Day 50: There’s nothing here to run from

“If you inherently long for something, become it first. If you want gardens, become the gardener. If you want love, embody love. If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation. If you want peace, exude calmness. If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint. If you want to be valued, respect your own time. If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself. This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.” —Victoria Erickson

Thoughts of living the life I want, guided by what I want to feel — secure, alive, content, healthy, at peace — rather than fill it with stuff I want have consumed me this past weekend. I finished reading Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map, and it couldn’t have come at a more apt time in my life. Parts of it read like unfolding pages from my own life this past year.

On the one hand, I know I’m moving closer and closer to where I need to be and that, like any journey to new spaces, is exciting, exhilarating and energizing as hell. But on the flip side, it means moving further and further away from all that I know to be true, certain, familiar and safe. Giving in to chance and surprise more often I otherwise would. And finding new ground. Whether it’s people, places or feelings.

It’s a bit like feeling excited to cross over to the other side of the bridge to see what lies ahead, but feeling gripped by fear at the thought of what it requires to get there.

Here’s the other thing about constant, active growth — the kind where you’re in the driver’s seat, navigating, and not where things are just happening to you — it’s exciting and petrifying all at once. It’s uplifting and isolating all at once.

And you still want to go it alone.

Last week, a stray mention of a sum of money, triggered a world of feelings in me. Feelings I hadn’t felt in a while. Feelings I thought I was over. Especially in relation to the idea of money. But it momentarily turned my world a little upside down, to a point where I questioned a couple of major decisions I’ve made in the recent past. Decisions I have made in utmost clarity and confidence. Decisions that have since steerer my life in a particular way.

But, once the chaos had passed, it led to two pivotal conversations. One completely by chance, that I had with VC, where I found I was expressing myself more to sort through the thoughts in my own head. I needed to talk it out, more than VC needed to hear it, I thought. But it turned out chatting with VC actually forced him to come clean about some things that he was bumbling over without much clarity.

Here’s the wonderful thing I’ve experienced about pushing myself to be brutally honest with myself. It forces out the conversations I’m meant to have, it digs out the truth I most need to hear. Talking about it, cemented the ground that had momentarily shaken beneath my feet. And it set the wheels in motion in VCs head too.

The second conversation was a very deliberate one I had with N, that further clarified what I’d realised after chatting with VC. It settled me back into my space, secure in my truth. The truth I’d let fly out of the window with the mere mention of a large sum of money.

This idea of money, the notion of it that I’ve grown up with, that I’m trying so hard to change now, is such a distraction. Just the mention of it put a spoke in my wheels and turned things backwards temporarily.

But then, I’ve said it before: moving ahead is rarely without stepping back every now and then. It’s not without constantly revisiting and re-evaluating concepts, ideas, goals, versions of myself. And that process (that Danielle LaPorte calls making “empowered choices” that take mind, body and soul into consideration, and not any one at the cost of the other two) is where the work happens. It is at once empowering and terrifying to have to sometimes shake the foundation right beneath my feet, and break down and rebuild concepts that I’ve grown up knowing to be unshakeable truths.

Like the idea of money, for instance. The role it plays in our lives, what it takes to get it, how much does one really need and most of all how much is enough?

And that’s where things inevitably begin to get lonely for me. Because it suddenly feels like watching the world zip by in one direction with urgency and alacrity, when all I want to do is hang on to the side rails, hit pause, defy gravity and begin to go the other way. Nobody else gets why, nobody cares, nobody even wants to join in, nobody asks why. (Because, everyone can’t go with you everywhere, remember?)

Funnily, the loneliness hits hardest when instances like this come up. When I’m in the midst of a personal mental struggle. When I want so much to find sameness and understanding so I can talk about it. And then I realise it’s lonely because the spaces I have sameness aren’t always the places that have the intimacy which allows the vulnerability I now seek.

But I’m learning more and more not to fear that loneliness. To accept it as a part of this process of healing, growing, of moving ahead. It is a necessary (and temporary) feeling. I’m learning to stay with that feeling — the loneliness, the chaos, the temptation to avoid rather than confront — instead of numbing it or turning away. And inevitably waiting it out brings the right person, right situation or right opportunity to bare it all. The right person for that pivotal conversation that will push things ahead, pick up and fix the broken pieces and make me whole again.

And that feeling of realising I’ve made an empowered choice, that I’ve dug into the depths of me and made a choice that is the best for me at this point in time, that this version of myself is undoubtedly an improvement from the one before? That feeling of pushing myself to a point where there’s no running away from it? That is the absolute best.

Two years ago: Day 50: Major leaps. Minor struggles.

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Day 48: If you could change your mind

Seriously. Note to self. Timely, routine reminders.

Two years ago: Day 48: Make like a tree

Day 47: There’s still time to change the road you’re on

I can’t believe how quickly this week has gotten ahead of me. It was busy, with meetings every single day (which would explain my rant), shoots on three days (including a full day shoot that had us on our feet from 9 am to 5 pm, straight), lots of battling gnarly crawly traffic and generally being up and about and on the move.

And that’s just the work I do for VC. On my side, I worked on an essay, worked on edits and submitted it, placed another one and began researching it. If I’d squeezed in the interview and a movie watch it requires I’d have been able to start the week banging the story out.

There was also beers with R, dinner with VC at Nagarjuna and the gas running out at home.

It’s been an eventful week. I was out so much and even though I didn’t clock too many hours “at work” at my desk, it’s been productive and meaningful in many ways.

Next week, I hope to kick-start gym time again. So help me God.

Two years ago: Day 47: Cloudless skies

Day 46: All the feckless men that queue to be the next

It’s been such an enlightening few months working with VC. It’s a role and a kind of work I’ve never officially ever thought to undertake before. Because it involves dealing with a lot of people. Trying to understand what might make them tick, being a little cunning, persuasive, and learning the tricks that will elicit the responses I want to hear. Which means it’s a lot of taking changes, it’s a lot of thinking on the go, it’s a lot of being ignored, it’s a lot of feeling helpless and lost, it’s a lot of confusion about peoples’ behaviour. It’s a lot of disappointment. It’s a lot of growing a thicker skin, laughing off the idiocy and the unnecessary way in which people tend to complicate the simplest communication, and picking oneself up to move on quickly.

Most of all, it also rather thankless, at this stage in a new business.

I’m learning slowly, though, never to count my chickens before they’re really hatched. To never take an expression of intent as anything more than just that — an expression of intent. It doesn’t prompt action in 9 out of 10 instances.

I’m learning to make believing nobody my default, so much so that when suddenly I encounter a sane, normal person in this sea of idiots I’ve been dealing with, I am pleasantly surprised.

I’m learning that sometimes even the nicest, most polite people in person, can be the rudest assholes in communication.

I’m learning that the people you think you’ll vibe with, can also turnaround and be obnoxious in the most surprising and unexpected way.

I’m learning that people will go through the most complicated communicational acrobatics, just to avoid confronting a really simple question that can so easily be answered with a yes or a no.

