My life has new breath. My breath has new life.
My heart, it’s so full.
My life has new breath. My breath has new life.
My heart, it’s so full.
Every now and then
when I feel the need to pause
I’m so glad there’s home.
I’ve been meaning to write about how I’m feeling, and what a positive difference being in a new place, surrounded by all the right elements I most needed, has done for me. It has sparked a lot of freshness, a renewed way of looking at everything.
I can’t find the right words.
I have felt like there aren’t enough words to stack the overwhelming goodness I’ve been gloating in, into rows of squiggly letters and words. It feels too limiting.
So I haven’t really even tried.
I must also admit there are times where I feel I don’t need the words.
I ask myself if I really want to dig deeper? Why do I feel the need to get the better of this feeling? Why this incessant urge to explain or decipher it?
I haven’t found a convincing answer as yet.
So I stop looking for words.
I did say before that this is quite easily the best I have felt in all my life. And I wasn’t exaggerating.
I’m content. Existing, absorbing this feeling, marinading in the goodness of it all. Or at least I was, until something happened last month that gave me the sign I needed.
And suddenly, I had the words. So I wrote about it.
One morning last month, I woke up troubled. I faced a situation that caught me unawares. And yet, it had that stale stench of familiarity that creeps in slowly: something tells me I’ve been through this before.
It made me go back to a similar episode from January this year. I dug through my chats and pulled out a series of voice notes I sent to S, my voice broken, the words coming out in between stifled tears. I almost couldn’t believe that was me and the words I spoke had been what I had felt. It was true, I had been through it before. Present situation was no different from the one that triggered the breakdown in January.
It was identical. But the only difference had been my reaction. Or rather the alarming lack of it.
Suddenly I realised that something had changed. I had let it go, almost as quickly and unexpectedly as the situation had occurred. After months and months of trying to let go, here was an instance of having actually done it. Turning those mere words into deeply internalised thought into action.
Almost serendipitously, I stumbled on an image with words that perfectly describe what I had been feeling all morning.
If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.
It got me thinking some more about these past few months. Not much has happened, on paper. I don’t have a lot to show for what I have been up to. And yet the shortest span of time, punctuated by a whole lot of silence and stillness that I only take a break from to either go to the gym, or meet happy people, has catapulted me into a different headspace, a different version of myself. I haven’t experienced this kind of internal transformation ever before.
Through all this, if there’s one thing I’m proud of having allowed myself to do, it is opening myself up to face the fear of letting so much go.
Everything from people. Expectations. Reactions. Situations. Interactions. Labels. Earlier versions of myself. Older versions of relationships. I’ve let so much go. And when it felt like I had nothing more to lose, I sat back and looked at everything that had remained. It was telling to see that not only was I left with people who matter, but I had made space for new people, and many lost connections from the past that surfaced almost magically. I found forgotten aspects of myself emerging from the dark corners I’d hidden them into. And I discovered new parts of my persona that I didn’t know I had.
To be light, to go with the flow, to be at peace with the way I feel, to be in happy harmony with my thoughts and feelings in sync most of the time — this has been a large part of the reason I chose to begin therapy last year. I did it at a time when, amongst other things, I was stuck in a loop of always finding myself at the receiving end of shitty behaviour. Whether from clients, friends, acquaintances, relatives. I didn’t know why they sometimes behaved the way they did, or why their actions had the kind of unravelling effect they had on me.
Therapy unlocked something. And there has been no looking back since.
Self awareness is a bit like an abyss. Once you’re on the path to discovering nuances about yourself, the way you feel and how you’re reacting to things around you, there’s no turning around. Every time you feel you’ve hit a milestone, the deceptive end point moves further away. The deeper you go, the more you figure out. The more you learn, the lighter you feel. The higher you go, the more there is left to discover.
When I began therapy, I was sick of being caught up in a web of issues, and the feelings that resulted from them. I longed to be able to look at them, objectively, and figure a way to move through them, rather than being stuck in them.
And so, to be able to react with an almost dispassionate calm, having noticed a recurring pattern, stepped back, taken stock and moved through it, was happy-making.
If the road to self discovery is speckled with potholes in the form of shitty people, shitty situations, shitty luck, testing your patience from time to time, that grim August morning, I believe I finally hit a milestone.
Same time, last year: Day 259: Morning moods
I moved to Goa restlessly in search of a new turf. I’d always dreamt of a life full of travel. But after eight years, Bangalore is the home I have chosen to return to.
The rain has always reminded me of Goa. In all the years that I was there, I steadfastly maintained that it was best experienced in the monsoon. So sitting in my home in bone-dry Bangalore – where I have just returned after eight long years in the sunshine state – watching my Facebook and Instagram feed replete with images of liquid skies, has made the bittersweet nature of my decision suddenly very apparent.
The street outside my bedroom window is packed with people, quite like an inescapable matrix. The chaos is palpable, the diametric opposite of the silence in my study in Goa, where the large French windows were the perfect lookout for the rain. I spent the bulk of my time there, mostly alone, with just my words for company: a simple, still, and satisfying existence. In fact, it was finding a room of my own, complete with a sturdy writer’s desk right beside a day bed and a view that really made Goa my home. And yet, Bangalore is the home I have chosen to return to.
Home. The word has such a sense of finality attached to it. Finding home, coming home, returning home – they all seem like such swift movements in a single direction. It has always evoked a sense of having to choose something, one way or another. A city, a house, a place to forever swear allegiance to.
I came to Goa restlessly in search of a new turf. I’d always dreamt of a life full of travel. Drunk on the idea of independence, charting my own trajectory, being forever unbound… coming to Goa was a ticket to escaping a reality I didn’t want to make my own.
Moving there eight years ago was my massive “fuck you” to city life. I wanted out from the endless cacophony of big-city noises, a hectic life consumed by work and commuting to work, that left me with no mind space to do the things I really wanted to. I was earning well, but constantly fighting to create time and space to enjoy the rewards of the hustle. Twenty-four years was too soon to be plagued by questions that define a quarter-life crisis – shouldn’t there be more to this life? Is wanting a simpler, smaller, quieter life really such a bad thing?
Quitting seemed like the best answer at the time. As a city, Panjim was refreshingly different. Everything about it felt wonderfully welcoming and I found a balm for every single painful sore memory that had driven me away from Bangalore. And then there was the monsoon – four full months of it.
Never, not even in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I’d give it up to go back to the bustle of Bangalore.
Quitting city life at 25 to go live in a beach town wasn’t all idyllic and romantic. It meant being the trailing spouse. It meant stepping out of the corporate race entirely, a choice that had life-changing consequences for me. It meant opening myself up to the unexpected and unpredictable ways of a small town. And I was going to have to embrace a domestic life I had no experience with. The introvert in me was going to have to start finding new friends.
Having never lived outside of Bangalore, and knowing absolutely nobody in Goa, I tasted a kind of anonymity I’d never known. Free and far away from social, familial, and professional commitments gave me large doses of alone time. All that quiet meant that I had to learn to befriend solitude, embrace it, and pretty soon I learned to love it. I began to write for myself, testing waters in a new craft. I started reading entire books again. I even did what I thought was unthinkable and discovered a love for cooking.
I became a homebody, feeling like I’d finally found my feet, grown into myself. I’d found the safety of a home that allowed me to be me. And it sparked the start of many good things. A hermitic existence, ensconced in peace and quiet, close to nature, away from the disorderly rat race, Goa was home because it’s where I began to thrive.
I dug my heels in and bound myself tightly to the new-found belonging. In its fixed, firm foundations I found myself anchored. Over eight long years, the gentle ebb and flow of creating the life I wanted not only helped me find myself, but also redefine what home really is.
