Grey-blue

Woke up to a classic grey Bangalore morning, and a daytime drizzle that I have been praying for for weeks now. And it’s taken me from living in shorts for eight straight weeks to a full-sleeved teeshirt and jeans this morning. I have missed this weather so much.

This comes on the back of four days of torrential evening downpours. Insane winds, heavy, heavy rain that wreaked havoc in my neighbourhood. Amongst several others, we lost a gigantic rain-tree (I think) that was easily over 50 years old. A tree that the home I grew up in overlooked, a tree that I have seen every single day of my life the last 25 years in that home. A tree that has grown and grown right before our eyes, housing so many dozens of birds and squirrels and what have you. It’s survived being struck by lightning some years ago, but the storm a few days ago knocked it right off from the roots, sending this colossal epic life-giving green lunch on my block crashing down.

The storms have been so bad, flinging our windows open, bringing glassware crashing down, upturning my pots and badgering my plants. It’s been destructive as hell. In keeping with the general energy around the planet at this time, I would say. This virus, the genocide it’s brought on, the definite economic slowdown that’s creeping up, a cyclone, storms, avalanches in some parts of the country, a heatwave in others, and now locusts. I keep wondering when we’ll catch a break. It’s like we just can’t.

I’ve been feeling melancholic all week. And as it has been the last three months or so, the words have been hard to come by. They’re there, swimming around in my brain. But I have almost no inclination to pickle them and prune them and put down in articulate terms what I am feeling at the moment.

I have gotten far too comfortable with feeling the feelings, rather than trying to necessarily understand or break them down. It might seem counterintuitive to say so, but this has been a freeing shift.

And so this morning, when I woke up to the greyness that immediately spurred a hot shower and a full-sleeved tee, I felt a resonance. The skies are melancholic. The air is wet. There’s that faint aroma of rain hanging in the air like an unkept promise. And there’s no sunlight to be seen right now.

I’ve been feeling intensely lonely lately too. More than usual. More than I have even during the lockdown. It’s not loneliness that’s a longing for company, but something else. Something I am not quite sure of, but am feeling very intensely anyway.

And so this morning, when I woke up to this greyness, I felt very unwilling to get up and get going. Last night I had a plan for this morning. Workout, chores, veggie shopping, lunch by myself. Instead I have just been in bed for much longer than planned, canned the workout and chores, had a hot shower, and gotten right back into bed.

I am okay with this.

One year ago: We back   
Two years ago: Days when I couldn’t live my life without you   
Four years ago: Waiting (the film)

All of me

Last weekend, I got VC to shear my hair off. Yep, shear. Because I asked him to take his trimmer and just go at it. No styling. No plan. Just razored it all off. Very close to my scalp. Even more than it was here.

My last haircut was in January. This is officially the longest I’d gone without a haircut, since I have gone this short. As such short haircuts need more frequent maintenance. Especially if you have thick, quick to grow hair with a life and will of its own, like I do.

Safe to say it was looooong overdue. In the interim I managed with clips and hairbands, had started using a comb after literally five years, and consuming copious amounts of shampoo, and frankly the only saving grace has been that there is nowhere to go and nobody to show my face to. By the end, trips to the vegetable vendor had started getting me strange looks. I suspect it was the beginnings of a very inelegant mullet that did that. I was contemplating just pulling off the entire lockdown until my hairdresser returns (she’s stuck in Imphal!) and I was even looking forward to this being an excuse to grow it out a bit and do something different. Something I never get to doing because I don’t ever let it grow long enough.

But no. Something snapped last weekend. And it was an entire production, quite unlike the easy-breezy job I had imagined it to be. Partly because my hair is so goddamned thick, but also it was actually much longer than I had realised. We hd newspaper down all over my living room, with me sitting right in the centre, at VC’s feet, while he sat in a chair and systematically worked on mowing the entire mop of hair on my head down. It took over an hour, and still didn’t feel like it was done. So we called it a day, and did round two the next morning.

Phew. When I looked at myself in the mirror after, I wondered why I’ve been spending so much time and money at a. hairdresser all these years. Don’t answer that, I know why. But this is just to say, I instantly felt so good, light, free.

And I also love the way I look now.

Even though I’ve had very short hair for years now, every time I have done something “drastic” going extra short, buzzing it all off with a clipper, getting the hair off the front of my face, much to the chagrin of everyone except VC and my sister, it has been when I’ve gone through something deep and transformative, emotionally.

