How having the right conversation can change our lives.

Ever been to a reunion? What do you think people say about themselves when they meet after a decade? Chances are, more people than not, talk about their achievements. “I did this and this, went to so and so university, work at so and so, won X number of awards, and here is my website and contact details if you want a customized outfit.”

And there’s nothing wrong with this. Firstly, it’s “networking”, and secondly, as friends and batchmates, we are all interested to hear about each other’s journey to the present.

So, yes, this is an essential conversation to have. Though not necessarily, the only one.

Last weekend, I went back to school for our 10-year-reunion. Some of us met each other after 10 years, others I’d bumped into a few times in between, and a handful had been in constant touch with me over the years.

Between catching up and listening to each other’s fascinating, and sometimes transformative journeys – the quiet girl – a tough lawyer, the science geek – a costume stylist, the backbencher – a successful entrepreneur, I had a conversation with someone about battling depression. It was a short conversation, which in itself was pretty regular, but it sparked in me a crazy idea – what if we were all to sit in a circle and talk about the 3 most challenging periods in our lives?

What if instead of rattling off our awards, we spoke about our fears, our troubles, our battles, and our failures? What if we spoke about the things that keep us up at night, the monotonous job we struggle to maintain, the abusive partner we managed to shrug away, and the ongoing battle to get paid the amount we deserve?

Crazy, right?

But think of it this way. We have all heard that “hard work”, and “believing in yourself” and “fighting for what you believe in”  and “following your passion” are the “secret” ingredients to success. But have we ever spoken about the challenges that come in the middle of an all-nighter at work, the doubts that come in the way of self-belief, and the various everyday circumstances that distract you in your fight towards your dream?

Imagine, you’re sitting in a circle with your classmates. A girl who looks “happily married”, speaks about how she maintains a “happy” marriage, even when 5 out of 10 days she has doubts about her partner. She speaks about how, no relationship is as “perfect” as it seems, by giving real life examples from her life – of good and bad moments, of things that reiterate her belief in her marriage, and things that make her doubt it. And then she talks about how she deals with it.

Next, imagine a girl who has recently started her own company. It seems glossy with all the features in newspapers and blogs. What if in addition to listing all her achievements, she talks in detail of the challenges she faced while starting up, and the challenges she still faces. She talks about the emotional impact, the physical impact as well as the financial impact of starting up.

Or, imagine a person who is employed in a regular job with regular hours. And she talks about the feeling of monotony that often haunts her daily life, and the occasional desire to pack up and leave. She then talks about the techniques or methods she employs to keep herself motivated on the drabbest of days.

Think about it.

Won’t these conversations actually help us in learning from each other, and possibly change our lives? Won’t it equip and inspire in us the skills to deal with real issues? And, fill us to the brim with the fuzzy feeling that says – “you are not alone”?

It’s radical, yes. And most people will be reluctant to “air their dirty linen” in public – yes. Some may argue that we should inspire each other with positive stories, rather than dissuade with the negative. And, there may be some who are extremely uncomfortable with the idea.

But, I believe these conversations are important and the learnings indispensable.

Don’t we, as a community of women, deserve to know about each other’s struggles as much as about each other’s achievements? Won’t it help us all grow if we pool in our individual learnings and use it to help one other? And, isn’t awareness and preparation far better than rosy-eyed ignorance?

Most of us fail in various aspects of life because we go into it expecting it to be perfect.

Because nobody ever specified the challenges in a happy marriage, a successful business, or a white-collar job. We’ve all heard “marriages” are tough. Or start-ups have challenges. Or jobs are boring. But, nobody ever added body to the words “tough”, “challenging” and “boring”.

Words without description sometimes lose the power of meaning.

Especially when the voice that says these words, in the next breath, follows it up with – but “nothing is impossible”, and “be passionate”, and “it’s on how you make it”. And this is problematic because the slightest hiccup in a marriage, job or business causes us to blame ourselves.

Because didn’t they say ,”It’s possible and if not – you’re not doing it right?”  

