The Girl Who Moved Mountains

Chapter 1: The Reconstruction

8th April 2015

“Nurse! Nurse! Can you please help?”

“Nurse! Nurseee!”

The panting and screaming continued. Rachna had been woken up by the patient lying next to her who was crying out in desperation for a few sips of water. Thirty minutes, and still no signs of help!

Rachna had woken up with a startle because of the unbearable voices around her coupled with an excruciating pain in her leg. She couldn’t tell anymore if it was reality or a bad dream that was playing in loop. The last thing she remembered was asking a rather charming doctor “Is this the magic potion that will put me to sleep?” And there she was eight hours later, in an “Observation Ward”, an apparently conducive environment for patients. To Rachna, and presumably all the other patients, it felt like anything but that.

What was Rachna, a girl of 20, fresh of college doing in the observation ward of Apollo Hospital?

Back in High School, Rachna had been quite popular for dancing. With multiple choreographies under her belt, it was rather surprising that she had never performed a number in college. On 12th March 2015, Rachna and her entire class of BBA from the prestigious Christ University, Bangalore had decided to take a class trip to a resort called Mango Mist on the outskirts of the city. Their final adventure together had to be a memorable one! She wanted to be remembered as a great dancer, and thought why not perform for the first and last time for the class. Little did she know that the latter would be true in more than one sense.

Rachna’s mom would often tell her the story of how she started to walk when she was just 8 months. She was so quick, that it almost seemed like she learnt how to dance before she learnt how to walk. 20 years later, Rachna, in the middle of the circle formed by her classmates, was dancing to the hit “Dance Basanthi.” Have you heard the song “Pop goes my Heart!” from Music and Lyrics, that Hugh Grant ensures lingers in your mind for weeks to come? Well, with Rachna, something similar happened, only it wasn’t her heart but her leg. While performing one of her favorite moves, Rachna felt a sudden ‘POP’ in her knee, and collapsed.

In her mind she kept thinking ‘Who could have possibly hit me so hard with a cricket bat?’ ‘Was it a cricket bat or a soccer ball?’ ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t feel my leg!’ ‘Why isn’t anyone apologizing?’


Chapter 2: The Rise of a Badass Unicorn

15th September 2015

“Amma, nothing fits anymore! I don’t even like looking at myself in the mirror! This surgery has made me gain so much weight! Why did I have to be all adventurous!” exclaimed a furious Rachna

“Kannamma, if only you saw yourself the way I do, you will see that you are beautiful inside out!” chimed in her doting mother.

Rachna’s mom was her best friend. Rachna didn’t need a knight in shining armor, because her mom could rescue her from any situation! When Rachna was about five, her mother often read to her stories of Snow White, The Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel. Even after Rachna was able to read on her own, she would still insist that her mother read to her because she would enact it and make the characters come to life. Rapunzel was Rachna’s favourite. Having always been a fan of long hair, the fact that someone could use it to practically do anything always fascinated her. But coming back to the present day, Rachna like Rapunzel was confined to her own tower (her bedroom plus WiFi) because she was recovering from an Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Meniscus Reconstruction. Undergoing rehabilitation, Rachna was unable to walk without the help of a walking aid. And like Stitch said, she had her ‘Ohana’ (family) with her, who went to great ends to be her support system. One day, Rachna decided to watch Tangled, which was the Disney adaptation of Rapunzel and asked her mother to join. It warmed her heart to see how much her mother enjoyed it. She saw her childhood come back to life and wanted to hold on to the dear moment for years to come. But the real reason the movie moved her was Rapunzel’s sheer determination to change her situation.

“No, I won’t stop, for every minute of the rest of my life, I will fight.”

-Rapunzel

Rachna knew that the operation on her leg would mean her battle had just begun, but instead of dwelling on it, Rachna had to fight it. She knew that to make her leg heal faster and to be able to dance again, she first had to lose weight. And thanks to Rapunzel, she had just found a little faith, trust and Pixie Dust.

8th April 2016

1 Year post ACL Reconstruction and 4 months after she embarked on her fitness journey…

‘Don’t lose your mind, lose your weight’ by Rujuta Divekar had been lying in her bookshelf for the longest time. It took two ligament tears and one major surgery for Rachna to go and pick it up. And Thank God she did! She would wake up at 5 am, eat her banana, do that knee friendly work out for two hours and then plan and cook the rest of the meals for the day. She showed consistency not only in her fitness regime but made sure that she was self-driven in all the freelance work she was doing. Every project reflected her passion and zeal to learn new things. And just like Rapunzel, each day, she pushed herself a little harder. Day one was one abdominal crunch, day twenty was fifty. There was nothing that could stop her now because she realized the magic of using your mind to make things happen.


Chapter 3: 20 Pounds and 2 Companies

 

14th October 2017

 Rachna had just been awarded the “Superhost” status on Airbnb for the 5th time in a row. Airbnb (the disruptor of the travel industry) evaluates its hosts on a quarterly basis and provides a five – star rating to those hosts who excel in every aspect of enhancing a guest experience. Rachna was out doing herself each time in order to personalize the stay of every guest who stayed at her property. In June 2016, Rachna converted a villa that they had on the Nilgiris into a Bed and Breakfast and began hosting on Airbnb. To her surprise, the response was quite phenomenal. Being a business student, capitalizing on the opportunity came to her naturally.

