Day 199: If everything could ever be this real forever

This picture pretty much sums up the way I’m feeling this morning. Relaxed. Content. Bright. Happy. Ensconced. One year ago: Perfect love

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Day 198: Always somewhere, miss you where I’ve been

B R E A T H E. F L O W. B R E A T H E. F L O W. B R E A T H E. F L O W. B R E A T H E. F L O W.

Title inspiration, current (annoying) earworm:

Day 197: Under my umbrella

Hello from rainy Goa, which has all my heart. Two years ago: Day 197: That’s all

Day 196: Oh my life is changing everyday

I was meant to fly to Goa on Thursday for a week long break, chilling with D and K and the puppies, before we all returned to Bangalore together, the week after. But not so surprisingly, a random work enquiry is taking us back to Goa. Today. It all came through in about 48 hours and here I am bumping down a highway, through overcast skies and a gentle rain, headed there four whole days ahead of plan. Of course, I’m stoked for the opportunity to be here again. Two weeks ago, when my dad brought us this beer (I love the label art!) from Kerala, I chuckled at the irony of drinking it in Bangalore. But because I’m a sucker for serendipity, so much that I no longer know the difference between seeing signs and having events follow, and thinking and wanting things so bad that I’m willing myself to see conveniently appropriate signs everywhere, I also decided I’ll take this sign when I see it. I just didn’t know it would be this quick and specific.

Two years ago: Day 196: Down and out

Day 195: Lost and found and turned around

Meanwhile, it’s pissing down in Bangalore too. It’s so good to be feeling a chill in July. To wear full-sleeved clothes. Two layers, even. Full pants. Closed shoes. Scarves and neck things. Just some of the things I love about being here, and pretty sure they’ll be the same things I miss when I eventually leave.

Some months ago, in a reading D did for me, she said to take this time to really enjoy the good things I love about this city, without holding back. I realise it comes down to the weather, the abundance of food to try and the freedom to loiter about on my own. So, to be sitting snug in a coffee shop with free wifi, without feeling like I’m waiting to be shunted out for just ordering a single black coffee and staying for three hours. To read, work, people watch at least a couple of times a week feels like a fitting way to do it.

And while I’m waxing eloquent about the weather, here’s a rainy day song — a throwback track (and an entire forgotten album) that I rediscovered thanks to driving around in the rain in my dad’s car. His music is evergreen.

Two years ago: Day 195: 100TinderTales Reveals Dating Apps Give Indian Women The Upper Hand

Day 194: Long as I remember the rain been coming down

I’m glad for all the long drives in the rain. I could very well have been moping for Goa, which is currently getting battered with a heavy monsoon, and I could have been very, very sad for missing it. But I had this instead. And Wayanad got a record high amount of rain and insane gale winds this past week. There were furious flash floods, sinkholes in some parts and much destruction. I have returned feeling very cut down to size, and insignificant in the larger scheme of things — the canvas that has us planning big plans, when really all we need to do is go with the flow.

I’m grateful for the chance to go tripping with my father. It’s been years since it was just us, and as anticipated, it was quiet, but fun and gave me plenty to make new connections, think about and create memories from.I am a lot more like my father than I have cared to notice. In him, I see my own underlying zest to live life in a way that seems questionable by conventional standards. I know now that it is from him that I get the spark of willingness to take chances. To take as many chances as I can, whenever I can, if an idea or a desire presents itself. I share with him my absolute inability to understand or even care to understand numbers. He is every bit as eccentric, slightly compulsive and just a dot obsessive about the little details, as I am. He enjoys his food and drink to the level where they are not mere occurrences in any given day, but defining points that can guide which way the day goes.I am grateful for this gene pool.