The last few months have been a steady and slow time of deep, yet subtle and transformative shifts and changes for me. And when I looked in the mirror post haircut last weekend, it clicked. This is all of me.

One year ago: Small sadness and everyday grief 
Two years ago: It don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering 
Four years ago: Ten

Crickets

I’ve been at the receiving end of this odd sort of silence. Where, if something I have said is too much or mistimed, it is just wholly ignored. The silence leaves me wondering, really what I’ve done to bring it on. I’ve been picking up on it happening here and there, but yesterday it occurred to me that it’s consistently happening across the board with a range of people. Just fucking crickets.

I’m not talking just of full-fledged conversation, but even just basic acknowledgement. An “okay” or a “yes” or a “no” has been scarce these days.

I think it’s bothering me a touch because despite being in a quiet and wordless space myself, I go that extra step to respond to everyone because I think they shouldn’t go away feeling ignored.

I wonder what I am not seeing about me that is inviting this response all across. And because I know this, I wonder what in myself I’m not seeing or hearing fully.

One year ago: Onwards and upwards
Two years ago: I’ll take a quiet life

Shame, yet again

The news of the mother dying from starvation and thirst aboard a 36 hour journey that ended in Muzzafarpur has tested my threshold for heartbreak yet again. Lately, this threshold is being tested every single day. And I don’t know where to go with all the heartbreak and anger that comes from it.

It’s another grim, shameful day, and I’m at a loss for words. And this too has been happening, every single day, lately.

One year ago: Bangalore showers   
Two years ago: For you will still be here, but your dreams may not   
Four years ago: Odd days like today

Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

Monday Tarot Message: Finding walking fine lines and finding intuitive balance

The two of Pentacles speaks to me me of duality, of course. But today it reminds me of fine lines, double-edged swords, two sides of a coin. How sometimes polar opposites have just a hair’s breadth between them.

That’s how it is in the various emotional balancing acts we perform too. A whisker of a margin between keeping safe and keeping away. Between drawing boundaries and keeping the world out. Between being cock-sure and cutting out new possibilities. Between loving solitude and feeling isolated. Between enjoying stillness and getting getting stuck.

The harder we cleave to the poles or extremes of any practice, the quicker we are to land in a rigid, inflexible place that will inevitably be detrimental to growth. Growth requires flexibility and movement, the space for change, to even change your mind sometimes. Even about “healthy” habits.

It’s true of the opposite too. It’s a fine line between allowing a natural relaxation of a healthy habit and actually slipping into unhealthy territory again. Between consciously, mindfully transgressing a habit and being in denial about the underlying process influencing it.

Today’s card makes a case for understanding and compassion for the parts of us that tend to cleave to any state in a rigid, unchanging manner. We do this mostly do this as a means to stay safe, but compulsive safety-seeking at the cost of all else indicates that there is something deeper we probably need to look at so we can arrive at a more soft and gentle means to heal and move beyond our limitation.

The work is to find a balance through intuition. To open up the self-limiting processes and beliefs we may hanging on to, in the name of health. To soften and invite allowance. To befriend that inner knowing that can show us the way and tell us when to eat that cookie if you need it, when to take a break from therapy, when to binge-watch that TV show, when to take a day off.

Two years ago: High by the beach
Four years ago: Back to base

Shit-show

Like I said the other day, I don’t understand anything that’s happening in this country anymore. While the COVID situation is continuing to erupt every singe day in new and horrific ways, our Health Minister was elected Exec. Chairman of the WHO. That Bill Gates conspiracy theory is beginning to sound very real to me. It fits right in. And the brazenness of it all is frankly really, really frightening.

As life slips back to normal, as it has this week, I have been tentative about whether I want to jump in with the wave, or take my time. Erring on the side of taking my time, I have been confronted with the difficult task of searching out meaning in the midst of this trail of devastation and injustice that is being left behind. I find the need to stay with it, to examine and really look at the dirt, to face the full force of the disgust it churns up in me. Because I know the only way a meaningful way to continue will emerge, is from facing the depth of the ills we have brought to this country. Even us, the silent minority that pushed ourselves to the corners, enabling this filthy, greedy, evil majority to power. So powerful that they now owe nobody any explanations for the horrors they perpetrate on a daily basis.

And we just have to watch, paralysed.

I fear the muck and the filth that has been uncovered runs the risk of being relegated to the back burner once again. If we turn away now, there will be no looking back again.

