The news has depressed the daylights out of me this past week. Wherever I look, there’s a new atrocity. This week we’ve seen it all from violence against women, crimes against children, a plane crash, war, idiotic Indian politicians who never seem to take a break from doing asinine things, a natural calamity and its all over facebook and twitter. I try to get online, finish my work and get offline, but inevitably I let myself get into a discussion, evesdrop over a raging debate, or just keep reading — before I know it the day is done and I’m to my gills in bad news.
I shut the laptop, grumbling about another day gone by without working as much as I planned to. I take myself to the gym, the only place that has become a non-negotiable in my daily routine. I work my buns off, sweat out the sadness. It’s usually past 8.30 pm, and I tread slowly, dragging my feet back to my car and that familiar feeling returns — the fear that I cradle inside of me, the fear that is always bubbling beneath the surface, but I push away time and again. I’m out, alone, in the dark — what if something happens? The irony is I have just walked out of a kick boxing class — I come out feeling stronger physically, but wonder if something were to happen, would I be able to handle it mentally?
It doesn’t help that I have been homealone for the most of the week gone by. The husbands work trips are getting longer every time. Indoors too, I’m alone. But I brush the fears aside, just as long as I rush home and find myself indoors again. Safe. From everything outside of it. The rain, the dark, the people.
It seems like no place is safe anymore. Not this country, not the places we frequent, not even the schools we send our children to. Where is one to go if the only place I really feel safe is my own home?
It’s a good kind of Sunday when the husband is home from a business trip. Its like temporarily putting a blanket over the fears that linger around. I have some music playing loud, as we rustle up idlies, sambar, chutney and mini vadas for brunch. Outside, it’s coming down in buckets, and it feels just so wet you want to stay indoors. Its safer indoors.
There’s nothing like a coastal monsoon to experience what wetness sounds like. Squelchy, pouring rain has a sound. And that sound, it feels wet. The grey skies hold back as long as they can — dark, looming large and heavy. And then when you’re least expecting it, tears apart, making way for a downpour. You’re indoors, and yet you feel just how wet it is outside.
Suddenly I feel glad to be indoors. In a neighbourhood that rarely has a crime reported. In a city that has so far been very, very kind to me. Where I can walk around after dark, in my gym clothes and not be leered at. Where wearing shorts doesn’t mean putting myself on display. Where I have never been groped. As yet. Where I can mostly be myself without having to cover up, think twice or need a chaperone. I’m glad I’m in a country that’s not at war. Yes, there are a lot of stupid people in influential positions making a lot of questionable decisions, but really, I feel safer here right now. And my heart goes out to those that have been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week.
Yes, it’s a good kind of Sunday. And I feel grateful. I feel glad. Even if just for a bit.
Incidentally, I just realised the playlist is a woman-strong one. So I’m sharing some favourites.
An old favourite, I suddenly caught it on the radio the other day. Amy’s voice is like mulled wine. Warm, spicy, dark and comforting. And this is one of my most loved Amy tracks. Perfect for a rainy day.
What is it about this woman! She’s so unusually appealing. I cannot quite put a finger on it. The music is pleasantly different, her hair, clothes, make up — just so unusual. The words, the unravel slowly and you realise what shes really talking about. I jumped on this train a little late, but I’m in love with Lorde.
Nina Simone is something I associate with the movies. Not the music I grew up listening to. The occasional track I remember is usually because it played in a movie, is all I know. But this track came to me in an 800 mb collection that was we-transferred to me across cities (yeah some of us do that for music). It’s grown on me. And how.
So listen, just stay happy, yeah? Stay safe and have a good Sunday, folks.
It’s been a week of setting my alarm to 5.50 am (taking into account 1 snooze of 9 mins so I can get out of bed by 6), but actually only waking up closer to 6.30-7. It’s been a week of waking up groggy, with a daunting to-do list spinning in my head. It’s getting tiring just keeping up because unlike the way it is with most people — listing things brings order and control, or at least some sense of it — making that list has been my complete undoing. At this point, that list owns me. The list is fucking with me, playing nasty games. I tick one thing off, and three things get added in, I tick another two off, and a few more things fly in. All that’s missing is the voice that says “lets see how you’ll keep up with me, now” every time the scores change.
At this point its To-do List – 10, Revati – 1.5
The more I simplify, the more things get complicated. The more I step back, the more I encounter. The more I off-load, the heavier things feel. Is that even possible? Sure feels like it to me these days. The last two months have been nothing short of crazy and doing fewer things so I can do them well seemed like the only way to go. So I pared down the frenetic days of my life. But somehow, and as always, that too gets the better of me. Because with the things I have on hand, I have this tendency to get so involved, it consumes me whole. I’ve been called an energiser bunny on acid way too many times in the last couple of weeks and I’m beginning to think there is some truth to it.