Along with being a host, Rachna was doing a full – time job at a start-up based out of Hyderabad, India. During her time there, she was pushed out of her comfort zone to learn coding for websites, tools such as Bootstrap Studio (basically everything she had never heard the name of) and was able to follow her passion of creating content for the application that her team and her were working on. But not a day went when she gave up on her fitness. Nearly two years after she started it, Rachna was still cooking all her meals, working out and then walking to work. In her spare time, she was selling personalized greeting cards on Amazon.in.

To add to all the gratifying opportunities, the most significant one came from teaching children at government schools. Rachna was a volunteer for India Literacy Project and she would teach her beloved and enthusiastic students whatever she knew about art and craft. This made her realize, that Snow White was right, you really are the one who can fill the world with sunshine!

After recovering from her surgery, Rachna had promised herself that each day she would learn something new. And to everyone’s surprise, herself included, Rachna tried to make the best of everything she had, and today not only is she the proud owner of two companies, but she lost 20 pounds with a dysfunctional leg got into one of the top colleges for Hospitality in Switzerland. How did she do it you may ask?

Because “All dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”

-Walt Disney

And that’s how she became the girl who moved mountains (quite literally, from the Nilgiris to the Alps).


About the Author:

Rachna Ramesh currently resides in Bluche, Switzerland where she is pursuing her Master’s in Hospitality from Les Roches, Global Hospitality Education. Besides working on her dissertation, she loves to travel and wishes to do 25 countries before she turns 25. Her favorite past time is updating her fitness blog: https://artista2610blog.wordpress.com/, meeting new people, eating Dosas and finding ways to hunt down Indian Food in Europe. She truly believes that we can change the world one smile at a time. IMG_4684

 

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Live Well, Laugh Often!

“And will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)”

-Dr.Seuss

Before leaving for India, my parents got me the most thoughtful gift ever.

“500 ways to live in the moment” – Even if we all could just do one of them each day, we would start feeling the ripple effect of positivity in our lives.

16.08.16

First day in office.

I was off to a great start – Kala uncle being my neighbour , suggested we go together and I was looking forward to finally meeting everyone as my communication with all had been restricted to Skype over the past few months.

Also: I packed my Dabba(s)!

 

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Hopefully soon, I will get to a point where you are interested in my recipes! 😉

Isn’t it wonderful how the minute you are surrounded by some great people, good things follow ? I’m thanking my stars because I get to work with such great people everyday!

Whats amazing about working for a start up that’s run by incredible human beings who do everything to push their employees is the room they create for the growth of every individual. When you start working with them, you realize how far passion and hard work can take you.

Venkat sir, who currently resides in the US, believed in me and hired me based on a Skype call. Thanks to him, I rang in the new year (2016) with a job in hand! I had the chance of meeting him quite recently myself, and it’s an honor to work with someone who is the mind behind our application and so extremely down – to – earth.

A lot of us have the chance to witness a significant impact of a person in our lives, and they make you realize what your true potential is even when you are not aware of it yourself. Manmohan sir has come to be this person in my life. Its amazing how throughout his busy day, he always manages to find time to talk to me, listen to my chattering, and makes sure I leave the room only when I have learnt something new (its subtle, but impactful). A special thanks to him for believing in me and pushing me to do better each day!

An important message I want to convey from the above is ‘go out there and find this person.’ A lot of us move away from our homes to build something; to create an identity for ourselves. This journey can often be overwhelming and challenging, hence making it crucial to find people who can influence your life positively. Constantly seek for a mentor – someone who you can confide in and someone whose happiness comes from seeing you grow, someone who encourages and supports you, and most importantly guides you when you stumble.

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Just a gentle reminder…

The weeks that followed were equivalent to my ride on Formula Rossa. The days were going by too fast, and I wasn’t sure my pace of doing things were at par. But its essential to stop, breath and appreciate yourself once in a while. You are doing the best you can and you are only getting better at it.

Each day, I was making room for new learnings. Hyderabad was giving me so much to look forward to, I had a job I loved, I was a host on Airbnb, Artista was picking up its roots again. I even did a little something for my Munchkin’s first birthday! I cooked my own food, attended a wedding in Bangalore in the midst of it all, and really started to “Live in the Moment”

 

Until Of Course……

Happily Desi

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”

– Meister Eckhart

Jugaad!”

The first time I heard this word was in 2006, when my father used it while traveling from Delhi to Uttrakhand. Our car had broken down in the middle of nowhere and with a few phone calls to someone in a completely different city, we were able to arrange another car.

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Pictured: Jugaad Technology

Jugaad (Hack) has crept into all our lives, and in India especially, we indulge in Jugaad on a daily basis (from fixing clothes with safety pins to carrying fuel in water bottles), Juggad  is a talent that you are born with if you are Indian.

Which is exactly why it is always good to be back in India! Its the people. No matter where you go, you always have someone to look out for you.

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Once again, it was time for a Goodbye…..

The minute I stepped on the desi land, I was reminded of the hospitality that comes with returning to your country (I know, I know, I wasn’t even gone that long!)

Every decision has a driving force, and one of mine was Mr.Kala Satyanarayana (I will refer to him as uncle from here on). I must have done something right in my past to deserve him as my mentor. He is the most patient, kind and passionate person I have met. He has dedicated his life to helping others grow; he has such a significant impact on anyone who works with him, and all you really want to do is make him proud. I am one of those lucky people who gets to be on the receiving end of his ideals and work ethics and learn something new each day for which I am beyond grateful.

