The 6 Pillars of a Healthy Relationship

As a child, I actually preferred to spend time alone. I did not understand why I was bullied for wanting to spend time by myself. I was called ‘saddo’, ‘loner’ and ‘boring’. Of course it hurt, but I look back on those days and pat myself on the back for being so comfortable to be on my own. Why? Because I believe, at such a tender age, I spent a lot of time building a relationship with myself and getting accustomed to my own company. Therefore when I started to choose and form my own long-terms relationships in the form of friends and family, I felt more comfortable and it happened a lot easier than we all make it out to be.

I am not a relationship guru, but I have been through my fair share of experiences in different kinds of relationships to know what works and what does not. Now when I talk about relationships, it is not just isolated to romantic ones. When I talk about relationships, I mean every single relationship we form with every human being we encounter and bond with. This includes friendships, romantic partners, business partners, family, and work colleagues, to name a few.

Maintaining a positive and healthy relationship is just as much a test of you as it is the other person, so I want to talk about how we can and should be in a relationship to ensure it is beautiful, healthy and long-lasting.

1. Honesty, openness & trust. I never understand how any bond can form without being honest and open about yourself. The more honest and open we are, the more trust we will be able to build with the other party. I am a firm believer of being honest and open about our past experiences as much as our future; we need to know that the other party knows enough about us to understand where we come from and why we are the way we are, and exploring those past experiences is crucial in understanding each other. Let’s not dwell on the past however, but use it as a foundation to build the relationship.

2. Communication & intimacy. When I mean intimacy, I mean emotional and mental intimacy. Just knowing that we can comfortably drop our guard really does strengthen the relationship. It makes us value and appreciate how comfortable the other person makes us feel – this kind of intimacy is precious, and no amount of physical intimacy can replace that. To have that level of intimacy, we need to be able to communicate comfortably. If there is anything on our mind, we need to be able to communicate it in a respectful manner. If something bothers us, we need to voice it. If we feel judged by the other party, we know they are no longer worth being in our life. Period.

3. Kindness, love & respect. I think this is a basic human quality. It surprises me how little I see of this in society. Every relationship is built on genuine kindness, and a love for someone or something. From this kindness and love comes respect. When someone is kind, loving and respectful to themselves, they will naturally be able to shower those around them with the same kindness, love and respect.

4. Understanding, loyalty & humility. We are in no position to change the other person. Instead we need to invest our time into understanding them to their fullest. Let them be free and live their best life. We need to be humble and give space for each other to grow. When we understand an individual and why they are who they are, we are able to appreciate them better and love them even more for who they are. Yet none of this is worth it if we are not loyal. Our loyalty should always remain with that relationship; to go outside of that relationship and talk negatively about the other person makes us less of the humans we were born to be.

5. Friendship & laughter. No matter what kind of relationship you are working on, there needs to be a lot of friendship and laughter. Being a person who makes others laugh, or being around people who make us laugh, really elevates our frequency. We are driven to have even more fun, which in turn strengthens our relationship.

6. Having an identity of your own. We should not be defined by the relationship. We need to ensure we have an identity that goes beyond that relationship. This is how we can boost our self-confidence and therefore be the best version of ourselves for that relationship. Just knowing that we have our own life and goals, makes the relationship stronger because of how much more value and wisdom is added to that relationship.

Ultimately we need to feel comfortable being our true self. If we are not valued and cherished for the person we are, it is a sign that we need to bid that relationship farewell.

I’m so proud of you Amma

Today you are starting a new chapter. A job. Yes after 19 years of not working, you have decided to enter the world of employment again.

I’m so proud of you, for standing up for yourself and your freedom.

You inspire me always.

This is just the beginning and it is never too late to start anything. You are a prime example of that.

To my dearest mother,

You are honestly an inspirational human being. This letter is from me to you, to say how much I love you and am proud of you.

There was once a time when we did not really see eye-to-eye. We had so many differences. Your values were different to mine. Ultimately we just did not vibe, the way I dreamt a mother-daughter to vibe.