I’m learning to read the signs. A full room of attentive people is a good sign. A meeting of tired faces who just want to get this over with is a sign that they’re just doing me a favour. Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m learning to keep my hopes up, even when things look really hopeless. I’m learning what it is to keep getting knocked down, even when I feel like I have so much going for me.

I’m learning, most of all, to just keep swimming.

Thankfully, every now and then, my travels around the city, meeting feckless people, are peppered with stopovers with people I love, with whom I can enjoy a laugh, and share a beer.

As we did yesterday. In an unexpected turn of events, we found ourselves at the other end of town, in parts we would no venture to if our lives depended on it.

So we reached out to R, and we grabbed a few beers, stuffed our faces with pakodas, and it was just the refresher I needed after a meeting with someone who seemed intent on making me feel like I would never be able to achieve their sophisticated level of aesthetic, right from the get go.

Which made me wonder, so why did we bother coming this far?

The answer to that one is another one of the things I’ve learned: People just don’t know how to say no. So they will keep saying yes, and pretending like they really would like to meet you, and believe that they’re being very convincing about it. Even as they continue to tow that fine line between being responsive enough to lead you on, but also being a touch non-committal so as to never put a date to it.

One year ago: Pointless post
Two years ago: Day 46: Morning views

Day 45: We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got

For about a week now, I’ve been pondering about why I continue to keep this blog — especially in the form it has taken this year. I’ve watched it morph from a frequent account of things that happened to me, to a ton of tangential and severely self-indulgent navel-gazing, to a place to document pictures of things I’ve seen, done and enjoyed, or that I simply want to remember.

This year I find myself writing as a means to therapy and healing. It is the lens through which I take in the self-awareness piece of this puzzle. I write to feel and internalise gratitude. But like I said here, I’m also growing very aware that this isn’t the kind of writing that got this blog its audience. This isn’t the kind of writing that even warrants an audience.

The idea of “an audience” has also been top of mind this week, as I just submitted an essay about why I got off all social media late last year, and why this time it doesn’t feel like an experiment, or a detox period with an end date, but more like a natural movement in line with the general direction and growth in which I find myself moving.

After I worked hard at the essay, two rounds of edits and finally sent off a shiny almost-final draft this morning, it suddenly dawned on me. I continue to write because this is a now a journal. A place for me to record these changes, the events that precede them, the thoughts that come after, and everything that happens in between. This is a means for me to examine the transformation. This is a way for me to move closer to my truth. To push myself to be vulnerable in ways I don’t always allow myself to be. To voice things I don’t have the courage to speak, but I manage to write about. To distill every experience, threadbare, down to the essence of what it has to offer me, to record it and use that awareness as a gift to move ahead.

With a head swirling with all these thoughts — about social media, and if this blog is an extension of that same curated/performative life online or not, about how we are all forced to be an audience, about judgment, about self-awareness and growth — I stumbled on a beautiful essay about Joan Didion’s essay: On Keeping A Notebook, in which she says:

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

[…]

It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.

Suddenly, I know exactly why I am drawn to writing about myself. To keep this notebook. This has been the best way to stay in touch with myself. Every version, every iteration, every layer shed or donned.

And so this morning, I considered shutting down the blog to public. It feels drastic, so I am going to mull over this one for a bit.

Day 44: Make me somewhere I can call a home

There’s a wobble in my belly. Especially when I laugh out loud. I only notice it because of late, there’s been so much laughter in my life. That perpetual little food baby has made a reappearance. That gentle bulge in my lower abs? I can feel it again when I rub my hands over my belly, or pat it after a very satiating meal. And there’s been a lot many of those. Meals enjoyed fully, with a generous side of laughter. When I smile now, it shows. Because my cheeks are propped up, more rounded. More me. My abs ache. Not from exercise, because there’s been close to none of that, but from laughing hard, while sitting around and sharing a meal.

I’m rediscovering tastes and associated feelings, that I had momentarily forgotten. That pinch of sugar in the occasional cup of tea that I’ve missed so much. The Sunday night cake fudge, devoured in bed. The gluttony that strikes, as it invariably does when I PMS, which can only be abated with a thoughtlessly, guiltlessly scarfed-down helping of rice, slice of pizza or a giant serving of pasta. That perfectly fluffy white bread chicken sandwich at Koshy’s that I love so much. The first plain dosa I ate in six months. The hoppy grainy freshly brewed beer. I’ve tasted it all with such gusto, and it’s awakened my sense of taste with such fury. But it’s not just the taste. Food is such an essential part of my being, my wiring, my brain. Sometimes it’s a feeling — of comfort, of peace, of equilibrium, of excitement. Sometimes it’s a memory — of my grandmother, of Goa, of my childhood, of my mother, sister or father, of a friend with whom I shared a specific meal, of a time in my life, of boys I loved because we loved all the same kinds of food. I’m allowing myself to taste it all — the food, the feelings and everything in between. And when that happens, I am not cheating.

I’m finding new spaces for relationships around food again. Breakfasts with VC, entertaining at home again, cooking a whole lot of food for friends, weekly soup for my mother, creatively conceiving special meals with my sister, upping the ante and making a special meal for VC, cooking it together. Food is not mere sustenance, it is a big piece of the puzzle that is me. To deny its existence had begun to feel like I was altering the shape of me, changing the very essence of me.

I’m filling up my jeans again. For a wide-hipped Indian girl like me, the immediate shrinkage was most obvious when I suddenly noticed all the space that was suddenly available in my length of the legs of my jeans, and how much significantly less space I occupied in any chair I sat in. I felt small. Shrunk. Before long, my spirit shrunk to match my size too. There was nothing empowering about that.

I’m slowly inching back to feeling like my jeans fit right again. I’m filling up, with a deliberate sort of reclaiming of space. In every seat I take, in the clothes I wear, in the space I occupy wherever I go, I take up space. I am me, big, round-butt, wide-hipped, thick-thighed me.

Slowly, but surely, I’m reclaiming my mojo. I’m finding home, right here within this body. In all it’s imperfection. I’m reclaiming the space it needs and deserves, rather than shrink it back to fit the cubby holes I wanted to fit. I’m reclaiming my mojo. With what I put in my plate, at the dining table, and the fuel that I give myself, as much as I am with the energy I put into everything that I do.

Day 43: You guys, I must be the luckiest alive

I’m super duper massively thankful for my body and what it seems to put up with. I bounced back from the walk rather quickly, surprising even myself. But while my muscles seemed to have healed fast, my general exhaustion lingered on draining out very slowly, with every night of good rest I had this week. And through it all I’ve just been giving thanks for this marvel, the machinery and the workings of this complex body. And it’s incredible capacity to stretch.

I’m so thankful for all the rest and great sleep I’ve had this past week. It’s at times like these that I fee grateful to be my own boss. No work to wake up to. No office to be at. Save for a few meetings and a couple of deadlines I had the luxury of taking it easy. Which means I’ve slept like a beast, having these epic pass-out-like-a-light nights, and the occasional afternoon nap from which I emerge feeling as good as new.