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Seen in picture: Uncle, my closest friend Sushmitha and the lovely Malathi aunty

The first time I met them was in 2006 when we had moved into the same apartments. Sushmitha and I have been thick as thieves since. But little did I know that someday I would be working with her dad. My very first day back in India started with uncle and aunty, because being the extremely benevolent people that they are, they had come to pick me up at the airport, got me to my home sweet home, followed by a feast that aunty had prepared for me! (You can see why my parents were so confident to send me back)

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Change in View

The next day was Independence day, so I had enough time to settle in, unpack and get ready before starting work (which obviously had to be used for catching up with my friends instead)

And just as expected my friends were checking up on me, and ensuring that there was no such thing as “lonely” when living alone.

I am not sure what amount of gratitude will be enough for this next one, but I am going to try to do justice to it.

If F.R.I.E.N.D.S did a version with families, we would fit right into it. This incredible family had moved in about a month before we left for Abu Dhabi, so we hardly got the chance to spend time together; but I think within a week we had made up for it. Preethi, Mohit, Ajji and Mitakshi(my Munchkin) live right across from me.

Preethi is the reason I know what its like to have a sister. She is such a beautiful and positive soul that you can’t even go a day without seeing her! (To this also add: Amazing chef and baker; Goodbye Diet Plans!) Every morning at 8 am Preethi would be at the doorstep with breakfast – because she can never come to terms with why someone would take all the effort to cook only for oneself!  She is my confidant, my partner in crime and my fellow TV show binge watcher, but above all I am so blessed that I have someone who goes out of their way to look out for me, always!

Mohit and Ajji instantly welcomed me into the family. I have honestly attended more of their family events than my own. Ajji would check up on me every couple of hours and she continues to do it even now. The icing on the cake is our little ball of sunshine: Munchkin. I can go on for days about her, but to sum it up – she truly, in every way possible lights up all of our lives.

And just like that within seconds all of them completely made me forget that I was going to be staying alone.

It was time for a big reality check though: Was I going to be able to prepare all of my 6-8 meals everyday and work out and make it on time for work? Well, I sure as hell was about to find out!

This post is dedicated to every single person who has played a role in my journey so far, I thank you for changing my life just by being such a precious part of it. A special thanks to my parents who spend every minute of their day believing in me and doing everything in their capacity to make my dreams come true. 

 

 

Brave Up!

“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.”

-Michelle Obama

England was good to me. Being back in Abu Dhabi meant it was time for a reality check and June and July turned out to be rather significant in evaluating my career and fitness goals.

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The Neighborhood

I was all geared to lose the English Breakfast and Nando’s feast that I had piled up on without any concern about the consequences; and like I said earlier – by all means go on a holiday but it can never be a holiday for healthy living. It is a permanent choice.

I felt like I had to start over, but this time I was more aware, more determined to achieve my goals. The key is to keep challenging yourself. If you can do 10 push-ups today, try 15 in the next couple of days. Remember: you are not competing with anyone but yourself. The entire journey should purely revolve around: YOU!  And since we are on it, make sure the target goes beyond just “Looking good”. We were all born extremely cute and we all grow up to be beautiful, pretty, handsome and all the uplifting adjectives. The focus should be on feeling fit and healthy, because then you feel great from within, and once that happens you automatically love everything about yourself. So I urge you to do things that make you happy and feel good (This wisdom did not come to me instantly, it took a lot of consoling from my parents and friends and understanding myself; so its ok to take that time, but trust me – it will be worth it once you realize the bigger picture of it)

Create your own happiness: 

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Make a vision board – or just anything with quotes that keep you motivated and help stay on track!
Run, Dance, sleep(as the T-shirt reads) or catch up with friends who support your journey

Or…. 

Eat some great wholesome food(I have my doubts about the last one)
 Just take your pick!

The Third Miracle:

I was in line with my goals, I did my work outs, I ate the right kind of food – the leg pain had reduced, but it did have its ways of showing up and when it did, it was the absolute worst. Whenever my leg was exposed to Air Conditioners it would aggravate. If you have ever visited UAE , you would know that the exposure to Sun is so minimal because right from your bathroom to the bus stand everything has centralized air conditioning. So all that artificial cold found its way to trouble my legs(torture would be more appropriate).

UK had been extremely cold too (for my standards) but I could layer up there and so did everyone else. To step out in 50 degrees Celsius, in Abu Dhabi with thermals on was not exactly pleasing. So I resorted to socks and shoes. Even at home, you would find me with leg warmers – all the time! (I wouldn’t deprive my parents of the AC obviously)

Finally, to an extent we had addressed my problem. And my left leg and right leg were competing  with each other to see who can hurt the most, so really there was only so much I could do (or so I thought to myself).

In times like these, its best to divert yourself to better and greater things. When we were in India, we had a vague plan of putting up our property on Airbnb. And  June 2016 saw the light of it. We managed to complete all the requirements of the travel portal and got a heads up to let out our home to travelers!

Being fond of traveling myself, it came as no surprise that getting the opportunity to host people and helping them create memories made me extremely happy.  I was in a way about to live my “tour guide” dream. And when I saw my phone screen flashing with a notification from Airbnb with the very first enquiry, I jumped (out of my bed, since I couldn’t actually jump) and rushed to tell my parents who joined in my burst of excitement.

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            kotagiri

“The Mountains are calling and I must go”

-John Muir

If you are planning a holiday and are looking for a place, I would love to be your host!

Just log on to: https://goo.gl/2Mpf3k (You can also use the following link to earn yourself some travel credit – https://www.airbnb.co.in/c/rachnar13)

My experience of being a host so far has been nothing short of extraordinary. To see a place so familiar through someone else’s eye has its own charm. I am filled with a lot of gratitude above everything, to be able to share this space with fellow travelers and create something that fills their life with magic.