We are so scared of scaring our children that we tell them fairytales.

Sure, we should inspire each other by saying “everything is possible”. But we should ground the fairytale by adding a “when”.

We should say “everything is possible when you...”, and then list all potential challenges and potential solutions to braving those moments of despair.

I have worked in 5 jobs and lived in 5 cities. If there are a few things I have learned, it’s this.

Any thing is possible when:

  1. You know what you have to give up to achieve your goal, and you’re willing to part with it. [for example: parties, friends, family, popularity, sleep]
  2. You can deal with a 100 rejections, and yet come back the next day bright-eyed and enthusiastic.
  3. You can say NO to the things you like
  4. You can be positive even when things are going down
  5. You are willing to go the extra mile to read up and educate yourself while everybody is drinking beer and chilling
  6. You become OK with feeling alone sometimes
  7. You can push yourself out of your comfort zone and do things you may hate
  8. You are willing to change yourself to fit the image you want to portray
  9. You can accept that success at work doesn’t always mean happiness in life
  10. You are able to decide whether your sacrifice is worth the gain

For me, personally, I believe in being true to myself. So, I made my choice – I am willing to accept points 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and to an extent 7. But not point 8. So, for me, my dreams are stuck at that – and I am OK with it, as for me, happiness lies in being true and honest to who I am.

For you, different principles may apply.

If we all share our learnings, like I shared mine, I believe our conversations would be far more empowering.

What do you think?

 

 

 

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How asking the right questions can change your life.

Don’t ask: “What should I do that people will be proud of me?”

Ask: “What should I do that I will be proud of me?”

Disclaimer: This may not be relevant to a lot of already self-aware people, but I’d like to share it with those who are still looking for answers.

 

We often, unknowingly, choose our goals and careers based on the perceptions of people around us: they could be friends, family, or simply the strangers on our social media feeds. We often view ourselves from the perspective of the world, rather than the perspective of ourselves, and this is one of the primary mistakes that lead us into making the wrong choices.

The better part of our life is often spent in trying to gain the approval of others.

We do this by enrolling ourselves in fancy-sounding colleges, travelling to fancy-sounding places, getting married in a fancy-sounding destination, and doing fancy-sounding things. We think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I did a scuba diving course off the Havelock islands?”, and so we do it, and then we wonder why it didn’t make us happy. Or we think, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if I worked at VOGUE?” and we do it, and then we wonder why it didn’t make us happy?  Or we think, “Wouldn’t it make me so happy if I won all these awards?” and then we win it, and after the momentary elation we wonder why it didn’t make us happy? And similarly there are a hundred things we do that sound amazing, and as a result make us, momentarily, feel super-proud of ourselves. However, after the initial phase of excitement, when we are back at home at the end of a long day or on a weekend, we feel a void – and we can’t understand what’s missing. We try and talk to others, but they often don’t understand – they either tell us that we are “overthinking”, or that we are “cribbing”, that we need “therapy”, we need to “meditate”, “workout”, “go out”, “get married”, “calm down”, “accept ourselves”, and a myriad other suggestions, that while sensible, may not be an accurate response to our predicament.

 So, how do we fight the nagging voice in our head?

It’s definitely not easy as most of us blame ourselves and over-critique ourselves by assuming we are in the wrong. That if people around us are going ooh and aah at our seemingly “cool” achievements, then we ought to be happy. That the dissent is in our heads.

While, we are in the wrong, the reason for it is often different from the ones above, and difficult to place, and stems from the inherent need in some of us to “appear” a certain way, rather than “be” a certain way.

Start by asking:

“What should I do, that will give my life purpose?”

“How should I be, that will make me happy?”

 

There is no easy way of arriving at the answers. We may take days, weeks or even months to come up with an answer. And even then, we may not be sure.

From starting a family, to teaching children, from social work, to lawyering, from travelling the world, to starting up, from aiming for CEO, to making art, every person has a different life problem to solve – and none of them should be looked down upon. If a person believes shattering the glass ceiling is what will give her a sense of achievement – she should do it. Or, if another person believes shattering the glass ceiling, while “cool”, is not for her: she’d prefer having a simple job while concentrating on her family – that’s great too.