I’m thankful for both my mothers. My mother, who had dinner ready for us, packed and delivered at my house, when we came home bone tired from the walk. Within ten minutes of turning on both geysers (because all we really, really wanted was a piping hot shower) we had a power trippage that rendered our house pitch dark. So I hobbled over to hers, where she had filled a bucket full of hot water already. I’m thankful for my mother in law who tirelessly commits herself to giving all her children the littlest joys. She made us a massive dinner of chaat, for the day after my walk when we visited them. I ate what felt like my body weight in sev-puri and dahi-batata-puri and came home with a doggy bag of gajar-halwa. So satisfying.

I’m thankful for our home. For how despite its perpetual state of WIP, it feels like home. I’m grateful for the feelings that makes up for the absence of stuff I might have otherwise tried to fill it up with.

I’m as grateful as I am surprised and fuzzy-hearted at the return of my itch to entertain folks at home. This once habitual side of me had all but died a slow death in the last few years in Goa, but seems to have made a comeback in the last few months.

I’m so thankful for D. For how she was instantly available to pull some cards for a reading. I’m thankful for her way with words, and her gentle patience and how it has a persuasive effect on even the most sceptical person of us all — VC. I’m thankful for the affirmations we’ve received, and to have them up on a wall for easy visualisation.

I’m thankful for the quiet conversations I have had with VC this week. The opportunity to work at something together, nurture it slowly, to pick at the challenges and examine the ups and downs. I’m thankful for the team that we make. It’s all kinds of humbling to have a partner who fights tooth and nail for what he believes in, even if it means he’ll sleep over it and come back eight hours later to admit quite easily that he was being a child. I hope I am able to reach that level of honesty someday soon.

I’m thankful for the chance to play parent to my father who called me for instructions on how to make dal. He’s staying all alone in Wayanad at the moment, and as I gave him step by step instructions over the phone, and I could hear him wildly sautéing the onions in the cooker, I became acutely aware of how the roles had momentarily reversed. I’m thankful for the opportunity.

I’m thankful for the plenty of relaxed time I’ve had this past week, to read, read, read and read some more. I’m thankful for the great recommendations I got and how much I enjoyed each of the books I finished this week.

I’m thankful for people. The electrician, however cocky and over-friendly, who came over on a Sunday to ensure we wouldn’t go another day without power. For my house help who works tirelessly. For my security guards who can be banked upon any time of day or night.

I’m thankful for the rather absurdly delayed extended winter, which is only now slowly showing some signs of fading away. February, and I’m still in a jacket or sweater most days, enjoying hot cups of tea and coffee, and feeling snug as a bug at home.

Two years ago: Day 43: Beach bum

Day 40: The heartache lives on inside

Thanks to my over-stretched muscles and full blown recovery mode, the weekend post The Walk was spent mostly like this.

Which meant I devoured two books — one that I started earlier last week, and another immediately, which I finished in 24 hours. Or less. I love lazy days like these, with no agenda, no demands, and where time just spirals on out of my control. While I slip into a book and forget to come out until it’s done.

Us, David Nicholls
I love an endearing, absorbing love story. But what I love more is an endearing, absorbing love story told by a man. And Us ticked that box perfectly. Having already read, thoroughly enjoyed and loved One Day, David Nicholls other best-selling novel, I sort of knew what to expect. Nicholls has an engaging, flawless voice. A subtle, understated yet rib-ticklingly funny sense of humour and a great sense of observation for the littlest, most mundane details of everyday life.

The story opens with Douglas’ wife of twenty-something years, telling him she wants a divorce because their “marriage has run its course”. The timing couldn’t be more off — with their rebellious 17-year old son ready to set off to college, the three are about to embark on a vacation through Europe. What was meant to be a happy last family holiday, suddenly becomes a last chance to win his family back.

It’s a simple, endearing and at times touching story that covers love, relationships, how relationships grow, marriage, parenting et al. It is peppered with many simple truisms you’ll likely nod along to. A quick and heart-warming read too.

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy
Every time I read a good memoir, I realise it is likely my most favourite format. I absolutely love reading first-person, personal stories that bring out the gory, lurid, emotional, taxing, peaceful anecdotes of real lives, to paper. When I memoir is told in a series of essay, it’s even better.

The Rules Do Not Apply opens at a point in Ariel Levy’s life, where within mere days she goes from being married, pregnant, financially secure, and making a life by her own rules, to losing her child, home, spouse and sabotaging her career. What follows are a series of essays traversing her entire life that is tied together by a strong sense of making her own rules, living by her own means and making a life that makes sense to her. It’s energetic, rebellious, brave and inspiring, but also gets very real, heartbreaking, and downright tragic.

It was empowering and inspiring to read the story of a NY Times journalist, who balances her less than ordinary life with all its ups and downs, with a demanding career, while also embarking on a journey of getting to know herself.

Levy’s craft is stellar. Like top-notch word-wizardry that kept me completely rapt. The essays jump back and forth in time, and sometimes it gets a little tedious keeping track of the sequence of events. Even so, I couldn’t put the book down because it was just so compelling.

One year ago: Commitment issues
Two years ago: Day 40: Begin again

Day 39: And so it is the shorter story

It’s been an age since a Hindi movie left me spellbound and with zero complaints. I’ve actually mostly given up on Bollywood. That coupled with just how much effort it takes to get to the movies in Bangalore (compared to the 10-minute impulsive affair it was in Goa) has meant I’ve been really disinterested. But when Mukkabaaz finally released, I knew it was worth making the effort. And I was not disappointed.

Mukkabaaz, in classic Anurag Kashyap style, tells a story of pure, unbridled defiance. Fuelled by raw passion, young, blind love and a punishing kind of determination to go against all odds to get what one wants. The film, about the struggles of a boxer from rural UP, trying to make it to the national circuit, navigating a bureaucratic and deeply political landscape riddled with caste and religious power equations, was gritty, gripping and just downright amazing.

The film was an example of how even the most simple stories can be carried through by craft. Witty writing, extremely clever and editing made for an exhilarating edge-of-the-seat kind of watch that left me breathless with excitement.

If going to the movies has become a rare event for me, the only thing rarer is VC suddenly wanting to go to the movies. We made an exception on a particularly long weekend to watch Downsizing. What a bloody mistake it turned out to be, because I think Matt Damon was high when he agreed to be a part of this film. Either that, or he was temporarily abducted by aliens, and a body double went pretending to be him, about making grave errors such as signing on this ridiculous movie.

I wish I could tell you a little bit about the movie, but I can’t, simply because I have no idea myself. It’s one of those films whose trailer has virtually nothing to do with the film itself. In fact it’s one of those films whose first half has nothing to do with the second half. It’s one of those films that had so much happening, so fast, and so arbitrarily that you’re convinced the writers were all high on acid wanting to scrunch in every random idea that crossed their mind while on that trip. Despite a great cast full of potential, the lack of a story and a visible plot line of any kind, makes the movie an abject failure.

