming collection and future growth. They surely makes us believe that  – couples who work together, stay soulful together!


www.SoulCafe.co.in – A Long Term Soul Relationship starts here.

Love as a way of Life

We all have our notions, our definitions or even a vague picture of how love is supposed to be. Come February and this sickness suddenly spreads and heightens it’s fold. It’s like somebody from above opens a can of “Love,” air freshener and sprays it all on us … Long enough to last a month, I guess.

For me, love isn’t just an emotion or a mere feeling, its a way of life. It’s not just those moments that blow my mind away or that time when he cuddles next to me , after a long, dreary day.

Love is the universe for me … I experience it in the smallest and the most infinite forms , separately and yet intertwined. For when my mother cooks my favorite food to when I help an elderly person to their car . It’s the call my child would rant across the house with, in order to get my attention or the time my boss calls me in the middle of my holidays to ask me something that slipped his mind . It’s all love.

Myriad forms, varied temperaments but yet making you feel so close , so inherently important in this vast world.

People call me vain, because I love myself so much. Little do they know that self-love is the start of every form of love that exists. If you cannot appreciate your own existence, your vices & your uniqueness, you will never be able to expand your horizons to others and see the love in them .

My friends often also have this notion that love only stands for togetherness .

Baahhh Humbug!!!

Fear, Anger, Anxiety, Surprise, Shock, Sadness, they are all… all an amalgamation which form the crux of this 4 letter word. For me, the most important being sadness. If you’ve laid your hands on the movie, “Inside Out,” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Sadness is the most vulnerable part of love. It brings out the beauty within our hearts & exposes our innermost desires in the most simple way possible. But not through words, if that’s what you’re thinking. Sadness leads to love, you can say….at-least self-love. You decipher your self , you understand, you experience & you further envision . If you are fully able to open your heart & accept melancholy as a part of yourself, love isn’t far away.

If you are fully able to open your heart & accept melancholy as a part of yourself, love isn’t far away

One day my friend Lalit asked me, “Who is that one person I can go to when all I need is love & maybe some support.”

I just showed him the mirror. 😊

Always remember that love will never knock at your door, you have to keep those doors wide open & love will gently sway within. The best feeling is when you don’t realize you’re falling for someone. It’s the most beautiful phase so please, please live it to the fullest.

Lastly, not every love ends at marriage, some begin with it too.
Let’s stop relating love & marriage together…. They might be important but they are not meant to be together always.

I pray that we all are always in love. No matter with what, but in love & in all purity.

Being my own Beloved

What is my belief about love? ” Love is when you want other’s happiness as your own” – I used to believe this to be true about love. As I dwell over this thought to get  to the core of my belief system, I realize that every time I think of love it’s always about the “other”.

We as kids, are raised to believe that “love” is only true when the “other” is present. I assume many of us believe that the only way we can express love  is through someone other than ourselves. This means  “love” only exists or has value if there is a significant “other”.  Would that mean if there is no significant “other”,  I am devoid of love? Should Valentines day be the reminder of a loveless life in the absence of a significant “other”? I guess not because love is  what we are all made of – the source of love is within us.

If I believe that this beautiful feeling of “love” is mine, and that “I”, myself of all people deserve my love as much as the ones I love, this world around me will become a fuzzy -mushy place to live in.


When we understand that the source of love and happiness is within us and start loving ourselves, we then stop looking out for the “other half”.  Being in a relationship is then not about trying to fill any void but about sharing the love we already experience within ourselves. That for me is a complete union of two souls, heaven of two independent beings, who are so comfortable in their own skin. We will heal ourselves and also heal each other.

It is time to question our inner dialogue about love. Thus, this  Valentines – Love yourself and gift yourself the love which completes YOU.

There is a beautiful adage “I will take care of me for you and you will take care of you for me”.  So do remember, to say “I love me” on Valentines Day while you say “I love you”.


