Unsafe

Been turning this question around in my head all of today: Who is really safe in India?

As a women, I’m officially (literally, now) living everyday in terror that something will happen to me. That I will be targeted in some way or another for the way I look, for how short my hair is, for the way I live, how I dress, where I am seen.

I feel palpably like I am next in line, and they can and will come for me. I know it’s not just me that has started to feel a physically clenched way of being every time that I step out. I have noticed this in my body lately. I feel terrified in my bones, petrified in the sinews of my muscles.

It’s not just me.

Just going by the events of the last 6 months, it couldn’t be clearer: If you’re a woman, you’re unsafe. If you’re a muslim, you’re unsafe. If you’re an activist, you’re unsafe. If you’re a writer/poet/painter/musician/artist expressing yourself honestly, you’re unsafe. If you’e a journalist, you’re unsafe. If you’re vocal about your beliefs and values, you’re unsafe. If you feel like a minority in anyway, you’re probably unsafe.

If your work involves doing any kind of good for human beings, bringing justice or being involved in doing what’s right by citizens, you are most definitely unsafe. If you speak up against the powers that be? UNSAFE.

And then I think about people who live lives I haven’t been in touch with. Only read and imagined the levels of fear and lack of safety they must feel every single day. Doctors working through a pandemic? Unsafe. Kashmiris? Unsafe. Farmers? Unsafe. Skilled labourers? Unsafe. Dalits? FUCKING UNSAFE.

Our money isn’t safe. Our jobs aren’t safe. Our children aren’t safe. Our data isn’t safe. And none of the stakeholders we ought to be able to turn to for safety, for accountability, for reason and justice — are safe. Not the media. Not (mostly) the judiciary. Not the police. And certainly NOT our politicians.

So where do we go from here?

One year ago: Take the time
Two years ago: Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

Screen-less

Between the wordlessness, the bliss, being just too damn happily busy doing things I love and continued, conscious efforts to put my phone down more resulted in a 54% drop in my overall screen-time.

It took me 5 days of watching The Social Dilemma in jagged bursts, because I have been sleeping so well and feeling so easily rested that I kept falling asleep, before I could finish watching it. I have so much TV (OTT and youtube) to catch up on because of how little I ave used my laptop. I intended to take my Kindle along, but I conveniently (serendipitously?) forgot. And the phone lay mostly forgotten, except when I wanted to take a picture, and some Instagram stories, when network allowed it.

Since limiting Instagram use to less than 30 minutes per day, and choosing not to look at my phone for at least the first hour after waking up, there’s been a steady drop in screen-time. But this past week took it to levels I didn’t expect.

This wasn’t planned but I ended up using the phone for under 1.5 hours per day for the last ten days.

I’d be lying if I said this had no effect on my general contented, together, state of mind. It all ties in, it comes together, it adds up.

One year ago: Wander
Four years ago: For every down, there is an up

Enough (and then some)

That old familiar wordlessness has returned. I’m beginning to see that it coincides with times when internal processes take over and/or a deep sense of contentment has arrived.

The past eight days has been a mix of both. What words I had, I directed to my family with whom I share this space. And it was enough.

It’s been hard to put in words the mix of feelings that have brimmed over for me. But if I were to be honest, I haven’t even tried. I’ve just been going with it.

Everything has felt just enough lately.

Find a way to be adrift and uncertain, pray your surroundings are beautiful, and hope that someone emerges who offers you some fruit.

— Helen Rosner

I’m getting so used to this cycle of things coming together and falling apart as a part of the very process of life itself. There is less alarm when things go askew, but there is great joy in the moments when they come together. Being with and experiencing my family this past month has been like that. Something came together, even as we coexist in our uniquely different ways, each with our idiosyncratic best sides that get served up only when we are with each other. To have room that allows for that, I realise, is a blessing.

I’m learning that the uncertain times, many times, precede the times when things come together. And so I take it when it comes around. I am grateful, and accepting of it all.

One year ago: Fries before guys
Two years ago: Say, say, say, hey, hey, now, baby
Four years ago: I had to talk about Coke Studio, just a little bit

Monday Tarot Message: Everyday grief

Note: Eight days away from regular life has meant many, many freewheeling thoughts that have bubbled over. Today’s message isn’t neatly filtered/edited and formulated the way it usually is. It’s more personal and long, but you’re probably used to it on the blog. Heads-up, though, that this isn’t the typical Monday Tarot Message, but from my conversations with people, it seems like this is wide-spread and more common than we’ll admit. So maybe you’ll relate, or find something to takeaway from it?