I used to look around and be jealous of other mothers and daughters and I wanted that for myself. I started blaming you for me not having that.

I realise how wrong I was. Now, all I do is love you and be proud of you. What has brought about such a change in me? Well it is where I am at right now, and what I see on a daily basis through my job.

You were always a very ambitious woman. You were smart, grounded, knew what you wanted in life and did all you can as teenage girl, living Sri Lanka (amongst all the political stresses against the Tamil community) to live your dreams.

You wanted to be of service to others, and managed to work a great job at one of the top banks in Colombo. Then you got married, and came to London, putting all your faith into a man you hardly knew (my wonderful father – honestly he is such a legend, and can’t wait to write about him soon!).

You had to start from scratch in the UK. You did courses at a local college and successfully got qualifications, and managed to find yourself jobs. You were a girl in her mid to late twenties, trying to navigate herself around the busy London, figuring out tubes, travelling in the late hours on public transport on your own. You proved that you had a courage like no other.

Then I was born! You started to juggle motherhood and working full-time as a mother of a toddler so perfectly. You proved to me again how strong a woman can be. You put your family first and understood the importance of working to support your husband to provide for your small, imperfectly perfect family.

You managed like this for 6 years before my sister was born. During this time, you were blessed with the help your own mother, whom you managed to get London, all the way from Sri Lanka. Grandma’s time in the UK, was short. Two years following the birth of my little sister, your second daughter, grandma was lost to cancer.

Two young children in your hand, a family to bring up, and having lost your own mother. Honestly, you stood strong and became an even stronger woman. At this point you and dad had the ‘talks’ and decided it was best for you to stop working so you can look after me and my sister, whilst dad provided financially for the family.

This time was life-changing for me and little sister. You learnt driving so you could take us to all our classes: dance, music, swimming, tuition; and all our dance and music shows. You sacrificed your evenings waiting in the car whilst sister and I had 1-3 hour classes. You sacrificed your social life so you could be there for us to make us endless cups of tea when we had exams coming up. Your sacrificed couple-time with dad, so you could embrace and comfort us when we were stressed out with life.

When we started university, you sacrificed your weekends: making food for us to take back to university; doing our laundry because we were spoilt brats who did not know how to do the washing; ultimately making sure we had a stress-free time at university.

Basically you started living your life, for us. That became your purpose and that still is.

I have come to the biggest realization. I am able to live the life of my dreams, pursuing my passions in various avenues, because of all your sacrifices. I cannot imagine a life where I am not able to be a doctor, a dancer and blogger. I cannot imagine a life where I do not live independently. I will always want to live on my own two feet. But for me to have the courage to be the person I am now, you sacrificed your independence and dreams. I can only imagine how scary that must be, because the thought alone makes me sad and anxious.

You sacrificed your whole life for me and sister (and dad, but dad is dad! Haha). We became your world, your social life, your passion, your love. You CHOSE to make us your world. Our successes are not ours. They are yours.

Amma, our relationship is not perfect. But it is nonetheless beautiful. I love how we are working on it on a daily basis. I love this new openness we have, and I can’t wait for more of such beautiful memories together, because amma, you are a superhero in my eyes.

Home-sick

I am currently sat at my dining table, in the comfort of my own home. I feel so grateful, blessed and happy today.

This, however, was not the case when I was away from home, due to work, for over the past two months. Working Christmas day, Boxing day and New Year’s Day was one thing; but working shift-after-shift with very little breathing space and opportunity to go home and rest, was something else altogether. I was physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted. As a result, my mood hit a rock bottom for a couple of weeks in January.

January marks the beginning of the year filled with hope, but for me it marked a feeling of hopelessness, lack of motivation and commitment. I had withdrawn myself from everything and everyone. I just about managed to wake up and go to work. I was forcing smiles at everyone whilst I was crying inside. I had very little motivation to cook which meant I was living off Tesco-brand prawn crackers for dinner for at least 2 weeks. Basically, I was in a very bad place and I was very close to getting professional help because I had no idea who to turn to and I had no idea what to do with myself.