Except, the energiser bunny is supposed to go on and on and on. I know, to some it might seem like I can do the same, but I am tired. Officially tired. In the summer this year, I stripped my professional engagements down to nil, for primarily for two reasons. There are two projects on hand that need my time and undivided attention and I wanted to be able to give them that. So I stepped back, offloaded what I thought I could easily do without and focused on tasks at hand. Seems like the answer to managing time better no? Yet, the balance is skewed. The damned list just never diminishes. Old things are just replaced with new things. And I have felt the brunt of it over the last three weeks more than ever before.
I’ve realised I’m a do-er. If there is something to be done, I’m all in to step up and do it. Especially if there are other people and a common goal involved. I am not the sort of person that likes to be told something ten times before I get to it. If I am assigned a task, I want to have it done before anyone has to remind me about it. If I see someone else not pulling their weight, I will step in and take over without asking for permission. So there you have it — I suddenly realised why no matter how much I simplify my work, it somehow it gets complicated again. I pare it down, and pretty soon its a big messy pile again. I de-clutter, only to find myself in the midst of the chaos all over again.
I have a mug that sits on my desk even today. It holds my pens and pencils and it reads “Why sacrifice yourself when you have a whole team to choose from?” It was a gift from my friends at EY and was their way of mocking me for always being the bakra to step forward and take responsibility to do things — no matter that it meant stretching myself beyond work hours and reasonable expectations of someone at my level on the corporate food chain even. I rarely reaped the benefits of that extra time spent, but somehow it didn’t matter because I didn’t always have my eyes on the perks. It was first professional experience that had consumed me in a way that made me lose track of time. For the first time in years I had found my feet, my flow and even when I was swimming at the deep end of the pool, struggling to keep my head above the water for the most part, I was drowning with water gushing over my head, the moments that I came up to get a mouthful of air, I felt a rush so deep that I didn’t want to stop.
The only other times I have had this happen to me, when I have been happy to be in the deluge, drowned in work, struggling to finish it but thriving on the high of working towards a finish line was for a short while in my job here in Goa. And now, IFBM. It has consumed me to the point of fatigue. I go to sleep ticking tasks in my head, I wake up with a freshly grown list of things to do, and I scramble to put them down before they fly out of my head. I set aside an hour a day to answer emails, post updates on the facebook page, write a blog posts or two and promise myself I’ll be done with it. I mean to spend the rest of my day working, but somehow I get consumed in answering emails, following up with sponsors, chasing after goodie bag contributors, helping participants register, yada yada — add to an uncompromising obsession with fitting in gym, the sometimes unreasonable insistence of cooking all meals AND also fitting in the odd social obligation and an outing for fun here and there, and Before I know it, its the end of another day that I have done no work for myself. I have failed abysmally in dividing my time and attention between the only two things I have on hand. One needs it more than the other, but things never turn out as they should, do they? So I have given in to the flow of things and let one consume me, and elbow the other out. Even though it should be the other way around. I have never been very good at being selfish with my own work. I see so many others around me pull it off with style and I recognise it. Yet I am unable to learn and adopt it into my own life.
I have so much to learn as far as prioritizing my work goes. Isn’t it always that way? Things that don’t have a deadline looking large over your head, or have a client hounding you for a tangible deliverable, or don’t have an do-by date always, always get pushed back, while things that have a more real outcome come to the fore.
But I am feeling stretched right now. I have three email ids configured on my phone. I am managing two facebook pages, and four blogs now. Networking for the meet has also opened the floodgates to my otherwise locked out facebook id. People have crawled out of the woodworks to add me. I have been outed. I realise at this point I cannot creep back into my hole, so I am going with it. But the result is I am networked to my frikking eyeballs. I am feeling so stretched and spread so thin. Any any thinner, and I might snap.
I want to just hit pause, sit with this massive pile of stuff to do, sort it out one thing at a time and call it a day. I want to put everything aside, and focus on the one thing I have wanted to do, but is getting compulsively ignored. I want to just breathe a bit. I want to shed this compulsive need to keep all the balls in the air, all the time. Because it is finally getting to me. I want to put the list away, once and for all. I want to stop being a slave to ticking things off. I want to stop being a do-er, just for a bit.
That mug stares me in the face every time I look up from my computer. Why sacrifice yourself when you have a whole team to choose from?
Because sometimes you just have to, no?
And even as I have spent the last fifteen minutes banging this post out, the scores have changed.
To-do List – 15, Revati – 1.5
On a lot of rain music. I wasn’t joking when I said rain love would be followed by rain food and eventually rain music. It’s that time of year and right on cue, the select few tracks of the season find their way back to me. Every monsoon has one new appearance — the track of that year. It rarely has anything specifically rainy about it, but for the fact that it comes into my life around the time the monsoon begins and subsequently goes on to forever be associated with the rain, specifically with the monsoon of that year means its fate is sealed and will forever be clubbed into “the monsoon playlist” of my mind.
And this is what its looking like at the mo.
TOTAL ear-worm and the new entrant for the year. I have to listen to this song a minimum of three times a day. Preferably on loop. Or my day feels a bit askew.
