I’m not dead

21 Jul

I’m not dead. And this blog isn’t about to die either. It’s just somehow always the most inopportune moments when my head gets so filled with thoughts that I want to rush and bring to the fore (and by to the fore, I mean to this blog, duh), that I have to stop myself because of sheer bad timing.

Bangalore2

Bangalore evenings to remember

I’ve contemplated writing about how 2015 has been so chock-full of travel — sudden, spontaneous trips to Bangalore (four, at last count! And it’s only July!), a week in Delhi (so unplanned, so many mixed feelings, and a new beginning that ended too soon), a gorgeously relaxing ten days in Sri Lanka, and Bombay last week (my first trip back in two and a half years!). I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting to mention something else. And I’m not even done. Next month holds promise of some more overseas travel (For work, yougaiiz!). Until now, every time I’ve travelled on work, it’s been to an office in a different city, consisted mostly of meetings in cubicles and/or board rooms. But next month I might just have my very first opportunity to change that.

Home, sweet, sweet Bangalore home

Home, sweet, sweet Bangalore home

But of course, the this very lucid train of thought struck me, almost fully formed into a neat little post, when I was mid-shower, en-route to a hectic day of work. There was soap at the back of my neck that needed washing. And then a body that needed wiping down, clothes that had to be worn, and work that needed getting back to. Of course writing about travelling for work had to wait.

I’ve wanted to talk about work itself. And put it down for myself to remember the next time a lean period rolls along. To remind myself that sometimes a painful wait is worth it. That sometimes I just have to tide over a dry spell without losing my mind too much. That sometimes even a brief period of chaos thanks to horribly miscalculated decision led by desperation, is usually followed by better. It always gets better. If there’s one thing that keeps reaffirming my faith in the general way of things, and how to navigate life, it is to remember to never settle. Two years of ups and downs thanks to being so picky about choosing the right gigs, turning down even the most tempting ones, to keep my head down and constantly trying to get better, widen my perspective and course-correct every bad decision (and there were quite a few), has finally put me in a good spot. There’s a healthy stream of good opportunities coming to me. The best part, and this has been such an immense relief, all of it has come without me having to pimp myself like bait out there. I’m in a place where I can choose, and this is where I’ve wanted to be for so long now.

If I’d had any foresight in 2012 when I quit my job, and someone asked me to describe the ideal work-situation, I’d have painted a picture of life just now. My days are full again. Full of writing. All kinds of it. Some days it rushes in faster than I can keep up with it, and other days I have room to sit around and think of what else I could be writing. I have a healthy balance of doing banal work that needs to be done, and I do it like I eat my greens. I may not always love it, but it has to be done. I’ve learned not to fuss over it and expect everything to be stellar all the time. Because doing that means I can focus on pitching the funn-er stuff to the right people. And the best part, after much trauma, too much picking and choosing and lots of trial and error, I have a couple of really fun clients who allow me that freedom. Give me the flexibility to run with my ideas and are mostly game to take on anything and work together to make it better.

Some times I have to pinch myself and wonder if it’s all too good to be true. And I usually end up telling myself it probably is.

I’ve thought a lot about how my routine has changed. I used to be a creature of habit. I still am, but I’m constantly being forced to break those patterns that couched my laziness and unwillingness to change. It’s official. Work is challenging me not just by upping the ante with the kind of writing I’m taking on, but also in my work style. I’ve been forced to work myself out of the comfort of safe routines that did little to really push my limits. I’ve had to get used to juggling multiple (way more than I’ve ever had at one point of time) assignments at a time), teach myself to deal with all kinds of clients, and learn to put my foot down, to know what opportunities to drop and what to pursue, and along the way, carefully build some patience and tact that was sorely missing.

I realise now that all it took was to go back to believing that less is more. And to do that I had to set aside my choosy, fussy ego. Dissolve some of the angst I was clutching close to my heart, keep my head down to the grindstone, focus a little more and begin by distilling what it is that I really want. Once I had a better idea on what I wasn’t going to compromise on, it was easier to stop hankering after every opportunity that came my way and single-mindedly chase my goal. I had to cut a lot of unnecessary fat I’d accumulated along the way, trim the several unwanted distractions and factors that though tempting to carry on with, were only going to be a drain on my time and energy.

In all of this, with the hectic work scenes, interspersed with travel scenes, I’ve had a steady stream of friends visiting. S came over right after on of my trips to Bangalore, and as anticipated it was a week of extended debauchery. Too much alcohol and other intoxicants consumed, enough to make the whole week pass in a happy haze, driving around, eating at our favourite spots and vegetating at home watching movies, watching the rain, listening to music and yakking away to glory.