I am grateful for this opportunity to spend time with him and see up close the sheer scale of this project he’s embarked on. I had a sense, and never doubted his determination to see it through, but to be there in Wayanad with him, seeing how far his home has come, brick by painful brick, enduring months of frustrating oddballs that continue to blindsight him with alarming regularity.Oddly enough, this was a reminder for me to realign my own focus. To go after some of the things I think about wishfully, but brandish without lending them much serious thought because I am also sometimes easily distracted by the pressure to be rational, to make things make sense to everyone around, when really the only person it needs to make sense to is me. To take those chances more often, to put everything on the line for the wildest, most impossible sounding dreams.Driving out into the forest brought, at a silvery 4 o clock, the sunlight a gentle angle casting mellow shadows, while leaves danced around tricking us into believing something moved just beyond the thicket, evoked a huge sense of nostalgia in me. My mind raced back to so many of the long drives we’ve made as a family, and I realised that some of my earliest writing that came from just the very basic need to put down in words what I was feeling, came from these road trips. There was that one short piece I wrote at age 10 or 11, about a pink sunset that engulfed us as we drove straight into it. And the other piece about feeling my heart collapse under the weight of emotions a Bryan Adams song had stirred in me loud and clear. Another one about feeling tiny and weightless under a canopy of banyan trees that leaned over to join hands across the street. I suppose one can say these were some of the milestone moments that set me off to go on to write about every goddamned thing.

I’m grateful for the ability to write.

I’m grateful for snacks. Rainy day snacks. Banana fritters, amongst other things.I’m grateful for this sense of openness that I have felt brewing. Life has opened up. I feel opened up. There is a sense of vastness in everything — from the opportunities I am exploring, to the inner ability to change my mind — and I really, truly feel like a small dot in an ocean, with the world as my oyster. It is empowering and humbling all at once.

I’m grateful for amma who is the glue that keeps us together, even when she is not around. I’m grateful for Niyu who has surprisingly become a source for as much food for my body as my soul. I am grateful for VC who is, just there, solid, all the damn time. And for how he, even at his polar opposite best, is the partner I need. Even when I don’t realise it. Even when I realise it, and don’t acknowledge it.

I am grateful today for my family for everything that they do intentionally and unintentionally for me, with me.

Two years ago: Day 194: Pedalling again

Day 193: You ain’t been blue, till you’ve had that mood indigo

I’ve been mostly off the grid, phone gone quiet only to wake up when we drive between towns where suddenly my network throbs back to life very briefly. I post quickly, when I can and allow the silence to take over for the rest.

My dad and I have been mostly staying in companionable silence, chatting some, listening to music, driving around and getting some things done when we can. I’ve finished a book in two days, cooked a couple of meals and spent most of my time just chilling. And while some work is piling up waiting for me to return, I don’t feel rushed to.We’ve had yet another utterly washed out day that rendered us house-bound and caused my father much worry because it’s another day without work done on site. But, who can complain with a view like this. And rainy day spoils that include sugary tea and a local doughnut like delicacy that is crusty crisp on the outside, dense and mildly sweet on the inside. Crack it open to let curls of steam escape from the innards of banana melded dough speckled with cumin. Dunk a piece in the tea and eat quickly, while it’s still hot. For all that we city bred people wax on about the slow life, turning it into a hashtaggable lofty concept that is so out of our natural rhythm that it is worth aspiring for, all it takes is a visit to a village. A real village, not ensconced in a resort in a village or any such manicured vehicle of experiencing this short term. A visit to a village is all it takes to get a view into what it means for people to live off the land, in sync with the forces that be, going with the flow, living small and being just so happy. Here, there are no plans to be made because nature is making them for us all the time. We have been forced to simply surrender and go with it.

I’m all kinds of humbled and am going away with a renewed sense of awe and a reminder of the taste of just how much more smallness I have yet to bring back into my life and being. It’s time to go back.

Two years ago: Day 193: Like Nike, but better

Day 192: Slowly drifting, wave after wave

My third day here and the rain is going strong. It’s been this way for the last ten days I’m told. Oddly, I feel at home like this might as well be Goa. But, it’s just the precursor before I actually head to Goa next week.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: Sunday lunch edition

Day 191: What about sunrise, what about rain?