The toughest part is eliminating all the noise, until our true purpose stares back at us.

And even after we’ve figured that out, it’s going to be tough. Easier than before, but still an uphill walk. Our families may want us to get married, our husbands may want us to devote more time to them, our friends may think we’re being childish, our boyfriends may think the path we’ve chosen is not how things should be, and even the random colleague at work may have an opinion.

And we may, at our weaker moments, succumb to the pressure: After all if everybody feels something is wrong with our paths, there must be, right? Wrong. This feeling is dangerous because it leads us to over-critiquing ourselves to the point where we can’t decipher which way is up. Where life seems to be a constant rumble, and we seem to be drowning unaware of the surface.

In these moments, what we need to understand is not everybody is built like us, and so, not everybody can understand the pulse of what we feel. What is just a “job” for the next person, is a “life purpose” for us. Sure, it may seem like a first world problem, and it probably is. For somebody fighting for her survival, her life purpose is obviously different. But for us, who have luckily gotten the basics sorted, we need to do what we can to contribute to the world in a way that makes us sleep better at night. And the definition of this “contribution” is different for all.

A 10-year-reunion at my school where everybody from my batch shared their stories, helped me clarify and arrange a lot of thoughts in my head. It helped me understand the meaning of doing something one genuinely loves, and it’s often not what you think you love – which is often the idea of a certain profession rather than the profession itself – but what you actually do – the difference is massive and often requires a lot of work to decipher.

I am just starting to ask myself the right questions. And little by little, beginning to answer them. However, what I am learning in this process is that I will have to muster all of my strength and go against the wills of a lot of people: to be honest, it’s scary. But I do pray, I don’t give up, and that I continue fighting for what I believe in.

I hope you can too.

 

 

 

Chai High curates 4 looks for you.

You don’t always have to match your shoes to your bag, and nobody says you need to choose between sensibilities. The key lies in mixing it up.  Be it in the form of an unexpected pop of Ikat in an otherwise sporty ensemble, or a pair of furry bedroom-inspired slides to lighten up a blazer. Take the boudoir to the streets, the boardroom to the ball, and the mountain to the beach. Let your clothing traverse between geographies, as you wear different parts of the Atlas on your sleeves. This season, nobody’s asking you to be “propah”. In fact, we’re asking you to be the opposite. 

It’s about letting your look be a map of the places you’ve lived in, places you’ve visited, and the places you want to visit.

Hope you enjoy this edit.

Look 1

Look 1 of the 4 looks curated by Shivani Krishan of Chai High - an Indian Fashion Blog, featuring an Ikat top by Iyla, a canvas and leather backpack, a denim skort by Zara and a pair of white embroidered sneakers by Zara.

Look 2

Look 2 of the 4 looks curated by Shivani Krishan of Chai High - an Indian Fashion Blog, featuring a blue frayed crop top by The Pot Plant, a blue pleated skirt by The Pot Plant, a tote by the 500 BC and tan leather thong sandals by Gush, all found on Nete.in

Look 3

Look 3 of the 4 looks curated by Shivani Krishan of Chai High - an Indian Fashion Blog, featuring an anti fit dress, sling bag and slides by Zara, The Pot Plant, Nete.in and Cord

Look 4

Look 4 of the 4 looks curated by Shivani Krishan of Indian Fashion Blog - Chai High. This look features a box blazer by Doodlage, a crop top by Doodlage and Nete, a pair of box pleat skorts and green faux fur bejewelled slides by Zara, and a green satchel by Viari

These looks feature separates from two of my recent favourite places – Zara (who has moved beyond the classic), and Nete.in

While all items from Nete.in can be shopped online, for Zara, you’re going to have to visit the store.