I wear songs like security blankets. Thick and wrapped snug when I need them. Playing all the time, over and over, refusing to go anywhere without having it close at hand.
It is totally not unnatural for me to get out of bed at an unearthly hour, after a few hours of tossing and turning because a song wont stop haunting me. I have on many accounts pulled out my laptop/iPod and listened to the track on loop to get it out of my system till I can go back to sleep in peace again.
Every single track in the abyss that is my list of musical favourites has a specific memory attached to it. And listening to Coldplay just screams monsoon in my mind. Does music do that to you too? Forever remind you of a time and place that once was? No matter how many years and life-altering situations come and go, listening to Coldplay is like falling into a manhole. It’s bright one moment, and the next you’re in the pitch black, suddenly the lights come on and its 2003 all over again — a few years of repeated heartache and love/growth-pains. Of wearing out the CD by listening to this CD (which I still think they are yet to surpass) on repeat, dragging a clunky discman on the bus to college, hiding the damn thing under my sweatshirt or in my backpack, thin wires creeping out, leading to my ears, and hidden beneath my wild and frizzy hair – earphones that cut the miserable world out and took me to a world where brooding like a melancholic chicken on her last living day seemed okay.
Coldplay takes me back to those years of rebellion. I’d listen to Shiver on loop, because it spoke to me. Oh the insurmountable pain and difficulties of college life I now associate only with Coldplay. Trudging 20 km across town to college, wading through traffic, being shoved around by sweaty swelling crowds, swapping buses, and doing it all so mechanically like none of it mattered. All the while cursing under my breath about how nobody got how hard and bloody unnecessary it was to go through this effort for a substandard education. I had the woes of the world on my shoulders, and I zoned it out by sticking my earphones deep into my ears, stretching the sleeves of my sweater over my wrists, grabbing them in my thumbs and feeling very rainy and cold inside.
Many of those morning bus rides happened in rainy weather. Rather apt for the rainy music. Pissing down melancholy and bleeding it into my ears. I was a quite the broody, pensive person back them. Everything made me contemplative — raging hormones, with a healthy dollop of rebellion and misguided anger. It reminds me of the days of a newly acquired drivers license, loud music in the car and a reckless sense of abandon every time I took the wheel. A boyfriend who lived 25 kilometres away from me was just the perfect twist in the tale and I’ve spent too many days and nights driving that route listening to Coldplay. And so even today, if I listen to Parachutes and close my eyes, I go right back to that point in time. And I smile. Such a good album. Such a fabulous few years.
Apparently can still listen to an album that’s a decade old (and isn’t considered classic) and still enjoy it much the same way I did a decade ago. My sister is perennially chiding me about how my tastes in music have just not grown. She’s right, my criteria for enjoying music is still the same, but I have become slightly more open to exploring other genres, and in recent years tend to obsess over the music I like, soaking myself in it, like pickle that soaks it in and just gets better over time. It’s like looking at old pictures, when you’re all grown up. So much has changed, and yet looking at those pictures briefly makes it seem like nothing has.
And since music has such strong associations with memory, phases of my life, sometimes even very specific events and instances, I outgrow some music as much as hang on to some older music, which never seems to get old. Its how I feel about most Coke Studio – which I now cannot separate from our monsoon screening nights. Even if I listen to it on the hottest day in summer, vivid memories of watching those 40-odd videos in a darkened room as we passed around sausages and pao, listening to our pick of the top 40 best Coke Studio videos over the din of the torrential rain, come to mind. There was something fantastic about being huddled in that room at Joy and Shashank’s place, a projector “borrowed” from the office, a potluck of sorts, endless beers and the music. It was an event to remember.
It’s this track in particular that reminds me of that night, because it was one of those overlooked tracks in the gigantic sea of Coke Studio songs. the one track that you always gloss over, hit next the moments the beginning bits start to play. For some reason I had never given it a listen, until it came on out of the blue that night. And now I cannot undo it.
Surprisingly, I haven’t started on my annual Zero7 trip as yet. It comes on during the monsoon, too. So predictable, I know. But maybe its because most of my music is stashed away on the hard disk which isn’t always easily accessible. So I’m forced to listen to what I have here, on loop. And sometimes I remember to check out youtube.
I loved this track even before I watched the movie. In fact I loved the song so much I was convinced I wouldn’t like the movie. Because that’s how it works these days — mindblowing music = shite movie. Long after the movie was watched and remembered for a short while and eventually forgotten, the song remains the same. I’m a massive fan of ARR’s music, and his phenomenal ability to compose the most surprising melodies, but I’m not such a fan of his ability to sing in Hindi. But this is one rare case where I can’t think of any other voice that would do this song justice.
Mood music is a very done thing around here. Sometimes the hugsband comes home to high-pitched, fast-paced Bollywood remixes, jigging about in the kitchen as I make dinner, and he knows its been a good day (and he doesn’t hesitate to sneakily film it). If there’s George Harrison or playing softly and I’ve forgotten to turn on the lights even though its past 7pm, and I’m lying in a pile on the beanbag, staring lifelessly into the glow of my laptop he ought to know I’m either pissed, upset or just not feeling quite like myself. This song has been my “evening song” for the last few weeks. Every day, really loud with a deliberate disregard for who is around me. The hugsband included.