Putting the property on Airbnb has a greater significance. My grandfather was a civil engineer and working on this property was his last project. He has left behind bits of his legacy in every corner of the house, and as a tribute to him, we only think its fair for everyone to get a chance to encounter the marvel that is the Nilgiris.

The Fourth Miracle:

Do you remember how I wanted to find a job once I got to Abu Dhabi? Well, I loved working for my current company so much, that thinking of working anywhere else made no sense to me. I am blessed to be working with some of the top minds in my field and there is just so much to learn each and every single day. Hence, I decided it was time to move back to India.

I will see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Escape to London…

Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions. 

-Peter Hoeg 

In my early teens, I used to watch these shows on the channel Travel and Living, solely because I was so fascinated by the fact that people were getting paid to travel and taste different cuisines, meet new people and check off everything on their bucket list.

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“If traveling were free, you would never see me again.”

Not only were these trips completely paid for , but this is what the hosts made a living out of (Who doesn’t want that?!).

But clearly, when time came, my choice of career was very different and right now I am caught wishing someone would magically stumble upon my talent of being a tour guide (self-claimed, of course) and offer me my own show!

However, coming back to reality, (alternatively choosing to spend my father’s money) I decided to make a trip to UK to visit my cousin, sister-in-law and my nephew instead of joining my parents to India in the month of May.

I know what you are thinking – she is constantly complaining about her leg pain, and now all of a sudden she wants to travel. But I guess a part of me knew that traveling (and cute guys with thick British accents) would be a great medicine. And I promise you – the tickets were very cheap!

So in between the above photographs, was my ride on Qatar Airways, and I am one of those people who gets excited at the idea of trying out new airlines. What I loved about it was the fact that they saw an opportunity in the way the safety instructions are conveyed to the passengers, which is otherwise ignored by all of us, no matter how much effort the air hostess puts in or how good she looks. But the Airline plays a video which takes place on the soccer field with real players and penalty cards! (Way to grab people’s attention!)

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I made it! (I was doubting this at the immigration)

Isn’t it exciting how one minute you are in the scorching heat of UAE and 9 hours later you are in the pleasant (not so gloomy yet) weather of UK. It was like going from an oven to a refrigerator.

My cousin Vijay had come to pick me up and getting from the airport to Croydon (South London) was a journey in itself, changing all those trains however gave me a teaser of the beautiful country.

The next two weeks were absolutely delightful! Vidya, Vijay and Vedant accompanied me for the majority part of my vacation showing me some of the most interesting and unique places in Londonand there were few places that I explored on my own. The latter was where the learning part came in. It is so important to be able to enjoy your own company. I recently read somewhere that ‘The Cure for too much TO DO is Solitude and Silence.‘ This process of self exploring was made easier by my sister-in law who gave me the inch by inch directions along with tube lines and buses that I would have to take.

So the first stop I made alone was traveling within Croydon itself. I went shopping, well window shopping because Dhirams to Pounds was no more comforting than Rupees to Pounds. But I did buy a butterfly shaped Gingerbread for Vedant, because it was going to be my first time picking him up from his Nursery, and I got a heads up that he likes to be received with treats. As soon as I entered, Vedant came running towards me, announcing that his aunt has come to his class (felt like I got to have my filmy moment!) We had a great ride back home, because I was in company of someone who could talk more than me!

And get this, it was also the day that Vedant learned about the life cycle of the butterfly at play school! (The universe was definitely with me!)

The following day, my destination was Wimbledon! There was a tram from Croydon to Wimbledon, making my journey extremely easy, until I got to Wimbledon and couldn’t find the bus stop I needed to board the bus from(there were like 20!) And of course, of all days the weather had chosen that particular day to betray me. It was extremely cold (please do keep in mind I was coming from UAE) and it had started to drizzle, my shoes were giving me a shoe bite, and to top it all, I literally  paced 20 times from the Tram Station to what I thought could possibly be my bus stop. I called Vidya up, and I failed miserably at explaining the crossroads I was stuck in. And this was all after seeking help from an elderly woman and google maps. I know, so much for wanting to be a tour guide! Finally, I saw a guard (who I swear should be in Hollywood) who took less than 10 seconds to guide me and Phew! I was on my way!

I was welcomed by the sweetest and most humorous guard – who asked me if I wanted a picture taken! (Hell yes I did). Now, let me stress on this a little more, in an era of selfies and DSLR’s, no matter how exciting it is, when you get to Wimbledon you need to take a picture of yourself against the Centre Court. Its a Prerequisite to show that you really did visit the place. The task is a little tricky when everyone has come in a group and are busy clicking pictures of their family and friends and you realize that so much solitude isn’t worth it after all!

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I was left with no choice but to ask a Wimbledon Employee to take this. It was also a reminder that I did play Tennis at some point, met Sania Mirza and could have actually made it here someday (One is allowed to dream)

The next few days I tried to get some office work done, I met a couple of friends from school who were living there, and spent a lot of time with family. My cousin is a senior chef in London, so my fitness goals and Rujuta Divekar’s voice went for a toss whenever I wanted to try something new (DO NOT, I repeat do not ever do that). The mind has a great way of playing tricks on you if you let it, so I convinced myself that the cold was making me hungrier and all the walking was balancing it. This is true to an extent, but what I was trying to achieve was a lifestyle change and not something temporary.

I just want to take a moment to talk about Sky Gardens, the view from the top is Mind Blowing and it should definitely be on your list of things to do if you are ever in London (It is free, but requires a reservation)

 

My very last day in London was the highlight. I found Benjamin, I saw the Tower Bridge open and the cherry on top was dining at Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen, thanks to my darling sister-in law.