Yesterday, it rained in Bangalore. Out of the blue. I guess it had to, because we had decided to travel across town to Koramangala, at 5.30 pm, to catch an evening show. That was too many incredible events in one day for the skies to handle, I suppose.

We went to watch The Post, because I was convinced this is the last week we’ll be able to. And I am so glad that we did. It was a gripping, critical film about the free press, told through the story of the Pentagon Papers that were leaked during Nixon’s presidency. Beautifully told, very well shot, bringing to life all the old world charm of the 60s and 70s, especially the good old era of print journalism, the movie had just the right amount of suspense, surprise and excitement. Classic Spielberg direction showed in the visualisation and art, and the understated yet powerful performances by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks made it one cracker of a film.

***

On the back of this, I’m a bit weary of what’s going on in Bollywood. I was briefly curious to see what SLB has done with Padmavati. I can get myself to enjoy his films for what they’re usually great at — the grandeur, scale and sheer beauty of art direction. But in the light of all the debate that’s erupted about the incredibly regressive portrayal in the final scenes, I’ve decided I’m going to give this one a miss. I can no longer casually throw my money at art that doesn’t do something for me. More specifically, art that stands for values that don’t match with mine.

I find that when I complain about Hindi movies always falling short, I’m always told I’m not the audience. I’ve gone into debates about who might be making movies for audiences that I am a part of, because I know I am not alone in feeling this severe lack. I’ve also wondered what it might take to raise the bar, diversify and bring a better quality of storytelling, to bring some finesse, sensitivity and greater craft into our movies. I think refusing to spend your money on substandard shit is one thing to do.

By that logic, I’m also feeling a bit iffy about Pad Man. I am very curious to see what they’ve done with the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, but if I am to make a wild guess, Twinkle and Akshay Khanna won’t miss this opportunity to make this film about themselves. Or somehow tie it into some kind of nationalist propaganda, like they did with Toilet. The whole thing just reeks of extreme privilege, and much as I love Radhika Apte, I’m going to refrain from watching this one too.

So where does that leave me? Have you watched something in recent times that you’d recommend?

Two years ago: Day 39: Time bubble

Day 38: The only baggage you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind

I actually don’t remember the exact moment when I agreed to participate in the OXFAM Trailwalk. All I remember is curiously asking what it takes to prep, what it feels like getting through those two days, and how long it takes to recover. The next thing I remember is laughing loudly when I was told I give it a shot. At some point though, I’ve obviously said “Okay, let’s do this,” because I was registered and a part of a team, along with R, S and D. I’m not that much of a quitter, and to be honest, semi-masochistic challenges like this are kind of my thing. It’s how I found myself at the start line of a 100 km cycle ride with zero cycling preparation. I was banking on regular exercise to and a lot of inflated confidence to take me through.

Thankfully, it paid off then.

I can’t say I was banking on the same set of variables this time around. Because as the day inched closer, and it so happened that I had a terrible month of infrequent gymming in January, a proper worry descended. I had accepted and mentally prepared myself for getting completely fucked, physically speaking, and had therefore turned to psyching myself mentally, to just finish it come what may. At some point I even told myself, if I managed a 100 km cycle ride, this can’t be so hard.

Can it?

IT CAN.

On a cycle, the kilometres rush by, you thrust ahead, propel yourself forth and go places. Quickly. On foot, you’re painfully aware of every single step you take, and how small it is in the larger scheme of things. On foot, my speed is a fourth of what it is on a bike. On foot, the strain and pain is about four times more than it is on a bike. That said, fear and butterflies-in-my-stomach aside, I was severely excited in the week running up to the day. There was so much (unnecessary) prep we did, and much like the time I did the 100 km cycle ride, I tried to compensate for the lack of physical prep by doubling up on the food and snack reinforcement.

If all else fails, have a Yoga Bar and power on.

But there were other things to consider too. This was a 48-hour event. That’s two days of trampling through the wild. So we had a bag of extra clothes, reinforcement for shoes and socks, lots of Enerzal, warm clothes for the night walk, blankets for our night stops. This time around, VC (and P) volunteered to be our support crew, returning the favour I did when VC cycled to Wayanad.

Finally, at 4 am on the day, we were on our way to the start point, 1.5 hours away. At 6 am, even before the sun was out, we walked through an arch, over which stood a larger than life, and oh so incredibly gorgeous Milind Soman, flagging off the walk. From there on it was just…a lot…of…well, walking.

I wish I had a more detailed description to give, but really it was just that. Walk, walk, walk. One step ahead of the other. Onwards and upwards. Up and down, under branches, over rocks. Alongside lakes, beside eucalyptus groves. The weather started out beautiful, but as was expected as the sun made its way overhead, it began to beat down on us hard. The area around Devanahalli and Nandi Hills is largely arid, with large tracts of barren, rugged earth, with rocks and brambles for miles together.

Off and on we’d hit a patch of shady trees which would give some respite. But for the most part it was walking through shades of brown earth, clouds of dust surrounding us, as we trampled on.

We managed to keep a pace of about 5 kms to the hour, for the first 38, walking through the worst of the afternoon heat, before we took our first longish break. The event was rather well-organised. Every check-point had adequate water and snacks available, a first aid and medical station, a rest-stop which was a large tent with dozens of mattresses and blankets for anyone to grab, and the whammy — a physio station where hordes of physiotherapy students stretched and pulled and pushed at walkers, relieving our muscles of the strain and lactic acid build up that was bound to happen.

The walk itself, while arduous, was really a lot of fun. I have to say. Even through the muscle cramps, the hellish stretching in my calves, the twitching and eventual burn in and around my knees, the hips that began to pinch, I had an utter and complete blast. It had everything to do with my team, and that includes my support crew. Somehow, just being in the energy of the gang, I found the strength and willpower to keep going.

We chatted in some parts, of course there was an inordinate amount of giggling and laughing (mostly on my part), and a really good rhythm in terms of pace and teamwork between the four of us. This is where knowing your team probably helps. This isn’t an event you can do alone, or with a team you put together just to hit the numbers. VC and P showed up diligently at every check point, bearing food and drinks — bananas, upma, coconut water, dal rice and omelettes, and kept us going with motivation and laughter.