About the Author:
Avni Gandhi Varma: is a Grooming and Etiquette consultant for various Beauty Pageants, Individuals and corporates. She is also a certified Clinical hypnotherapist and runs her own practice in Mumbai under the banner: transformwithavni.

The Best Gift this V Day – “Your Presence”


V Day is around the corner – and there is no way we would miss it. Each retail outlet, each ad on Facebook, each e-commerce campaign thrust upon us will remind us of this every second, paint us with a little bit of guilt, pep us up with a little bit of anticipation, stress us out on getting it right. Or let’s assume for a moment that we hardly care for this retail driven gimmick. Fact is, V Day is one of the top three spending events in India – so the drama is definitely on.

But why are we doing it even more than ever before? Do we want to believe that we express our emotions a lot more now (which is for sure good), or are we compensating for our inability of being fully present in a relationship with a day of splurging?

Being fully present in a relationship – how hard is that? Is it too much of an ask for a generation that boasts about being busy, being multi-taskers and virtually connected all the time? We take pride in “being busy” so much so that being busy has become a confirmation of our worthiness. Relationships sometime gets lost in our long “to-do” list – even when it’s in the list, it’s multi-tasked with many other items on the list. It’s like our email box cluttered with ads and offers we signed up (or never signed up) for and an important email that’s lost in this clutter. Unless this email is marked as “important”, and the useless clutter marked as “spam” – it’s easy to miss that one email that you were supposed to read and respond on priority.

Busyness is the new age anesthesia.  (Anesthesia is defined as a temporary state consisting of unconsciousness, loss of memory, lack of pain, and muscle relaxation.) But let’s remind ourselves that anesthesia needs to be a temporary state.

Busyness shouldn’t numb us from our moments of love, self-realization and sense of everyday wonder. Our worth is not defined by our “busyness”, but our lives are defined by the quality of those moments that we truly “live” and cherish. Our relationships are less defined by the materialistic splurge, and more by the attention we give to the relationship.

We are a generation of “technologically connected” – it keeps us connected with a multitude of people like never before. But, is it always about mindful connections?  May be not – and that’s because even when technology celebrates connectedness, it encourages retreat, it makes it easier to avoid the emotional work of “being present”. So “emoticons” when you really need a hug, an LOL when you actually want to hear a burst of laughter. As a “digital migrant” I might be over exaggerating this phenomenon of being connected far less emotionally. May be digital migrants are still adjusting to the digital way of life. The “digital natives” would be way more comfortable living constantly digitally connected. They would be probably more “settled” in the digitally connected world, and would learn where to draw the lines.

Like the feeling of worthiness, an equally contributing factor to “created busyness” is the “fear of vulnerability”. We try to numb our vulnerabilities by being busy. When people say “I’m too busy for a relationship” – unconsciously are we trying to numb some of our vulnerabilities? As research professor Brene Brown beautifully puts it as part of her extensive research on vulnerability and what we need to understand is that  – “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” 

We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions; we also numb the positive emotions. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. Our strength is in our acceptance of our vulnerability.

If you close your eyes and recall times that are very clear in your memory without the aid of photographs, videos, checking old Facebook posts – you would clearly recall each and every bit of the moments when you were fully present, the moments you were vulnerable and the moment of mindfulness.

This my friend, is the greatest treasure each one of us would ultimately have. So, in the midst of the clutter let the V Day remind us to – Pause, Feel, Savor and be Present!

Zen and the art of soul love

I once read online that John Lennon, the author of the song “All you need is love” was a horrible person. He abused his two wives and mistreated his kids and was known for his lousy and arrogant behavior. And many years later, Trent R wrote a song called “Love is not enough” and he transformed his rebellious, black shaded self to a loving family man and gave up his alcohol addiction and drugs.

Yeah, it is true!

The world, for centuries and centuries, have tried to define love and profile it, scientifically, mathematically and philosophically tried to outline it. However, the mystery of love remains forever.  Love is mindfully immersing your soul into fullness of our beings and offering it in absolute submission to your significant other in a most sincere leap of faith.