So why am I mixing my travel diary and fitness journey?

  1. No matter where you are, and how hard it gets, try your best to stick to your goals. Yes there will be temptations, there will be distractions, but it ultimately comes down to what you want out of it and how far you are willing to go to make it happen.
  2. It is a lifestyle change! You deserve to treat yourself, you are allowed to have that delicious new dessert, just remember to earn it.
  3. Fall in love with taking care of yourself!

Throughout the trip everyone was constantly worried that I might encounter a lot of pain. However, it came as a surprise to all because it was very limited, I was able to walk everywhere and do everything I wanted to (not sky diving or Bungee Jumping though). The only question was will it be the same once I was back in Abu Dhabi, and if not, what was causing it.

P.S. If you are ever traveling alone, offer to take pictures of others so that you can have yours taken.

Until next time folks!

 

 

Mangrove Place – Where the Magic Began!

Set Yourself an Outrageous Goal Today. 

-Alastair Humphreys (Ten Lessons from the Road) 

The minute I landed in Abu Dhabi, I was hit with a rush of positivity. (The other city that gives me this feeling is Hyderabad). And I think when a new place gives you that feeling – you are already halfway to building something great!

There was also the advantage of living in an apartment like this(left)  with a view like that (right)

My dad had moved in December and to complete all the formalities for mom and me to move took 2 months. But during this time, my dad had sent so many pictures of the house and the view that envy and excitement could not differentiate from one other. I knew I was going to be there soon, but I was becoming rather impatient. And when I finally got to Mangrove place  – it was worth the wait. No amount of pictures can do justice to the view that you get, including the vibrance of the whole atmosphere. Mangrove Place has the most kind and hard working staff who are so welcoming that you will instantly fall in love with the place. Also, the apartment gives you the feeling of living in a hotel rather than a house (in a good way).

A few years ago, my father had introduced me to Alastair Humphreys’ book ‘Ten Lessons from the Road‘ Alastair set an outrageous goal for himself – he traveled 46,000 miles round the world (wait for it) On his CYCLE! He spent four years and achieved what was described by Sir Ranulph Fiennes as “the first great adventure of the new millennium”.

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It was time I set an outrageous goal for myself. I still had tremendous amount of pain in both my  legs, but it had to be done. What was my goal? What was my motivation?

  1. I need to be able to dance again.
  2. The pain should vanish from my legs forever

But how does one go about this? How does one lose weight when they cannot do jumping jacks or burpees or run on a treadmill. Where does one begin?

It was time for some homework. My instant thought was to take up the GM diet.

One week and I can shed 3-4 kilos just like that (So easy!). And then 2 months later I can do it again and lose some more weight and I would have achieved at least half of my goal.

But your body is smarter than you. It has ways of reacting to new habits that will completely throw you off track. I was 3 days into my GM diet and I could not stop throwing up all those fruits and mashed potatoes that I had consumed(sorry about that nasty visual).

So I wasted an entire month in being anxious about losing weight, how to go about it and the fear that with the condition of my leg I could never do it. But with little more research comes great discoveries. I started looking for cardio exercises that would be easy on my legs. And I cursed myself for not having done it earlier because it was like finding that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I found multiple videos for the same and the top results were by fitness trainer – Jessica Smith.  What I absolutely loved was how she conveys everything with so much passion and motivation. She makes working out – FUN! So I began to do seated cardio and seated strength.

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I used to work out in my Balcony – and this was my view. Batman would occasionally join me  (To maintain his body and what not)

This meant, I had the workout in place. But if I worked out for 60 mins and went and ate some yummy donut from Waitrose across my apartment – the entire purpose would be lost, right?

The Second Miracle: 

I don’t know what it was that took over me, but I decided that I needed to get the book

Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight by Rujuta Diwekar. I got the kindle edition, and before I even started reading I knew my life was going to change. I hope someday she stumbles upon this blog, because I have so much to thank her for!

Now I am someone who absolutely enjoys Indian food over anything else. So when I was previously reading about eating salads and kale and what not, I used to think I rather not eat at all. And it was like Rujuta knows exactly whats in your heart. She tells you to eat what your Nani(grandmom)  ate. I couldn’t have been more relieved.

I got to eat my poha, dosa, roti sabzi and everything I love! Even though I am a Tam Bhram, my parents spent a majority of their life in Maharashtra, which is why I got to enjoy the best of both worlds.

They tasted as good as they look(probably because mom – made)

Rujuta’s biggest rule is that you eat small portions but more frequently and as soon as you wake up eat something – this is my favorite part because for someone who always had breakfast and no coffee/tea, this rule was already implemented. And so I started eating 7-8 small meals everyday.

For more about the book, I urge you all to buy it, trust me it will transform your life! (Spend the 100 rupees here instead of that pizza you have been craving for ).

Remember how I mentioned earlier that at a later point in time, Ayurveda would make sense to me? That’s another thing I love about Rujuta’s book, it really goes into the roots of what was followed by our ancestors and teaches you to adopt Ayurveda as a lifestyle and not a last resort. No more was I carried away by the whatsapp messages on this fruit is bad or that vegetable can cause a disease. I had only one source for  all my needs: Rujuta!

And the Ayurveda project I was working on, was something I believed in and a way of living that the entire world deserves to know about.

What was the hardest part of my journey?

The hardest part is just before you start……. or is it?

Abu Dhabi, here I come!

“I haven’t been everywhere,

but it is on my list.”