It was not until I had a phone conversation with my parents that I realised why I was so low. I missed my family and my home. A LOT. I missed being spoilt by my parents. I missed eating my mum’s food. I missed my dad always fixing my car to ensure it was that much safer to survive the motorway drives I do. I missed listening to my sister’s random outbursts of singing from her room. Ultimately, I started to value and appreciate my family and my home to an extent that I thought could not be possible until recently.

I am not a ‘perfect’ child, whatever that means. Many people think I am, but I am not. I have made my fair share of mistakes and I have hurt my parents a lot. I am a human after all. It was never intentional but clearly there was a point in my life when hormonal influences had overridden my actual mind. What has changed now? Well I am working. But more than that, I am working with lives. I see individuals at the brink of their lives just wanting to spend their last moments surrounded by their family in the comfort of their own homes. Can we blame them for wanting this? NEVER. Seeing life and death daily is beginning to change me very slowly. Everything I see at work reminds me of my family. I do not know whether this is healthy for me in the long run, but I know that such reminders are what push me to take extra care of my patients (even though there is only so much you can do as an F1 doctor). All these thoughts and memories of my family, coupled with not being able to see them for ages, started to overwhelm me. I realised that my low mood was attributed to feeling so home-sick.

This weekend has been the first since the weekend before Christmas, that I spent time with my family…and I am on cloud nine! I have decided to stay home all weekend. I wanted to enjoy home and genuinely feel grateful about being surrounded by the most amazing individuals ever. I would not be the person I am today if it had not been for my mum, dad and sister. I am enjoying my bed, my mum’s food, my dad’s constant advice giving, and my sister’s general presence. I even enjoyed having the most pointless arguments with my mum yesterday!

When I was driving from Birmingham to London this Thursday night, I was literally crying out in happiness. I am not even exaggerating. Yes, it all sounds very melodramatic, but when your mental health has been suffering for so long because you have missed home that much, that drive back home becomes a very emotional affair.

I parked up, opened the door and was greeted by my mum and dad’s hugs. HOME. Suddenly, all that sadness, welling up inside me, faded.

Life is short. I am realising this more and more especially as I work in a profession where individuals may deteriorate within a blink of an eye. This has made me appreciate the loving and caring souls around me that much more, because we do not know what will happen tomorrow. Be grateful, stay humble and be present. Most importantly, do not take family and friends for granted. Life is full of blessings, and a beautiful family is the first and ultimate that we have to cherish.

Life as a Wedding Choreographer

My life as an official Wedding Choreographer started very recently.

I made the announcement on the 14th of June 2017, so today marks my new venture’s 3 month anniversary – what a journey it has been so far.

This blog is about what brought me into the realm of wedding choreography. I have then described my experiences, since June 2017, as an official Wedding Choreographer.

Life before Wedding Choreography

Before I got into Wedding Choreography, I danced for pre-wedding celebrations, weddings and wedding receptions of family and friends. I had several opportunities over the past 3 years to also choreograph for bridal fashion-shows in and outside of university. Both these opportunities made me fall in love with the wedding environment and mood that much more.

Life as a Wedding Choreographer

Since the official announcement, I have been involved with 3 weddings. Three weddings might not seem like a lot, but with the amount of time put into each with pre-planning and rehearsals means that each wedding dance can take weeks to prepare for. For this reason, I am going to discuss my experiences of each from start to finish, and how the final outcome shaped up.

Client 1 – Vanathy and Pratheepan – June 2017

DISCLAIMER – I am calling Vanathy a client for professional reasons, but let me explain that she is one my closest friends. She will literally kill me after reading this so I am attempting to protect myself now. (See below)

Vanathy has been one of my good friends since I was a teenager. She is a dancer herself and I met her through Bharathanatyam lessons. I do not want to start on the number of duos we have performed together on stage. She is definitely one of my most fun dance partners and what is more is that I literally have always seen her as my older sister.