Plastered at the edge of a car window to post this, just seen. The river is brimming over. Everything bears a silky film of lush wetness. All around the fields are eye-poppingly green. The pepper is lush, tapioca thriving, the ginger is perky and fresh.

If life had just one, single colour, green would be it. Green, so green. This must be what abundance looks like.

One year ago: Books-shooks

Day 190: Follow me down to the valley below

Another weekend of indulgence, sleeping in and some family get-together scenes later, I’m going off the grid. At long last, I’m off to my father’s home in the boonies of Kerala, out of reach or posting capabilities. I anticipate spotty network until Thursday so probably no posts until I am back. See you on the other side!

Two years ago: Day 190: On solitude

Day 187: Did you fall from a shooting star?

The weather let up just a wee bit today. Muggy cloudy days have meant the temperatures have been steadily rising. The stillness in the air has been stifling. But today, the clouds broke a bit. And we had overcast skies, the gentlest drizzle and cool wind. Perfect for a brunch date specifically to have deep fried carbs that turned into a gossip sesh over way too many cups of chai. That is all. Two years ago: Day 187: June

Day 186: You’ll be a good listener, you’ll be honest, you’ll be brave

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about how much of our existence is conditioned to focus on doing stuff and nearly not enough on being who we truly are. Or at least on the crucial need to get closer to it. I’ve come to believe that the former is actually a by-product of the latter, but our entire lives, for generations together, have been firmly taught to believe otherwise.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent to me (now that I steadfastly resist the urge to blindly do things in pursuit of outcomes and instead question them desired outcomes before I actually set out) that the answer to finding contentment in whatever experience I might find myself in or choose to put myself in, is to let the being guide the doing. Once I have that in place, a quiet, comforting sense of acceptance flows. The most suitable actions required of us, show up. The unlikeliest avenues open up.The doing just happens rather effortlessly. And all I have to do is just show up and be present.

I’ve also been wondering a lot about shame and self-loathing/self-hate. Where it comes from, how we respond to it, how we tread the blurry lines and how we sometimes come through on the other side. Natural by product of getting down and dirty in the dregs of who-am-I, really.

So much of it, stems from the avoidance of a state of discomfort. Much of it, whether it is about the way we look, the things we ought to be doing, the right ways to live our lives, stems from what we’ve been told we need to do (to avoid said discomfort), rather than being told to just be. Be, in a way that is true to the inner-most, deepest sense of self. It’s no wonder then that a majority of our adult lives is spent pursuing things that actually take us further away from it, even as we’re peddled the notion that as long as we’re successful, we’ll be happy. So seek, chase, keep doing things, get comfortable.

Then, I watched Nanette. And all the issues she throws up stood right in front of me like an army of knives waiting to attack. Most of all about identity and a sense of self — what must it be like to strip down all the bullshit one cultivates consciously and unconsciously while growing up on a steady diet of doing? What must it feel like to tear down the layers slowly, and get to the heart of one’s being? And to realise what’s in there looks nothing like what the world around considers “normal” is? What must it take to then accept that inner core of being nonetheless, and go out there and make art about it?

What then, does self-worth look like? And does acceptance and contentment have a ole to play in it? What can one do to cultivate it, embrace it, make it one’s own, apart from just letting it be?

So the show, I fucking loved it. But not in a typically gushy way. It made me super uncomfortable, and even though I took a while to get into it and only really got into it somewhere at the halfway mark when she turns it around on it’s head and it stops being funny, by the end of it I was totally cut open, completely worked up and crying uncontrollably.

Yeah, I loved it.