Stuff like this is not meant to be played in a soft, mellow volume!
I accidentally discovered it on the radio, and on first hearing it I was convinced it was a George Michael track that I had completely missed. It has that distinct 80s feel to it. But Shazam confirmed that it was Muse, a little bit of google and youtube scoping has made me fall a little bit in love with them. I have a few other favourites, but Madness plays everyday.
It’s that season again, when a rainy, happy, trippy track drips into my ears, just as the drizzles begin. For no apparent reason, I feel happy. And this is one such song. Come get it bae is now going to be filed under the rain-music category forever.Simply because I discovered it on youtube one day, when I was song-hopping and there was a more than heavy drizzle happening. SUddenly the shun came out, big and bright, white and yellow shiny, with sparkly droplets of rain blurring the view.
It goes without saying that it will be used, abused and overused across the next few months, till it reaches a point where I can no longer tell if repeatedly listening to it triggers the showers or the showers trigger the need to repeatedly listen to the song. On loop, over and over, until I’m done. Or the rain is done. Whichever comes first.
I have this hashtag going on Instagram, and I realised today that it has a fair number of pictures stacked up. Small packages of surprising things things I really never even imagined would come my way. Or that I’d jump in and do them willingly. And better still, enjoy myself. Little doses, small reminders that almost everything changes at some point or the other and sooner or later you end up doing many things you never imagined you’d do.
Good timing, because this morning it suddenly dawned on me that itsJulyalreadyfuckwhendidthishappen? and of course round 1 of OMGhowcanitbeJulyalready and has happened a couple of times over. Nothing like a hashtag to level things out and delude you into feeling better again, no? I mean, it was just the thing I needed.
So while the eternal cynic in me started counting down all the things I thought I’d do, things I wanted to do but obviously not bad enough because, well I haven’t. (You know that thing about life, and plans and lists — yeah, that) Little usually goes to plan and I realise I’ve done a fair bit of unplanned, unexpected things. Things I never imagined I would do. Yet somehow made me incredibly happy this year.
1) I’m an endorphin junkie to the core, the worst kind of cardio addict around. I used to pooh-pooh the idea of weights and strength training as boring, monotonous and only for those who wanted to bulk up.
I knew I wanted to be fit, and for some reason that didn’t include lifting weights. But this year I embraced weights and have just not been able to look back. I never imagined a day would come when I’d value being strong, more than sweating it out after an hour of jumping around. This is an addiction I’m going to have a very hard time ridding myself of.
2) The process of getting leaner and fitter has really opened up my eyes to what my body can do. I didn’t think I was the dance-till-I-drop kinds. I had been to a Zumba class a few years ago and walked out rolling my eyes, telling myself I could never be seen jigging to J-lo and Sheela ki Jawaani. All such besharam type of dancing was saved for the dark corners of discos or a room with the curtains drawn.
Now I crave my morning music fix and Zumba sessions. Heck I even voluntarily attended a couple of theme dance parties at the Studio, complete with costumes and custom-playlists and a couple of hours of non stop frenzied dancing. At the end of the most recent one — a Back-To-School party that was a complete blast btw — I drove home telling myself over and over “I never imagined I’d do this. EVER!”
3) I spent way more time with myself than I planned to. VC has had an uber-busy year, many professional changes that have kept him hard at work a lot more than we anticipated. A couple of my good friends moved away and I’ve drifted away from a couple of others.
Just as well, because I got to spend a lot more time with myself. Doing things in the peace and quiet of my home. Cooking, reading, writing, thinking, planning. Even a bulk of the outings I’ve had, restaurants, drives, trips I’ve made, have been by myself. I never imagined I’d turn into a creature of solitude so soon. And I really didn’t think it would be my chosen mode of existence on any given day.
4) Speaking of friends, I’ve always been the kind to stick to my comfort zone. A handful of people I know and who know me, and pretty soon its a clique. This year that was shattered. Partly by circumstance, and partly by choice. Even though I have cribbed and complained about how those I once called friends are no longer around, I realise I have more friends than I ever imagined. They’re many in number and they’re varied like I never imagined — from blog friends who turn real-life friends, gym buddies, to older friends with children, to people in professions from dentistry to scuba diving. I’ve befriended new people more willingly this year and it has been fabulous.
The days of only having one set of friends and doing the same things in and out are done. I’ve hung out with people over the weirdest things this year — making the Happy video, meeting a blog friend with spouse and dog in tow and having a fabulous time, having cook outs and barbecues, going cycling — and I’m sure I’m forgetting many other things. This year has been just so full. I never imagined that I would be in a place where I am never without more than a couple of options of people to hang out with or things to do, if I so wish. This is very new to me, especially for my life in Goa. Its been a year of doing many different things with many different people. I wish I had a picture for every different little group of people but just words will have to do for this one.