In which S makes me drink several G&Ts on a Monday morning.

In which S makes me drink several G&Ts on a Monday morning

R & S visited for what was meant to be a weekend that got happily extended, making one of them cancel a work interview and another forget her family for a day longer. It’s not often that you meet friends with whom you can enjoy your time without frenetic activity. With a select few, this is actually possible. No pressure to have an agenda, to be on your best host behavior and tick all the typical to-dos off when you have friends visiting you in Goa. All my close encounters with good friends this year have reconfirmed this. It helps that most of my friends come with low expectations and never want to do anything run of the mill.

Church with a view

Church with a view

So S and I spent most of the week that he was here in a blur of nostalgia tinged revisits around all our favourite haunts. There was a customary thaali consumed, three trips to Inox to watch terrible movies, food cooked at home, and beginning a weekday at 11 am with a beer. We binged on Coke Studio as usual, and since his arrival coincided with the amp on my speakers at home blowing up, must of this was done while driving around in the rain. The best combination, if you ask me.

Breathtaking rainy views

Breathtaking rainy views

It also meant I got to visit some less-crowded, less-seen spots in my own backyard. And be a tourist just for a bit.

Reis Magos Fort in the rain

In which I finally get to explore Reis Magos Fort in the rain

With R & S, the weather wasn’t so kind. After all the anticipation of incessant rain and planning clothes that would be manageable and conducive to roaming about in the showers, we had NO rain. Just intensely hot days. But that didn’t stop us. We spent the 3 days driving around to some spots we’d decided we must see, I facilitated some binge shopping, sea-food eating, and generally staying up too late and being typical girls sitting and yakking about boys, belly fat and beautiful clothes. Thankfully for VC (and us!) a work trip came up at the last minute, coinciding perfectly with our girly weekend, and we had the house entirely to ourselves and he was spared all the excessive girly business. We practically played out Dil Chahta Hai of the opposite sex.

So much DCH.

So much DCH

S & S were supposed to visit me later this month, but have cancelled and I’m sad because it would have been another perfect addition to events in the last few months of my life that have made me firmly believe in something I said on fb, while I was at my most inarticulate best (read below).

<3

<3

I’ve been thinking so much about how I used to be the one girl in a gang of boys, and all my best friends so far have been boys. And yet in the last year alone I have dropped almost all of them, only to have them happily replaced by some truly fabulous women. I was overwhelmed at the realization and how quickly some of these bonds have strengthened. I wanted to tell a tale about whatsapp groups and how I have more than my fair share of them, all ruled by the girls in my life, but all I could manage was:

Girlfriends. Best.

And in keeping with the too-much-to-say-to-actually-say-it I made a feeble attempt to back it up with this babble:

Filed under: Things that should be in blogposts but never make it because I have no time to write for myself anymore.
Things that deserve elucidation, elaboration, nuance, but don’t get it because very overwhelmed, much emotion.
Things that have turned my every day life around, but only get acknowledged in quiet moments of solitude.

As if I didn’t already have enough going on, my hands dirty with way too many different things, I decided to redo our living-dining area a bit. It started with needing to replace two broken dining chairs, but eventually ended up in a massive project of having all new chairs made, painting and distressing them myself, then repainting the table to match, and while we’re at it changing all the curtains and moving some furniture around.

Step 1: Paint

Step 1: Paint

I couldn’t have done it without A, who is like a whiz around the house. I would have procrastinated and done this in stages over the next 6 months.

Step 2: Scrape

Step 2: Scrape

But she swooped in with more enthusiasm than I could muster at that time, and made sure I was all set in 5 days flat. Another case of “girlfriends, best.”

And, done.

And, done

In all this, VC has been my rock. Putting up with my mood swings, work-related stress, dealing with too much take out, coping with me beginning my day at 6 am and ending it way past midnight, laptop dragged into bed. It occurred to me some time last month that for weeks on end, the every waking moment we spent together at home, I was usually with my nose buried in my laptop. I must be lonely being in a house of two where one person is present, but absent, if you know what I mean. Worse than dealing with long bouts of loneliness when I up and go to Bombay or Bangalore, as I have so many times this year. Only last weekend, he quietly admitting “it’s no fun when you’re not around, so try and not go away too much, too often,” taking care to only express the feeling without curbing the wheels on my heels.

<3 <3

He’s been travelling a lot too, which has meant a lot less alone time for us. Last Sunday we realised we hadn’t spent a weekend together in over 8 weeks, which for us, is a long, long, long time. We fixed it with a day out in the rain.

