Day 344: Take all my world and shake it

It’s been a day of waking up to hidden trauma I didn’t even know I had. And I am ending the day feeling extremely raw, vulnerable and sensitive. Overwhelmed by the weight of words that are equal parts liberating — in that they help own up to realities we often want to shut ourselves off to — and have a consequence — in that it has given me a lot to think about where to go from here.

Words matter. Language matters. And it is such an important building block to healing in a good and whole way. And I am grateful to have been guided to spaces and to people who create safe environments and use the utmost sensitive language in bringing sensitive realities of trauma to light.

Today has felt like stepping into a new zone, walking into a door that has just been opened. Onwards and upwards, it is.

Two years ago: Day 344: Looking back

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Day 341: Turning all the night time into the day

I’m closing in on one month since I came back to Bangalore. Life on my own, in the everyday-living of it, is largely the same. The bits that are different are small, and I don’t notice them until they creep up in seemingly insignificant moments. Like nobody to fetch me that forgotten bottle of water once I’m already under the covers, for example. Mostly it’s a chill, easy existence, this.

I didn’t know it then, but the lightness of being on my own has been precious. And by being, I mean just being. The parts where I’m not doing anything. As someone who has never lived alone before, this feels like coming home to myself.

Today though, I dodged work and went to catch a morning movie followed by lunch which featured a spot of daytime drinking, some wandering about and roaming without a plan, I realised what I didn’t even know I have missed the most, and what I am loving now — this meandering, plan-less, easy-going being. And how much of it seeps in beyond just doing things, into the essence that is me.

Many times, several times a week in fact, I do feel a touch of guilt for having, living and enjoying this privilege. It is a constant effort to fight down that guilt and come back to a place of being present to it and translate those feelings of guilt to gratitude. And so today, wandering about, I had a moment where I felt that pure unadulterated joy of gratitude. The kind that made me feel small in the face of the enormity that is the possibilities that this openness presents. I felt young and free. I felt like a traveller in my own city. Open, eager, curious and easily happy.

Two years ago: Day 341: Grasp

Day 340: Now I’m free falling

I’ve been feeling drawn to cooking again. And I’ve been feeling equal enthusiasm to make quick dinners of things as simple as eggs and toast as I am for the the slow, laborious, long-drawn out way that the food I grew up eating is made. I realise that primarily, it is the act of using my own hands and brain to create a meal that gives me that kick of dopamine. It happened last week when I made a large pot of pulao, some faux cholle and a mashed pumpkin sabji. And it happened again today when I cooked this meal for A who came over to spend the day.

What is it about this kind of food that takes one right back to ones roots, that spells home? Today it was the wispy fragrance of the just-boiled beans from a freshly released pressure cooker, or the crackling pungent hit of coriander seeds and crinkly red chillies sauteed in coconut oil, or the weedy robust and palpably green smell of freshly barely wilted dill spun in the mixie with fresh spices and coconut, that kindled a warm fullness in my Heart.

A full plate of this sort makes me indescribably happy. And to make and share this with friends — complete with granularity, texture and a transference of the tedium that this sort of meal requires — is extra special. 

There is something about labouring over the food that sustains me. An experience I take for granted on a daily basis when I casually waltz over to Amma’s and eat at her table, and of her giving. Perhaps it’s the slowness, or the act of proceeding in a sequence of actions, or just the sheer meeting point of all the senses, that taps right into that deep, primal dormant fire that is stoked every time a good meal is in the works, and immediately invokes a feeling of connection to The Source. Of belonging. Of roots. Of home. 

Two years ago: Day 340: Happy high

Day 339: Trying to get high enough to cut the clouds

Today was a good day.

For some reason, I woke up extra early. This hasn’t happened in a while. The nippy mornings we’ve been having have meant that even on the off chance that I wake up early, I linger around under my blanket much longer after. Getting out of bed is a task in this weather. But today was different. I actually woke up, managed to finish some work ahead of time today. I also did this reading for D, which uncannily seemed as much a reading for me, as it might be for anyone else who stumbled on it today. Uncanny because of the pondering about friendship that I have been doing, which has been pointing me in this general direction — of surrender and acceptance once again. Uncanny because last night S and I met for dinner and our conversations stirred up these feelings again.

I went across town to meet S for breakfast (and run a few pending errands) and here too, our conversations brought home this fact again. Of accepting changing dynamics, keeping my heart open to the inevitable evolution and to drop expectations and embrace things as they are. Unconditionally.