Let’s talk about everyday grief. Tiny, daily loss and sadness, outside of life’s big tragedies — past and current. Minor grief that exists even when life is going good.

Grief from our choices, about all that is left behind, moved away from, left unchosen. Grief from healthy growth and evolution, for who we once were. Our past selves, old states of mind, nature and quality of life long gone. Past relationships, even when leaving was the best thing to do. Grief for things being so radically different from the way they are now.

I’ve grieved so much small loss the year. Workshop opportunities, travel plans, my otherwise steady sense of hope and optimism, missed vacations, going to the gym, being in a swimming pool, hugging, spontaneous plans and outings, day drinking with friends, opportunities for unexpected friendship, public transport, loved restaurants, working from my favourite coffee shop, spontaneity in general, being in a crowded space as a normal natural thing, live music — all of it.

It’s easy to brush this all aside as “small”. And it is. Yet it has been particularly pronounced in this year of the pandemic. Everyday grief piled upon tremendous grief.

It’s very likely that every one of you reading this post today has faced tremendous loss this year. Made so much worse in places with completely broken health care systems and leaders brazenly displaying their contempt for lives of regular citizens.

There is also so much loss of a grip on who we thought we were as people. So many truths shattered. The idea that ultimately everything works out — well, does it? That we’re living in a functioning democracy — are we, really? That the people you respect and look up to aren’t bigots or abusers — this one is quickly shattering, no?

How do you process everyday grief? Do you power through it, push it aside as too little to pay attention to? Or do you make room for it, no matter how small it may be?

I’ve found that in examining how I feel about everything I have lost this year, in honouring it all, and allowing myself to feel the real grief as it has surfaced, I started to see some very fundamental ways in which my life had to change and move.

Loss is sometimes a portal to feeling alive again. And grief is the vehicle that can show us how to move on.

Many cultures have ritualised practices for grieving. Where loss and grief are fundamental tenets in living life. Where the goal isn’t to make loss productive, but to give it a place, as it is. Where acknowledging and feeling grief isn’t seen as a sign of weakness or regression.

I find that this grief that my privilege didn’t allow me to even acknowledge — because I have it so, so good — has been a fitting motivator for making changes in how I want to live.

In softening up towards grief, I have found several reminders of the basic inalienable truth of life — that it is limited. And somehow, that has pushed me through to the other side.

One year ago: Finding flow
Two years ago: Walk with me for a while
Three years ago: On letting go of what is meant-to-be, and enjoying what-is
Four years ago: I am eager

Seeing upside down, inside out

The stillest waters have the freshest perspectives.

One year ago: Free
Two years ago: One night to speed up the truth
Four years ago: Control issues, part 2

Greens

All the different kinds of greens I’ve seen.

This was lunch one afternoon. Everything on my plate was home grown.

Evening walk pitstop. So green. So chill.

Morning walk abandoned quarry explorations with these two.

Kind of ridiculous that this is our backyard. Alternating between pinching myself to come back to reality and feeling very, very grateful.

One year ago: Mediocre
Two years ago: Take a deep breath
Four years ago: Control issues

Slowly now

Just sitting here, amidst water again, with time passing slower than it has in a long, long time. There is nowhere to go. Nothing imperative to do. Nowhere to be.

Getting my hands dirty in more ways than one. Farming, some. Building, some. Cooking, some. Napping, some. Working, some.

Tasting the thrill of eating off the land.

Having days that begin at 630 am.

In bewilderment that there is a literal crocodile on property that we all seem to have reached a state of happy coexistence with.

Still a little awestruck and disbelieving, from time to time, that my parents made this — a dream — happen. For themselves. And us.

One year ago: Morning joy
Two years ago: Warm shadow, won’t you cast yourself on me

Golden yesterday

Daybreak.

Day’s end.

One year ago: Special 
Two years ago: Fickle and changeable

Returning

My sleep cycle is totally and fully back to normal. I have hesitated to accept this sooner, because I was so sure it was just another blip in this up and down year, and that it wasn’t going to last. But it has been about 7 weeks now, of having a more or less consistent (but loose) daily routine that involves sleeping at a decent time (read: pre-midnight haha) and waking up at a time that allows me to get in a morning workout of some kind, and still have time to tend to chores and have a full day, if I so choose to.

Some return to “normal” since everything went upside down in March. And it feels good. For many of us, daily habits and routines are essential keepers of rhythm for life. Making sure there are enough nourishing elements to every day has always been important for me, but when I began to approach this with a consciousness that was previously missing, I have gone full circle from being a slave to routine, to breaking it completely, going very very off-track, and coming back to some normalcy, but with balance.