Time to finally hit pause, just for a bit

In which I finally get to hit pause, just for a bit

So yeah, I’ve had way too much going on. It’s given me a lot of fodder to blog about, and I’ve had so much to say, at so many different points. In many ways I almost had too much to say, to actually take the trouble to articulate it in words. For once though, I just let it go and didn’t let the pressure to blog every little happening get the better of me. But who knows, maybe this is the start of another bout of blogging?

I leave you with this earworm-turned-brain-worm that’s caught me unawares two days ago, and refuses to let up. May you suffer the sweet trauma of this sweet song too.

Protected: Another one bites the dust

4 Jun

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Thoughts on the saree

1 Jun

There’s only so much you need to tuck in, to make sure your feet don’t show, and yet keep the delicate edge save from being trampled on. You swivel the entire length of the drape around, gauging silently and just knowing, as if by magic, just how much leeway you should allow. It’s something you feel in your bones, your fingers deftly follow suit, working the pleats, while your waist welcomes the tight knots, and learns the perfectly-timed tucks and knows every obstinate tug.

You know just how much play to allow for, so the cloth makes room for flexibility and movement. That stray, puffed out triangle that clearly belongs in no-mans land, but invariably forms awkwardly at the right hip? You pinch it loosely, lazily. And then you leave it be, of course. Because you’ve learned over time, that not everything has a perfect place in which to fit into. (Sometimes it’s okay to stick out, you tell yourself.) You do what you always do, you envelope it beneath the swathe that drapes over your side, across the chest and down your left shoulder.

Eventually, you figure out the long and short of it. The length you allocate to the cascading bit that flows down your shoulder, that crucial part that weighs the garment down, keeping it in place, will dictate how many or how few rippling pleats you will end up with. Longer, makes you look slimmer. Shorter, makes you look dowdy, they tell you. Pin it up neatly, it keeps the fuss out of your face. Pleated perfectly, is prettiest, they coax you to make a habit of that perfection.

Saree1

But much trial and error will result in the inevitable realisation that there is no perfect long or short to it. The perfect length is in fact any length you want it to be. Maybe like me, you figured early on that neatly pinned is not your style. Unbecoming as it may be, gathering the pallu in exactly the way it allows itself to be gathered and carelessly slapping it over your shoulder came most naturally. And it stayed that way, to become the only way you ever wore your pallu.

From doing it over and over, you learn how every kind of fabric falls differently. How a freshly starched kota or cotton sari has a way of surrounding you a few inches outside of your body. The much better behaved, well-used cottons, softened with multiple wears and washes know the curves on your body and cling to them lovingly. Heavy silks needed taming, with pins and clips you showed them the way and eventually, mastered wearing them too. The chiffons and crepes were never your thing – too lady-like, too prim and proper, and way too many pins.

Sometime last week, I caught myself wondering where this all began, the fascination for the saree and jogged my memory back to when I might have picked up just how it was done, this business of draping it. Like a baby elephant with knobby-knees and shaky legs,  picks itself up and takes that first step, minutes after it is born, knowing how to drape a saree came quite naturally. Baby elephants take that first miraculous step like naturals, and I remember the first time I put a saree on all by myself the steps just unfolding in my mind, almost like the saree put itself on me.

I don’t remember ever having learned the ways, in the conventional sense. Nobody showed me how it was done. No step-by-step tutorials or hands-on demonstrations. Most of it came through mere observation.

If one ever needs proof that we learn, and more importantly imbibe, cultural subtleties through osmosis, this is it. The rest, I’m putting down to instinct. Because ever since the very first instance I put a saree on all by myself, I remember feeling so perfectly comfortable, like I was in a second skin.

For as far back as my mind can stretch, I remember watching amma get dressed in front of the teak cupboard with the full-length mirror. It was my grandfather’s, I was told. A single cupboard, with just one door that opened left to right, it held pretty much all the clothes both my parents owned, for the longest time. Until the first steel cupboard came home, long after my sister was born, because that was finally when my parents could afford one.

I mostly just watched in awe, as amma draped her saree on, with that casual comfort and perfect ease. Whether we were in a rush, whether she had half an hour to get dressed; whether she was angry, happy, sad or overjoyed, whatever the mood; whether it was a slippery crepe, a heavy kanjeevaram or a shy and impossible to pin-down chiffon, he did it like she owned the art of wearing her saree. And she wore them a lot and all the time. Even today, when I think of her, I picture her in a saree, with her red Gopuram kumkum bindi perfectly large and round, moulded with the back of a pen dipped into Vaseline and followed by kumkum. Her style, it was easy. It was simple. It was comfortable. And just so impossibly graceful.