Breakfast was an elaborate affair that started off on a breakfast-y note, but since we lingered around chatting, while I waited for the person I was meant to meet to arrive, and it was past noon we indulged in some chaat too. I came home in time to catch an afternoon nap and some work, before I headed off veggie shopping to prep for lunch with A tomorrow.

I came home and suddenly felt a cooking frenzy descend. I stuck some tomatoes laced with garlic, basil, salt and pepper in the oven to roast. I set a big pot of vegetable stock on. And I set off cooking tomorrow lunch with guidance and help from Amma who came over for dinner. We made one of my favourite gravies, but with cow-peas (teehee) since they’re in season and because I love them so much. And a cold dill and sour yogurt coconut curry. Then I also made a few Vietnamese cold rolls with fresh carrots, cucumber, spring onions, mint and pan fried peanut-chilli tofu for us to eat with the soup. By then the roasted tomatoes were set to cool, and blended with the vegetable stock to make soup.

I love a day like this that is full, productive and fun. A day that has equal parts work and play, and leaves me feeling content with such seemingly simple pleasures.

I’m grateful, and thankful, today. For the winter chill in the air. For breakfast with S. For her friendship and life-affirming conversations she brings. For serendipitous messages from the universe. For the cabs and autos in Bangalore. For VC, who gets me. For my CA who takes the load of paperwork off our backs. For flexible work hours that allow for the rare nap. For fresh vegetables and the sporadic willingness to cook. For amma and her company. For keeping me well-fed, one way or the other, wether in her kitchen or mine. For light, satisfying dinners. For experiencing living alone and to my own rhythms alone. For turning in at 9 pm.

Day 338: November

Changes are shifting outside the words

It’s December. Inside of me, I feel full and potent, about to let loose and lunge forth like the pre-monsoon sea in Goa. Ripe, bright brown and churning up, ready to burst in welcoming the gush of the first rainfall. It’s how I feel about the turn of the year. 2019 is full of promise, and I’m only making the most of the last four weeks before the curtain falls. Inside, things shake and mix, bulge and wane, noisily. Outside is where it’s oddly calm, everything lying in waiting as the energy builds up to a precarious crescendo.

As always, it is when silence takes over, that everything unfelt, or that which I have been unable to make space for, creeps in to make its presence felt. It feels fitting for the last month, of the year, to sit with all that I have not had the time or presence of mind for until now.

I have recently realised that the fear of loss and scarcity has been a huge influence in shaping my attitude to life, and while I may have made significant breakthroughs in overcoming some of it in terms of work, monetary abundance, an idea of prosperity and success, it is still very much apparent, alive and kicking, and rears its head in other spheres of my life. And when that happens, it makes me slip back into living from a place of fear. Which keeps me from living my life in an open, healthy and soft way.

The world seems hell bent on making us believe that life is not lived if it isn’t filled with hardship and struggle, but this is a lie. My experience has taught me that it is a fallacy that keeps various wheels of the establishment turning. Whether the economics of the capitalist world, or societal mores, fear is a great thing to put your money behind. Building walls, being strong, caging emotions in are part and parcel of the struggle. The struggle that leaves no room for falling apart. And this costs us the lightness of our hearts and eats away at our souls.

The belief that I must fight the lack that’s perpetually chasing me pushes me on to believe that I must work harder at everything — from a life of writing to relationships with heart. The same thing that causes me to disallow emotions to come in and be felt. But if recent experience is anything to go by, I know for sure that there is always the possibility of a life of ease, where life flows, relationships are easy, judgement fades and decision making moves to the beat of my heart. But it requires that deliberate softness, a decided focus on getting closer to authenticity, making vulnerability a habit.

It requires courage. Not in the typical sense of bravery or in big, bold acts, but simply to live life with utmost honesty and sincerity, even when engaging with the minutest, most simple and insignificant daily acts. To not attempt this is to commit to a life of fear.

Last month, I held the words of David Whyte, on Courage, close to me. And I believe it has pushed me a step ahead from the place of waiting that I have been in for so many months now.

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

And so in this last month of 2018, I’ve been sitting with that which I already know I feel, but inviting it in rather than keeping it at the threshold of my heart. I am attempting to allow it to seep in fully and deeply. To unfurl a new kind of vulnerability, to flirt with feelings very different from the kind that I’ve become used to. To turn some of my I’m-not-sures and I-don’t-knows to I-think-I-cans.