5) Thanks to the new-found and suddenly expanded circle of friends, I’ve found myself in situations I wouldn’t otherwise have willingly put myself. First of all, most of my friends are ladies. This is entirely new ground for me. I was too used to being the only girl surrounded by a gang of boisterous boys for too long. I never imagined that would change, but now I’m doing more girls nights out than I am willing to admit. Movie dates, dinners for two, potlucks when the boys are away, drinks with many noisy giggly women — yes, guilty of them all.And where there’s women, and when you’re hitting 30, there’s babies. So I sometimes find myself in situations like this.
A beach party for toddlers, which was entertaining, to say the least. I was the official photographer, and pitched in with a few games. It also helped that the party had a start and end time, after which I went home and decompressed with a glass of wine, hah.It is now pretty normal to hang out with friends and a baby or two, and I have to admit, it doesn’t feel so strange anymore. Even though I am still the odd one out in this respect. My reservations about being around babies seems to have faded a wee bit. Either that, or I’m just lucky to have friends with adorable and entertaining babies.
The test of my patience in this respect was the four days of volunteering my time with a children’s theatre production, which came out of the blue. And it was oddly satisfying.
The things you do for friends! Some times its stuff you don’t imagine will actually be fun, but you go ahead in the spirit of friendship. And then it turns out to be not half as bad! My responsibilities began with helping set up the set and scenes in this little amphitheatre, ushering the 20-pdd kids in on cue and making sure everything was in order behind-the-scenes. By the time it was show-time, I was filling in for a 12 yr old who didn’t make it to the play. And so I read a couplet, with much gusto, from Vikram Seth’s Beastly Tales from Here and There.
And I never act.
6) I’ve started doing outdoorsy stuff like I once used to. Whether its joining the hugsband on the odd ride when he goes cycling, or playing a sport.
But Lagori with the neighbours? I totally never saw that coming.
Its mutated from a daily game of lagori into kho-kho, badminton and all sorts of obscure village games we fished out from the deep recesses of our humble colony upbringing.
7) I spent a fair bit of time writing letters this year. I was a bit obsessed at one point. Frantically writing them out every single day. Extremely satisfying to lick the stamps and post them off.
But receiving letters in response, beats it all.
8) And then at some point, this happened!
For just 10 days this year, we turned into accidental parents of these fur babies. And briefly, I warmed up to the idea of keeping pets. Much as I like the idea of keeping dogs, the commitment to care for them for life, and turn my whole life upside down to accommodate their needs has kept me from doing it. I’m a commitment-phobe in this respect. I love my life way too much to have to make a change and put myself in the position where I will not be able to take off for an extended outing because I have to rush home to feed a dog, or to not be able to go on a weekend drive out of town because I have nowhere to leave the dogs, or to have to walk them three times a day in the rain (of which we have plentyyyyy here).
But we woke up one morning in February and found these critters at our doorstep. They were barely 20 days old and some mean woman had picked the girls out of the fresh littler, put them in a box, driven all the way to my lane and dumped them in a gutter. Yeah we don’t like girl-doggies in this country, is it a wonder what happens to girls of the human kind?
It was heartbreaking, but I held my ground and fed them in a little bowl outside the gate, hoping their mother could come find them. No such luck. VC fell headlong in love, took them inside our yard and we named the black one Hash and the brown one Brownie (hash-brownie, get it?).
Life changed dramatically. We’d begin and end our days outside, at the doorstep. Feeding, petting, cuddling and generally being entertained by these fur balls. They had made themselves very much at home in a carton I had lined and put out for them. I wasn’t ready to take them into the house yet.But I was hopelessly in love, in no time at all. I was their primary caregiver, peeking my head out the balcony on the hour to ensure they weren’t wandering on the streets, or being too adventurous in my yard. I’d feed them three times a day and they’d recognise me when I came, run up to my feet and beg for food. I got no work done that week because I was downstairs playing with them, or just watching them, more than I was upstairs at my desk.
I wrote a post about how we had decided to keep them. But I never ended up posting it because in 10 days, Hash developed Parvo — a fatal gastro infection that attacks dogs that haven’t had enough mother’s milk to build a strong immune system. There is little that can be done to fight the disease, even lesser if the puppies are not with their mother. We took them to the local animal rescue where they would be better cared for than in our home and our inexperienced hands.
Leaving them behind was the most gut wrenching thing I’ve done in a while. I bawled like a baby as I walked back to my car and couldn’t drive because I couldn’t see through the tears. I went back every day for a week to check on them, but Hash got progressively worse and pretty soon Brownie caught the infection too. The plan was to hope against hope that they recover and adopt them when they were healthy and fit to be taken home again. Unfortunately neither made it. Now I think I can handle pets, sometime in the future. I’m willing to try, and I never imagined the day would come.