Happy Shopping. 🙂

 

Street style alert – The Check Trouser

Last season was an eclectic playground. There was a riotous explosion of prints, embroideries, applique, and God-knows what-not on everything from denim to gingham. Bags and shoes weren’t left alone either with embroideries of various kinds edging their way into the once-muted accessory department. The box bag reined supreme and the embellished slide followed. All in all, it was a field day for all maximalists who seized the opportunity to put forward their craziest, most eye-brow raising foot forward (literally in some cases).

Well, now that the maximal season is underway, those of us who like to look forward and pick those next-season pieces well in advance (we don’t like being fashion followers or laggards), let’s figure out what are the key pieces we can buy now, that are sure to hold the test of time, tomorrow.

Though I love the hottest, new trend as much as the next person, I am not one to shop every fad and add it to my wardrobe. I am, what you could call, a smart shopper. I like to pick trends, ideas rather, from street-style pictures and catwalks, that I believe are classic – that can be paired with a variety of clothing, and will not be frowned upon for the next couple of years. So, in that sense, this item of clothing or trend will be an investment.

Keeping that in mind, here’s what you all need to own to nail next season (and all seasons beyond).

The Check Trouser

At first glance, you may think it veering towards pyjama territory but weren’t white sneakers purely for Tennis, and Little Black Dresses purely for funerals? The rules in fashion are bending like never before, and the seemingly-unthinkable has now become the creme-de-la-creme’s uniform. First with innerwear as outerwear – remember the satin slip dress that was everywhere end-2016; and now with pyjamas as legit streetwear. It won’t be long before boxer shorts are worn to prom nights, and well, bras are already being worn on the red carpet, so well, you get the drift.

The Check Trouser as seen on the New York Fashion Week Street Style Pictures | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
NEW YORK FASHION WEEK STREET STYLE | IMAGE CREDIT – VOGUE.CO.UK – SOREN JEPSEN/THE LOCALS

It goes without saying that wearing a pair of check trousers outdoors requires a fair bit of thought in terms of accessories and separates. You can’t literally look like you rolled out of bed and onto the streets.

Therefore your shoes, your bag, your hair, your jacket – everything has to work extra hard to take the check trouser out. One way is to throw on a matching or contrasting check blazer.

The Check Trouser Suit as seen during The London Fashion Week | Street Style Photography | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
LONDON FASHION WEEK STREET STYLE | IMAGE CREDIT: VOGUE.CO.UK – THE LOCALS
The Check Trouser Suit as seen during the Milan Fashion Week | Street Style Photography by JONATHAN DANIEL PRYCE for Vogue.co.uk | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
MILAN FASHION WEEK STREET STYLE | IMAGE CREDIT: JONATHAN DANIEL PRYCE FOR VOGUE.CO.UK

Throwing on a matching blazer is a good way to tell the world you’re not in the bedroom anymore – a check suit is the perfect marriage between lazy and sharp.

Another way is to wear your trousers with pretty shoes. Nobody will question an outfit finished off with a stellar pair of heels.

The Check Trouser with ruffles | Seen during Milan Fashion Week | Street Style Photography by JONATHAN DANIEL PRYCE for Vogue.co.uk | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
MILAN FASHION WEEK STREET STYLE | IMAGE CREDIT: JONATHAN DANIEL PRYCE FOR VOGUE.CO.UK

Sometimes, check trousers come trimmed with ruffles. That’s when kitten heels are enough to take this pair to a fashionable soiree.

The Check Jumpsuit as seen during The Milan Fashion Week | Street Style Photography | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan
MILAN FASHION WEEK STREET STYLE | IMAGE CREDIT: VOGUE.CO.UK – SOREN JEPSEN/THE LOCALS

If you still feel you can’t pull off this trend, choose a jumpsuit with a dark, subtle check. Throw on an overcoat for more edge.

So, while wearing a pair of check pants, remember the following:

  1. Your shoes should be runway-worthy. The bolder the better. Think bright pumps, edgy boots, embellished sneakers, cute kitten heels.
  2. You must carry a smart bag. Doesn’t need to be super statement.
  3. Layer up on top – a jacket or a blazer in a contrasting or complementing hue. You can even roll a bright scarf multiple times around your neck.
  4. Optional: A bold plum lip can really jazz it up.