To drop the unfounded resistance and lean in to the unknown that begs me on and to cleave to the bits of me that I am slowly discovering are closest to the way I was originally made. As I near the end of the year, I’m longing for some (more) courage, to make space for all that I am unwilling to or unable to see as yet. To sit with the discomfort as much as I welcome the comforts. To cry with as much ease as I laugh. To welcome chaos once more. To walk into the light. And I wish the same for you too.

***

I spent the end of October running into November in Goa and it was the sort of open-ended trip that could extend or shorten itself depending on how things went. I drove down with VC, and didn’t have a return ticket because if you’re familiar with life in Goa, you’ll know that setting up a home there is by no means a short, quick or easy task. And so it was the kind of trip where I took every day as it came, not knowing how much longer it could go on that way. As it happened, I stayed over three weeks, feeling chuffed that somewhere when I wasn’t even looking, the ability to really go with the flow has seeped into my life.

One year ago, a trip like this wold have shred me to bits with anxiety and unnecessary stress. And yet somehow, this trip was a wonderful mixed bag with its fair share of moments of joy at where life has brought us, gratitude for the help that has come along the way, but not without a healthy dose of fear and wonder about the future.

Time always slows down when I’m in Goa. I feel this physically, my breathing grows calm and my being is more relaxed and spontaneous. We’re extremely lucky to have friends like D and UT whose home has been a second home of sorts in Goa all these months, and it made for a perfect base this time around too. From our conversations, the meals we love and share, the comfortable silence and the proximity to our own home — this time around was no different, except for the added excitement of babysitting their puppies which hugely contributed to us feeling at home and at peace, even in their absence. It was also the perfect antidote to the wildly frustrating exercise that is setting up home in Goa.

Being back in Goa also stirred up so much nostalgia, and surprisingly fear and anxiety, had me reminiscing so much about the way things used to be. There is still such a definite resistance to letting the comfort of that go, even with the knowledge of how miserable it used to be. Even when I am actively moving towards a future that has no space for the narratives and stories that ruled the old. Realising and accepting this felt like a blow to my mostly zen current state of mind and put me in a very contemplative headspace. Some days, there were no words. in which to be around the ever-present, ever-willing, I’ll-take-you-as-you-are energy that puppies bring, was a new and soothing experience for me.

There was much contemplation: about the #metoo movement and this fantastic comic. Of fresh beginnings for VC and me in two separate cities and homes, of this exciting new ground that I find myself in, of a yet another revised definition of home and a new love for poetry, of the joy and privilege of a pause before the next big change. There was also ample time to spend reading, and so I caught up on the books I’ve been ignoring.

Even as I grieved the sense of loss I felt was triggered in Goa, there were two bright sparks of friendship and belonging: a day spent with N, and a weekend in Auroville with A, that both reminded me of how much more valuable the here and now always is.

That weekend in particular brought a shift in the rushed, hyper energy that I have been carrying around for two months. Between eating healthy, earthy meals and walking for hours in the dust and heat of Auroville, I felt dragged back to reality with a sense of healing and settledness. On our last evening sitting on thr warm sand, watching the waves come and go, I was taken back to a favourite essay on the need to cultivate “Negative Capability“. The peace and quiet and time to myself meant I could empty my mind and prepare to begin again.

I came back to some great, great Bangalore winter weather that I have been enjoying in small doses. Crisp sunshiney days with a nip in the air that make it perfect for lots of walking around town, outings alone to finish work and drink lots of chai, dinners of soup and toast, enjoying jackets and stoles and shawls again. I’ve been out a lot, but I also feel like I’ve been indoors so much — my days feel longer, somehow. So much more gets done, and that means more scope for bad days and slow days. I also came home to the happy surprise of being published in an anthology of stories and essays on menstruation. A real, proper book, you guys! And all the walking  has felt like finding my feet and the love for walking my walk again.

As always, through it all, there is gratitude. For the extreme luxury that is a home away from home, for the unfettered love that dogs have shown me, and for everything that my life currently allows me to indulge in.

***

One month ago: Day 305: October
Two months ago: Day 284: September
Three months ago: Day 246: August
Four months ago: Day 219: July
Five months ago: Day 184: June

Six months ago: Day 152: May
Seven months ago: Day 134: April
Eight months ago: Day 92: March
Nine months ago: Day 60: February
Ten months ago: Day 32: January

Day 337: Anyway, I should be doing alright

Before I look back on last month, I want to remember last weekend.