I feel this so keenly.

One year ago: On compassion, connection and belonging
Two years ago: Ground control to Major Tom

Babies

The only kind that interest me:

***

It’s been a quiet few days again. Meddling about the plants. Cleaning here and there. Cooking some. Sleeping lots. Reading a little again. And I may be getting eerielt comfortable with it all.

The silence. The aloneness. The containment. The sufficiency of it all.

One year ago: An opportunity and a gift
Two years ago: We keep this love in a photograph

Minimal

Things that excite me these days.

Before I get startled by the price for a bunch like this. 50 rupees last week. 55 this week. And yes we’re running through entire bunches in about a week. Don’t ask.

Mid-week work from home scenes. Aka: life. I have really enjoyed being locked down with VC. Much, much more than I imagined possible. And by that I mean for a simplified, pared down, minimal routine that we have had, it has somehow been richer and fuller, together. I’m not even sure how.

Blue hour that otherwise makes me slightly blue, I find bittersweet and beautiful, some days.

One year ago: Happy bytes
Four years ago: Malleswaram market things

Inside is alright

It’s been impossibly hot the last week or so. Like so, so hot, I felt like I was in Goa in the end of May, when the oppressive summer heat would drive me to tears. The last few days of that punishing heat that would really peak and take things to a crescendo before the first rains at the end of May or beginning June. It was like that, except high on the punishing side and absolutely nil on the relief-of-rain side. Our AC desperately needs servicing but since we’re in a red zone, that’s not happening any time soon. So the nights have been uncomfortable. The days have also been borderline miserable, and I have been complaining a fair bit.

Even so, I think indoors has been better than outdoors. One trip out into the wild outdoors, beyond the restrictions we’ve been living within, to buy some booze, and to buy some fancy groceries we don’t get in my neighbourhood proved it. It’s probably also the way that our bodies are now habituated to the energy requirement of a life enclosed within the four walls at home, but I was wiped clean from just that outing and needed a long afternoon nap. The heat was sapping and I was so glad to be back home.

I am turning into quite the homebody, even more than before, even more than I thought possible. I am slightly grumpy about life resuming the way it is. Also appalled at the staggering stupidity of lifting this whole lockdown in the haphazard and cruel manner that it is. When we are nowhere near the peak, or flattening the curve. It would also be accurate to say I am a bit scared too, and will not be venturing out for the next week or ten days, even though we are now allowed to.

Strange, no?

I don’t understand anything that’s going on with this country anymore. And when I try to it just brings up extreme grief, helplessness, frustration and anger. I have not hated being here ever, as much as I do now.

***

It did rain briefly last night though. One of those classic Bangalore downpours that shows promise and comes with a clap and a bang, but disappears with just as much gusto. It cooled things down a touch, but not enough, and nearly not for long enough. Today was overcast and tantalisingly grey, all day long.

It was a slow day and I just decided it wasn’t a day for productivity. And I spent the day cleaning, taking my time, listening to Advaita in the hope that it will induce some rain. It certainly induces a rainy state of mind for me.

For two reasons:

It takes me back to this late monsoon-y sunset beach visit (its the set of washed out sepia toned pictures) S, Niyu and I took back in 2012 or so. Back when we did that kind of thing every weekend. We’d grab a beer each from the supermarket, drive to the nearest secluded beach (and we had scoped a good number of those, away from shacks and restaurants and people in general), plug in our ears with our respective music and just chill. Either walk about, or just sit and stare, wonder, drift away.

And then in December last year, when we were in Coorg, S brought Advaita back. It had been years since I heard them and we listened to it some on the drive there and back, particularly when it rained a little. It’s now in a monsoon playlist on my phone.

***

Apparently the promise of rain is thanks to a cyclone thats brewing. In addition to everything else, we’re now prepping to evacuate a million people to safety. I don’t understand anything anymore.

And so I’ll take solace in my music and the mundane machinations of my everyday life. Pulp those mangoes, get that workout done, reheat leftovers for lunch, finish that assignment due today, take that call for a reading this evening, read a little. Inside is alright.

Life is so strange.

Four years ago: Beach vibes 

Monday Tarot Message: On desire (and listening in)

There is something so compellingly hopeful about Aces, signifying new beginnings, ripeness of potential, fresh inspiration, new journeys. All Aces, but especially the Wands, speak to me of the fire in my belly. It reminds me to tune in to my desires, of all kinds.