And yet, as soon as the transition was complete, I found myself wanting to pick up and go again.
I realise now that my sense of home is rooted in specific things, rather than a city or place. Home is any safe space in my head. Sometimes it is a process – like it was for me, a period of transformation.
Sometimes it is the satisfaction of tasting freedom, of leaping into the unknown. Sometimes it is the acknowledgement of my privilege, the security of knowing that I can to lead a life based on my own choices. Sometimes it’s in accepting that home is just a word. It isn’t a single place wrapped in the foreverness we attach to it. Home doesn’t have to be an end.
Home is – as I realised when I craved a change of pace again – very often just a means to an end. It needn’t be weighted down by the heaviness of roots. Sometimes, it has the lightness of agility.
Home is a state of mind. And it can be anywhere or any place you want it to be. Home needs space, to grow, to spread itself out and open its doors to newness. Homecoming then is not about going somewhere you necessarily want to be. It is going somewhere you need to be.
And so, I did the unthinkable. I left the near-perfect simple life of Goa, to dive straight into the chaos. I came back to the Bangalore. It’s overwhelming, it’s grotesque, it’s oppressive. And yet, I’ve once again made it my own. I am at ease.
(This essay first appeared on Arre)
Same time, last year: Day 258: This morning
When I was preparing to move to Bangalore, I wondered about feeling lonely and isolated in a city of nameless faces. I didn’t particularly fancy the thought of making friends all over again. Nor did I want to continue my streak of people-less-ness. Much of the urge to get out of Goa was bolstered by the promise of new people. I’d grown rather jaded of the company I kept and was seeking a fresh energy and some new faces. And yet, 33 isn’t the most appropriate age to venture out into the school yard, to scope cliques and meekly gauge which one to attempt to break into.
I felt at sea in matters of people-ing because it’s just been so long since I had to go out and make an effort in this regard. Specially since the last decade or so I’ve had things just happened — people have come and gone from my life, connections were effortlessly made and lost with equal ease — without any active pursuing on my part. Not to make friends, and not in keeping them either. I’ve let a lot of people just go. So making friends felt daunting.
Wh is friendship in adulthood such an intimidating proposition?
However, in yet another unexpected turn, things have been strangely easy on the people front. Ironically, while I still continue to struggle to come to terms with many other things about this city (including some aspects that I thought would be a good change) it’s the people who have been pleasantly warm and welcoming.
I’ve already said coming home gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that I’d sworn I would never go back to, and how comforting it is to just be in the same city as the best of my friends. But that apart, there’s a third set of people-ings that I’m so happy to have stumbled on. It’s the new and unexpected friendships I’ve made. Through friends, through older connections, through people who know people. And happily, so many of these connections have brewed over home cooked meals. I’m more than grateful for these folks who just easily opened their homes up, invited me over and cooked some splendid, memorable meals.
There have been multiple such events. With D, I thulped Goan sausages and bread like it was my last meal ever. A cooked me this stunningly simple but high on flavour Andhra meal, from recipes of her very own cookbook complete with a spicy and heady bone broth that kicked my cold out of the way. With N and D I ate baingan bhartha, chapaties laced with carrots and some gluten free bread because I’ve been off carbs lately.
Each that I’ve shared a meal, hanging out over hearty hot food, huddled around a table, cross-legged on the floor crouched over a plate laden with goodies — something opened up for me.
This past weekend I ate what will go down as yet another incredibly tasty, beautifully put together meal, at yet another table in the home of someone I didn’t know just a few months ago.
It was a large, painstakingly out together array of Andhra food. And again, I felt grateful for the opportunity. For the warmth, the openness and the joy of sharing a meal.
There’s something about honest, homely food cooked straight from the heart, that reaches right inside and touches my soul.
Same time, last year: Day 257: Down and up again
For a variety of reasons, ranging from plain comfort for my ego to accepting the path of least resistance, cleaving to convenient labels, titles, roles, and imagined ideas and notions, has always felt like the ideal way to work towards being a better version of myself.
Things look so neat, so permanent, and good on paper when I can declare “I’m independent!”
“I’m a feminist.”
“I’m self reliant”
“I’m a full-time freelancer”
“I’m an introvert”
and so on and so forth.
A label feels like a declaration. So cutting and final, it removes the need for me to ever revisit. It’s easy. It removes the need for inspection, introspection and self-reflection. And so, it’s also true that I’ve been fiercely (and sometimes, unnecessarily?) fixed to these words that slot me into a particular type of person. For years now, I’ve allowed them to be the labels that define who I am.
I’ve been so overly attached to them that they’ve shaped (sometimes, wrongly?) my perception of myself. Until reality kicks in, as it so often does, and makes you see that evolution and growth are not points in a scale, and transformation is seldom a straight line moving in one direction.
So much of becoming the person you are involves going back. Re-examining the comfort of old labels that no longer hold good. It involves reclaiming once forgotten labels you shunned. Most often it involves letting go of all that you imagine you are, and all that you’re convinced you should be.
It’s difficult to stay stuck to these labels when so much of my very existence is in relation to, in context to, in close proximity to, people around me, the various roles I play, my work, my experiences and how each of those shape me. None of those contexts is fixed, permanent. They change all the time, throwing various situations my way, testing my ability to either flow through it, or be held back by a previously held perception of myself.
I’ve realised that these are all smaller aspects that form a larger me. They’re very prone to changing, depending on the situation.
My story, each of our stories in fact, is riddled with phases in which one label or another stands out. For the last two years of my life, for example, I was convinced I was an introvert. It felt right, it resonated, it rang so true, it was comfortable. It was what I needed to escape the cacophony of mindless noise I needed space from. Today, I don’t think I’m as much of an introvert anymore. My current life, context and the headspace I am in demands that I get out and be more outgoing. This is not introvert behaviour. So it struck me the other day that perhaps that phase is over. After some resistance, once I accepted that I must go with the flow, I found myself doing it with ease.
And it go me wondering if maybe many such phases have come and gone, but in being so caught up with hanging on to notions of myself, I’ve forgotten what it is to flow?
Maybe I have been far too attached to singular aspects of each of my stories. When actually each of my past selves wrap together neatly to from a wholesome me.
The effort these past months has been to try and recognise them all, peacefully accept with as little resistance as possible, to look at every phase and every self with a little less seriousness, and then try and integrate them.
I am at times a wife, a sister, a co-worked, a colleague, a writer, a freelancer, a daughter, a friend. I am at times lazy, sometimes over-zealous, sometimes shy and reserved, sometimes the life of a gathering. I am a feminist, I am a homemaker, I am unemployed, I am self employed. I am child-free, I love children, I am married, I am my own person. I am all of these things at different times. I play all these parts, and yet no single label defines me completely. I am a sum of all these parts.
Re-learning this fluidity, letting go of the rigidity has been all kinds of liberating. And in doing this, I have witnessed the death of a yet another phase in my life. I’d like to think the tumultuous period that was the last two years are over — their purpose served. I’ve felt myself be pushed into a new time and space. I’m undoing so much from the past, closing open loops, fixing broken things, revisiting abandoned ideas, letting go of baggage, rebuilding fresh ideas that work for me now. In this death, I see vibrant, fresh life blossoming. The ease and comfort this time round has been astounding. Slowly, but surely I find myself content in these pockets of realisation.
So much of becoming the person I am has required me to let go of the labels and stories I am anxiously attached to. To kill what is old and no longer holds true, and make room for the now. The new. It’s required me to re-imagine who I am, and look at everything with a little softness. Minus the shame, minus the guilt. Minus the hate and self-loathing. Minus the notion that to change is to somehow let myself (or an older self) down.