My favourite kind of experiences are those that flow organically, forcing you to go in with no expectations, but emerge with so much more than just the experience. This past weekend was kind of like that, for me. Last week, when I found I had finished up all my assignments for November a week ahead of time, I decided to sign up for 3 days of participation in D and K’s practice module on a whim. Until then I was quite sure I didn’t really need to go, and so my inclination was low. But what I experienced, was far bigger and better than anything I could have anticipated. It was yet another instance of being guided into the right place at the right time, finding myself representing parts that resonated with my own position and patterns in life, prodding me on to look deeper at things I am unconsciously resisting seeing. More than one aha moment occurred and completely unexpected was the impact they have had on me. So deep that I have begun my Monday with a bang, acting on three things that have been mere ideas in my head, very very quickly this morning.

Besides the experience itself, I absorbed, with wonder and humility, yet again, how this work is the gift that just keeps giving. When Im not looking, when I’m not even anticipating it. There is healing and then there is this kind of healing that comes in gentle, timely doses that I feel so blessed to be a part of.

Then there were umpteen, endless conversations with D & K of course. I sometimes wonder when we will run out of things to talk about, and how it is that we always have so much to talk about.

There was also lots of little happy making events. An MTR thali, another opportunity for a whole day in a saree, pani puri, two evenings of enjoyable whiskey drinking after such a long spell of feeling completely not inclined to drinking, greasy Chinese take out, fresh fruit and mithai and eating together.

Early on Sunday morning, D and I went for a long walk again, increasing our pace and distance by a notch. Topping it off with idli-vada and hot coffee makes it worth leaving home that early on a Sunday morning. The rest of the day was spent completely relaxed, and in the evening we caught Bohemian Rhapsody, finally. What a complete treat it was. And once again, it touched me in a way I least expected it to. I thought I’d be entertained, yes. I didn’t think I’d be moved. Moved by the sheer mammoth powerhouse of talent that Freddie Mercury is, and the entire canon of his poetry and art. It’s a beautifully made film, that captures the energy just spot on. In fact, it’s left me feeling like I need to watch it again. Somewhere in between there was coffee in an elephant mug, and mutton mince samosas from Albert Bakery.

I had a good weekend that has filled my heart up. And something tells me there is more to come.

Two years ago: Day 337: November

Day 334: Play me in the winter

A breakfast of fried egg and a runny yolk. With toast to mop it up.

Forty five minutes reading in the morning sun.

An orange.

A morning spent in a healing circle that refueled my respect for women and how much we endure.

Winter mornings to remember.

Two years ago: Day 334: Everything looks better in retrospect

Day 333: I’ve got a good feeling

I’d label this occurrence as an uncanny coincidence with what I am feeling and where I am in life right now. But I know there are is no such thing as an uncanny coincidence. Only the right thing at the right time.

And so, I wait.

Two years ago: Day 333: Toast

Day 332: Shoot high, break low

So. I was published! In a Canadian anthology featuring stories and essays about menstruation from around the world. I was first notified in an email from one of the editors, Tanis, who wrote to me last year, about my essay being picked. I’m not quite sure why, but I wasn’t terribly excited then. It’s been a long time in the works since then, and I had actually even forgotten about it. Until I came back from Auroville last week, to a heavy package waiting in the mail for me.

From Canada? That’s unexpected, I thought, only to open it and discover two copies of this formidable anthology.

Opening up Gush: Menstrual Manifestos For Our Times, edited by Roasanna Deerchild, Ariel Gordon and Tanis MacDonald, though, I felt that familiar thrill creep in again. No matter how many times I see my name in print, the excitement never gets old.

One of the first instances of experiencing that feeling was when I was first published in a community newsletter when I was 12-13. My grandfather had insisted I submit some of my poetry to them, and when published, he neatly cut out strips of my published poems form the newsletter, stuck them on a letter and posted them to me in Bangalore for keeps.

It was probably one of the first instances of realising that I could be a writer. That this business of word-soup was actually fun and gratifying.

That same thrill has oft-repeated since then. Every time that I see my name and a byline in a newspaper or magazine, I remember that day where it kind of all began. And now I am in a book.

In a year that saw relatively less professional work (and aspirations, even) on my part, this felt good.

I was telling N in a long voice note last week that even though I knew I was slowing down with work this year, I didn’t know I was going to reach a point where everything “work-related” would completely take a backseat. For once in my life, I have allowed other kinds of work to take precedence. What little writing work I’ve done, I’ve done on occasion, only when I was particularly inspired or compelled to voice an opinion. I’ve had a steady, low hum of assignments that I took to keep me going, and my writing muscle in good use. But it’s extremely low-key and very, very basic compared to the kind of writing I was used to doing last year and before. However, it’s given me a few busy spikes and the income is always welcome. But this? This felt delightful at an all new level.