Two things can happen with that energy. When we’re accustomed to listening to our own voice, we may run with it, fuel the fire and stoke it till it consumes us and changes something elemental about us. If we are governed more by external voices, we run the risk of dousing it completely. Usually for fear of failing, or not feeling gratified, or displeasing someone, amongst other things.

Desire is often looked at as “bad”, for making us “self-serving”. But it is worth becoming curious and interested in them because our desires are our inner voices showing up. When we listen often enough, we begin to get good at telling which desires to put energy into, and which ones to let slide.

Rules, expectations and externally perceived ways of being usually feed our conditioning and socialisation, teaching us to quell our desires. Those “bad” things that make us stray from what’s best for the greater good. And so we avoid focusing on ourselves, we stay within the lines, play safe. And in that way, we minimise our desires and our bypass intuition.

Our real work though, is to get intimate with desire, with the heart of our inclinations, the inner throbbing nucleus unmet aspiration. So we can discern what makes our spirits shine, heats sing and fills us with life. And then we can run with it. When we engage with our desires in this way, we build the capacity to chase what is good for us. What brings harmony and alignment, and feeds our soul.

How does it feel to just listen to your desires? Even before you act on them, can you just listen? Without speculating. Without labeling or judging them. What do you need, so you do that without worrying about whether it is useful, productive, efficient, realistic, prestigious or lucrative enough?

Desire can be one of the greatest teachers, in meeting your true self. Can you listen?

Two years ago: Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Four years ago: Fairy lights

Turning and turning

It is kind of fascinating that:

  1. yesterday, I wrote about a sense of fullness in my life — not just for me personally, but in what I share with VC. And exactly a year ago, on that same day, I wrote about our relationship feeling renewed.
  2. two days ago, I wrote about feeling quiet and contained. And exactly a year ago, on that same day, I wrote about wordlessness and feeling quiet.

I believe we’re all always going in circles. Our growth isn’t linear or upwards, but in spirals, and we find ourselves back in old and familiar spaces time an time again, feeling like we are in the same spot, but knowing deep within that it is different. Deeper, somehow.

Like seeing the sun set every single day, as I have these last almost-60 days. And knowing every single day, that even in the sameness and familiar, repetitive moving away from the sun, something is different.

One year ago: Growing friendship
Two years ago: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you

The fullness of ease and balance

Going through another phase of really enjoying this stay-in business. Cooking, gardening, exercising, cleaning, pottering, tending to forgotten corners of the house, napping, bingeing on TV, staying up late, spring cleaning, hanging out with VC, chatting with Niyu, video-calling S. There seems to be time for it all. All the things I usually put off for “later” is here in the now.

There’s also no rush about any of it. I wake up and go with the way I’m feeling on any given morning. Energetic, sprightly? Great! A little lazy and wanting to sleep in? Let’s do that, let’s exercise later and get about the day accordingly, not doing all that I might ave planned to. Feeling downright lazy? Cancel the day.

This morning I had one of those slow days. I nearly skipped exercising altogether, because there were chores to be done and that usual toss-up played out: workout and skip chores or skip chores and workout? Except a third choice is emerging these days. One that only comes up when I’m not time-bound. So I worked out, slowly, because that’s the kind of day it was. No high-intensity jumping about. And then we got to the chores, VC doing his bit, me doing mine. And I took twice the amount of time I usually do. Going about it probably “inefficiently” — but it was okay. At lunch time VC made grilled cheeses toasts for me, and Maggi for him, while I cut up a plate of mangoes. And we called it lunch.

This is new for us. Certainly very new for me. This level of relaxation, the ease, the ability to just go with the way the day is unfolding and the way my body feels. An older me might have fretted about the slow start, the sloth in my body, and tried to whip myself to be productive and efficient. I might have felt terrible about wasting an entire morning to chores. I might have felt really guilty about VC having to make me “lunch” and a lunch of bread cheese, processed noodles and mangoes just wouldn’t cut it.

But somehow, it’s okay. There have been many days like this, and they’ve all been okay.

I have had phases of easing up like this before, and every time it has come from being very tuned in to what I am feeling. This is no different, I want to say. Except there is a difference. No previous phase has lasted this long, and been so enjoyable. Something has changed, the energy around this ease is different this time around.

It has come with a deeper connection, a newfound ability to fill out time, take space and take place, and really lean into intentionality a little bit more. Every little mundane thing that I do, feels very intentional. And I have a tiny inkling that is what has made the difference.