Five things I loved and enjoyed about the walk:

  1. It’s been ages since I faced the elements like this, with no veneer to mask the effects. Punishing sunlight, gusts of wind, clouds of fine red dust, splinters and brambles in my shoes, the beautiful night cold that required me to layer up and get my gloves out — it was a bit mind-boggling to have experienced it all in two days.
  2. All manners of trees. Some stubby, gnarly with twirly, unruly branches cut short, some ragged, half-eaten, some lush and full with an almost visible bounce, some stripped down with a framework of a thousand, wide-reaching thin arms spread in different directions, some mushroomy, airy and pouffy, large and cloud-like, some tall, minimalist, some just so furiously flowering with no time for leaves, some almost dead but still alive.
  3. THE MOON. The moon! The night of our walk was just two nights after the spectacular Lunar Trifecta the effects of which lingered on. We watched the moon watch over us like a steady sentinel in the morning sky, long after te sun had rise on day 1. By evening, the a blazing orb hung low over the horizon, furiously large and intimidating, yet calming. The bright post-full-moon moon lit up the path for us, making it possible to turn our torches off for much of the night walk.
  4. The sheer push it took to get going and keep going. In recent time, my life and the kind of experiences I’ve had have made me believe I’m not one for too much roughing it out. I’ve shied away from treks, trips into the wild and any other outing that required a little less than bare minimum comfort. I’ve completely stopped taking bus journeys for this reason. Of late though, I’m feeling the pinch. I’m feeling the pinch of having missed out on a lot. And this is pushing me to get out some more. Not just physically, but get out of this box in my head. The truth is I can rough it out. I just need to choose to. So while the walk tested my physical abilities for sure, it also pushed my mental boundaries, to do with lack of sleep, to go without a shower or brushing my teeth, to use a porta potty to take a dump — four times over! It’s no big deal, but I’m glad I’m over that small hurdle in my head.
  5. The camaraderie. It’s very unlike me to put very diverse groups of my friends together, otherwise. I’m not the person who throws a party and brings a motley crew together, while I sit back and watch the fun. So it really amazed and thrilled me when I realised that with absolutely no effort on my part, four very varied sets of people I’d otherwise hang out with separately, somehow converged over the course of the walk. These are sets of people I haven’t taken the trouble to mingle with together. It happened, and there we were altogether, bound by this common goal to finish the walk. And we all came through, together. It was brilliant to watch how freely the energy flowed, and how by the end of it we were all hugging each other uninhibitedly.

That was the good news. Now for the bad news — I didn’t finish the walk. By the second morning, we were running on three hours of sleep and gunning on. When I reached the 65 km mark, I felt a surge of energy and 35 kms felt like a small number in the face of how far we’d come. Up until then I was just taking it one kilometre at a time, but at 65 kms, I actually saw the finish line in my head and believed I was going to make it. The strain was real, the pain in my legs excruciating, yet I felt like I could keep going, slowly but surely, with as many breaks as were needed. But very, very soon, something snapped. In my knee, to be specific. And I reached that uncomfortable place where I so badly wanted to stop after every kilometre, but the more I stopped, the harder it became to get up and start again. Truly like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Eventually, when I felt a pinch at the back of my right knee, with every step I took, and I noticed an involuntary rotation of my foot that try as I might I couldn’t control, I had to will myself to quit for fear of doing some long term damage. In a brief span of five excruciating minutes I had to call it a day.

I made it to 81 kms, which took 31 hours, before I called our valiant support crew came to fetch me.

I wont lie, I’m very disappointed at having come so close to the finish and yet not making it through. But I guess that’s what next time is for?

D and R powered through for 7 hours more, to finish the 100 kms at 9 pm on Saturday night. What a rush!

The physical aspect aside, the two day experience was far more humbling and reaffirming in ways I didn’t expect. For one, I was happy I got out and made it. On the other hand, the six of us coming together the way we did was a bit like watching a real life experiment in letting go and being a part of a team you might not fully identify with at the outset. Once again, life seemed to be affirming how it is little about likeness, and more about the experiences that bring me closer to people, presenting opportunities to bond over commonalities that don’t lie at the surface. Commonalities that you wouldn’t discover over whatsapp, or sharing a coffee or beer, or even endless hours of chatting.

It is an incredibly privileged place to be, to be able to occupy my mind with matters of purpose and meaning attached to every experience. To see connections where I might not have even six months ago. To find common ground where I least expect it. To constantly time and time again find myself pushed into situations where I am forced to open up my heart some more. And the beauty of it all is that the more I seem to do it, the more natural and less like an effort it becomes. The more comfortable I get with getting out of the spaces in my head, the more life seems to push these amazing experiences my way.

Day 37: The future is no place to place your better days

I’m thankful for the weekend that just passed. For how it churned together several affirming moments and put so many different, disconnected pieces of my life together. I’m so thankful for the many reality checks it presented, the thumping steady beat of truths I knew to be true, but that I needed to experience in order to believe.

I’m thankful for my friends. The entire diverse lot of them, and how we miraculously converged, rallied together this past weekend.

I’m thankful for uninterrupted the access to a great gym. The opportunity to keep working out. I’m thankful for the many people who have contributed to my approach to strength training, because I know it’s a large reason I was able to make it through the walk, and how quickly I have recovered and bounced back.

I’m thankful for VC. Again and again, the man surprises me in big and small ways. The more I find myself abandoning the chase to find sides of him I want to see, but aren’t really there, the more he surprises me with other facets I need to see more. I’m so grateful for his kindness, generosity and patience.

For his unending support, his ridiculous faith. For his rock solid presence, cheering me on in whatever I choose to do, and how he always has my back, should I happen to falter. And I am eternally grateful for his perpetual, blind confidence in my capabilities.

I’m thankful for the number of opportunities to meet people to discuss work. Even as I get incredibly frustrated at the slow pace at which the conversations seem to move, or how long it takes for something concrete to materialise, the truth is I feel lucky to have so many people willing to open up opportunities to meet with us and have a chat about the possibilities of working together. I’m thankful for the places these meetings take me to. I’m thankful for the second shot at dressing for work. I’m thankful for the purpose it brings to my days.

Day 36: May your feet always be swift

Just popping in quickly to say I’m alive. The walk was an experience like no other, an experience I had no idea would thrill and break me in equal measure. But I’m back, with renewed respect for the human body, having discovered hidden vats of determination I didn’t know I had, and feeling equally victorious about having successfully used filthy porta-loos for almost 48 hours and actually walking a little over 3/4ths the journey.

Today has been a day for rest though. Unplanned. I have been staring at my computer all day but all I’ve managed to do is some basic paper-pushing, hygiene stuff. Nothing that requires me to apply my brain to it.

Sitting here, my recovering legs stretched out, reading my book and sipping coffee, I just wanted to say I’m going to be back with a full post about what walking the trail walk was really like, sometime later this week.

Two years ago: Day 36: Blush

Day 32: January

Right, so I guess it’s safe to say now I’m going to be blogging through this year, much like I did right through 2016. I wanted to gather enough steam and continuity before I confirmed it even to myself – hahaha.

No it isn’t a blogathon, it is just me making yet another attempt to find one thing that I can sit my ass down and do every single day. The last time I did this, my life was very different. I lived in Goa, I was quite fed up with the comfortable plateau it had brought me to, and an inexplicable restlessness pervaded through my entire being. It was the year I began to contemplate a different kind of life, and that required me to examine a lot of things about myself, my personality, my attitudes to many things and also my demons and fears. It was the year I worked harder and more than I had ever before (or after). It was the year I started therapy. It was the year that set of a lot of the changes I came to face in 2017. All of this gave me a lot of very concrete, tangible things to write about.

Through the erratic, tumultuous time that 2016 was, keeping this diary of sorts played my constant leveller. It gave me sense of sanity and regularity, when around me things were anything but normal. No matter what happened (and a LOT happened!) I found it useful, reflective, meditative and just productive to record it here.