It’s been a constant effort to remind myself that nothing is permanent, nothing stays the same. Not even me.
And so, I must keep flowing.
Same time, last year: Day 256: Lines and dreams
Nine. NINE! VC, it’s been nine years. I remember writing this post, overwhelmed that we’d hit the half-decade mark, like it was just yesterday. And this morning, I pointed out that today we’ve officially entered the double-digits. Next year it will be a decade since we got married.
The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. It’s a old and overused cliche, but I can’t think of a better way to describe what it’s like being married to you. The change bit holds only too true for the past year. 2016-17 will go down as the year everything changed. Our professional paths, the painful changes in the run up to accepting that we’d have to leave Goa, moving back to Bangalore, figuring stuff out in the city once again, all the teething issues – physically and emotionally, setting up your new business — never before have we experienced such a huge quantum of change in such a short span of time.
You know what else changed this year? Our communication. I’ve always taken solace and quiet comfort in the knowing that we’ve always had a healthy level of honesty and good communication, but with everything that happened last year, I feel like we were thrust into a whole new level of brutal honesty that we didn’t know existed. I’ll admit it gets very tiring sometimes being the one to initiate us on this path, and constantly be the one digging deeper to find out what lies beneath the surface — our feelings, our opinions, our desires, our dreams — but I’ve realised there is no other way I’d rather have it.
I’ve seen far too many examples of marriages falling apart of late, where the fundamental reason boiled down to the inability to either face and voice the truth, or to accept and embrace it. So I’m extremely grateful for the space we share between us, where pretty much nothing is taboo. I can’t think of too many other relationships that give me this sense of safety. This space for extreme honesty is so, so, very cherished, and you have to know how much you (unconsciously, perhaps) have done to encourage me to speak nothing but the truth. Even when it was to finally realise and admit to myself, and you, that given the way my life has traversed this past year, I do feel that maybe we married too soon.
I broke down momentarily in therapy when I came to this realisation, because I expected to feel the predictable sense of regret. But to my surprise tears made way for relief. I felt so oddly free to be able to see what I had just articulated for what it is, and immediately I knew I was absolutely going to be able to share it with you. I know and believe and feel so thankful to have the kind of relationship with you that enables me to speak this, right to your face, no words minced. And to have us look at the fact with enough distance that is needed to learn the lessons in here, but enough keenness to know what to do with this awareness, and where to go with it. And that’s just what we did, it’s how we embarked on this most unexpected turn of events that has landed us in Bangalore. I do believe this is just the beginning, though, and that a change in cities has so little to do with the city itself, but that we have been presented an opportunity t dig even deeper.
This year, I feel stronger, more whole and at peace than I have ever before in my entire life. Therapy (with all the upheaval it brings in its aftermath), through which you have stood by me like an absolute rock, turned me into an absolute blithering mess at times. I talked nine to a dozen, rambling, losing the plot many a time, voicing and airing a lot of rubbish on the way to finding my clarity. Even as I was going through many of those sessions of verbal diarrhoea, I remember wondering if it might be painful to be at the receiving end of this all the time. It didn’t stop me, though. And it didn’t make you stop me either.
I’m where I am largely because you supported me entirely in getting here. I said last year that much of this exploration began because I was able to give myself the permission to do so. I allowed myself to let go of so much, because you constantly reminded me how important it was to put a premium on myself and do whatever I needed to, to feel whole again.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I hope you never muddle your sense of responsibility towards me and this marriage, to lose sight of your personal goals and dreams. Which is why I want you to know that my wish for us this year, and going forward, is that you remember all those things you keep telling me. And I wish and hope that I can be there for you, like you have for me.
This year, I see you at the start of your journey of self-exploration, similar to the spot I was in a couple of years ago. I hope you’ll remember that I’ve always got your back. I may not bring home the bacon, but I’ve really, really, got your back. You can lean on me. I’m here for the talk as much as I am for when you need the silence of comfortable companionship. I’m here for the ride as much as I am for when we need to stay still. I’m here for the plateaus as much as I am change.
I want to go back to one little thing I said on our anniversary last year. It was a liberating, life-changing realisation then. And it holds true even today.
I feel like today, more than ever, is a good day for a reminder.
This year, more than every before, I realised that being together has little to do with being together. Not to take for granted how wonderful it is to have a roomie to come back to, someone to hold at night when the fear of the dark envelops me, someone to lean on when I’m scared or lonely, someone to share a laugh with in a way that only we can understand. But I realised that growing old together involves taking routes that aren’t always going to run in parallel, or end up in the same place. It is possible to be together and yet give each other the space to be apart – in what we do, in where we go, and in how we blossom. And for the first time in all our years together, and my vehement stand on long-distance relationships, I have opened myself up to the idea of living apart. It will mean spreading our wings in different directions, and I don’t mean that just literally. I hope we explore it someday, because I think it will only take us a step up from here.
Happy anniversary my superstar. I haven’t done a very good job of being around the last few weeks and months since we moved to Bangalore. But I want you to know you’re a champ, my absolute trooper and I can’t wait to see what the months ahead hold for you.
As for the ride taking you there, I’m all in.
You’ve got me. I’ve got your back.
I love you so very much.
Same time, last year: Day 252: Eight
It dawned on me this week that growing up doesn’t have to happen at the expense of the child inside of me. That a major part of the self development piece involves acknowledging that child/younger self without feeling guilty, ashamed and afraid to admit to the person I once was or the things I have said, believed and done in the past. Owning up to some of these past versions of myself has been difficult. And yet it has been strangely liberating.
Four weeks into the six-week shred I’m on, I did four full nose-to-the-ground push ups. The thrill of watching progress and improvement as it unfolds right in front of your own eyes is unparalleled. When I began, I was hopeful and confident because of the changes I’ve already experienced with my body. But nothing prepared me for this kind of drastic, visible transformation, possibly the fastest and most impactful I have ever achieved on my own.
This time around there is the added discovery that I can be self-motivated beyond what I’ve assumed to be my natural or innate capacity to push myself through the grind. I didn’t think I could ever go off white rice. And yet, here I am four weeks in, not missing it, and potentially tossing up the idea of giving it up for good.
It was Teacher’s Day yesterday and I was asked to make a list of ten mentors/teachers/people who have impacted my life positively. It was strange how not a single actual teacher from my years in school and college came to mind. My list included abstract things like *life* and *marriage* and at the very end, just when I was finishing it off, I thought it D and A who have taught me so much about how to look at life by looking within. And then. Thought of B and R who have permanently altered the way I look and feel about my body. These folks didn’t come into my life as teachers. But they’ve hugely impacted the way I have understood and explored the strengths my mind and body are capable of. I am eternally grateful for the experience – especially of the last 3-4 years. My life wouldn’t be the same without it.
Same time, last year: Day 250: Finding my people
Nothing prepared me for the kind of freshness this new beginning in an old home would bring.
I thought I was wiping the slate clean and starting over. I hadn’t the faintest clue that so much of this new beginning would involve picking up old threads I’d left behind, visiting feelings I thought I’d dealt with good and proper, and doing things I swore I would never do.
I’m the most change averse person I know. I usually find security in sameness, in old comfortable habits, in well set patterns. But Ive realised how sometimes that cuccoon keeps me from experiencing things I need to. It keeps out the possibilities that I most need. Not just events and experiences as end points, but the process of getting there too.
So much if this newness has been about relaxing a little, letting go of my staunchly held beliefs, questioning all the firm nos and opening myself up to the gentle maybes, and allowing some bits of the old back into my life, looking at it anew and opening myself up to that change completely.
What I once knew to be crippling fear that made me build my walls up high, has turned to a gentle acceptance – first and foremost, of myself – of this wave of fresh energy. Bright and green, new like the eager blade of grass pushing through damp soil, ready for life.