So perhaps some of it is genetic, or natural. Because I took considerable interest in sarees when I was growing up, even collected a decent number for my wedding trousseau – a process that began very casually many years before the boy I was going to marry even came into my life. Clearly it was more about the sarees than the wedding. Or the trousseau. And then when I moved to Goa, somehow that excitement waned, and all my sarees remained in Bangalore under amma’s able care and experience. Until recently, when my facebook and twitter timelines have begun to be inundated with so many gorgeous women in their fabulous sarees.

Something stirred within me, and I longed to wear them again. Goa doesn’t give me enough occasions or opportunities to. I work from home, I barely ever socialise at events that justify a saree, and I’ve been to less than half a dozen weddings here.

The opportunity finally came when I was in Bangalore last month, and I excitedly picked out two sarees to wear when I went to meet friends. I surprised myself when I was able to drape it in no time at all, no pins to boot. Its been about six years since I did it last. So maybe, like cycling and swimming, draping all 6 yards of a saree, is a skill we never forget?

A delightful saree-date happened, with these lovelies dressed in their sarees as we had planned.

Saree4

It was supposed to be a quick date but four hours of non stop chatter, giggles, shock and awe stories and a thunderstorm later, we realised it was nearly dinner time, we’d polished off half a chocolate pie, one of us didn’t have a ride home and the other had successfully missed gym. Apparently hanging out in a hip café in Bangalore, in a saree was totally normal. And if there’s one reason to love and hang on to your girlfriends, it’s for making losing track of time seem so natural.

A couple of days later, I hung out with these lovelies, dressed in their sarees as we had planned again.

Saree5

More beers than I usually have on a weekday afternoon were consumed, and a lot of colourful food was eaten. We then waddled over for ice cream, while two of us convinced the third that it was perfectly fine to continue on that pre-planned shopping spree, and change out of her saree in a changing room. But that outing however, didn’t go plan. On account of overeating and food coma. I suppose meeting friends to drink beer and overeat to a point where you have to cancel all plans and head home for a nap is also totally normal.

I hadn’t bought a saree in years, and so when the latest purchase arrived last week, I couldn’t even wait to get the false stitched before I wore it. It was a horribly rushed morning and I had just 5 minutes to decide if I was going to wear the saree and actually put it on. The decision was made in half a minute and the saree worn in about three.

Saree2

Last week, after a long, long wait, I finally got tickets to watch the National Award-Winning Konkani film Nachom-ia Kumpasar. The event didn’t seem like a saree-worthy one, but I decided I was done waiting for the right occasions. Women across the country have been wearing them everyday, bringing them out of the recesses of their cupboards, and several thousands have been wearing them day in and out for generations now. My grandmother’s generation wear them through all seasons, times of day and year, whether going out, staying in, whatever the case may be. So many take public transport, some drive, walk through city traffic and go to work in sarees. I don’t see why I need to wait for an occasion.

Saree6

So I wore a saree to the movie. And lunch afterwards. By the end of it, we’d decided we’re going to try and meet every so often for a catch-up. And we’re going to wear sarees. Of course.

Fading memories

15 May

Memories, they curl away. Eventually. Like the corners of coffee-stained pages from an old notebook. Shut tight and laden with tales, pressed between the covers. Heavy, ready to wilt, saddled with magic and dreams, like a belly full of secrets still untold.

Words. And memories. Of times past. They sit in neat little rows, like freshly bloomed flowers. Sandwiched, an inky transition between then and now. And in that space between, is me. Like a rock stuck in a brook. Precariously balanced, delicately negotiating between what was, what is, and what will be. Holding on to what footing my round egdes can catch, weighing out the choices, plucking moments like undoing those annoying folded doggy-eared pages. I fix them, straighten them, press them out so they can breathe a little. Unfurl. Uncurl. Let the air pass along the crease, only to clamp them shut again. Return them to their spot between then and now. Squeezed tight like the whitening knuckles on my fist. They slip into the gaps and fill out.

I pick another one. Open it up, and watch the words, like the stains of memories, a record of moments set adrift. They dance out, standing up like little girls doing ballet. Toes pointed, bodies taut, teetering along in dotted rows down a brittle, fragile, crust page thats aged over time. They make their way to the edge, balancing gracefully, gently moving closer to freedom. Only to curl away, turn the corner, and disappear.

This time, for good.  