This time around, I find myself not so preoccupied with what is going on around me, but within me. I’m aware this doesn’t make for very glamorous reading. I also am aware it isn’t very unique or refreshing. No longer being in Goa has reduced a lot of the novelty in my blog. But that alone, was never the purpose of my writing, this blog, or taking to write a post a day. I write because it makes sense to me, primarily. Everything else is secondary.

Without Facebook and Instagram, where I’d usually post about my blog and announce updates and garner readers, I sense the silence around here. The numbers of visitors are far fewer, the comments non existent. The emails though, they still keep coming. And it is oddly satisfying, reassuring in a way that statistics will never be. Because it tells me, time and time again, that no matter what I may be going through, it is not new or special. There’s always someone feeling the same way, experiencing the same things. It creates a bond, a special connection, and it is simultaneously humbling.

Despite the silence, in the absence of promoted posts, social media numbers and shares, to still find a space for my voice and to know that I am heard, is all kinds of satisfying. Perhaps, this then, is why I write.

***

I’m going to also continue to reflect on every month gone by, and that makes me balk that January has passed me by in a flash. Consequent to what I’ve rambled on above, I guess these recaps will be far from exciting. But I’ll do it anyway.

Here’s what occupied my mind right through the month:

Reflections:
Growth, change and healing — Right from day one I’ve been determined to move ahead and it showed in my rumination on:
Friendship — A lot of churn in the last month of 2017 in this area of my life meant reflection, altered beliefs and a lot of reassurance.
Gratitude — One thing I know for certain, the more I acknowledge the goodness in my life, the more goodness finds it way to me. And so there is going to be a lot of giving thanks, like so. And also a weekly habit of looking back and giving thanks, overover and over.
Fitness and body-positivity — Last year, I went on a six week food plan. At the time I thought I knew what I was after. It did me a lot of good, in some ways, but six months down, with the benefit of retrospect (and some much needed honesty with myself) I realised it also damaged me in far worse ways than I realised. It’s been an ongoing struggle this month, but I finally feel like Im coming back to myself.

Reading:
Looking back on all that I read through 2017 probably helped me set off to a good start with some fabulous fiction this year.

Tales of travel:
I recapped our December holidays — a cycling trip to Wayanad and a quiet getaway to Coonoor.

Other rambles:
I’ve revelled in the extended winter, talked about what I’ve been watching, felt got a bit consumed by love.

I had an opinion on the Aziz Ansari debacle, conflicting feelings about Uber in Bangalore and even a brief cynicism on patriotism.

Two years ago: Day 32: On creative happiness

Day 31: What you seek is seeking you

A couple of weeks ago, we had PK over for dinner on a weeknight. I cooked a hurried meal of pasta tossed in a silken tomato sauce, with mushrooms and roasted peppers, green salad with almonds and feta, and crostinis topped with apricot chutney and salty cheese. Something told me PK would want to eat a non-Indian meal. Since I had already checked, and he had told me he was off meat, it was easy to pick pasta as the main!

It got me to thinking how effortless it was communicating and planning this with PK, who was, for all practical purposes, someone we had never met in our lives.PK is N’s husband, and we’d all be meeting for the first time that night, but it felt like a trivial detail. I guess upwards of eight years of exchanging notes and talking about ourselves has made our husbands feel like a part of the group even before we actually met. Even before he arrived, VC and I felt like we had invited an old friend over.

As conversation flowed, over everything from issues of identity living in a predominantly white country, to politics of hate and violence in India, it didn’t take long before we wound down to the matter of self-discovery that we have each stumbled on, albeit in our own time and in our own ways. By the end of the evening, I was astounded at how much we had to talk! VC, who is otherwise the silent watcher, had talked a week’s worth of words usually rationed for social engagements.

It was rare, unexpected (because we went in with no expectations, I suppose), but also very special. I don’t think that PK and VC, or even I, for that matter would have found common ground, if we weren’t connected as spouses of friends. On the surface we’re not the most similar bunch of people. We each come from such varied backgrounds, interests, professions, even. But connections happen in strange and sometimes roundabout, perhaps serendipitous, ways too.

The evening really confirmed this new truth about the people piece in my life: my attitude towards friendship has become less about finding likeness and sameness at the outset, over the most obvious things that show on the surface, and more about inviting in the differences, and finding deeper things to connect about.

This is the piece that I have struggled with. I won’t beat myself up about it, because I suppose it is natural, and the easiest thing to seek comfort in familiarity. And let’s be honest, that is the basis for people to forge connection. But the more I find myself coming around to accept the fact that the boxy definitions and fixed ways of looking at people and who I let into my life may not be working for me anymore, the more I find myself enjoying people, the more connection I am able to forge, and the fuller my life becomes.

On the flip side, this kind of bonding takes time, effort and is hard to come by. Primarily because of the effort involved. But I find that I am slowly accepting it in whatever form it comes. In bits and pieces, glimmers here and there, in surprising conversations, in unlikely places.

It’s starting to be a lot more about quality rather than quantity. I have never been the one to have a large bustling group of friends, so numbers haven’t been my stronghold. But even with the few, I found that the disappointments occurred when I realised that every friendship seems to come with an expiry date. Today, more and more, I am okay with that. I’m learning to give thanks for the years I get, than hang on to an idea of “forever-friends” with the weight of foreverness attached to it, even when the friendship has faded away.

The wonderful thing about breaking the barriers in my own mind as far as friends and friendship goes, is that I’ve connected with people I’d least have expected to. And this transcends age barriers, interest groups, activities to interact over.

I think two things have contributed to the shift in my mind.

  1. Time off from social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and a 12-hour WhatsApp shut down) has ensured I focus on real interactions. I’ll make the effort to go out more, meet up with people, and really show up rather than flake off over text.When I’m out there, at an event, or in a conversation, I’m picking up my phone less. It feels like a small change, but the consequences it’s had on the quality of my interactions has been manifold.
  2. Deliberately trying to shake off the fear of uncertainty. Or the need to control it in some way to bring in certainty. By approaching every experience with people as a fresh, standalone chance to connect, rather than as an event that blends into a stream of continuity labeled by time, distance, duration.By allowing myself to be surprised.

The critical change in all of this was getting over the fear. The fear that something’s changed. The fear that I’ll have to inevitably face loss. The fear that I will have to start over.

But here’s the deal — discovering myself is not without the constant process of recreating parts of my identities. And creating new identities and ways of being is impossible to do without letting go of the old. It’s the only way to make to make space for the new.

Loss, is a crucial, and essential, part of revival.

Coincidentally, Mark Manson wrote an insightful piece about this aspect of loss just earlier this week. When I read his piece, I knew exactly what I have been processing these past few days.

I’ve been an emotional ball this weekend, with the abundance of people and the love it has brought to my life. I’m so thankful for it. But it’s only when I read Manson’s article that I was able to make sense of what I was feeling, and fully internalise the change that has very obviously kicked in.