I seem to be dealing with a lot of this change and everything that has come with a lot more grace and gentleness. Towards myself, first. Rather than stiffen up with fear, I’m learning to relax and take a chance more often. It’s led me to stumble on new, interesting people, to some kindred spirit, and best of all uplifting friendship in unlikely, old connections I was so sure I was never revisiting.
The change then, has been within myself, than in my external surroundings.
I not sure I love Bangalore. I haven’t fully come to terms with where I am going. But for now I am utterly and completely at peace with why I am here.
I’m still learning.
Same time, last year: Day 224: Wayanad Things
With four months in Bangalore now behind me, I find myself taking stock. I’ll be honest, Bangalore is not a silver bullet to the complicated “where do we go from here” situation VC and I had been in for many months. So much about this city, the people, life here, my neighbourhood, that I have in fact returned (which has given me fresh eyes to look at many of the same things I grew up seeing), the people I used to know, the people I now know, often surprises me — both pleasantly and some times jarringly. Some times I’m irked or frustrated. There’s a lot about life in Bangalore, when compared to Goa, that really annoys me. And some times I have moments of utter clarity, when I know why I am here.
Everyday, though, slowly and calmly, I’m adjusting to it. I find myself still just coping, getting by from one day to the next. But, (and I suspect this is the newfound adult in me talking) I’m making peace with it. By focusing on what I came here for — familiarity, security and kinship — which thankfully, I don’t have to go very far out (or brave the maddening traffic) to find.
The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.
I’ve found new meaning in making peace. I’ve realised it isn’t a shiny thing that you just find and hoard. It takes cultivation, active seeking and building bit by bit. And it takes practice. In doing things to create it for myself I’ve found a strange inner satiety (for the lack of a better term) I can’t name, a warm quietude in the pit of my heart, taking over me.
There, in the depths of the addictive, gummy, don’t-want-to-let-go-of-it peace is the reason why despite all the madness and recurring chaos this change has brought externally, I’m finally happy to be where I am.
Before I moved I had a long list of pros that I enumerated in convincing myself that coming back to the city wouldn’t be as scary as I imagined it would be. That list featured many things my life in Goa didn’t allow — friends and more work topped it. But today, irony is having the last laugh, as I slowly slip deeper and deeper into accepting the real place I want work to have in my life. That, and the fact that I haven’t met or hung out with my friends nearly as much as I imagined we would.
In a brief moment of introspection the other day, I realised that on a literal day-to-day level, my daily routine, the motions of every day life here, is not even a little bit different from what it was before. I still spend a bulk of my time alone, at home. Either working, or reading, cooking, catching up on things I want to. The only difference is, in Goa, I was alone for the most part. Here I have the constant company of my parents and my sister through the day, VC – post work hours, and his family when we go over to visit (which is shockingly more often than we imagined it would be). I cannot begin to describe how much I needed this.
All my life I’ve been running, escaping the present in search of something or the other. Even up until I upped and left Goa. For the first time, choosing to stay is coming easily. All that I am in search of is right here, within the walls of this place I call home.
And this has been the change I needed. The one I feared. It was never about this city or the next. Or where better work opportunities lay.
I’ve never been good with change, I’ve said this numerous times before. But perhaps it isn’t change I needed to fear. I’ve realised that it isn’t change itself, in it’s purest form, that is challenging. It is my own resistance to blend and bend, my uncontrollable need to control and own it, my urge to plan and fight the inevitable that creates rigid, inflexible periods of pain and flux.
For the longest time I shunned the sense of continuity, of eternity, the word home brings. And here’s the thing — home used to be the place that binds me. The space I fled some years ago. And yet, today, it is that same space that has set me free.
I’m completely absorbed in making the most of this opportunity I’ve been presented, when after a decade of being in different cities, my family is under one roof again. I’m greedily taking in the comfort of being surrounded by the silent company of people I love. People who get me. People. Just hanging out. Doing simple everyday things. Going about our daily lives, just together.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to meet my friends often, all the time. But this has been the most painful realisation of stepping back into the city life. Nobody has the time. And because even a simple catch up takes time and effort, nobody owes you that time or effort. It sounds naively idealistic when I hark back to the simpler life I had in Goa, when I say it was just truly so much easier to get out and get going. Whether with friends or alone. Granted, I didn’t have as many real people whom I could truly call my people, but it was very uncomplicated to meet. It’s bittersweet to realise I’m in the same city as all my people, and we’re still more in touch on whatsapp than in person. But it is the way it is. I have no complains.
It’s the nature of life here that involves navigating through the biggest hurdle of all, the traffic, which ridiculous as it sounds, dictates all schedules. Every outing involves planning, a predetermined plan of action, and some amount of praying that things go to said plan. I’m never really fully sure if a pre-committed engagement is going to actually materialise, until it does. I’m still not used to the significant coordination and pre-planning that goes into orchestrating even the simplest of outings. And that is when I sorely miss my life in Goa where getting out was as easy as that – getting. out.
Anyhow, before this sounds like a litany of painful comparisons and like I’m complaining, let me say, I’m merely acknowledging what I’ve come to realise and how it has made me feel – a bit disappointed. On the other hand, it has forced me into a very comfortable shell. And in retrospect, I realised this is the place I needed most to be. At home. Literally, if I think about my folks’ place where I spend most of my days, and figuratively, when I think of the sense of feeling at one, or at home, in my own mind.
There is an ever pervading feeling of gratitude I feel for where I am. A feeling I didn’t know I was missing all along. It comes in dense doses that swoop in and sit snugly in the base of my heart. Heavy, leaden but bright and luminous.
When I try and talk about what I feel, I cannot find the words to quantify or describe the quality of that peaceful gratitude. At first I was unable to find the words, and it crippled me in moments of excitement and wanting to share it.
Nowadays I find myself not wanting to necessarily talk about, describe or even share it.
That in itself has brought a sense of calm.
This, is honestly the best I have felt in all my life. Happy, healthy and balanced — right into the depths of my very soul.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this. It took leaving a seemingly quiet life, where I had a noisy fire raging within, to move to the madding urban existence. It took giving up the exclusivity and embracing being lost in the cacophony of crowds. It took leaving the home I thought I’d never leave, to come back to the place I never thought I’d return. To assuage that fire. And find the peace I never knew I was missing.
The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.
Perhaps then this wasn’t a homecoming, but a becoming.
Same time, last year: Day 221: On the road
July was such a good month of reading. In regaining some balance and finding stillness again, reading has seen me through what could have been an average month and made it pretty darn memorable.
It isn’t just about the books I’ve finished, but the act itself that has come to symbolise being able to sit at peace again. Finding my feet and feeling at home. Comfortable in the newness of my changed life that still surprises and overwhelms me.
Despite also working, going out and doing a lot of other stuff — and this is important for me because reading is that one thing that gets relegated to the back-burner when life gets busy — I managed to read a fair bit. A total of eleven books, seven of which you can read about in my posts: Books-shooks and In which I end up without a phone and Bangalore: a graphic novel. Moving on, I finished the month off with:
Sex Object, Jessica Valenti
You’ve likely come across Valenti’s work as a columnist with The Guardian, and I have also had her book Why Have Kids on my list of must-reads for so long now. But I picked Sex Object up on a whim. The book is a series of essays that are part memoir, based on her own life, and part commentary on the many issues we face as women — everyday sexism, abuse and sexual assault, emotional abuse, the many challenges of relationships and marriage for a strong and independent woman, amongst so many other topics that touch on her own personal journey from trauma and abuse to discovering empowerment. I’m pretty sure every woman will relate to many of her experiences because it dwells on issues we all face on a daily basis.