Protected: On being gainfully (kind of) employed (sort of) again

14 May

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Let’s begin with peace

1 May

It’s been three days of listening to the incessant churn of the sea. That necessary hum that pretty soon blends into the background, just enough not to intrude but always loud enough so you don’t forget where you are. And why you’re feeling so relaxed. 

It’s been three days of waking up before the crack of dawn (yep, VC made me do it) to catch the sunrise. 

It’s been three days of extra long days (because, refer point above) of unending, extreme relaxation. Punctuated only be breaks to drink, eat and sleep. All my time has been spent mostly horizontally, or semi-horizontally. Reading. Chatting with VC. Giggling. Watching. Taking it all in. 

It’s been three days of being drunk on relaxation and waking up with a shadow of a hangover. From feeling very relaxed, of course. Not too shabby a start to year 32, I’d say. 

Maybe it’s the holiday glow, or maybe I’m just old, but when I look back at the post from last year, all I feel is a tremendous sense of calm. I can see just what has changed from then to now. And yet, I know exactly what hasn’t

 
Part of me was a little worried we aren’t getting out and roaming around enough. That we’re missing the sights and the tourists spots. But I quickly realised that’s not who we are. We exhausted our sight seeing enthusiasm on day one.  Our holidays always boil down to this kind of relaxation. And that’s okay

  
To begin the year in peace — with my phone out of reach from most, sitting on the balcony facing the sea, watching the sun creep out from behind the hills, chai in one hand and my book in the other, hungrily reading away, doing absolutely nothing else. This is a lot more than I could ask for. 

Snapshots and over sharing 

29 Apr

The last time we went on a big fat holiday it was because I was worn out and saddened by what my work had become. I used the time to switch off, decompress and de-wire. I wasnt on Facebook, hadn’t been for two years before, and I hadn’t discovered Instagram. That mini-break eventually became the serendipitous realisation that what I really needed was a life that I didn’t want to constantly escape. A life that didn’t make me desperately crave a holiday. By the end if the holiday I had found what I was looking for.  The much needed courage to take a sabbatical from work even though it seemed like the craziest, scariest thing to do at the time. 

This time around things are very different. When we planned this one, part of me did it because I suddenly realised one day, that OMG-it’s-been-three-years-since we last took a break. And part of me did it because I wanted VC to take a real, solid break. I, frankly, don’t deserve this holiday. And going by the levels of sloth and luxury that are panning out as we go, this feeling only gets stronger. My regular life though busy and hectic as it is, is still very simple and I like it that way because it is fulfilling. It has fashioned itself so simply that when I want to take a break just driving out about ten minutes to hit rolling fields, catching a drink on a beach nearby or just spending a Sunday cooking suffice. Actually not just suffice, it totally hits the spot. I don’t know when or how it happened but when I did the math, I realised that as someone who felt the itch to go somewhere once a month, I may have turned over an all new leaf. 

This time the feeling of wanting to escape life is missing. I am happy to be away from my routine but that’s about it. It was meant to be a gadget-free holiday. I ditched my laptop at home like I always do, but armed my ipad with a couple of books. When I turned my phone off on boarding the flight at Bangalore I was prepared to be off the grid completely. I thought I’d perhaps not be the over-sharing picture-taking tourist for a change. 

BUT. Sri Lanka has put a massive spoke in all that yougaiizzzz.

 
With it’s strawberry blushing sunsets. Thick, acrylic skies that make you question science. Happy, cheerful people who you want to grab and hug for no reason at all. Beautifully clean, quaint and undiscovered corners. Pristine colonial sights that make you want to have chicken sandwiches and tea. With it’s gentle marrying of religious serenity and transactional tourism. It’s incredible capacity to make me want to hang on to every memory in tedious detail. It’s ethereal moments that catch me off guard. With it’s colours that pop. And it’s charm that beguiles even the cautious travellers that we are.  

 
The last time I was on a big, fat holiday I turned off my phone and escaped life. I had nowhere to share my pictures and I didn’t care to either. My holiday was all mine and I wanted to soak myself in it completely. 

This time it’s so different. Sri Lanka is too pretty not to be photographed. I’ve turned my phone off, but I can’t stop taking pictures. I’ve come so far away from home, but I haven’t escaped. I’m having an impossibly good time but I want to share snapshots of it all with you. Maybe it’s because all those lets-get-back-home-and-write-all-about-it moments never materialise. So instant over sharing makes sense. 

V said this morning, sometimes you’re making memories, sometimes you’re living the life you’d envisioned already. Maybe this is one of those few times that it’s possible to do both. At once. 

  
    

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