Aside from the way in which Hannah Gadsby subverts the very genre she has chosen as her art form, a how she turns a stand-up comedy show right on it’s head to a powerful piece of work that riveting because it is just not funny, I loved Nanette because it cut through and reached out and touched me deeply. Not in an obvious #relatable sense of the word, because Hannah speaks entirely from the margins, from a space so gray, you and I will struggle to sit with it. And yet, it is a space we can no longer afford to ignore.

It’s been a time of a lot of thinking about that inner sense of self, personally. And I’ve had to really examine a lot of things I just took for granted and fell into line with. The roles I play, my identity in each of them, even my sexuality and sense of self that comes from it. I’ve been quietly questioning what it is really, to be me. And of course not every answer is a hunky dory, peachy perfect one. It’s brought with it a fair bit of uncomfortable truths, some surprising revelations and yet, a lot of relief in just getting to the truth of this being. So, in that sense, Nanette really touched me in a way that most sharp, piercingly honest truths do.

The thing with discomfort though, all the gritty truths (ours as well as others) that make us uncomfortable, is that it is a crucial part of resettling. Of acceptance. And of contentment. Of being.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: light and life
Two years ago: Day 186: Werk,werk,werk,werk

Day 185: One foot in front of the other, babe

This past weekend, we had S and R over for dinner. Niyu came over too and VC and I made pizzas from scratch — homemade whole wheat thin crusts, a slow-cooked tomato sauce, some freshly ground pesto, butter garlic prawns and assorted veg to go on top. Niyu made a cracker of a watermelon and feta salad too. Everything came together so beautifully. Earlier in the day I was overwhelmed. I only began cooking at 3 and had a moment of wanting to throw the towel in because I had bitten off much more than I could chew. Not really — this was actually a simple meal to put together once I broke it down — it’s just been so long since I entertained like this and cooked for more than just VC and me, I had cold feet.

I’m grateful for Niyu. And for the help she always pitches in. I can almost always shut my eyes and leave the salad and/or other components to her and she will not just deliver, but go beyond and wow us.

I’m grateful for the time we spent with R, S and H. It’s nice that we have a space outside of their home, which somehow seems to bring out entirely different sides to them. Everybody loosens up, there is much laughter and chatter, and perhaps the absence of all kinds of policing means everyone lets their guard down.

I’m SO grateful for the new mattress we bought. I’m so glad VC finally just pushed through and took the decision without waiting for me to deliberate or analyse if it was time yet. Our old mattress arrangement (because it wasn’t even a real solid double mattress) goes all the way back to our broke days when we moved to Goa and couldn’t imagine spending double digit thousands on home things. And so we managed. And we managed and we managed for closing in on nine years. I’d probably have managed some more because it was one of those things that hasn’t caused an obvious problem yet. But it’s only in its absence, with the benefit of a far superior alternative that Im realising what we have been missing out on. It’s no wonder that I’ve been having amazing sleep of late.

I’m grateful for CARBS. Oh so so so grateful for them. They have been giving me life these past few weeks. From months of branding them evil, to slowly accepting them again, little by little, I’m now almost fully back to eating carbs as and when I please. And it is so liberating to be eating freely again, without demonizing parts of my food, the meal itself, parts of my body, or myself.

I’m grateful for leftovers. I really, really am.

I’m grateful for the affirmation that I’ve been on. I hadn’t realised it, but what seemed like a surprise set of occurrences in the past few days, was actually directly linked to what I have been affirming to myself everyday.

I’m grateful for the card reading VC obliged me with on Sunday. It was spot on as usual. And of course it featured an elephant. As usual.
And I’m extremely grateful for how he is encouraging me on to go my way. I’ll take a sign when I see one, and I’ll grab it with both hands if VC encourages me to.

I’m grateful for conversations with S this past week, that have been knocking it out of the park as far as getting deep in there and digging in with both hands goes. We met for brunch, with the intention to spend some time painting. Instead, we gabbed and gabbed. While stuffing our faces.
No shying away, no mincing words, no pussyfooting. I love that we can prop each other up and keep each other going in this way.

