Monday, November 16, 2009

Changes slow and gradual

It’s been some time since my last post; not as long as previous absences from this blog, but still, a gap significant enough for some momentous developments to have occurred in the interim.

First things first – I’m now back at work. As of the beginning of this month, I re-entered the workforce, after nearly eight months away from professional life. The time I took off in the middle has been one of the happiest, most emotionally and personally satisfying periods of my life; it was a gap wherein I managed to travel across three continents and fourteen countries, visiting friends, family and places that have long been on my radar. I can look back and feel truly fulfilled. 2009 will go down in my life as the year that I visited my first World War II concentration camp (Auschwitz), my first villa holiday (Spain), my first visit to Venice, my first trip to the land of the Sound of Music (Salzburg), my first visit to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, my first visit to Borobodur in Indonesia and my first visit to some amazing Indian heritage sites (Khajuraho, Agra & the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri).

As lists go, that isn’t an unimpressive one, methinks.

But as is the case with all good things, this period too had to come to an end. I returned to London and regular life at the end of August, and pretty much had a job lined up by the end of September. I don’t want to sound arrogant, or full of myself, but I have to give myself a pat on the back for finding a job in an economy in recession, during one of the worst downturns in the past century. Most importantly, not only is it a job that pays the bills, but it’s also a job that I like and fits into my own personal career growth and plans.

After five years in the big bad world of international finance, M&A and executing on corporate transactions, I was quite keen to try my hand at something more entrepreneurial, more dynamic and ultimately more fulfilling. My new job offers me a lot of what I was looking for and didn’t have in my previous job, which ultimately cannot be a bad thing. So I don’t think it’s out of order to be a little proud of myself. If that is arrogance, then so be it.

So it will not be long now before I have to update my profile (up there on the top right corner of this page) to read differently. Luckily for me, I will not have to edit the strap line for the blog; I am (still!) a former banker. Whether my current lifestyle will entitle me to the “part-time traveller” label remains to be seen.

As for the sometime cynic, well, why spoil a good thing?

But there have also been some other happenings worthy of mention. A dear friend came to visit me at the end of October, flying across from Amsterdam to spend three days in the cultural hotspot that is London. Despite having lived here in this crazy, amazing, cosmopolitan city for six years, I often forget (or perhaps as a result of living here, I am inured to) the many wonders that make London the brilliant place that it is. This is why I love it when friends from other places come to visit; it forces me to reorient my own perspective on this city that I have no shame in calling my own, to see it through fresh eyes, and to remember to appreciate the little things that make it frustrating and so enjoyable at the same time. My friend is a bit of a culture vulture, and so for the three days that he was here, we managed to hit three different art galleries. On Friday, it was off to the Tate Modern at South Bank (after a brunch at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre right next door) to soak in the splendours (or not) of the Pop Life exhibition. Saturday included a mad dash to Abercrombie & Fitch (friend’s boyfriend in Amsterdam had sent a comprehensive shopping list that needed to be filled) and as always, I was mostly horrified by the store, its insane crowds – there was a queue to get in! – its unapologetic sexualisation of the male form, and the unbelievable attractiveness of its ridiculously good looking yet utterly incompetent staff. Brains + beauty is clearly a very rare combination.

Saturday evening included a trip to see the eclectic Anish Kapoor exhibition at the Royal Academy, which was, to my mind, one of the best sculpture exhibits I’ve visited in a very long time. I loved the mix of textures, colours and just the sheer scale of all the pieces on display. It was then time to hit Soho on Halloween, which itself was a mad experience; Dutch friend is intellectually familiar with the holiday, but it is often hard to translate the sheer exuberance that people in London take to dressing up. (As someone who was walking around with vampire fangs, I have to admit I was not immune to the frenzy).

And so finally to Sunday; an early morning trek out to Southall for some mooli parathas, chai and masala dosa for breakfast, some Indian spice & Ayurvedic product shopping, and finally a quick prawl around the many little DVD stores before it was back to Central London for some Damien Hirst at the Wallace Collection, before wrapping up the weekend with a Sunday roast lunch at a cute little Notting Hill pub.

Ah, London.

And so it is that I enter the third week of my new employment this week. Christmas is around the corner, Oxford & Regent Street already have their festive lights up, the shop windows are full of holiday cheer, and it will soon be time for my own Christmas tree to make an appearance.

And before long, it will also be time for another blog post.