– Susan Sontag

My soul is perpetually consumed by wanderlust. Hence, there is nothing in this world that gets me as excited as new travel plans! As you would have already read in my previous post – my father had taken up a new project in Abu Dhabi, which for me meant one more country ticked off my bucket list. Even though I have been blessed to have already visited a few countries, the aspect of living in a new country was thrilling to me.

But good things don’t happen overnight, so to get to it – you indulge in better things!

During the time when my thatha was serious; in the midst of all that chaos, I got a call from Amazon regarding Artista’s products and If I would be willing to sell them on Amazon! (For Real!) I was slowly starting to live the quote ‘God always opens a New Door’.

So my mom and I spent a lot of time in choosing different categories of cards that we could sell and the products that she could put up on Amazon as well.

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Mother – Daughter out to conquer the World!

So we went to do a photoshoot for our products and it was incredible!  – (I was secretly hoping the photoshoot would involve my pictures too)

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Cards from my Adventure Awaits Collection

Me being me, I thought the cards would sell like hot cakes. But when you are out in the real world, it is essential to realize that everything takes time, and gaining recognition requires a whole lot of hard work and a little bit of luck! The cards got sold gradually, but I was prepared for uncertainties because we were going to move soon.

On December 31st I had a Skype call from my current employer (which was going to once again change my life). And that was my interview for the start up that I am currently working for – Vaagmii. Now you must be wondering – I knew I was going to move then what am I doing taking up a job in India? So, this was my second door opening – I had the option of working from home, and I could do it from Abu Dhabi. Exciting right?

So between December and March (when I actually moved to Abu Dhabi) two of the most significant things happened. Artista went live on Amazon and I got a new job.

Oh but wait a minute, how can I forget  – THE PAIN IN MY LEG(s). Double Trouble.

So my surgical leg would hurt now and then but my left leg had started to feel it too. Remember hop scotch with my left leg? Well, it was bound to have a reaction at some point.

So finally, coming to why I really started this blog. When I visited the doctors I was repeatedly told I had to lose weight. My immediate reaction was always anger which I would suppress with a Smile and “Yes” or some other excuse. But it was too late for that, the damage was done. Was there scope for prevention and betterment? There always is!

As you would have guessed, working out post surgery would be impossible for me post surgery, considering I couldn’t move an inch (All I did was add extra pounds). But like the cliched old saying – where there is a will there is a way!

It was my wake up call. The injury could have probably been prevented if I knew how to  listen to the signs my body was giving me, however I was meant to embark on this journey of self realization and tell you all that nothing is impossible. If you want it, go out there and get it (with the help from some cardio, greens and whatever else you need!)

Now Remember, when you set out on a transformational journey – it is important to surround yourself only and only with positive people who will support you. I have the greatest family and friends who were always my pillar and I have so many people to thank for the role they have played in my life. But then there are three people who I have to say a big thank you to – first is my mom who has put up with my tantrums and break downs over the past two years and always found a way to get me back on track, Aishna(who is my transformation buddy) and finally Siddhant – who in the past two years post my injury has never missed a day of asking me “How is your leg”  and always – KEPT ME GOING.

 

My mom has seen me go through every little change I have gone through, in person, and she would counter  all my negative comments with positive ones. She was my ultimate source of strength and accepted everything I needed to do to achieve my goals with grace and it was almost like she did it with me.

Everyone needs a source of inspiration, something that triggers them to START. I found mine in Aishna. She is my long distance transformation buddy, she motivates me by tiny acts such as a liking my goal of the day on MyfitnessPal. She is the reason I was able to reflect on where I was going wrong and what I needed to do to start looking after myself. She is my go to person when I am stumbling and she is the first to notice even the slightest bit of change in me and I am grateful for her.

Siddhant is the definition of  a gentleman and chivalry. During our exams, he would come every single day from another block just to wish me and ask me how my leg was, and two years later he continues to do it every single day. He always knows the right words to keep me motivated even if I have had a bad day or skipped a work out.

By the time we moved, I had decided not to eat outside food and really focus on my food intake. I failed miserably.

But, I had something big to look forward to. Moving to a new place meant a brand new beginning. It was my chance at doing something extraordinary and different for myself and the way I lived. Abu Dhabi was my shot at all kinds of possibilities, and trust me, it was exactly that.

On March 5th my dad came down to India and all three of us moved to Abu Dhabi.

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To New Beginnings…

Begin, Again

Time you Enjoy Wasting, Was not Wasted. 

– John Lenon 

Rachna Ramesh – BBA Honors Class of 2015 – Christ University, Bangalore.

I was a graduate! It was official. I had always considered myself to be someone who knew where she was headed. But for the first time in my life, I did not know what I was going to do.

We all often find ourselves wishing for a longer break, a longer holiday away from everything; but when this opportunity is really given to you, the monotony of it will break you. Once again, I was confined to my room, but since my physiotherapy was over, and I was able to move around and walk more comfortably, I started catching up with my friends  and often they would come home.

I also had a visit by my cute little sister – Vaishnavi. We went out (Walking Stick, Vaishnavi and me) and relished some good Mexican food. And much to my delight, following her visit was my best friend Prerana who was coming home from the US for the summer and the icing on the cake was when both my cousins – Adarsh and Vinay decided to surprise me!

By  June, I was allowed to travel, so I made trips with my family to Kotagiri and Coorg in June and July respectively.

P.S. If you are looking for a place to Holiday – the Villa on the left is an ideal destination – https://goo.gl/2Mpf3k (Sorry, the marketer in me couldn’t resist) 

Other significant happenings included – my Chaddi Buddy Sushmitha coming home from UK, attending a show by my favorite Stand Up comedian – Biswa Kalyan and Revamping my room!