It is honest in a way that makes you uncomfortable — with graphic descriptions, unflinching stark truths not politely worded, raw retelling of her experiences — and for that it was a bit of a page turner. But. Yes, there’s a but. I found the narrative style a little scattered and rushed. Perhaps that was wholly intentional, but I found it staccato and with odd jumps and twists, which seemed like it was a bunch of essays haphazardly put together, without much thought given to organising them thematically or with some kind of overarching thread. I missed that something that would guide me from one essay to the next.
One Part Woman, Perumal Murugan (translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan)
What a read this was. Brilliantly told, and perhaps credit should go to the translator here, One Part Woman gripped me hard with it’s raw and unbridled, yet poignant and delicate story of a child-less couple who despite being in a loving, sexually satisfying and what seems like a super harmonious relationship, face a part of their marriage coming undone due to the constant scrutiny and humiliation at the hands of a society that taunts them for not having children.
It’s a tale from rural Tamil Nadu, filled wth vivid descriptions of customs, traditions, rituals and festivals, but the theme that runs through the central vein is not limited to rural India alone. Murugan cleverly uses the issue of being unable to produce children as a vehicle to traverse the many aspects of our culture’s attitude towards women, marriage, sex and ultimately, progeny.
Bangalore: A Graphic Novel: Every City is a Story, Jai Undurti
My only brush with graphic storytelling has been reading and later watching Persepolis. I’m not really big on graphic novels, or for that matter comics either. I don’t have stories of my childhood of being rapt in TinTin or Asterix comics. But I came across the Bangalore Graphic Novel, funnily, in a piece that criticised the choice of image for it’s cover. I went to the launch event at a sweet little book store on Church Street here in Bangalore, called Goobe Book Republic. I came home that night, book in hand, after having braved a storm, had more rum than I have in six months, topped with a mini mountain of rice in the Andhra meal, expecting fully to pass out immediately. But, the book kept me awake as I raced through almost all of it in a couple of hours.
I finished it the next day, mulling over something George Mathen said at the launch — he said (I’m paraphrasing) the digital/social format of platforms being used to share and disseminate the work of comics and illustrators is all very well, but it would e great to change our patterns of consuming this content. The graphic novel is apparently by nature a layered, multi-faceted art form. You’re meant to dig deeper, sink your teeth in and find something new every time you look at it. And so I hope to keep going back to this, and maybe other books in the genre.
The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion
After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Rosie Project — the first book in the series — expectations were high with this one. So of course in predictable fashion, those high expectations were dashed. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this one, I finished it in a couple of days in fact, but it was definitely missing the punch and humour of The Rosie Project. I wish I had deeper, complex reasons to explain why, but it’s just the usual boring, most predictable thing that tends to happen with sequels — they just don’t match up. In fact, with this one, I felt The Rosie Project didn’t need a sequel at all. Missable, you guys.
This weekend, I’m determined to finish a book I just started last night. Which means, the weekend is mostly going to be spent at home. Probably, in bed.
Same time, last year: Day 218: Stack overflow
I don’t know the first thing about graphic novels, but I feel like getting myself down to the launch of the Bangalore graphic novel, where I got to watch and listen to some of the good folk who contributed to it makes for a decent start into the genre.
Also present were some of the younger contributors, for some of whom this was the first time being published in print. Their excitement was so relatable. I was particularly inspired by Ramya Ramakrishnan who spoke simply and cheerfully about her process and how the story came to be. When someone asked if she was open to freelancing, she ended with a little fist bump, proudly declaring “I’m a full-time freelancer!”
It was my first time visiting Goobe Book Republic which is not as serious and officious as the book republic bit of he name makes it out to be. For a tiny, seemingly non descript hole in a basement on Church Street (that currently can only be accessed by crossing over a mini canyon) it has a whole lot of heart and good, good energy.
It helped that despite the god awful rain and feeling mildly marooned on Church Street (it had turned into a literal river) by the end of the evening I even got to eat the Andhra meal had my heart set on. And I came away with some choice book recommendations too.
A few weeks ago I complained to more than one person about how I feel there’s nothing to do in Bangslore except eat and drink. I’m slowly eating my words. For now. I have since joined a reading club, stumbled on this book launch (and actually made it to watch) I’m off to a cookbook club potluck lunch this afternoon. There are good intentions to watch a stand up act next week and take a weekend trip away some time in the next month too.
It’s tricky managing the balance between retaining and reclaiming time I want for myself and also making the effort to get out there and do some of the things I actually want to. It’s far easier to slip into hermit mode, specially once getting out in Bangalore has been quite overwhelming on more than one occasion. But for a select few things and with the right company, I hope to be able to push myself a little bit every time an event or performance or something catches my eye.
Back to the book — Bangalore, A Graphic Novel — it’s independently published, has a really good selection of contributors from Appupen and Prashant Miranda to Zac O’Yeah and several other comic book creators, illustrators and artists that I hadn’t heard of but am so happy to be introduced to.
It’s the second production by Every City is a Story, a city-centric story telling initiative. They already have a Hyderabad graphic novel out there and a Goa one in the works!
Same time, last year: Day 211: Interwebzy things
In an unexpected but rather welcome twist in the tale, I’ve been rendered phone-less for the last week. It began a good month or so ago with my battery acting up and surprising me with a dead phone at many an inopportune moment, despite being fully charged. This turned my phone into a landline, having to have it constantly plugged into the wall or a portable battery, which in turn meant I couldn’t have it on my person at all times. Which in turn meant less meddling. Less browsing. Less Instagram. Less whatsapp.
Less distractions, basically.
And then finally last Friday the phone died on me. I rushed to give it in for repair and have the battery replaced immediately, but just didn’t feel compelled to use a replacement phone that’s lying around at home. The repair fellows have been behaving like my phone is a convalescing patient, administering a battery of tests and procedures, keeping it under an endless period of observation, and telling me its “getting better, but not fully okay” *eyeroll* while I keep waiting.
It’s been an oddly satisfying week. And some things have been a sharp contrast to life in general. I’ve had to remember to keep cash on me at all times because no PayTM, shopped at the local vegetable vendor because no OTPs, taken autos (because no cab apps), made dates the old way (by connecting via phone and email and then having no room for flaking off or making last minute changes), and basically felt like a college student again — which was the last time I was totally phoneless.
I don’t know if I can attribute this to being phoneless, but I’ve been immensely productive, finishing up my work on time and meeting all my deadlines without last-minute-panic, this week. I’ve also slept better. I didn’t realise how many pockets of time empty out when you don’t have a phone to fill it — whether it’s mindlessly fidgeting with it, endlessly browsing through instagram on any commute, pulling it out to turn on and off the screen a gazillion times while waiting, or even just randomly browsing through it every chance I get.
You know how sometimes you only realise how deeply dependent you are on something when it’s gone?
I met A for lunch earlier this week, only to realise she’s in the same predicament. So with one dying phone between the two of us, and a lunch that we chattered right through, we left the restaurant and promptly got caught in a downpour with not a tree in sight to duck under. Finally, after getting sufficiently drenched, we slipped into the basement of an apartment building down the road where I waited for the rain to slow down before I hailed an auto rickshaw. I trundled home, my palazzos bundled up in my lap, as I perched at the edge of the seat, smack in the middle of the auto, guarding myself from puddles and splashing rainwater on either side.
It was really like a massive throwback in time to when I was in college and used to sometimes take a rickshaw for some par of the commute, especially when a typical Bangalore downpour would strike. On a normal day I’d probably have been staring into my phone, but I was instead forced to I watched the traffic whirl around me, the cacophony filling my ears, the smells and dank dampness settling on my skin, and the cool breeze that made my hair stand on end as I observed people, places and sights around. I was wet, cold, stuck in traffic and closing in on almost forty five minutes of being in that damned auto, and somehow it all felt very quaint and special.
