Saffron and green messes

1 Sep

Monsoon Messes

Light-speckled moments

They come entangled with a

pretty monsoon mess.

Goa blues, they come

31 Aug

Slowly, but surely, I feel myself inching towards saturation with life in Goa. Every day brings with it a new challenge. The internet one day, cellphone network another, perennially useless roads, deteriorating power supply — with alarmingly large amounts of my daily time being spent fixing things. Dealing with service centres, talking to customer care, trying to understand the idiots who drive around this town. Every day, I find myself tired, exhausted and craving a little order. Where things just work. And I can focus on being productive, and less on trying to make everything work so I can be productive.

A large part of this has to do with the changes I’ve brought on for myself, really. For weeks and months, the sound of a sabbatical coming to a close has bubbled beneath the surface. A gentle murmur, never clamouring above the din. But steady, present and always making itself heard has followed me around. I’ve listened and steered along, doing the best I can to address it, feed it, satisfy it. It’s actually worked. And after what feels like aeons, I’m finally feeling back in the groove of the work thing. I’m almost afraid to say it, but I’ve been on a roll. Working longer days than I did when I was employed, having publications come back to me asking for work, getting closer to knowing my potential and the value of my words. And all that could be 3x more if I didn’t have to deal with so much staggering inefficiency on a daily basis.

And that. Is finally getting to me.

Goa blues, they come. I’m increasingly frustrated with the infrastructure, constant chaos and just how difficult it is to be a work-from-home person out here. Every other day I’ve caught myself wondered how long I’m going to be able to sustain this before I decide I’ve had enough. Several times a week, I imagine what life might be outside of Goa. Nebulous questions that spell out w-h-a-t-n-e-x-t when I sit down and patiently disentangle them, loom large and heavy like tantalising gray monsoon clouds that refuse to burst.

And yet for every few days that I brush aside mundane irritants, grit my teeth and plod on, a day like this comes along and wipes that slate clean, like some kind of natural re-boot.

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And some days when I’m wandering higher, in places I rarely go, I look out and realise just how much of this green, green place I have yet to explore. I don’t know how much longer this will remain – how long will green patches hold off?

Goa blues, they come.

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Already large chunks are making way for concrete dreams and an altered skyline. How long before we paint the town a dirty shade of grey? How long before we wipe down all evidence of character, history and a time gone by? How long before I decide I must up and go?

I’m here now and while the going may not always be good, the internet is mostly shit and my work takes 3 times as long as it really should, I remind myself that I still have the view.

Goa, you’re a frustrating, annoying thing. I do love you, but you’ve got to get your shit together, man.

Fin. 

30 Aug

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Sunday ends gently

Steel grey

With fading footsteps

When I grow up, I want to be my father

1 Aug

The father turns 61 today, but he still thinks, believes and totally behaves like he’s my age. Amma had already told me he’s had a sleepless night and apparently he has a few of those every week now.

“He’s getting old!” we giggled.

When I called him to wish him a while later, I teased him about beginning his senior citizen years with trademark sleep deprivation, but he would have none of it. He quickly changed topics, segued into telling me a tale about his most recent trip to a piece of land he’s bought in the middle of a forest by a river. Solo, of course, as most of these trips end up being. He decides to go, he takes off, and that’s that. Although he is always happy to take those willing along on all his journeys, literal and figuratively speaking, he is not one to sit around waiting.

Said piece of land is the latest project in his life. Talking about it makes him sound like a little boy with a new toy. Off he goes every few weeks, to check on things, meet people who can help with the project, do a little research and most of the time I think its just his excuse to catch a break. The excitement in telling me he ventured off on a new track, taking a detour from the highway, entering a forest and approaching the plot of land from “another side”, only to discover that he had landed smack in front of his little piece of land, just on the opposite riverbank, was palpable. The glee in telling me he can now get to his future home  by boat was infectious and I chuckled, because it reminded me of so many instances of this kind of happiness, unbridled joy at the simplest things, that I’ve seen in his eyes, so many times before. His cheeks get shiny from smiling, his eyes sparkle with a naughty glimmer and I can immediately feel the wheels of an idea-just-struck churn away wildly inside his head. It’s what happens when he has come upon a plan, worked it out and done it all himself.

Of all the things I’ve appreciated in my father, it is this ability to be happy all on your own. No need for company, hectic plans, large groups or elaborate and fancy preparations. He has this fundamental attitude to everything he does – want something? make it happen. All my life, I have watched him lead by example and be the silent go-getter that he is. Not one for blowing his trumpet or celebrating every little win, his happiness was always in being able to do whatever it is he wished. Whenever an idea strikes him, he acts on it. Quickly. Whether it was taking off on his numerous wildlife photography trips, buying a second and third car, planning family holidays or buying beautiful things for us. I’ve seen him in his element at work, deep in the throes of designing homes late into the night and early in the mornings, I’ve seen him engrossed in music, I’ve seen him be overcome by emotion in a touching TV moment or a tree that’s just burst into colourful blooms. I’ve seen the very same urgency whether he is being handy-man around the house, tending to his garden or making plans for a distant future.

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He truly brings living in the moment, being present and loving it, to life. And I hope that someday I’ll be half as adventurous as he is. I hope that some day I’ll transfer into my own life a little bit of that zest and passion to make things happen. I hope that soon I will completely internalise the want something? make it happen! attitude that he taught us by simply living his life so.

Maybe then, I will truly begin to follow through on all the plans I imagine for myself. Because nothing else will say I’m my father’s daughter, like a life lived in the moment can. Happy Happy Happy, and may you have many many more, Anna <3

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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