Therefore when she decided that she wanted to dance for both her bridal entrances of her Hindu ceremony I was not surprised. My cousin and I, with Vanathy’s input of course, did the choreography together. It is definitely something very new for me and something which I have not often seen being done.

Vanathy decided on both her bridal entrances songs. The Manavarei saree entrance was to Ore Or Ooril, from Baahubali 2; the koorai saree entrance was to a religious stuthi (chant) about Lord Shiva – Suvarnamaalastuthi.

The fact that all three of us have known each other dance styles for years now meant that the choreography process was actually very straight forward. We sat down a week before the wedding, listened to songs and started the choreography process. It was a team effort for sure and that is what made it that much more fun. We all chipped in ideas and came up with the final product.

The main challenges faced was that Vanathy wanted to dance for her Manavarai Saree entrance. Why this was a challenge was because people should not think it is cheesy/cringey when the Bride dances down the aisle. Therefore, we had to ensure the choreography was simple, cultured and elegant, to reflect the atmosphere of the wedding which was very classy indeed. And of course, her Manavarei saree entrance was to a very royal song, so the choreography had to reflect this royalty.

Vanathy chose the second song, in praise of Lord Shiva. Her mum and Vanathy decided that the Koorai entrance should be to a religious song rather than to a movie-based song. Everyone loved this entrance and enjoyed the mood of the song in line with the entrance.

I loved being one of the choreographers for Vanathy’s bridal entrances. It was unique and my first experience of choreographing for Bridal entrances. I think it is fair to say that overall the bridal entrances were a massive hit and created waves across social media, which we were all very surprised yet grateful about.

Bridal entrances are a very special and exciting moment for the Bride, Groom and the rest of the family and friends attending the wedding. I hope more Brides will be brave enough to experiment with their Bridal entrances, because I believe it is something they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

Client 2 – Annaniya and Sai – August 2017

I was approached by Sai’s sister in June enquiring about wedding choreography. At the time I did know that it was for her brother and sister-in-law that she was enquiring about. Then she told me that she wanted to get first dance lessons from me, as a gift for them, which I found incredibly adorable.

After the booking was confirmed with the sister, Annaniya got in touch with me. When I asked her about what their vision was for their first dance, they knew that they wanted a traditional slow first dance to begin with and then a transition into a more funky segment with elements of Tamil music.

My initial role was to create a playlist of possible songs. The list was not set in stone. It was more a starting point for them. They could obviously have chosen from those songs, but my idea was that it would give them some inspiration as to what songs to choose, so below are the songs they finalised:

Perfect by Ed Sheeran
Drake – Controlla (90’s Tamil Medley) – Mashup cover by Inno Genga

They had chosen two very different styles of songs which obviously made it that much more of a unique experience for me as a choreographer. They were extremely focused and really wanted to make this first dance a special one. I gave them a lot of leeway to make the dance their own. They wanted lifts, spins and slow dance elements which were all incorporated, but ultimately I told them, what I teach them is a guidance and if they want to add or take anything away, that is entirely their choice and I will help them master the changes. They enjoyed the original choreography I taught them and stuck by and their dedication shone through: within 2 hours of rehearsals, they had mastered the routine.

Client 2 – Deanusa’s Brother’s reception family dance – September 2017

Deanusa is actually my first official client because she contacted me about choreographing a family dance for her and her friends, for her brother’s wedding reception, even before I made my official announcement as a Wedding Choreographer. However, I ranked my clients in order of the event dates hence she is ranked as my most recent one.

I found working with Deanusa and her friends a very interesting and fun experience. They knew exactly what they wanted and gave me a list of songs with the timings and the order in which they wanted it to feature in the final mix.

My initial responsibility was actually to listen to all the songs and gage an understanding of the whole mood of what they wanted for their performance. I then made a few suggestions about other songs they could consider as well which they gladly took into consideration.