Through the week (and longer), my kindle has been a loyal companion. And with all the emptied pockets of time, thanks to less distractions and actually finishing my work on time (without having to juggle spillovers) I’ve finished some more books.
Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist
I really, really wanted to like this book because the title pretty much sums up the largest preoccupation of my life the last few years. N had recommended it to me a long time ago, at a time when I was struggling to overcome the perfection syndrome.
But it wasn’t until I saw this on Sprouted Kitchen’s Instagram stories, that I decided to buy the book.
Because this right here, is exactly my state of mind for the last many years now. But the similarities ended there, going only so far as the title and the premise. In Shauna’s attempt to choose to be preset over perfect, I felt like she tends to shame every other choice that lies in the vast space in between both ends of the spectrum. My own journey on this path has been about getting closer to understanding what I want, why I want it, and accepting and loving where I’m coming for in every single situation. Sometimes that means choosing perfection in some areas – and I am okay with it if I am clear about the intention and the motivation for it. It’s only in the last six months that I feel like I am making some progress with really living what I think is a life that can be truly free of the mindless obsession to achieve, succeed, be rich, be perfect, be tidy, be womanly etc etc etc. Pretty early on, this difference began to grate at my nerves. That aside, there’s a lot of talk of spiritual guidance and mentorship, alluding to Shauna’s own practice as a Catholic, and how rediscovering God has helped her along this journey. Being a non believer, this was completely lost on me.
There are some nuggets of powerful wisdom in here, but it gets completely camouflaged in the Jesus talk, the seeming shaming of a variety of choices aside from perfection, and in just loading what I found to be very, very basic truths in unnecessary verbiage. I know there is a place for self-help, but maybe it’s not the right source for me. I felt this when I read Brene Brown too — that I could appreciate some parts, some excerpts, but not the package as a whole.
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
OMG, this was such a fun, fun book. I am tempted to call it the Ove of my reading list this year. First, it’s almost-chick-lit written by a man, which I always find makes for interesting reading. Second, it’s put together very intelligently and the book absorbed me hook, line and sinker, with it’s blend of mystery, gently building unexpected romance and of course twists and turns. It’s clever, funny, delightfully touching in part, and I thoroughly enjoyed the feel-good flow of this very unexpected love story. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I began, but I was pleasantly surprised by the end of it. I’m late to the Rosie Project party, but if like me you have had it on your to-read list for a long, long time, go read it soon.
Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott
It’s an unlikely title for a book about writing, no? At least that’s what I thought, but there’s a bit in the book where she talks about where the name came to be, and it all made sense. As a guide to writing, this book comes highly recommended for aspiring writers. It’s part memoir, but mostly a literal guide to how to write — which Lamott beautifully describes as the pursuit of making sense of what’s going on. It has some really lovely parts that I could really relate to, it’s peppered with advice, some parts are straight-up technical and act as a rather precise guide on how to go about everything from developing plot to building characters to practicing writing. Some of the anecdotes, some of the emotions she shares, some of the events in her writing life were all too familiar and relatable. Some even moved me, some inspired me, some straight up made me chuckle out loud. A significant chunk of the book is directed at aspiring novelists, so I may have glossed over it, but most of the book is a funny, precise and helpful guide to what it takes to be a writer.
Same time, last year: Day 203: Rainy day feels
So much of all the recent flux I’ve found myself floating through has been about coming closer to accepting myself wholly and completely. All sides of myself. The side that routinely questions how much I truly want, and how much is really, actually enough — how much work? much money? how much shopping? how much food? The side that is re-shaping all the judgements about myself and the world around me, judgements that I didn’t even know I held within me. Judgements of other women, judgements of the industry I operate in, of family I may have perhaps misunderstood. The procrastinate-y, often downright lazy, very frequently uninterested, low-achievement loving sides too. The yes-I-like-being-fit-but-I’m-okay-with-my-wide-hips-and-permanent-food-belly self.
The side that is slowly but surely caring lesser and lesser about the way I look, even as I am completely enjoying suddenly discovering sides of my wardrobe I’d forgotten in Goa. The side that more willingly indulges in a little, unabashed self-love now and then, and is quick to recognise how much more I have yet to go.
So much of all the recent flux I’ve found myself floating through has been brought about real, apparent changes, not just in my thoughts, but my attitude and actions too.
And yet, last Sunday, as I looked at my face in the mirror before I stepped out to lunch with VC’s family, I suddenly noticed my unkempt eyebrows that I’ve stopped threading about three years ago now. From there, my eyes traced a line down to the suddenly very apparent growth of hair on my upper lip — an area I have started to ignore for the most part. It was downhill from there, with my pockmarked-from-acne cheeks and forehead suddenly staring me back in the face, and my obvious disinterest in makeup suddenly feeling like a disadvantage.
It took a moment and an uncharacteristic instance of double-checking with VC, which he was quick to dismiss, before I shook myself out of it. I looked okay. I
looked felt great. Even with stray hairs on my upper lip, between and around my eyebrows that refuse to be tamed and grow within well-defined boundaries.
I’ll admit it had everything to do with who I was going to meet, and where I was suddenly going to be — unarmed and steadfastly myself — a fish out of water in a sea of preened and primped women. But even so, it’s baffling how disarmingly simple and quick it is to slip from the cushy comforts of a carefully cultivated self-assuredness, to the depths of self-loathing. How ridiculously heavy a burden this need for acceptance and validation, packed away in a watertight box labeled beauty, is. How deep this notion of self-worth attached to what I look on the outside, runs. How utterly nonsensical that I have to waste precious waking moments thinking about it, side stepping my intuition, second guessing my confidence and tripping up on it so often.
So much of all the recent flux I’ve found myself floating through has been about discovering a deeper, inner confidence. I realised on Sunday that a by-product of that is being hyper vigilant of every stray thought, and being hyper sensitive to fixing them. I don’t always get it right, but I am now more aware of the work in progress and how far I’ve come, than I have ever been before. It has meant focusing on finer, intangible, unquantifiable things like peace and happiness, and allowing the low-hanging fruit, the distracting outward displays that are frankly easier to work with — like a spotless home, a ticked off to-do list and trimmed eyebrows — blur into the distance.
Same time, last year: Day 200: Barely moving
I firmly believe we have entered a time of being grotesquely overfed and unnaturally preoccupied with food. Nothing confirmed that for me as much as moving to Bangalore did. I realised very early on that meeting people had to involve a restaurant or pub. The number of events and happenings in the city revolving around food boggle me. A visit to some of the happening hubs in town make my head spin. Take 12th main road in Indiranagar, for example. I cannot get over how dazzlingly chock full of restaurants and night clubs and pubs it is. Each one seemingly bursting at the seams, and most of them running full house on weekends with business roaring.
I’ve been conflicted about this lately. As I think of alternate ways to engage with people — a walk in the park! a play? a concert? meeting over tarot cards? book club, anyone? I find that despite the largeness of a city like Bangalore, and the variety of opportunities to engage with the culture one might imagine it to present, to service the varied interests of this people-infested place, I’m struggling to find avenues that don’t revolve around food.