9) I’ve jumped into a lot of fun projects this year, on account of having more free time and less serious commitments. There was the Happy video that was creatively, super satisfying. And then there was the Dare video which we made right before the World Cup began. I am by no means a great dancer. Not even a good one. I used to be shy and inhibited about doing things like this in public — I never participated in college fests and the like. But somehow I care less these days (some might say I ought to care just a little bit ;)) and when Princy asked if I’d be in her Zumba video, I jumped right in.
The husgand and I have been taking our foodeos rather seriously, and it has given birth to many a video-keeda in our brains. I have fallen in love with the medium and plans to make several food and non food related videos over what’s left of this year, are afoot.
Over the course of a week in June, I helped my neighbour paint, distress and re-paint her dining set. I have never thought I had the patience or the creativity with fine hand work, and yet when she asked, I committed to it.
Afternoons in the sun were spent scraping paint and polish off 6 chairs and a table, until we had blisters, distempering and patiently waiting for them to dry and then scraping it all off again with that decidedly distressed look. In the bargain, I learned that distressing furniture (something that I have lusted over at Chor Bazaar and several expensive boutique stores) is deadly simple. It’s basically the organised way of taking something brand new, painting it, and scraping it all downto look old. It’s tiring and time consuming because it’s all physical work, but now I know that if the itch ever strikes again, I can do it myself, without having to spend a fortune on buying fakely distressed furniture!
10) And speaking of projects, I think I’ve turned into a pretty decent Project Manager. In February, when Arundati visited Goa, Aparna, she and I met and casually talked about having a Food Bloggers Meet. We began by imagining it to be a small event that wouldn’t attract more than 15-20 people, we’d get some bloggers to come talk about topics of interest and generally take the party offline. Since we know so much about each other only through the world of the web and our blogs, we thought it would be nice to meet for real.
We began working on the idea slowly, and rather organically when we were all busy doing our little bit to make it happen, the event has morphed into this massive project in our little hands. The Indian Food Bloggers Meet is now slated to be an annual event. The agenda is super exciting and we have received almost 40 registrations and the total participation has crossed 50 members. We started by making cold calls to sponsors who would help make the event happen, and now have some food brands knocking on our doors asking if they can partner with us. We aimed at reaching out to bloggers to speak to us, but the agenda has widened to include experts in food writing, food photography, publishing etc.
We are now in the final run-up and I am stoked by the response we have received. It is the first of its kind national meet for food bloggers in India, and to think it all started in a casual conversation over lunch, in a beach shack in Morjim, just blows my mind. To think that this is happening alongside people who were mere online presences to me a few years ago, who I only knew through the interface of the blogs I have read and loved, and who have now turned friends and fellow organisers (Aparna, Arundati and Nandita) makes it all seem like a bigger feat. I loathed the idea of managing projects, and the little view I had into it at work in the agency life turned me off. But it seems my personality is quite akin to managing projects efficiently, in an organised way, and if the area of work interests me — or as in this case, is close to my heart — I have it in me to pull out all the stops and go at it with all guns blazing. It has been an exciting, humbling, exhilarating an very satisfying experience to be a part of the team that is coordinating this across 4 homes, 3 cities and several different levels of busy-ness in our lives outside of the meet.
I’m looking forward to this being an annual food blogger event that isn’t just about the eating but more about the meeting, one that isn’t driven by commercials or a PR-agenda, where networking is a by product of the main focus which is to share some words, thoughts and a lot of laughs with those that we have read and respected for so long.
11) Incidentally, a few months ago, for the very first time in my life I have gone to the point of having zero income. I was in between projects and I quit my Burro gig — which was the only constant month-on-month fixed assignment I had. I did it for a variety of reasons, and it was a tough call to take, because coupled with the decision to cut back on other assignments and focus on a couple of personal projects has made me 100% dependent on the hugsband. Something I never imagined I would do.
The results have been mixed. I definitely miss the flexibility of having my own income, but I like that it has curtailed a lot of unnecessary expenses. I am now forced to think about every little thing I want to do and question if it is worth my time, and what it will mean for me, and also evaluate every big purchase I make. This is of course a temporary phase, and I will ramp up the assignments when I am done with current projects on hand, but the situation it has put me in has been an eye opener. It has also made me prioritize my time more carefully, pick people and projects wisely and therefore savour the highs even more.
Remember my thoughts on ambition, in this post? More and more I realise that yes, I could continue to work my ass off and there will always be lots of money to be made, but I am okay earning less (even nothing at all, as long as I have enough to survive) if it means it affords me the time to do some of the other things like cook 365 new things a year, or write a book, or learn to dance professionally, train for a marathon — whatever it may be.
For a year with less “work” and more things to do, it hasn’t turned out too shabby, eh?
It’s a special feeling when you pull out a skirt you from a forgotten corner you tucked it into aeons ago, convinced it would be ages before you fit into it again. You try it on, shaky hands, wondering what truths a blasted piece of fabric stitched a little too tight around the hips, holds for you. You slip it on gingerly.
It fits. You sit down, and see the little triangle of fabric around the waist hang low. And you realise it doesn’t just fit. It’s freaking loose.