I’m now slowly going through the rest of the essays in the book and finding I’m in some fine company. If you’d like to read the essay, it’s a mildly edited version of this one I wrote for The Establishment on World Menstrual Health Day a few years ago.

Second, now that I can talk about this, I was one of the many judges for the Conde Nast Traveller India’s Top Restaurant Awards. I won’t be making it to the shiny awards ceremony in Mumbai next month, but I look forward to eating at some of these winning restaurants over the next few months.

Day 331: I need to free my mind and see what I’m feeling

Throwing it back to this day last week by the beach, when my mind was empty and the sunset sea-breeze buoyed me up.

Because, I’m feeling a little fried today. And I am only connecting the dots going backwards right now

The HDFC net banking site drove me up the wall today. And it happened to be a day where I had to do two airline bookings, place a Big Basket order and check up on two payments waiting to be reversed. None of this happened easily. Even now, only the air bookings have been successful, but not without strife.

But it all started last night. I went to bed later than usual, tossed and turned before I drifted off well past midnight. I didn’t sleep too well and it resulted in me oversleeping this morning, which sets my entire day off.

I didn’t know it then but I do now. I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about a current situation VC and I are in. It’s mundane and boringly usual where his family comes from, but it has bent my mind in so many ways these past ten days, that I m unable to wrap my head around it.

I’m trying to just let the feelings come up to the surface and flow, and sometimes it works, and helps. There has been some fear of judgement, fear of being stuck and stifled, and a difficulty in accepting the uncertainty of which way this can go. I also find myself torn between jumping in, to rescue mode and having VC’s back, even though my heart knows this is my chance to back off completely because this isn’t entirely my circus or my monkeys right now, and in fact an opportunity for VC to set his emotional boundaries right with his family. And who knows, even invite a little new goodness into our lives.

In all of this I am also afraid that my anxiety about this (that I cannot help at this point) may jinx it.

I wanted to go catch Bohemian Rhapsody tonight, but its less than 30 minutes to show time and I still trying to get through the failed net banking shit of the day. 

I’m ready to go to bed tonight, thinking of the sea and the coming and going of the waves, in the hope that tomorrow will be lighter and flowy-er.

Day 330: I can buy the sunshine

It’s been a week since I came back from Goa, and Auroville and life has resumed after what seemed like a long, long time in limbo with my routine up in the air. While I was quietly happy about the fact that the state of flux had surprisingly actually made way for flow, I cannot overstate the joys of having life swing back to normal again. I spent most of the last week catching up on emails and work, spending my days at my mum’s home, cooking and eating meals with her, meeting the in laws and other utterly normal things like that. Just the kind of normal I had missed.

It’s just been a week, and even though I’ve been at home by myself for only 50% of that time, the joys of being by myself cannot be overstated. I don’t know what it is, because VC isn’t even remotely demanding of my time or attention, but somehow his absence has brought in an unencumbered feeling like loosening the strings on my own being. I’ve enjoyed falling in a routine and a rhythm of my own calling with absolutely nothing else to consider.

It has meant I have been able to spend a lot of time reading uninterrupted (even by my own whims and distractions), I’m currently reading three books at one time. I actually wrapped up my assignments for the month this week. I started to binge-watch Gossip Girl. I managed to catch a play with A last week, dinner with R and S one night, and post-dinner coffee with them another night, and I’m going to watch Badhaai Ho with S tonight. On Saturday evening I walked, and then on Sunday morning, D and I met for a walk again. Somewhere in between there have been long drives to take my mum to physiotherapy, the usual grocery shopping , etc. Even with all of this packed in, I find I have pockets of time. I’m in bed sooner while I am late to actually fall asleep. There’s a sense of rhythm and floatiness that I am exploring for almost the very first time in my adult life. It is equal parts enjoyable and slightly unnerving. Especially when my good old Type A self rears her head to try and coax me into finding “better” ways to spend my time. When that happens, I’m doing my best not to blindly fill time out of a sense of guilt or angst with not knowing how to handle this better. Instead, I’ve been forcing myself to let it be, feel the feelings — the doubt and the fear — let them pass. And pass, they do.

It’s not a big deal, I know, this living alone business. But as someone who has never, ever done it before, to be doing it deliberately at this juncture in my life feels enormous, exciting and excruciating. All at once, if that’s even possible.