So in these times of overfed everything — from our instagram feeds (I’m so over the here’s what I ate for breakfast/lunch/dinner updates :-/) to the fetishization of meals we put in our bellies, it feels a bit self-indulgent and vacant to say food brings people together. And yet to not state it, in the manner I mean it today feels a bit fraudulent. Because it’s true what they say, food brings people together. At its most fundamental level, so many of my memories are bound by flavours, and nostalgia stirs when certain aromas or remnants of events surrounding food are evoked. It could be something as simple as the baby food I’d wait for my 6-month old sister to waste so I could wallop, or it could be the ginormous indulgent buffet i ate for five days straight over my honeymoon, or my grandfather’s very own mutton stew. Food memories have preserved my sanity on more than one occasion.
Flying out of the proverbial nest gave me wings in more ways than one, and one of the bittersweet joys of being away was creating my own set of traditions and rituals — many of which were around food. Festival sweets, Sunday breakfast eggs, nuts to start the day, supaari to end the day. And I’ve missed the grounding and centering effect of many of these simple habits and homely traditions, followed almost too tediously, week after week.
These are the same rituals I sometimes resisted participating in, many times when Iw as young. And stupid. But I was too naive to fully realise how much lingering over a shared meal, letting conversation unravel sometimes, or disappearing into comfortable pockets of silence, mindfully eating the complex outcome of someones thoughtful, deliberate labour, played a role in keeping me grounded, together.
Growing up, our Sunday lunch at home was one such event. It was where the stories of the week were shared. Where sneaky giggles, tired sighs and everything on between came together, in long belaboured detail, for everyone to chew on. The meal itself wasn’t necessarily large and sinful. Sometimes a simple khichdi, sometimes an egg curry with fluffy white rice and a naked salad. But sometimes, like today, it was a leap of faith into a previously untouched cuisine. It was larger than usual, felt fancier than the familiar fare we were usually fed. But no matter what it was, it has always been the heart of Sunday afternoons in my home.
Post lazy oil-bath mornings usually spent tidying up or hurriedly ticking thru homework, after a tiring dance class, there was nothing I looked forward to more than a meal with my folks and sister.
A meal is a magical thing. So much a labour of love, putting together a meal is an energy sapping activity. And yet, when it is done and finished, it is only the memories that linger as aromatic evidence. I realised this on Sunday, as I sat at the table we dragged out into the terrace garden at my parents home. I’m beginning to like that peaceful feeling of acceptance that washes over me, like like telling me I-told-you-so, every time I notice I’ve come full-circle. And it happened again the other day, back at the table on a Sunday afternoon. Even though our family is larger by almost-two and life has taken us all in such divergent paths. We’re louder about some things, clandestine about others. And yet, when we come together, the laugher, the noisy munching, the clinking of spoons against bowls and plates and the hearty fullness of a shared meal remains much the same.
Same time, last year: Day 194: Pedalling again
My reading habit took a brutal beating in the chaos of the weeks between April and July. More than being busy and having my hands full with the move, I’ve been super preoccupied with just dealing with things and adjusting to life here, which took much longer than anticipated.
I’ve realised that when I get busy, reading is the first habit to take a hit. It’s the easiest thing for me to offload when I have a lot vying for my time and attention. I don’t fight this anymore. That part of the type A person in me seems to be growing old and tired very fast. Instead, in her place is a newfound acceptance (or the lost will to keep it all together all the time) that this is how it is meant to be, and that nothing will change if all my want-to-dos and must-dos are not accomplished in the timeframe I imagine is right for them, and that I will return to the old “normal” when things settle.
At last count, I had three new books I’d barely dipped into before abandoning in favour of doing very interesting things like opening up way too many cartons and setting up a home. Some conflict lead to a much needed reconciliation of sorts, though. And promptly, two weeks ago, the expected happened. I picked up where I left off and got back to reading, devouring these books.
Baaz, Anuja Chauhan
So I was quite the Anuja Chauhan fan, but this book may have changed that slightly for me. I believed no other Indian writer in this segment pulls off the kind of riveting plots and compelling characters like she does, but this book left me so underwhelmed. Even though this book features a male protagonist, the usual elements remain consistent — a fiesty, strong woman, a gorgeous man who sounds too good to be true, multiple plot twists that keep you engaged and wanting to flip pages fast to get through the book. However, I felt Baaz took very long to establish the conflict and really get the pace going. Once the pace picked up though, and just as I felt the story was going somewhere, it ended. Disastrously. I’m probably way off the mark here, but as a reader, it just left me feeling like Anuja Chauhan maybe lost interest?
Heartburn, Norah Ephron
The blurb calls this book a “sidesplitting novel about the breakup of a marriage”, while weaving in recipes, making it “sinfully-delicious” and “soul-satisfying”. It was not any of the above for me. It made for a fun, very quick read because it’s light and was funny in parts, in that sarcastic, sardonic style that is Norah Ephron’s. But the recipes were completely incidental and forced into the narrative, I thought. It didn’t matter as much, to me, because I wasn’t into it for the recipes. It was the promise of a hilarious account of a marriage falling apart that intrigued me at first. Reading it though, I felt there were some all too familiar truths at some poignant moments that will make you reflect on your own relationships, or perhaps your marriage, and you will smile some. But that is all.
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
As much as this book has been talked about, I found myself avoiding it for the longest time. Perhaps it was just the dismal sounding premise, and I’m never up for willingly going into something that promises to be depressing. I’d also seen Oprah interview Paul and his wife some years ago, and the sound of reading a book about the life of a man who knows he’s dying didn’t really appeal — no matter how much I appreciate the spirit that must take. But, when R recommended it, I had to pick it up. And he was right, the book was so goddamned absorbing, I couldn’t put it down. And for the first time in years I stayed up late into the night finishing it literally overnight.
Writing about his life, over the course of the time he pretty much waited for death, Paul Kalanithi somehow manages to write a book about embracing life to the fullest, living with utmost presence and being completely absorbed in every moment of every experience. In his acceptance of life and death, I found myself nodding along a lot. The best revelation was that it was anything but depressing. In fact, I didn’t even cry. I was incredibly moved at several points, but not because of the books inherently tearful premise, but because it was just so life-affirming.
About a Boy, Nick Hornby
Despite having only read High Fidelity and 31 Songs/Songbook, I’m a Hornby fan. I picked up my first physical book in yearrrsssss, at Blossom where I went to sell a ton of books after the massive decluttering spell I went thru after we moved.
It’s fascinating and endearing to read such honest, engaging and easy writing about men bumbling along in the world, through a man’s voice. In About a Boy, he brings two men together — a dorky 12 year old Marcus who is wise beyond his years and a semi-fucked-up 30-something Will who is looking to get his life together. They meet under the oddest circumstances — when Will is at a picnic amongst participants of a single parents club (he is pretending to be one in the hope of landing a girlfriend). Somehow the two hit it off in the most unexpected way and the rest of the book is a heartening development of the relationship between them, what they have to give each other, and how their characters change as a result of it. Highly recommend this one. Apparently, it’s a movie with Hugh Grant and I must now get my hands on it.
Same time, last year: Day 193: Like Nike, but better
The monsoon has hit Goa with all its might and fury and my social media feeds are filled with envy-making pictures, videos and words that are doing nothing to make me feel better for being so far, far away from the best time to be in Goa.
Last year I had an inkling it was to be my ultimate monsoon living in Goa and even though part of me felt like I was inching closer to the reality of it, a larger part of me wanted to remain blissfully unaware. And in denial.
My facebook memories have been brutal in throwing up images and blog posts from all of last year and monsoon nostalgia has taken over me considerably this week.
I miss Goa terribly. I’m hopelessly and inconsolably homesick for Goa.
But. There have been small joys. Silver linings, if you will. Moments of pure surprise or happiness. Everyday realities that have grown on me unconsciously. Until suddenly I woke up to see the light.