The weather changes, the air is damp and musty, everybody around you is falling sick like 9 pins. The typical beginning-of-monsoon viral flu is doing the rounds. You enter the gym on Monday morning and begin your workout with a massive bout of sneezing. You power through. And this routine goes on for four whole days — you wake up every morning, your body feels like it needs to be in bed, swaddled in a blanket, but you drag it to the gym. You sweat it out, you drink a gallon of water.
And then you literally feel your body fight the bug. On day 5, you wake up feeling sunshiney. It’s a mighty good feeling.
You’re on the floor, your dumbells all lined up. You wonder if you should kick things up a notch and increase a few weights, try something new, push yourself. You’re partly dreading it, but you give it a go with a heave and ho. Only to realise 2.5 kgs higher is just a number. You lift if with ease, you swing it, you push it, you pull it, you press it. All a breeze. And you realise you are stronger than you have ever been.
The past year has been a good one in terms of fitness achievements. I have dropped a significant amount of body fat, which was my primary goal. I was bordering on an unhealthy ratio of body fat and that is well under control now. The discovery of strength training was a bonus. Weights have been a life-changing revelation, and body-strength training even more so. But the best part is this: a thumping affirmation of my belief in the fact that staying healthy and fit is a life-long commitment. An attitude to life, how you want to treat yourself and how much you respect your body for what it can do for you.
Flash diets never worked, sporadic exercise regiments even less. Consistent work, sustained over a long period is what works for me and the best part has been the organic discovery of new challenges and higher standards for oneself. Its been a year of busting my rear end off at the gym, and on the day that marked 12 months since I began working out at the studio, I told the hugsband that despite being a fitness freak for over a decade now, this is probably the first time that I have stayed with a single fitness-oriented activity for twelve whole months. I have not been so focused or persevered as much with too many other things in recent time. And this is the real achievement for a restless fitness maniac who has tried a dozen different programs, on an average of a new thing every 6 months, since age 16.
Growing up in a home that always encouraged an active lifestyle, it was impossible to sit back and watch what I ate, in the hope that it would somehow miraculously make a difference to my health, the way my clothes fit and how you feel about myself. I cannot remember a time post age 16 when I wasn’t engaged in some form of exercise. My mantra has always been to eat everything I love in moderation and burn calories and sweat it off through exercise. But this is the first time in my life that I have truly dedicated time and effort in a single-minded way. And this is the first time that the results have been so drastic. And visible.
Yes, the results are visible to me. Especially when I wear a forgotten skirt and realise it fits. But then I look at myself everyday, so this transition is not as apparent. What is more apparent is the little things, that I kicked the flu bug and sent it packing before it could get the better of me. That I could barely do 5 bicep curls without wincing 6 months ago, and on a good day these days, I can push it up to 5 kilos, 20 reps. That I can do the tricep hover for longer periods of time now without feeling like my arms will turn to mush.
I feel strong. And this, this is a first for me. But who is going to explain the delirious levels of satisfaction of that to every second person who meets me and greets me with the OMG-you’re–disappearing spiel? How do I explain that yes, I’ve “lost weight” but I’ve also gained strength? How does one politely tell well-meaning people to back the fuck off when they tell you to stop “overdoing it” because I look skinny. How do you get them to believe that fitness isn’t point at the end of the tunnel that you strive to reach, and once you’re there you can kick back and pretend its all over? Why is it so hard to understand that being skinny isn’t the only outcome of going to the gym? And most importantly, how does one explain that thin people can go to the gym and benefit from it too!
The fact is I have never been skinny. Even at my thinnest-best, I always prided myself in the little chub that always stayed on my tummy, around the sides of my waist and of course there’s no changing my genetics which give me wide hips. Growing up, appearances were never a focus, and how we looked wasn’t given too much importance. I attribute my slightly stunted sense of fashion (my staples in terms of clothes haven’t changed in twenty years) to this and even to this day I am not used to worrying about it too much. Quite naturally, my obsession with being fit was never about getting that flat tummy, fitting into a skinny pair of pants or getting rid of saddle bags. Yes, the years that I was at my unhealthiest best, I was very aware that these changes had crept into my body — a bloated belly, stalky waist etc — but beyond looking at myself in the mirror and thinking I was “fat”, it was the fact that I felt lethargic and unhealthy that made me want to kick myself back into action.
So, now when people stop me to say I’m looking excessively thin, I don’t know how to react. Somehow it seems okay to sheepishly blabber some nonsense, and deflect their comments. Anything to take the attention off the weight that has been lost, and focus on the satisfaction and happiness that hopefully shows. Someone at the gym called me sexy the other day, and for some reason it seemed okay to do something totally un-sexy in response. So I flailed my arms and legs about and ran back to my spot. It would be nice if the compliments made me tongue tied, because then I wouldn’t open my mouth and say some of the ridiculous things I have said in the past few weeks. Wholly unintended, totally misleading things that seem to flutter out of my mouth before I can say pilates-ball. Because somehow, that seems okay.