When the final set of songs were confirmed, I started working on the mix – yes I can make basic mixes on my own, and am gradually improving my ability to do so. After the mix was confirmed, we commenced on rehearsals. Below are the songs they danced to:

Desingu Raja from Thavasi
Jallakku Jallakku from Endrendrum Kadhal
Chottu Chottu from Taj Mahal
Rasika from Star
Pinga from Bajirao Mastani
Radhai Manathil from Snehithiye
Chinna Nam Veetukku from Poovellam Un Vaasam

I had to spend the first rehearsal teaching them a simple choreography from their routine. I used this time to gage their dancing skill level. Based on this I then shaped the rest of the choreography. I ultimately wanted the girls to feel comfortable and enjoy the dance piece they were going to perform, which they did feel very much.

Even though I did all the choreography, the girls had their own input. If they wanted certain things in the choreography for example using props, they let me know and I would change it up to suit their needs accordingly. Ultimately, client satisfaction is key. It is their event, it is their dance, so the choreography needs to reflect them.

As a business venture so far…

Unlike many other wedding businesses, I am the product of my business. I do not have materials to sell; I am selling my services as a dancer and choreographer to couples who will require it for their big day. My business model is me. I do not have products to put faith into. I have to put faith into myself and my skills as a dancer and choreographer.

Yes this can put pressure on me to utilise my skill set maximally yet efficiently. However, it gives me that much more control of the whole situation and stretches me to an extent that I can learn that much more.

The past three weddings I have worked on have been very different learning experiences which I have enjoyed so much for various reasons. I love what I do and I realised how much I actually love connecting with people through dance. Working with individuals who have little to no prior dance experience is where the challenge yet fun lies for me, because it pushes me to go beyond just teaching dance. It is predominantly about building a rapport which will make my clients feel comfortable to dance. The choreography does not have to be complex at all; the real success lies in giving individuals, who have never danced before, the courage to do it confidently in front of an audience which comprises of their family and friends, which I find to be the hardest audience to perform for.

What I have found most rewarding is that as a Wedding Choreographer you get to know the clients on a more personal level than just seeing them on the day. When I work with individuals who have never danced, I am bringing out something which they may not be too comfortable with – their ability to dance. It is through this process that you get to connect to a client on a personal level and build a rapport which I do not think can be brought out with several of the other wedding businesses.

Being a Wedding Choreographer is not just about choreographing and teaching. It is about guiding, motivating and of course doing a lot of pre-preparation so the couple are given a wide range of options to choose from with regards to songs, final mixes and of course choreography. Well this is how I have structured my business model because I work to give all the freedom to my clients. It is their wedding at the end of the day. I am merely there for professional guidance and support.

Three months into the business, I am proud of the opportunities which have come my way. I am happy about my clients and the responses I have got from them, and of course I am grateful about the support I have got from my friends and family.

Let’s continue this journey onwards and upwards from here.

The Challenges of Instagram

Those of you who know me well will know that I do love sharing key moments of my life, and particularly on Instagram – I have done so for several years now.

I have had a private instagram account for just over 4 years now – @praveena_pranavarooban. I call this account my private account because:

1) I follow and am followed by people I know very well and on a personal level – friends, cousins, etc.

2) I post more personal aspects of my life on that profile – my parents, my extended family, my relationship, my social life, etc.

So now I wanted to discuss the purpose of my public account and how the aims of it changed overtime:

Initial aims of my public profile and PraveenaUK:

• Strictly for dance – to show that I am a dancer and wanted a platform to share my love for dance – whether it be through photos or videos
• Should post nothing aside from my solo stuff and achievements
• Dance covers
• No family
• No friends
• No relationships
• Nothing about any other people around me

Aims of my public profile and PraveenaUK:

• Motivate
• Inspire
• Business profile – a medium through which people can enquire and book for wedding choreography
• Showcase shades of my personal day to day life by sharing stuff about me – what I am up to; my love for reading, books, sarees; the positive people around me – my dance teams, friends I made through dance, some of my closest friends, my work/business teams, my sister
• A dance and personal portfolio
• Still will protect my parents because they are not used to the impact of being in the public eye and they are not a massive fan of it, which I completely respect – so no parents and extended family members (unless they are dancers)
• No relationships

I met up with a friend of mine recently, and she asked me what the reasoning behind this gradual change in the nature my posts on my public account was. She had noticed that it was becoming more personal now and asked me what the reason behind this was.