After living in west-facing homes for literally all my life, I’m now on the other end of the spectrum. Enjoying 6 am wake ups thanks to the burst of light that no curtains can keep out, loving how the entire home is always bathed in a soft, gentle yellow, and low-key obsessing over watching day-long shadows as they morph on the hour. The sunlight is doing wonders for the plants we got and I’ve gone over six weeks without killing anything.
Daily surprises happen with fair consistency. I’ve got to start looking and acknowledging them more often.
Same time, last year: Day 187: June
I’ve been having a lot many thoughts about examining what work means to me and redefining it for myself. I know, nothing new. You’ve heard me ramble on about it here and here. Oh, and here too. And I’m pretty sure there’s a few more related posts that I’m just feeling too lazy to fish out now. Yes, so redefining what work means to me — not the stuff of it, and what comprises work, but the word itself and the implication and ramification I allow it to have in my personal space.
In creating this new meaning I’m trying (and often stumbling in the process) to unlearn and relearn, shed and rediscover sides of myself I have not acknowledged before. It has meant making space for days that I would once deem useless. It has meant wondering about how what was once useless is the very precious space that is nurturing a new idea. A new thought. A new version of me.
It has meant accepting that the useless days have a place too. That they add up in the long run and stack up like milestones in this potholed path I’m on.
It has meant accepting the little details like how rested I actually feel after a power nap that would once leave me feeling just guilty, not rested. It has meant allowing myself to be looked after by people who want to and can do it, rather than fretting or feeling like it means I am somehow in capable of looking after myself. Or that it makes me somehow a lesser or smaller human being. It has meant learning to accept help, with as much grace as I am willing to lend it — and this has not been easy. It has meant identifying little bits of my ego that are actually working against me and crushing them to tiny little bits.
It has meant feeling love for things and people I was convinced I never could. It has meant letting go of a rigid, absolute idea of myself and slowly embracing the fact that it is no longer what I am. That I am constantly evolving and it is futile to stubbornly hold on to an old sense of self only because it makes me feel vaguely powerful and in control. It has meant pushing through the doubt and fear that comes oh so often, when I’m feeling vulnerable. It has meant allowing myself to be wholly vulnerable. And waiting and watching with a little patience, even when one part of me wants to rush to find a quick fix.
For the most part though, it has meant welcoming the fleeting, quiet moments that drop in between endless days of chaotic cacophonic thought, when they come bearing the invigorating taste of clarity, and enjoying them like shots of coffee gulped down with urgency.
Last evening, chuckling to myself at the bittersweet angst+joy of yet another one of those once-useless-but-hopefuly-leading-me-somewhere-days and a line from Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior suddenly came back to me. And it is what I used to title this post.
PS: Are you completely done seeing pictures of filter coffee and assorted beverages yet?
Same time, last year: Day 183: The rain, the rain
For many years while I was away, I believed I missed absolutely no part of my life back home. It sounds extreme, but for a brief while, this was entirely true. Call it the honeymoon period, or whatever else, but I was snug as a bug in the newness of the anonymity and the pleasures of discovering everything a new life in a new city has to offer. It helped that the Goa I moved to was the diametric opposite of everything I left behind in Bangalore. And I mean this in more ways than one — it was a shift to an entirely different space and time. And that joy lasted a long, long time. The fresh excitement at the newness remained for more years than I imagined possible, for far long after the newness was no longer even new.
But as I’ve discovered near-eight years is a long enough time to go full circle. And I had definitely entered a headspace where I began to slowly miss some very specific things about being home. Big and small, they included everything from being a short drive away from my friends to easy access to fresh filter coffee.
There were days when I longed to wake up to a hot cooked breakfast, amma-style. Or the smell of fresh filter coffee. Or weeks when I’d walk out of the gym on Friday night and desperately long for the luxury of being in the same city as my friends, friends who get me, so we could all gang up at home over wine or beer and do nothing but talk.
I’ve missed experiencing a wide range of food and drink. I’ve missed having options, and I’ve missed having people to obsess over the variety with. I’ve missed the comforts of being on familiar ground, of old haunts an of new discoveries. In the months I’ve been here we’ve already sampled a fair amount of microbrewery beer and I may have found a temporary favourite too.
I’ve missed my family, just being around them even when there is nothing particularly important to say. Breakfast time, evening chai time, and dinner time — which is usually when we gather together. Weekday chai time with amma, weekend drinks with anna, for example. Coming back to this ready set up, where I don’t have to work to provide it or create a space for it has been the change I wanted. When all else fails, I have my parents to go back to.
When enough years of basking in the newfound hermitism grew old, I yearned for some of the bustle that people bring in your life. The right kind of people. Without the frills, without the special occasions, without the stilted conversations and pretence that comes with manufactured togetherness. With equal amounts of silence and the mania that only kindred spirits can appreciate alike. Converging and agreeing on the silliest of things, going into raptures about the most mundane and inane things, and knowing that it is with only just these few that you can and will always be at your unbridled best.
In the last two years of being away, as I rediscovered sides of myself I didn’t know existed — some that I thought I’d left behind had actually resurfaced, and some that I never imagined possible had made a loud appearance — I realised how much the transformation had affected my relationships. Both near and far.
Distance and time are difficult variables to work with. Very unconsciously, I had started to filter people in my immediate circles out. Days and weeks would go by without me getting out of the house. No plans, no get-togethers, no outings seemed to tempt me into engaging with the family I’d built in Goa (save for a few people). And yet, the bonds that grew thicker, stronger and richer were with folks in Bangalore and away.
Here I am now, and even as I carve out a niche for myself again, a large part of the everyday joy of coming back is in reminding myself how I’m so close to all the things I love. Especially the things I was craving in the last two years of my life away.
Anyhow, this ramble just to say that coming back has been difficult in many ways. I’m often taken aback by situations I’ve forgotten how to deal with, overcome with emotion when the stark contrast between Goa and Bangalore makes me question my decision, and there have even been the odd instances where I feel defeated and overpowered by the city whose way is to ensnare everything within its reach.
Yes, this city is overwhelmingly large (literally and figuratively) compared to where I used to be. But within and outside of my home, I have pockets of peace. Sanctuaries of love and abundance that I can slip into. A mere glance through my picture roll on my phone showed me enough evidence of ample instances of this abundance. Unsurprisingly it is about the people, punctuated by food and drink. In each of these images is a reminder of the things I desperately missed until three months ago.
Yes, I’ve left behind a lot and sometimes I’m not entirely sure the trade off makes sense. Especially when I feel the lack — of open spaces, of greenery, of silence amongst many other things. But there is an abundance of exactly that which I was seeking. And it counts for a lot.
Same time, last year: Day 182: Watercolour eyes
I’ve been fighting the worst creative block for weeks now. Work is slow. Both because the energy I’ve directed towards the pursuit of it has been flagging, and also because I’m being a hopeless procrastinator over what little I have going.
I’ve tried everything — locking myself in my home away from distraction, taking myself to the comforts of my parents’ home where Amma plies me with filter coffee, working at night, working early in the morning, tempting myself with afternoon naps as a reward for a morning of writing, reading to get the words going, silence to get the words going. But nothing has really pushed me out of this stupor.
Until today. And this chance visit to an old haunt.
I had a meeting close to MG Road and a few hours to kill until dinner time (which is also happening this side of town, making it pointless for me to trudge home and back again in a few hours). So, I made the wise decision to carry my laptop along. It’s a fabulous day out and I enjoyed a lovely walk from one end of MG Road to here. When the weather stays this way, and it has been splendid, I’m rediscovering the joys of a walkable city again. Little pleasures that make being back in this monstrous grind, just a wee bit more bearable.
And for now, a glass of kadak milky super sweet tea and a plate of smileys seem to have done the trick.
Same time, last year: Day 181: Holiday vibes