You know habits have changed in a deeper way when they remain, without much effort, even when you’re on a break.

One year ago: True
Two years ago: You’re still young and that’s your fault
Four years ago: Moarrrr books

Be water, my friend

Clearly, there’s a theme emerging this week.

And I love it when this happens — all roads pointing to affirming one thing, one message. Reinforcing something new that has just found its way to me.

Two years ago: My heart is abloom
Three years ago: Joyful
Four years ago: Off the saddle

 

Monday Tarot Message: Be like water

The depiction of water is the most striking part of the Ace of Cups, to me. Traditionally, the five streams of water represent the five senses — the means through which we engage and perceive the world around us. And water depicts the flow of emotions.

The senses are carriers of stimuli, moving us to feel different emotions. A life of fulfilment is one in which your senses can seamlessly lead the way, and you can follow unhindered.

When we think of emotions, we think of control. Almost as if our emotions cannot be trusted and must be overcome somehow. But what if you were to learn to approach emotions with lightness and ease, rather than the hardness of control?

By learning to feel, by watching our emotions, allowing the full gamut of insights they offer about what we’re making of the world and our experiences, we may learn some of the most crucial facts about who we are as individuals and what makes us tick.

The idea of being “detached” is often associated with being free of emotion. When in fact being detached could very well be a state of being so in tune and at ease with feeling every one of our emotions, there ceases to be any need to control them. And life then flows. Just like water.

I’m thinking of Bruce Lee’s famous words today: “Be water, my friend.”

He speaks of finding flow, when he says, “Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or creep, or drip, or crash.”

Water, like our emotions, is soft, yet powerful. Soothing, yet impactful — depending on how it is wielded.

Just for today, if you allow yourself to feel an emotion you usually push aside, what might you learn about yourself? Which emotion do you most need to soften up for at this present moment?

One year ago: Small victories
Two years ago: She told me to walk this way
Four years ago: Today, on the internet

Sneaky thrills

Living on the edge, at the fag end of 2020 has come to look like this.

Going to a favourite breakfast joint, but refusing to enter the crowds to eat breakfast. Instead, lurking in a corner of the parking lot, drinking a coffee quickly and enthusiastically. And leaving leaving feeling like you’ve carried out a drug delivery successfully.

This is as far as excitement levels can go.

One year ago: Step-up
Two years ago: Some things will never change
Three years ago: Back to base

Twist

I’ve been in a tizzy today. My otherwise lean daily existence that involves not doing more than 2 things on any given day was thrown off by an Instagram tag that sent a dozen folks into my inbox, ordering the coconut oil I have on offer. I’m happy for the flooding requests, but because they all came in at one go, I spent the morning fulfilling them all pronto. That’s all it took to throw my day askew — having to fulfil a bunch of orders that I had to organise and send off through Dunzo. I overshot my stipulated screen time by 3 hours because of it, and scrambled to do the other regular things I had to do like cook lunch, finish a submission, take two readings and catch a nap — in between it all.

There was another majorly development that caused massive disappointments for VC and me this morning, and I got my period, which also threw a spanner in the overall mood. I was in pain and in a tizzy, and sad all at once. At the end of the day though, said disappointment was reversed, and I momentarily felt the compressed collapse when your heart dives deep into your tummy, on a rollercoaster ride, and things were alright again in my head and in my world.

But I have ended the day overwhelmed. I’m glad days like this are the anomaly these days and not the norm. Because I cannot function like this anymore. I struggle to multi-task and I feel really stretched when there are too many asks of my time and attention.

Ended the day with this sweet cotton candy sunset, just as things were returning to happy around here.

One year ago: Satisfaction
Two years ago: I don’t know if it’s even in your mind at allI don’t know if it’s even in your mind at all

Making gardens

This past Sunday, right after my weekly thorough home cleaning, my sister and I cooked a giant brunch that we ate lazily with my parents. We followed it up with coffee, carrot cake and pain au chocolat. Then, when my parents retired for naps, my sister and I got down to dirty business.

Just like the old days. When Sunday lunches were had together, lazily, in that post weekly-oil-massage-and-bath haze. And as soon as my parents would turn in for a nap my sister and I would begin some serious afternoon play. In the garden, mostly getting our hands in the mud, mixing it up with all kinds of nasty stuff (I remember atta and talcum powder, amongst other things) making concoctions and serving it up to imaginary guests at our imaginary restaurant or home or whatever else.