Our home feels more lived in, because I feel more present to every corner. Dusting, tending, prettying — because I now have to do it all and I have discovered I have the time, the patience and I enjoy it. The garden is abloom because we’re much more involved than we have been. I feel the fittest and leanest I have in a long while, because there’s so much more movement and exercise happening even outside of the scheduled workouts. We’re hanging out and conversing and enjoying things together — games, movies, silence.

Last week was a tumultuous one. For me, but consequently for VC too. I felt volatile and I erupted more than once. It was emotionally challenging. I felt and expressed anxiety that what we have had and enjoyed will not last forever, that it will be ruined. I felt torn up about that, horrible that I had no control in doing what one needs to to just make it stay. Until I realised; of course it’s going to change. Of course it’s not going to last forever. Of course it’s not in my control. 

And then things eased up again. Differently, this time. I know something very elemental has changed for us during this period of lockdown. I know things have shifted for VC, and I know they certainly have for me. Even though the physical reality of our life isn’t very different from before, something is different. Especially now than when the lockdown began.

It feels like a return. A return to connection, return to love, return to beauty and a return to ease and balance. And this feeling has really filled me up most days this past week.

The biggest difference by far though, is that I am not hanging on to it. I am not filled with thoughts of wanting to bottle it up for the future. I am just here, experiencing the balance, within and without. Witnessing the ease and flow that has made a remarkably different entry. Savouring this fullness now. As it is.

One year ago: Renewed relationships
Two years ago: April

The sweet confinement of aloneness

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn,
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

— David Whyte

I don’t know when it happened, but this extended solitude and stillness has filtered much from my daily life. Chatter. Energy sapping conversation. Distractions in activity. Distractions in thoughts. Distractions in being. People and their behaviour. Inner circles and outer circles. Essential must-haves and non-essential great-to-haves-but-can-totally-do-without. Habits. Obsessions and compulsions. High standards. My own overactive kind. My own hyperactive energy.

It was probably a gradual and gentle descent and not a single, pivotal moment. Somehow everything seems very narrowed down to the bare minimum. Only showing what is really needed. Giving me proof, again and again, of all that I really need to survive, get on, and be happy. Like the barely visibly shiny dot of a pinhead.

Has this period made anyone else frightfully quiet, inward and still? Almost motionless. Minimal. Pared down. Stripped. Naked. Free. Light. Unadorned.

Necessary. Breathing. Alive.

Minimal-everything has been an ongoing theme and pursuit in my life for many years now. And I actively work on minimising (sometimes a little too ruthlessly) all aspects of my life — whether consumption or people — reflecting and course correcting at regular intervals. And still, nothing has brought me to this level of containment where everything feels subtle. Delicately complex. Yet understated. Delicious.

Even with the days I long to be out, the missing of people, the longing for the trees and the outdoors, the dreams of travelling, my life and my days feel full. The realisation of this dichotomy, this crazy contradiction, is so thrilling.

I already feel a new way of life has slipped under my skin. I am seeing changes have already just happened even as I was considering them just a few weeks ago. The newness has tucked itself in the notches of my joints, sprouting new muscles from beneath my bones. It feels natural, like a part of me, re-growing. I feel like now my insides need to be re-accustomed to it all.

I was telling N the other day, I feel like I need to re-learn how to be a person out in the world again. And I find myself treading slowly, in that direction, utterly sure about what I don’t want to do.

Baby steps.

The darkness has been hard. The aloneness has been heavy at times. The slowness challenging sometimes. The quiet, haunting. But I see how necessary it was. I see the sweetness of it all. The magic. The ways of the universe.

One year ago: Quiet
Four years ago: Things about VC that I never want to forget #16

Slow it down some more

The sky is different every day. The sunlight slants differently every day — harsh and bright sometimes, muted sometimes. The moon changes every day — fading out and filling itself up over and over.

Much of this change, these shifts and movements happen gently, almost unnoticeably. Taking their own sweet time. Entire days. Weeks and weeks. A whole season, sometimes.

Surely it’s okay for me to be nonuniform? It’s okay for me to be imperfect and different every day. It’s okay for every day to be different too. Maybe that’s when the colours will begin to show.

I feel like I’ve slowed down even more in the last week, if that is even possible. I feel even more contained, withdrawn, quiet. Within.

Every day is different. No day is perfect. It’s okay to take time.

Four years ago: Distressed but happy