[I am very glad to be surrounded by people who question my every action. Such friends make me think, push me, keep me grounded and help me stay focused].

So back to her question. The reason my public account has started to become a little more personal is because I believe that people are now aware that I am a dancer. There is no need for me to keep showcasing that I am. Now it is time people get to see the person behind ‘Praveena UK’.

I like posting about my team members now (whether it be dance or business), because they are individuals who have taught me so much about dance, and how to conduct myself as a dancer and choreographer. They are a family whom I feel blessed to have gained.

I am in the process now of creating a correct balance between showcasing my professional and personal life. I am certainly more focused on giving more importance to my professional life than personal, but I do not want people to neglect the fact that I am human. I do have a personal life and in the correct doses, it will add a lot of value to my professional brand.

Every person who I share on my public profile are people who have contributed to shaping me as a dancer, choreographer, blogger and the human being that I am today.

The Blame Game

We have all fallen victim of ‘The Blame Game’.

If the cooking goes wrong, we blame the quality of the ingredients or someone who apparently distracted us. If the dance performance was not good, we blame the lighting or the costumes or the stage. If the relationship did not work, we are all brilliant at blaming the opposite party. If we get into an accident, we blame the other driver.

These are just a few examples showcasing humans’ horrible tendency of blaming others when something goes wrong. Whether we realise it or not, we tend to play ‘the blame game’ a little too often in our day-to-day lives.

In many cases the opposite party may be at fault, but my point is what good is it for us to waste our time and energy blaming others, when we could actually use that energy and drive to work on ourselves. I always tell myself, the hardest yet most rewarding part is to look at yourself, identify your mistakes and work to fix it. How else are you going to grow as an individual?

I do want to mention that this does not mean that you have to be harsh on yourself and blame yourself for every bad incident. Not at all. Think of it as an opportunity to build yourself and grow.

I wanted to keep this piece a short one. Find ways in which you can learn and improve as an individual, because that is your responsibility and no one else’s. In the same way that you would never let your success be defined by someone else, when something goes wrong or you fail, look at where and how you can improve. This is how you can start to think positively and move forward positively as well.

The Unspoken Truth

Depression is a very touching topic and especially within our Tamil community it is quite a taboo.

My 4th year audit was on the identification and management of depression in type 2 diabetic patients at a local GP practice. I decided to do my project on this topic because evidence suggests that patients with a chronic health condition such a Diabetes are at an increased risk of developing depression. Therefore as part of National guidelines’ diabetes management plan, patients should be regularly screened for depression. I was hence able to explore the management of physical and mental illness side by side, which I surprisingly have never before had the opportunity to do.

I loved doing my audit and the results were shocking. However, I am not here to discuss my results and provide you with a summary of my study. I wanted to use this space to raise awareness for depression within our society, and in particular within my Tamil community.

Depression is real

I can be certain that when one of us goes to our parents, aunts or uncles saying that we may be depressed, they are likely to dismiss it completely by saying something along the lines of ‘Oh no, don’t be silly, it is all in your head’, ‘You can do this’, ‘Don’t come up with silly excuses’, etc.

There are so many unspoken truths in my community – depression, and other mental health problems, are some of them. All I can say is that depression is real and I have seen it amongst my patients, my family and friends, and myself.

The moment you see someone dear to you constantly having a low mood, reduced self-esteem, is isolating themselves from the world, has changed patterns of eating or changed sleeping patterns; do not be the one to neglect them and their emotions. Talk to them or try and ask for help. Do not push them away, and most importantly do not make them feel as if the depression they are suffering is not important enough or real enough.

Depression is one of many mental health conditions, which are all equally as important and as serious as physical health conditions.

There have already been many attempts to raise awareness about depression in our community, so let us all come together to do the same. Let us turn the taboo into a spoken truth.