Being back in Hyderabad meant facing reality. I was ready for it in full swing. My leg was much better, not fully recovered but I could move around a lot more now, so I decided to begin my Job hunt. It was a slow process and I had to be choosy to not take something that required a lot of traveling because of my leg. (And companies are choosy too, of course!) But having specialized in marketing, I had to beat the odds to find something that allowed me to sit at one place.

Finally, in September I got a job in a design automation company as a Marketing Executive.  I had to make cold calls, and generate leads. My time there was short – lived (something I am thankful about) but over the 5 months that I worked there I made three really great friends – Ankita, Naveen and Mani who were the reasons I would even turn up because every morning I would find an excuse to not go. (This wasn’t school, or college – this was a real job that paid – not in Monopoly money).

Now during this period my Thatha (aka my James Bond) unfortunately fell ill. My thatha  was a civil engineer and to me he was the epitome of Will Power and he could literally fix anything and everything! Everyday, after our lunch, he would cut a banana into two – one half for himself and the other for me – this was our thing, I used to be in awe of how much precision he followed even to cut a fruit.

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He would do anything for me – As you can see from the costume I forced him to put on! I miss him, deeply.

Thatha soon had to be admitted, and my entire family flew down and stayed with us for 2 months. These two months were the most life changing experience for every member of our family. My thatha was such an incredible human that even before his final days, he managed to bring us all to one place and helped us realize what “emotional support” every minute of the day can feel like. We lost him on 29th November 2015 and let me tell you my Patti (grandma) is the real Iron Lady of the house.

The year ended on a painful note, but in that too our family found the silver lining. We did not want to look back at it as bittersweet,  but instead wanted to celebrate the most wonderful and lively person in our lives, and that is what we did!

And as December came – dad took up a project in Abu Dhabi and thats where my real journey of transformation began. (Yes, finally I am going to talk about it! Or Maybe….)

 

The Road to Recovery – Part 2

“Fun is Good”

– Dr.Seuss

When I was about 10 years old, my father would tell me – “Go downstairs and play, go break some bones.” I took it too literally, sadly a decade later.

When you injure your hand (I have experienced this too, and that was pretty serious as well!) you can still move around and do things, but when its your leg – you are immobile, and you need help for every little thing. For someone, who needs to constantly move around, this got extremely frustrating. I was bound to my bed the entire day, and I absolutely resented the thought of putting my entire weight on one leg, to hop to the restroom  and to think that I used to love playing hop scotch at one point in time!

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Mobility Aid – My New Saathi (observe how I respected it by keeping the bubble wrap on) 

My physiotherapy started about 10 days later. Again, I was blessed with a wonderful doctor – Dr.Kiran. He would come home at 7 am and we would do strengthening exercises which I felt were more painful than  Jumping Jacks and pilates put together, why you ask? The aim was to get my New Leg to bend and I couldn’t move it – even a slight push would feel like someone was trying to dismantle my leg. And I had a big target already set in my mind.

When you get an ACL reconstruction – the doctors tell you – you need 9 – 12 months to get back to your prior activity levels. (No Dance, No basketball, No Adventure – SIGH!)

But, I had my convocation coming up on May 23rd 2015, and I had made it very clear that the doctors need to ensure I can go on stage to receive my degree without a walking stick. My father would tell me ‘why don’t you just go on stage with the stick? Set a style statement’, and trust me – I do wish I had listened – it would have made a better story!

I spent a month after college trying to walk again. It was like an infant trying to learn. I had to hold onto something , in this case it was my saathi. There was a particular way I had to do it, first I put the mobility aid down, then put most of the pressure on my left leg (this leg will play a greater role in the stories to follow) and then slowly try to move my operated leg.

Once I had learnt how to walk, my exercises were upgraded too! They got more intense, but I had a goal – No crutch on Convocation Day!

I remember making a list of movies and TV shows I wanted to watch and books I wanted to read to kill my time, but unfortunately I spent a major chunk of time overthinking and wondering how on earth would I ever get my previous life back. Everyone from my class was already working or on a job hunt, and here I was – bound to the four walls of my room.

My grandparents had also flown down to be with me because my parents were both working. Having them around was the biggest blessing and  that was when I got really close to my Thatha and Patti (grandparents).

The very first miracle:

My mom is an artist, she even has an art studio and conducts classes for over 50 students. So, I just got lucky to inherit some of her genes. In college I really wanted to open a personalized gift shop because I love making cards and making people happy!  In fact, my roommate and I had already decided the name and the B- Plan but never got around to it. But everything has its time – and so did Artista(My personalized gift store). So in the month of April the complex that I live in Hyderabad was hosting a Mela(fair) where the residents can put up stalls, and this was my golden opportunity. And my grandmother(Patti) had been a constant motivation for me. She would often ask me what was the latest craft I had made. So with my Brace and a special set up for my leg by my parents I sat and made 40 cards over two nights and put up a stall with my mom’s products as well. We were not sold out, but people seemed to enjoy what I had made and the appreciations received were a major boost that I had been craving for.

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Getting the art right with my Amma since 95
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First batch of Artista

To keep myself further occupied I made a 20 page scrapbook for my best friend Cynthia – because her birthday was coming up right before our convocation. I also got a surprise visit from my school friends in Hyderabad, which was just the thing I needed!

May 23rd was only a week away. I had gone from Mobility Aid and Brace to Walking Stick and Knee Band. But on that day it had to be ONLY Knee Band.

Dr. Kiran made it happen, did I play a role in it? Yes, I did the exercises diligently. Its human nature to work harder when there is a reward attached to it.