I’m grateful for this little lesson. It was so needed, and so perfectly timed. And I’m grateful for the little bit of progress I realised I have made.

I’m grateful for some of the things I’ve slowly cultivated this past year that I am only now seeing blooming ever so quietly in ways that are impacting my everyday life: gratitude for the little and big things alike, self-love and opening my heart out a little bit more than what feels comfortable and comes naturally, and a little bit more patience to let things slow down as they must. (This realisation too is an outcome of several conversations I’ve had with S this past week.)

Day 184: June

Have the courage to change your mind

This past weekend, I found myself at a hip and happening party spot in the city. This is not something that happens often at all in my life. The music was loud and pounding so hard, I could hear it all the way in the basement parking, as I drove in well past 10 pm. I was immediately taken by how Bangalore’s general style statement has changed over the years. Party clothes are definitely more striking, bold and out there. As I waded through the flurry of shiny, shimmying young ones, in my torn jeans and full-sleeved tee (what?! – it was a rainy night and I’m easily cold), making my way to the open air restaurant area, I thought to myself, Wow Bangalore has changed sooo much. Until I stepped into the quadrangle, within mere metres of what is obviously an exceedingly popular weekend spot to dance the night away, and I had to halt that thought right in it’s tracks. Because loud and thumping music, with the crowds interjecting at appropriate spots, I heard the lyrics: HEY Mambo, Mambo Italiano! GO, GO, GO! Because it was nothing like had changed at all. And I was back in Urban Edge in 2001.

Nothing has changed — it’s a recurring thought I have as I go through life in Bangalore.

Sure, the clothes have gotten shinier, the kids are more out and about, the curfews have been extended, we have cabs so hopefully less drunken driving. But aside from that it was like being sucked into a bad time warp, sliding back to a dark and dingy night club 15 years, where two extremely fun boys convinced me to smoke a cigar that I pretended to enjoy.

I felt so confused, simultaneously cool (because I knew the entire playlist because it was from when I was in high-school) and uncool, and suddenly so aware of my age. Because I was curling my nose up at it and avoiding the crowded noisy spots, going in search of ice cream instead.

Some things have changed, though.

Thank god for that.

***

I’ve been thinking about ageing. Growing up. Evolving. Moving on. And I suddenly realised mid-conversation the other day, that most of the disdain and angst about time running out has faded. I told P the other day that this decade — the 30s — are proving to be far, far more enjoyable than the last.

It wasn’t always the case. I still often wish for some of the simplicity that was my early 20s (everything was really straight forward, and I had far less fucks to give than I did in my late 20s) where I just went after most things without a second thought, high on a misguided cocky confidence. It had its advantages and disadvantages. But, this, here now — to be in this wonderful twilight zone between knowing what I want and having a quiet confidence that I feel from within, and feeling far less apologetic about chasing each one of those goals without justifying them — is far, far more enjoyable.

In my 20s, I had a very rigid sense of self. I was far too certain of too many things. Today though, my sense of self is far more fluid. Far more forgiving and open to figuring it out along the way. Even as I have eaten all the words from my twenties, and come to a point of realising that virtually nothing that I held to be true and absolute, holds good anymore. And that has been one of the most freeing realisations of recent time.

Suddenly, there is so much more space to let go of all the barriers I have created in my mind. There is far less self-doubt. There is also a lot more faith in myself, and a sense of surety about letting older parts of myself go without feeling like I am disappointing myself somehow. This has been a defining aspect of the last four years of my life — allowing myself the permission to soften up, loosen the grip and grow out.

I have enjoyed trading in my cocksureness for this far more confusing and uncertain process of bumbling along and taking everything one step at a time. I am slowly getting better at being okay with not knowing it all, being open to learning all the time.

Most of all, I think the thing that has changed my attitude to life is understanding that I need to have the courage and space to change my mind as I go along. And this courage doesn’t have to be fierce, loud or in-your-face, or even proclaimed and shared. It has a soft, graceful and very gentle feel to it. All qualities I never thought I would embrace.