Love is opening up and allowing your inner cores to bloom.

In order to love from your soul, and practice the art of Zen love, you need to first offer all of your incredible love to yourself. In Zen, there is a lot of importance placed to being one with one’s self, in harmony and equanimity and being able to foster one’s own ability to love themselves. Love is opening up and allowing your inner cores to bloom. This will require you to be mindful, be contemplative of your own shortcomings and unresolved inner issues. If you are not in love with your own self, you are allowing to be consumed by self-doubt, anger, fear, envy, insecurities, worries etc. With this sort of a personal conflict inside of your minds, it is hard to offer love in its purest form to others. Your relationship will bear the brunt of the unrest you cultivate inside of you.

You can embrace the world you live in with an honesty and feel comfortable in your skin being you! You are now able to love from the core of your being in the truest form.

If you are able to recognize this and cognitively alleviate yourself into a realm of happy thoughts and vibes, then you have fallen in love with yourself completely. You are able to be at home with yourself and your thoughts. You can embrace the world you live in with an honesty and feel comfortable in your skin being you! You are now able to love from the core of your being in the truest form. You are stronger inwardly and you are able to understand your partner. As you develop your inner self into conscious act of imbibing happiness into your life, you are attracting the universal forces of peace, understanding and joy.

If you can love yourself, and I don’t mean in a narcissistic way, but in a gentler, kinder manner, then you are able to out pour sincere emotions into all your relationships. You love from the core of the being. You are now in acceptance of yourself wholly. The crux of love is seated not just in love alone but in acceptance. Acceptance of your own selves and also the other person completely. When you accept wholeheartedly, then you form a bond that is reinforced with not just love, but respect, admiration, understanding and care. And the courage to let go of your own egos and insecurities and be open to the other in a wholesome manner.  This acceptance comes when you know what defines you and your happiness and being able to nurture that happiness. In that state of bliss within your core, you will be able grow a love that is strong, mature and true!  You are loving from your soul and not through your rational and logical self and from the inner seat of kindness and understanding.

True soul love comes from kindness, benevolence, wholesome understanding, balance of mind and heart, inner joy and equanimity of thoughts. With these, you will be able to provide happiness and sunshine to others. Unless you are happy from inside, unless you are kind and understanding, unless you are empathetic, you will not be able to accept yourself or your partner. By true acceptance and true inward looking, you can learn and perfect the art of loving.

Mindfulness offers you the resource to be still, take an intentional pause, do some soul searching and heal yourself. When you emerge stronger from inside, you have everything of yourself to offer your partner. When you connect with someone at this level, then you become “one”. There is no longer a separation of yours versus mine. Since you have mastered the understanding of your inner self and have a grip on your sufferings, you are able to relate 100% to the other. You will then no longer distinguish it as two beings but be one and the same. You learn to let go of fear and free your mind. You are illuminated from inside and you feel one with the eternity inside of your partner.

Your source of love never runs the risk of running out ever because it comes from the soul. You feel it every moment and you are mindfully committed in your relationships. Learning to love yourself will equip you with an ability to feel more joyful and confident, fearless, calm, kind and secure.

Your source of love never runs the risk of running out ever because it comes from the soul.

Nothing fortifies a relationship than being able to offer your wholesome understanding, empathy and a kind view. When these are present, then affection and love grows in leaps and bounds. You learn to not only nourish your own happiness but that of your partner as well. You need the courage to open your heart and confront your demons and chase them out to let angels of happiness reside within you. In that you are given a gift of love. The gift of soul love!

Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said,

“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”

This article, shared by a very dear friend of mine, shows that true love exists and it reinforces the soul connections and inner bonds. I was touched by this story. It made me sit up and embrace the profound truths of simple daily practices of meditation, contemplation and mindfulness to transform myself and be able to give my entire inner-core in love. I resolved all the more to keep up at my zen practice.

Wishing all soul café wanderlusts, a very happy, mindful, peaceful new year!