So, we decided to travel via road to Bangalore as this would also allow me to comfortably place my leg – however I wanted. Thankfully, I was able to get passes for my grandparents to attend the convocation as well.

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Can you see me beaming? I was for sure, at that moment just those few seconds, I completely forgot about my pain. Dr. Kiran had a very interesting way to teach climbing up and going down the stairs. He said while going down – you are going to hell – use your operated leg first, and while climbing up use your good leg because you are going to heaven. So before I got onto stage, I had help from my classmate Sanskriti and while getting off I had help from my classmate Nikita.

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(Left) My Appa’s Graduation – National University of Singapore (2007) and (Right) Rachna’s graduation – Christ University – 2015.

I was so exhausted by the end of it , that I just wanted a place to sit, and never get up again. I returned my robe to the college, meanwhile, my mom and dad were both trying to find me but on different floors. That day, I realized that when you are tired and worn out , anything can cloud your judgement of right and wrong. I hadn’t  got a picture with my dad, and if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have the coolest dad – daughter picture in the history of photographs. He insisted that I go back and get the robe(which required me to climb two floors), because only then we would have the above collage. And as always, my parents had saved the day and gave me another story to talk about.

After what felt like the longest and most overwhelming day of my life, I came home to a surprise (extended celebration) by my wonderful aunt, uncle and cousin! Since I couldn’t go anywhere, they brought the party home!

Start the day with a smile, and finish it with Champagne!

 

The Road to Recovery – Part 1

I have divided my life into two categories – Before Surgery and Post Surgery. This has a greater significance than those five hours where I was under General Anaesthesia and have no clue whatsoever about what happened, but I was a different person before that, and some one else after it (and so was my leg, obviously!)

As you might have read in my previous post, I was taking my final semester – final exams in college with a Brace on to protect my now ACL and Meniscus torn knee. On March 31st, I headed back to Hyderabad after a very grand farewell from my wonderful friends and also a special drop off at the airport!

Farewell, Me trying to own the Brace and Walking Stick look and the Grand drop off at Kempegowda International Airport

What was next? That one dreaded word: SURGERY.

I will be very honest with you, I wanted the surgery so desperately and I didn’t at the same time. I knew surgery was the ultimate solution, but I also constantly lived in the fear that my leg would never be the same again, because there would be some external particles taking over it. One cannot really put into words how much mental preparation it takes to say “YES” to a surgery – when they are also given a choice to say no.

Right before I went into the operation theatre my dad told me “Go in and have some fun”, and I did; I asked the doctor who was about to give me the Anaesthesia “Is this the Magic Potion that will fix the pain?”, after which I blanked out, only to be woken up in a different room , by a woman who I believe had been asking for water for a long time. This was the observation room – and I pray that no one ever has to undergo the torture of being “Observed”. I have never felt that ignored in my entire life. My parents, who had been waiting to get a glimpse of how I was doing, were allowed only once for about 2 mins each. The irony is that one is protected from loved ones to prevent the patients from catching infections.

Now before I tell you about post surgery, let me rewind a little to talk about my Doctor. Do you believe that everything that happens , happens for a reason? Because I do.

My mom had taken an appointment with a Doctor recommended by my aunt. So on the 1st of April, my mom and me went to Apollo Hospital, a day after I landed in Hyderabad. I got VIP treatment, from my car to the Orthopedic department, I was taken in a wheelchair by not one, but multiple people (whoever was available). We were trying to find the cabin of the doctor that we had an appointment with. Guess what? We couldn’t and no one had an idea about who she is. Yes, I am serious. We asked 5 different staff members at Apollo Hospital, and all looked at my mom with a bigger surprise than the one taking over our faces, but by now my mom and me had become experts in trying to hide our Panic. My mom has always had a great presence of mind, and she really believes in doing things in the moment. So she decided, she will take an appointment with the doctor who was available at that time. Turns out, I was going to get one of the Best Doctors who has also been a doctor for Mumbai Indians and a few football leagues in England(Pretty cool huh?). The fact that the same person who might have checked Sachin Tendulkar will be operating on my leg, was very satisfying. Dr.Sharath Kumar, is such a passionate and positive human being, that anyone would instantly feel at ease with him and might even forget the pain for those few minutes, I didn’t fear visiting the doctor anymore, in fact I quite enjoyed it!

But no matter how well its put across to you, the word “Surgery” will still pierce through your heart.

So exactly a week later – 8th April 2015 is when the great and much awaited surgery took place. You would want to think that when you are in unbearable pain and have a surgery, the pain would reduce right? I mean, isn’t that the whole point? Well, I was wrong, the pain just amplified by about a 100 times (I swear I am not exaggerating) and it remained for about one week.

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I matched my outfit to my brace to stay positive about the operation ahead of me!

You know what is the worst thing about having your leg operated? Well two actually, the first is – finding the right position to sleep in and second is getting to the restroom, I won’t get into the details, but you get the idea.

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Seen in picture: The amazing Dr. Sharath Kumar, Operated Ligaments, and My darling aunt Dr.Reeta who decided to surprise me (and we hoped to reduce my pain over some LIT’s) . Do excuse me for not having the strength to pose for better pictures.

I think through out this entire process there were two very prominent traumatizing incidents. First, getting me into our car after my discharge, and second, finding the right level of elevation for my leg on the bed. And hats off to my mom, dad and aunt, they mastered it (After about 20 tries, and multiple loud shrieks from me).

The operation is just one hurdle. What came next was really what transformed me into the person I am today. Stay Tuned…