The more I open myself up to this newness, the more new stuff (people, experiences, small little events) come my way. Whether it is willing to host my sister in law and her sister and her husband last week, or feeling so excited to meet PK, or catching up with A and finding the ability to be so vulnerable despite the time and distance between us.

As a result of this, I am no longer stuck in a loop of rueing the death of some friendships, or the format in which they existed. I’m no longer craving the connections I feel I’m not getting.

When the world is my oyster and my heart is wide open, even a chance interaction with a stranger fills me up in ways that years of friendship can. And can’t.

One year ago: Busy times, apparently

Day 30: We are children that need to be loved

I’m thankful for the ride VC and I took, on his new bike on Monday. It was so nice to be out on two wheels, the (very polluted) wind in my (non existent) hair, and the general ease with which bikes tend to navigate Bangalore traffic. It was even nicer to see VC so excited about his new toy.

I’m thankful for the date with A on Tuesday, that ended with a visit to Blossoms, via the spanking new cobbled/paved Churst Street. I’m really growing to love the CBD area in this city. So much.

I’m thankful for the sensory treat that it was witnessing Nirtyagram’s performance of Samhara on Wednesday.

I’m still in awe, and I can see scenes from the performance stuck in my mind if I just close my eyes. I’m baffled by the exquisite blend of lines and asymmetry, of fluidity and structure, of rules that were meant to be broken, of geometry in the art, of the energy, powerful presence and the sheer prowess of holding their space, the dancers brought to the table.

I’m thankful for the taash party we hosted on Thursday.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how easy it was, to prep, to cook, for all of us to get along and have so much to chit chat about, for how late we ended up playing, and for how much fun it actually turned out to be.

I’m thankful for the early morning walk practice I managed to squeeze in on Friday. Despite the late night, and running on four hours of sleep, I met D at Cubbon Park for the only session we managed to fit in, before our big walk next weekend. We topped it off with breakfast at Airlines, of course. But would you believe that was just the bonus?

I’m thankful for the evening coffee date with P. For howit is sometimes so easy to share some of my deepest feelings with ease. I shocked myself with how I was able to articulate so much of what has happened in the past few weeks, and how it has made me feel. I’m thankful for our vibe, and how we always seem to have parallel situations in our lives, that make it easier to talk about it.

I’m thankful for the shoot we had on Saturday, which took us once again to Cubbon Park.

It was downright ridiculous to be at work covering an event, and have three different people attending it, recognise me off this blog. I’m thankful for the love.

I’m thankful for a the butt-crack-of-dawn early morning ride to Nandi Hills with the R, S, H and VC, on SUnday. I’m thankful for the early start, the breakfast of parathas, the laughter, the bike ride back.

And I’m thankful for the slow rest-of-the-day spent mostly in bed, reading.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to catch up with A in the evening. I’m thankful for how relaxed and refreshed he seemed, despite having just lost a parent. I’m thankful he always makes the effort to stay in touch, despite how much I suck at it. I’m thankful for how we always have so much to talk about. I’m thankful for the vulnerability he presented, and the chance for me to share, to listen.

I’m thankful for the pizza dinner I had with Amma. It took me back to our impromptu dinner dates to Casa Piccola when I was a child.

I’m thankful for the spontaneous, and unplanned running-into P in Koramangala on Monday. I’m thankful for the surprise opportunity to catch coffee with VC, since that is such a rarity.

I’m thankful for cancelled plans that led to a delayed dinner of greasy Chinese with VC, in a cute, quaint little restaurant near home.

I’m thankful for the dosa and chutney dinner I had today. I’m thankful for feeling like my body is slowly becoming mine again. I’m thankful that the ghosts of diets past seem to be leaving the building.

I’m thankful for the feeling of being overpowered by emotion almost all the time these days. I’m thankful for how I’ve started noticing every little act of love that I receive. I’m thankful for the goodness.

(In case you haven’t guessed already, these I’m-thankful-for posts are the Haiku posts of 2016.)

Day 29: I’ve been reading books of old

Happy to report that I’m finally working through my Goodreads want-to-read list, rather than hungrily adding more books to it. And even more pleased that it’s been high on the fiction side of things. Well begun is half done?

It definitely helps that every book I read this past month pleased me in a deep, deep way. This was a delicious way to slip back into regular, frequent reading because god knows I needed the kind of thrill that this months books gave me, grabbing entire days and locking me into a stronghold of words and lines and stories that cut through and hit a spot so deep. The bliss of surrendering to an overpoweringly well written book, the sheer liberation of stopping to laugh out loud in real life at mere words scrawled on a page, the all-consuming hunger of wanting to chow down page after page because you just can’t get enough — just some of the things I experienced this past month.

In addition, and because the existing struggle to keep habits up isn’t already enough, I’ve decided to give keeping a book of books a shot. Because, I’m a sucker for lists. Because it aligns perfectly with what is fast turning into a proper mission to go analogue as far as possible. (I’m still updating my Goodreads though. Small steps, Small steps!). And because so far I’ve enjoyed the process of immediately reflecting on what I love/hate/enjoy/dislike about the book, and recording my immediate feelings on completing a book.

So here’s what I read:

I’ll Give You The Sun, Jandy Nelson
I’m putting this up top even though it was the last book I read because that’s how much I enjoyed it. I know it’s just January, but I also already know this one is going to be one of the best, if not the best, books I will read this year because, OMGGGGG.

I actually don’t have the capacity to put down in words what this book did for me. It’s a simple book on the surface, really. But OMGG, the number of layers, and stories within stories, and little jewels snuck into every little nook and cranny within the story — absolutely spellbinding craft!

This YA story is about a set of twins, told in two timelines — one through the eyes of Noah when he is 13 years old and another through the eyes of Jude, his twin sister when she is 16 years old. The story starts off talking about how they’re inseparable, and progresses to paint a picture about how the difficulties of their teenage years, and the different circumstances in their lives coupled with their inherently wildly differing personalities drive them apart. The two timelines build in parallel, telling what feels like only one half of the story each, pointing to the obvious culmination of them uniting once again.

Multiple side plots that are very obviously going somewhere, lots of unanswered questions, some absolutely stunningly picturised, intricate characters add not just pages but serious meat to the story. And it all leaves you gasping for more, more, more. I devoured this book simply because it is one of the most well written, charming, alluring books I’ve set my hands on in years.

At the core of it, it is a story about love, but it is also about belonging, family, friendship, solidarity, loyalty, finding your identity, understanding oneself, reclaiming love for ones parents and so many things that are difficult to put in words, yet Nelson manages it with a flair and elan that few have. The two halves that are building in parallel timelines come crashing together to make a blindingly beautiful whole in the end of the book. The kind that you’re actually sad to finish because you’r almost cheering them on, rooting for them to find their individual victories and go back to being the inseparable twins that they are at the start of the book.

The clincher came towards the end of the book, and I feel like it really turned the book around from a sweet little story to something so deeply profound for me, and it’s a quote I’m going to keep going back to (if you’ve been reading my rambles this year, you’ll know why);

…maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people…Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time. Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things…

Each new self standing on the last one’s shoulders until we’re these wobbly people poles.