So, go out this Sunday, and buy the check trouser.

Happy shopping, ladies.

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrations that attempt to normalise body hair in women

I think I was about 9 when I first realised I was hairy. Hairy meaning hairier than the average Indian girl my age. Up till then, I’d never internalised the fact that body hair could be a real problem. I mean, I knew I had the hair – but somehow it didn’t strike me as something I should be ashamed off. Rather it made me feel superior and strong. Like my tall father whose dark hair stood out proudly when he wore his shorts. (Being a tea planter, it was the norm to wear shorts and sneakers as one rode around the Tea Plantations supervising the plucking.) And to the little me, he was the hero of all heroes. And my legs seemed to me a carbon copy of his – and how could that be bad?

However, boarding school and meeting other girls my age soon made me realise that hair on a girl was not something to be proud of. And thus at age 12, I waxed my legs for the first time. And since we lived on campus where stepping out wasn’t allowed, I began maintaining the hairlessness by swiping on a razor every few days.

By the time, I’d graduated, the razor and waxing had wrecked havoc on my legs – ingrowth spouted and with it came the boils.The reason? Years of shaving coupled with shoddy cold wax jobs. I entered college unable to wear skirts, shorts – even the modest mid-length variety. My legs were dotted with marks which apart from the obvious cosmetic reasons, was unhealthy too. Every few days, there’d be a boil that would hurt and finally burst leaving a nasty scar. Needless to say, I tried everything – doctors, dermatologists, gave up hair removal for a bit – everything. But nothing worked. A good amount of reading on the web told me that laser was the only solution. So when I started working, I saved up and got my legs lasered. It worked! My new dermatologist was a dream. She had done the impossible. My legs were smoother, shinier and healthier than ever before. And thus, I decided to limit the number of times I swiped the razor – even though my dermat assured me it was safe. (In case you’re confused, laser doesn’t get rid of body hair completely – it’s more like a 85%-ish removal. So you will still get fine hair that you can shave off, waxing being a huge no-no).

Note: In case you want my dermatologist’s contact, do mail me at schivany@gmail.com

After laser, I ditched my tighter jeans for good – especially as form-fitting clothes are known to speed up ingrowths – and I didn’t want a relapse. But, I also started embracing my hair – the hair that grew on healthy skin. I moved from tights and pants to free-flowing skirts, and flouncy dresses; polyesters to pure cottons. I started embracing the healthy hair that now grew on my skin, and wore shorter lengths proudly.

Ironically, it took a “permanent” hair removal treatment for me to understand just how much havoc women wreck on their own bodies to get the much-coveted smooth skin.  I had been abusing my skin for years – waxing, shaving, veet-ing, and so one day, out of the blue my skin had decided to give up. It took Laser, another treatment to ‘restore’ my skin, which is an irony in itself. Therefore, today, I try and limit the use of a blade to once every 3-4 months, irrespective of hair length, and I wear skirts and dresses literally every day – irrespective of the hair-removal cycle.

While I still wax my arms, I do so more occasionally than I would at college. I might not be a role-model in practicing “hair-embrace-ness”, but I do try in my own silly “social experimental” ways – like going a whole 6 months without doing my brows. And wearing strappy dresses even when my arms have a lush growth.

So, as an endeavour to slowly normalise female body hair, I have done a mini-series of 3 art illustrations that showcase fashion figures proudly sporting hair.

Hairlessness shouldn’t be the norm, it should be a choice.

An illustration of a plus sized woman with body hair to normalise body hair in women in fashion | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

A fashion illustration made using pen and ink | a nude woman with body hair | a display of strength | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog started by Shivani Krishan

Mixed media illustration of a woman's face | An attempt to normalise body and facial hair in women in fashion | Collage and Pen and Ink drawing | Chai High is an Indian Fashion Blog created by Shivani Krishan

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