Where there is rain love, there will soon be rain food. And if you come back in a few days, I promise you rain music too. Trust me on this. If I have learned one thing from the atrocious summer gone by it is this, that I function like a seasonal creature. When the weather is grey, I am grey. When its sunshiney, I am sunshiney. When its horrendously hot, I am horrendously hot. Except not in the ooh-thats-hawwt sort of way, but more like sticky oily skin, sweaty nether regions, mood swings and ill temper. And there’s nothing hot about that. But now that the monsoon is officially here and I’m waking up to rain-swept mornings and misty windowpanes I’m doing what Other season creatures do. I’m coming back to life, much like the parched world around me is bursting forth again. I’m also mentally preparing myself for un-dried laundry, mildew-y pillows and trying to see the silver lining. Which is a month of light, essential rain, before the slightly inconvenient relentless rains begin. And it’s filling me up with joy. The kind that most of these firang bloggers seem to be expressing over their delayed summer. The kind of joy that comes out in exaggerated sighs, excessive smiling and repeated declarations like “It’s here, it’s so here, it’s finally herrrre!”
And like a true seasonal creature the weather invokes the desire to eat these very specific things. Season-appropriate stuff that doesn’t make an appearance in my kitchen all year round. I’m talking about rain food. Like, you know, pakodas?
Except I was making them in the house of a beer lover. So they’re beer battered kanda bhajias, if you will.
Aided by the fact that I’ve been pottering about my kitchen again, rather than just rushing in and out as fast as I can. I’ve been spending time in there, not rejecting it like a lover who no longer holds my interest. I’m flirting with the idea of going back to life the way it was pre-summer. I’ve been cooking more than just eggs and toast. I am willing to stand by a hot stove and make it happen without feeling like the life is being gradually sucked out of me. Full meals are back again, complete with accessories like salad and raita, sabjis that are not run of the mill and slipshod, and occasionally a crunchy-munchy makes for an interesting embellishment too.
And that’s how these Beer Battered Onion Rings came to be. Because it was a rainy day that just called for it.
While I am really fully enjoying the outdoors in this time of monsoon — my most favourite part of this season — I’m also snuggling indoors taking full advantage of the rare opportunity to use blankets, drink lots of hot chai and sit around without a fan on. Changing seasons also change the light around my home. Where summer had me shutting all the curtains away from the blinding light, June has me turning on the lights on in the daytime, on some days. The harsh, direct, bright white light of summer makes way for a mellow, yellow-grey hue all day long. When a thick carpet of clouds floats over us, it gets gloomy and grey. I am blessed to have a large window right in front of my cooking range, so I can cook facing the window which is exactly the direction the rain lashes down on us. Cooking in the monsoon is usually cooking with a view of rain trickling down, turning the large windowpanes into pools of melding watercolour greys and greens.
It was that kind of morning, last weekend when the rain was coming down in fluid streaks, and I stood by the stove pouring my morning chai into my blue mug, and something told me I needed to cook rain food. A warm, crunchy, and fit-for-the-rain snack. It had to be a fried something of course. And while heating up a load of oil in a wok is the last thing I voluntarily do, the rain calls for some ground rules to be broken. VC was only too happy. Getting Reva to cook fried stuff = achievement unlocked!
I had bookmarked these Beer Battered Onion Rings I saw on Joy’s blog, because I knew it would be a welcome treat for VC who loves onion rings. The only other time they were made in this home was when he made them himself in a fit of anger; convinced that I would never, ever deep-fry anything for him. He had decided that day that if he wanted something crispy with the goodness of transfats and triglycerides, he’d have to do the deed himself. His burst of anger and the prominent streak of rebellion had made him improvise and add a South Indian twist to his onion rings — blending in come hot red chillies, curry leaves and a dash of mint into the batter. So good, that between mouthfuls of those spicy pakodas-with-a-twist, I admitted to him that they needed to be made again. Gasp!
Joy’s recipe seemed like a great thing to combine with VC’s flavor combo, and I already know what the use of flour, corn flour and beer can do to anything deep-fried. It gives the word crunchy an all new meaning, adding that required lightness to the batter, creating ruffles of golden crispiness, that cling to sweet rings of onion.
Of course getting VC to shoot this took absolutely zero convincing on my part. Rain, onion rings and beer – need I say more? So that’s how we made another foodeo. It seems we can’t escape the beer sneaking in, even if we try. This one may sound a little weird, but take it from me — once you try it, you’re going to want to make it again. Something about South Indian spices meeting beer battered onion rings makes it perfect for the rain. If that’s hard to digest, think of it as onion pakodas fortified with beer. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a winner. And its perfect for the monsoon. And it will perk up a boring meal. And it will make the perfect snack-for-no-reason. Don’t wait for a reason, or the right season. Make and thulp, I say.
I’m cross-posting versions of the video-posts from Hungry & Excited on to this blog, so those of you who’re seeing repeats, please look away :)