So yeah, things are changing. All the damn time for me these days. And May and June have really shown me what is possible when I open myself up to all the possibilities that are waiting to turn my inner world upside down.

If May was all about unsettling everything and throwing all the balls up in the air, June was about making space for things to settle again. Not actively settling them myself, but allowing them to settle in, in their own time and pace.

June has been all about the resettling. And it came with a massive amount of thoughts because resettling has it’s own energy. It’s not an instant state that gets flicked on at the push of a button. It has been equal parts slow in it’s unfolding as it is energetic in what it is throwing up.

I am psyched for what the next half of the year holds, and if the last two months are anything to go by, it’s going to be interesting to say the very least.

Let’s reflect!

Rumination
The more life persists, the more rumination it brings. I’m just glad I have the time and space to allow it to find its way out, because it makes for very useful reading when I look back. (I’m sure I can’t say the same for you, though!)

  1. A whole month too late, but I finally wrote that letter to myself, that I had promised I would
  2. Serendipitously, I found yoga, once again
  3. Self-care and emotional literacy; and how it isn’t a fancy, unnecessary and expensive proposition
  4. Acknowledging moments of guilt and grief is crucial
  5. Weekend blues, chance conversations and surprising moments of friendship

Happy days
Looking back on the month I realised it was a mostly happy month, because without realising it, I have chronicled a lot of very small, everyday little happy occurrences.

  1. Little happy things that stuck with me on week 1
  2. Happy days of very little work and endless nothingness
  3. The happy occurrence of making it to a 6 am yoga class
  4. Happy breakfast conversations that work as timely reminders
  5. Happy with the Bangalore rain
  6. Happy meets contentment meets fullness
  7. Days spend doing nothing but reading make me oh sooo happy
  8. Home days that make me happy
  9. Brain-worms that trigger more happy thoughts
  10. Happy (temporary) reconciliations with Bangalore
  11. Proof of change also makes me happy
  12. Choosing a happy day

Gratitude, as usual
Because I will get nowhere without this.

  1. A serious kind of something new
  2. Come on, keep me where the light is
  3. Nobody really likes us, except us
  4. Did we fly to the moon too soon?

Books!
I wrote a lone book post (featuring 1 book I LOVED, and 3 I didn’t) because things have been slow on that front. My brain has been otherwise occupied. And I’ve decided that’s okay.

One month ago: Day 152: May
Two months ago: Day 134: April

Three months ago: Day 92: March
Four months ago: Day 60: February
Five months ago: Day 32: January

Day 183: I wouldn’t change a single thing

I have a massive post all typed out. I’ve chipped away at it at three different points of the day. Each time I was interrupted. Once to cook lunch, once to stuff face with an entirely different lunch, and a third time by the sudden overwhelming need to give in to the food coma that followed.

I surfaced from a superb nap this evening and somehow just couldn’t get myself to finish the post.

Something strange is up — I was not one to nap too much. Afternoon naps were a rare occurrence meant only for days when I was running on sleep debt or weekends. Even so, they were never long drawn affairs or the sort of naps where I’d lose track of reality. But of late, there has been a lot of sleep in my life. Nights of deep, restful slumber. Allowing myself to sleep in on weekends. Staying in bed and reading even after I have woken up, some days. Some part of that Type A person who was quick to get up and run, in a rush to spring to life, has slowed down. And so, I’m discovering a whole new pleasure — sleeping in the afternoon. Whenever I feel like it. For however long it seems to last. And sometimes for no apparent reason at all.

I am enjoying this.

All this to say, my plans to finish today’s post were foiled by, yes you guessed it, a luxurious nap.

I’ll be back tomorrow, when I’m out of my rest mode.

One year ago: I need to sit with the quiet. I know that much.
Two years ago: Day 183: The rain, the rain