Even so, the newness has overshadowed everything else this past week alone, during which:

  1. VC has already visited Bangalore once, on work
  2. I read Gloria Steinem’s essay titled Love vs. Romance that has put an irrevocable, life-changing spin on my thoughts about marriage. I cannot imagine steering back from here on. It has been like opening my eyes what has been right in front of them all along, just somewhat hazy and out of sight. So to be seeing things that were always there, differently is bound to make the journey ahead…interesting. To say the very least.
  3. This never-happened-before activity has become a regular feature

Today, I feel gratitude for all that I have and everything in my life that has contributed to bringing me to this very special place. Where I am able to do the things I am, navigate this path in a manner that makes most sense to me. I don’t acknowledge it enough, but I have the undying support of VC, my parents and my sister who are there for me in innumerable ways supporting me in being the person I am, on an everyday basis.

It’s usually gratitude for the physical, material things — how comfortable my life is, how looked after I am, how filled with abundance I feel right now — that I tick off when I give thanks. But I absolutely also feel immense gratitude for the intangible things. The silent support. The unspoken confidence. The love and positive energy. The sense fo being held. The immense space and expansiveness that is my life right now, and how there’s literally nothing standing in the way of making the most of it right now.

Two years ago: Day 330: One number mini rant about Instagram

Day 328: Leaves are falling all around it’s time I was on my way

Maybe it was all the walking I did in Europe. Or perhaps the walks with the pupsters in Goa. Or maybe it was the seed of a new vice that was sowed way back at the start of the year when I walked the OXFAM Trailwalk. It’s possibly also a little bit of sheer necessity and the reality of being without a car. Also, after all the walking I did last weekend in Auroville, this feels like I have stepped through a new door. I’m not sure when it happened, but suddenly I’m choosing walking a whole lot over other modes of transport. Through the week, I walked to the supermarket and the bank. They’re close enough, no big deal really. Except for the fact that I’d never actually really walked there and back. Because I’d always have a car on hand, most times. If I didn’t, I’d wait till I got my hands on the car. (Yes, totally and completely spoilt, I know!) But, suddenly it’s like I’ve been bitten by this new bug. I’m walking everywhere. Today, when I got out of the salon at 6.30, without giving it so much as a second thought, walked 5.5 kms home. I was home just shy of an hour. Despite the noise and dust, I feel great. Maybe it’s also my exercise-deprived body just happy to be moving again. All that’s needed is to make sneakers my default choice of footwear and a set of headphones in my bag at all times and with good weather, I don’t see why this can’t happen more often.

I’ve been contemplating going back to yoga, despite the inevitable erratic schedule that promises to persist. I’ve also tossed up joining the nearest gym. My limbs are craving that kind of movement. Weighted lunges, pull-ups, a 30 minute run listening to my everyday wake-me-up track at 7 am everyday as I began jogging. Something. And now there’s this. It feels like a fitting beginning.

I’ve just come home a sweaty mess. And I’m superlatively happy. This kind of endorphin high hasn’t happened in forever. A small part of me is wondering what this means spiritually — this sudden, consistent urge to wander. And the thrill in this choosing of the meandering, long and winding, sweaty road home. Hmm.

Two years ago: Day 328: ‘ssupdates

Day 327: Maybe it’s the weather or something like that

Broody, grey skies have caught me thinking a lot about what my idea of a good person is, and have been aghast to see how my own goal posts move — widening and narrowing depending on who I am thinking about. Some initial self-judgement later, pondering over my own experiments with getting “better” I realised that this idea of a good person doesn’t constitute a fixed set of things that I can tick off on a list. Yes, there may be a few non-negotiables, but they’re few. For the most part I’ve witnessed that I look for goodness, in myself and in people around me, as an enduring practice. And the goal posts do shift. Depending on changing beliefs, changing notions of what is acceptable and what is not. First off, it has meant making room to change my mind, to alter my beliefs, even if it sometimes feels like I am letting myself down. Then, a constant, and here’s where I slip an awful lot, attempt at honesty with myself in facing imperfections and choosing to either embrace the ones I can or alter the ones I need to. 

I have sometimes wondered if this business of self-maintenance will ever get easy or end. Every time that I think I have made progress and I find I’ve slipped or some new development has presented itself, putting me right back to work again, I wonder how much longer it will be before my internal-facing mirrors will be completely clear. And that’s when I realised, it’s perhaps never? This is and always will be an ongoing side-plot in my life. The life that is always running in my mind, parallel to the one I live in my body, going about the motions of existence. It requires practice and constant focus and indulgence, much like anything else I try and do well — cooking, writing, working out, I suppose.