About the main plot itself — the love story — it made me want to go back to being a teenager hopelessly, madly in love of the sort that keeps you up at night, defies all logic and makes you feel like you can jump off a cliff and the absolute love of your life will be there to lift you up.

I highly, highly recommend this book. For it’s zany story telling, it’s heartwarming characters, its exquisite craft and refreshing style, and just downright original and surprising plot and theme.

Ravan and Eddie, Kiran Nagarkar
I’ve had this book for the last six months but only read it now. Silly really considering how I was looking high and low for a recommendation for a fun fictional read, while it was sitting right under my nose all along. I should have known it would be a good read, because my friend D recommended it so highly. I think i just forgot about it soon after I got a hold of it.

Anyhow, this is a howlarious tale set in Bombay in the 1950s, focusing on the lives of Ravan, a Maratha Hindu, and Eddie, a Catholic, who live in the CWD Chawl #17. Tracing their lives as they navigate puberty amidst the cacophony of life in a chawl, interspersed with ongoing political and social issues of the time, makes for one hell of an entertaining and seriously funny, yet poignant story. It’s a short book, but really packs a punch in terms of how wide it goes from being rib-ticklingly funny in parts, to so deep and almost prophetic in other parts, and how deep it goes into granular details about every little aspect of life in the chawl, in Bombay in the 50s, of the religious milieu and the social fabric of the time.

Set against a backdrop of Post-Colonial Bombay, Nagarkar finds a canvas thick with issues to explore and he does it with such dexterity. Every now and then, he throws in an essay, which makes for multiple welcome interjections from the mad, mad, mad story of Ravan and Eddie, by bringing in interesting depictions, descriptions and discussions about the socio-political, socio-economic and cultural realities of the time, when Bombay and India as a whole was rebuilding it’s identity itself.

Kiran Nagarkar is new to me, and I am now full of respect and awe for his craft and completely refreshing skill as a novelist. I so highly recommend this one.

Eleanor Oliphant is Absolutely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Okay, I have to be honest — I didn’t love this one at the outset. And that really surprised and upset me considering how highly recommended it came. I was given to believe it was the story of a female Ove. And maybe it was. But only so slightly — in that it is the tale of a socially inept, brutally honest, very lonely human being. Somehow when I read Ove, I felt like I could identify with a senior citizen being all those things, much more than when I read Eleanor and had to keep reminding myself that she’s just over 30!

So no, we didn’t get off to a good start. Something just didn’t fit. And the staccato style that built a lot of suspense indicating to various possible events in Eleanor’s past that perhaps contributed to her being the person she is, but never really gave explanations, made me very uneasy. I lost interest around the 40% mark, but ploughed through because, FOMO. Happily though, I realised the book makes a rapid turn around the 60% mark when suddenly things begin to fall into place. This lends a lot of pace and meat to the book which until then was just plodding along over a framework of half-told stories.

By then end, I did enjoy the book and it makes for a good quick light read, but I can’t say I loved it or that it will be top of mind when I’m recommending a book to someone.

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
The strap on this book — Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles — is what compelled me to pick it up. It’s a short, breezy read for anyone looking to understand the workings of any creative process, or is in the midst of building a creative practice for themselves. It mainly deals with the concept of “resistance” being the only opposing force to all creative pursuits, but deals with the many forms that resistance takes, ranging from procrastination to imposter syndrome to laziness, to monotony, to fear. It was hyper-real, and a bit like going into my own mind. As it will be, I’m very sure, for anyone else who reads it. To that end, it was insightful and reading it was a bit like holding up a mirror to my own mind, while also realising what I sometimes go through is not new or unique.

It often feels like being a writer is lonely, not just physically, but emotionally too. This is true of the practice of all art forms I’m told, but being in the present has a way of turning everyday internal battles into insurmountable and unique problems. So reading a book like this every so often helps to cut the crap and come down to reality. It’s a bit like swallowing a big reality check pill.

That said, it wasn’t a compelling or enthralling read that offered me any deep insights or new tricks on how to work my way through this. It was a lot of common sense, buried under layers of explanatory writing, which I found belaboured the very simple premise — resistance hampers long-term success so recognise it and work around it.

***

I’m thrilled at how much I managed to read despite a rather busy month full of all kinds of activities. But I also know what specific changes in my life have allowed me to made the space and carving out that time for reading, rather than relegate it to the empty pockets of weekends and bedtime. I’d like to think this has made all the difference.

I hope to sustain some kind of pace this year, and I hope that these deliberate changes will help me go there. It is always good to hit upon more than two enjoyable books, back-to-back. I’ll call it a lucky streak, and I hope some of it continues to percolate through the year too.

I’m also thrilled to see where my Book of Book goes! I’ll be sure to keep talking about what it does for me.

What have you been reading since the start of the year?

Two years ago: Day 29: Emptying my cup

Day 26: You can taste the dishonesty

I no longer know what “proud to be Indian” feels like. The concept of my nationality fades further and further away, almost removed from my sense of identity as a whole. I don’t know what I feel for my country anymore. It’s a mix of a lot of disappointment, confusion and helplessness. Sometimes just a desperate desire to escape it all. So I don’t know what to make of days like today, or Independence Day. It evokes no feelings in me.

Mostly, it’s all a blur.

(See what I did there?! Heh.)

Two years ago: Day 26: Pain

Day 25: Gravity is working against me

I’ve been beating myself up about a couple of things of late. I’d like to stop. Not so much put and end to the completely unproductive self-flagellation itself, but also gently remind myself that there are no mistakes. Just missteps that serve as lessons. On the flip side of the opportunity to learn something.

It’s okay to have made a wrong call with a certain work assignment. It’s okay to acknowledge that I didn’t see the signs, the writing on the wall, right from the start. There was enough evidence staring me in the face. I had a hunch right from the get go. That the editor wasn’t being upfront, clear and transparent. And that I was selling myself short. But I chose to ignore the signs and go for it anyway. Because I thought I was at a loose end, and I needed something to bind me down to a work routine again. I am a long way off from seeing the end of this, but I need to stop beating myself up about it, get the job done and just move on.

I’ve really, really had an ongoing tug-o-war in my head as far as the whole fitness debate goes. The more I think about it, the more clear it is, how much of confidence, positivity, clarity and true liberation I have lost to what I now see as a completely unfounded need to experiment with my fitness. Last week, I finally admitted to myself that I was fine even before I went on the six week plan, and that in retrospect, I now no longer understand why I had to do it. Fixing this place in my head, and regaining this conviction is taking a lot more time and effort that I am willing to give it. I want to snap back, but the truth is I have to take the long, painful route. And it is testing me.

Then again, nobody said it would be easy. The rewards however, are happy-making beyond compare. So I’ll take it. Even though it isn’t always a pretty picture, or a perfect progression of linear, ever-progressive movements forward. I’ll take it, for that crushing sort of all-pervasive relief in finally learning to forgive myself, let it go. And just get on.

Two years ago: Day 25: Love