This has meant an immense relaxation in the expectations I have f people, and how much I judge (I’m working on toning this down too, all the time, every day.) them. And so, similarly, the “good people” they come and go. They seem great sometimes, not so great at others. I’ve realised looking for goodness used to be about finding perfection, and now it’s about looking for those who share the light to keep on trying, and to keep getting better. The ones I hold close are those who share my love for this constant striving for examining and looking within. For every time that we’ve slipped, we remember to get back up and be better. The goodness then, is in the trying, I think. It’s in the pursuit, rather than the outcome. 

Two years ago: Day 327: Regular programming

Day 326: Oh God I feel like I’m in for it now

It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of November. Though my mind seems to want to defy that passage of time, within I’m feeling a slow churn like the wheels beginning to warm up and whir. It’s been many months of slowly taking one day at a time, walking through the disorienting I-don’t-know-ness of “future plans”. I’ve been waiting for a sign. Some indication from within or around, rather than a preconceived and fixed idea about where I ought to go next.

This has been time off from doing, and suddenly when the time to do something has come, Ive felt stumped and a bit caught in the headlights. It is so easy to slip back into these old patterns. Even so, I find myself still calmly moving. Without a plan, but with intention. Without a routine, but with a method to the madness.

At some level, I’m beginning to believe there is no other way to get closer to ones most authentic self, than to let go of the controls and commit to a slow life. I feel like this journey would have been incomplete without these important everyday-living lessons in waiting, patience, acceptance and surrender.

There is an incredibly freeing kind of joy in taking things slow that I never knew was possible, or that I could enjoy.

That said, I’ve sensed a shift these past few days. Like a pregnant buzzing pause before new beginnings. There’s some thoughts brewing about projects, new interests to pursue and some journeys to take. Fitting, as we’re fast approaching the close of the year. So even though my mind tells me it can’t possibly be the end of November, deeper within I know this has been a long time coming.

Two years ago: Day 326: Paint me like the sky

Day 325: Discover some new truth that was always wrapped around you

[Goddamit, WordPress has gone and changed something around and everything looks different. WHY?! Why do you have an issue with things that work well staying the way they are?!]

With that out of the way, and while I try and figure out how to insert pictures *eyeroll* let me tell you about Auroville (and I’m going to quickly run through this).

All the non-stop running around since 1 September had really left me feeling very exhausted and in need of some deliberate, organised downtime. Outside my own home, removed from the urge to potter around and tidy up and generally keep myself needlessly busy. I have been longing for some time to just sit, be, slow down, empty my head, breathe easy. I wanted to go away somewhere — not fancy where I’d be tempted to sightsee — where I could wander aimlessly, or choose to sit with a book (or two, or three!) uninterrupted. Some likeminded company would have been good, I thought. In a wild, wild coincidence I happened to discuss the idea and the sudden urge to eat at the Solar Kitchen (in Auroville) with A, exactly when she was plotting to go over there on the weekend, by herself. So of course I just tagged along, in what she called our separate “alone trips”. But not without some overthinking of the fact that I would only just be back from Goa less than 48 hours before taking off again, that I have been feeling travelled out and should probably chill. But really, it took a split second to realise two days wasn’t going to change much. So I quit the overthinking and just went. With the express intention of accompanying A to eat at the Solar Kitchen. 

As much as I like elaborate holidays that require planning yada yada, I am oh so very happy with this kind of quick escape, with absolutely no plan whatsoever. We picked a spot to stay within walking distance of the Solar Kitchen. Because, priorities. And allowed the rest of the nonexistent plan to work itself out around that. Which it did, organically, spontaneously and rather beautifully for our liking.

What ensued was two days of mostly wandering around on foot, interspersed with lots of reading and eating. Yeah, basically just that.

The cyclone scare meant the weather while humid and sweaty, wasn’t exactly blistering and painfully hot as it could have been. We had pleasant-ish weather most of the way, which encouraged us to get out a little. We walked a total of 11 kms on day 1, despite spending most of it sitting around reading or eating. We hit the Solar Kitchen, the Auroville Library (which is oh-my-god delightful, and an ideal place to spend many uninterrupted hours, if you enjoy books and silence) and neither spots kicked us out in a rush. So there was much lounging, pulling out our books wherever we were plonked, and proceeding to lose ourselves.

Then we took a loooong one-hour walk to the beach to catch the sunset, making stops at the Auroville Bakery and Farm Fresh to stock up on Auroville goodies, followed by a super-early pizza at Tanto’s before heading back home. 

The great thing about eating at sunset means one still has a couple of hours before bedtime, which we of course spent, surprise surprise, reading, and still slept early enough to rise just after sunrise the next day. We walked upto the MatriMandir, which wasn’t too far off from our guesthouse, but of course we weren’t let in. No amount of referring to the sweet security dude as “uncle” seemed to help. The rest of the morning, post an excellent breakfast of muesli and yogurt with fruit and hot chai, was spent lazing in bed, you guessed right, reading. At lunch time we headed back to Solar Kitchen and hit the Visitor’s Centre to shop for some more goodies before walking back home again. When the sun went down a bit, we hit the beach again — earlier this time — to take in the evening sights and the sunset. A chai stopover later, we were back home to catch yet another dinner and lots of bedtime reading again.

You get the drift right? We were very, very focused on the eating and the reading, strategically planning all our wandering based on where we wanted to stop to eat and the moment we settled in a quiet spot for longer than five minutes, we’d whip out our books and ignore each other. Somewhere in between all this we chatted too, somehow. Lots and lots of chatting, some gossiping, lots of giggling. It was just the weekend I needed, and it couldn’t have panned out better.

We meant to book ourselves tatkal tickets to return on Sunday night, but a slow Internet connection, a two minute delay in catching the window and a large dose of not caring too much meant we missed our chance. And so we ended up staying an extra night only to leave on Monday. Which actually worked out excellently because it meant I got to finish three entire books, have an extra breakfast at the guesthouse and I always prefer leaving fresh on a new day than spend a whole day in anticipation of leaving at sunset (which is always so FOMO-inducing).

Things I enjoyed the most:

  • A train ride after yonks! And unreal excitement about cooking and packing dinner to eat enroute. Train journeys are all about the food for me.
  • Walking, walking, walking. I’ve been feeling the need to move, and walking specifically, has been calling out to me. Ever since I had to make the hard decision to skip the next OXFAM trail-walk (because I’m woefully underprepared this year and in absolutely no shape to wing it) I’ve been feeling the urge to start walking in preparation for next year. Wandering on foot has been such a great way to get a hang of the areas I’ve travelled to, and creates a very different kind of connect with the space that I’ve loved and hadn’t tasted in ages
  • All the reading. To be able to read in silence, as much as yak nonstop is special thing to share with a friend. I’m happy to add another person with whom I can share this with, to my list. 
  • The sense of community at AV. While there’s a confusing slightly disorienting strain to wandering around a hot and sweaty area in Tamil Nadu surrounded by white people who seem to be more in tune with the land than most of us visiting there like outsiders, it definitely triggered a yearning for community living in me. One of the things that’s really come to the fore thanks to living in Bangalore is how isolating and insulating city life can be. In sharp contrast to my life in Goa where I’ve just had the luxury of camping out at a friends for three weeks, where everything is slower and harder to get done but the process leads to uncanny conversations and surprising connections and dependencies always gives me a sense of community and connection that I miss in Bangalore where there’s a palpable dog-eat-dog energy and everyone just fends for themselves and asking for help is so difficult. It warms my heart to see people come together, in whatever form, to nourish and nurture a common vision and I hope and wish that somewhere in my future, I have the means to experience this more deeply.
  • Watching women cycle around with such ease. In dhoti pants, in sarees, in cycle shorts and all the gear — so was so much cycling it made me think back wistfully to my cycling days in Goa.
  • The ease with which I could get up and go. This was a real thrill, one that I am still savouring slowly two days after I’ve been back. This is new and refreshing for me.
  • The food. The food. The food.
  • A visible, slowly permeating shift in my own ability to connect with people one-on-one. While on the one hand I’ve been talking about and feeling a sense of needing a community, deeper within, I’ve sensed a shift of sorts in my own personal connection with people. My “groups” seem to be dwindling fast, and it’s putting me in a very different space, forging healthier, more stable, and most importantly hassle-free equations with many of those same people, as individuals. It has come with a fair amount of anxiety about something very deep and innate about me changing, the resistance to let the comforts of an old and stable pattern go, but it has also been oddly liberating and that has encouraged me to push thru, let down my guard and not worry too much about the old ghosts that rear their heads so often. 
  • The sea. I realise I visit the beach so little in Goa, that going to the beach elsewhere is still a treat. I made a mental note to make the effort to go to the sea more often when I’m back in Goa, because it’s a luxury I don’t want to take for granted.