Except this past weekend, we embarked on some overdue repotting of some of my large houseplants that had long outgrown the pots they were in. Same, same, but different. All these years later, getting our hands in the mud is still our idea of fun and play.

The alocasia has been sprouting leaves furiously and consistently for over a year now, but I noticed some weeks ago that the leaves were beginning to get a tad smaller than usual. I’ve had a larger pot ready for it since December last year, so it was about time. The fiddle leaf fig, that I’ve named Salma, is doing well, but I read up about FLF health and it turns out they require well drained, loose soil, and infrequent but predictable watering patterns, in order to sprout those large waxy, shiny leaves we love. For some reason the nursery gave it to me with some compacted, hard-packed soil that I was convinced wasn’t working.

So we made a session of it. Mixing compost mix, cocopeat and garden soil with neem chunks and what not. Transferring things from one pot to another, uprooting my plants — which seriously gave me so much anxiety — and repotting them. And while we were at it, I also managed to separate some Alocasia babies that had sprouted by the sides of the main plant, and got two more plants out of it!

The propagation got it’s weekly bath in the kitchen sink, all the various receptacles got a thorough wash, and the cuttings were placed back in delicately. Next week they will find home in the earth, far, far away from this ledge the’ve been perched on for months now where I have been rooting them for my father.

***

There’s a definite increase in the number of butterflies and bugs and bees that visit the balconies of late. The other day a massive Monarch butterfly flew into my living room, wandered around for a bit, flitting from one plant to the next, even though none of them are flowering plants, settling on my armchair for a few seconds and left. And then, last week out of nowhere, we had a swarm of dragonflies passing through. They hung around for a good three days, but I noticed that at night, groups of them would cling to my pink bougainvillea, hanging upside down, asleep.

The garden is doing its thing, me thinks.

It feels like sigs of life are cropping up around me everywhere.

(I’m sorry this has turned into a full-on commentary about plants at large, and is probably not what you signed up for. But it is what it is. For now. Oh well.)

One year ago: It was all yellow
Four years ago: Empty

On trees and roots

Old-but-renewed fascination with watching age-old trees surfaced some weeks ago, aided by morning wanderings in parts of Bangalore that are beautifully shrouded in a tunnel of treetops. I recollected and shared Mary Oliver’s meditations on Tress some days ago on Instagram and D pointed me to a Larkin poem I have somehow never read before. I don’t know how I could have missed this absolute beauty through 5 years of studying English Literature, in which Larkin featured pretty frequently.

Better late than never, I suppose. Because this, today, speaks to me at so many levels. And maybe that’s why it’s stayed, the words dashing about in my head, playing a game of squash, ever since I read them two weeks ago. Making me look at trees longer, slower, and persuading me to listen in.

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In full-grown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

Delicious, no?

It’s hard not to see that my obsessive draw and deepening connection to all things green, to having and growing them, to enjoying their company and being surrounded by them has only grown over the last many months. It’s safe to say it very literally gives me a space to ground myself in, and to find real, dirty, hands-on parallels with my own emotional journey and process.

These days, I have my most calming epiphanies and those quiet life-changing aha-moments that make me smile stupidly to myself, when I am running/exercising or gardening. This is why it has also been important and easy to include these two activities into my daily routine, and not just for when I want to have some fun on a whim.

When something takes root, deep and strong, there is a space of anticipation, waiting, uncertainty that comes about. On the one hand, you cannot see what’s at work underground, and it’s also too soon to tell what will happen above. The only thing to do is wait, with faith, and continued dedication to nurturance.

Evocative possibilities can come to life in that space of nothingness. Promise of so many possible futures that can unfold, unravel, that will push through like literal life. Possibilities of thriving, surprises. Stories of death and resurrection. Literal cycles of life in full display within this microcosm.

It’s a place where dreams are real, and unreal all at once. Where possibility is both suspended and in-waiting, but also impending and somehow certain.

That space of seeming emptiness is potent, it is fertile. There is nothing to see, but I have felt it, when I have waited and let the emptiness touch me. And nowadays, when I listen closely, I feel the rootedness saying to me;

Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

This morning, I remembered something very sweet and powerful that S said to me in a casual whatsapp chat many, many moons ago. It was such a simple articulation of a very profound thought about leaving people behind as we grow into our own. A thought she had had but we were both beating around the bush trying to catch, pickle and put down in words — and failing.

Until she said;

And this leaving people behind that you talk about is how a tree leaves the ground behind.

Even in the profundity of the moment then, I didn’t see how eminently crucial roots are. In the process of growing. Of transforming. Of gathering wisdom and understanding. And of leaving. Of grasping opportunities to beginning afresh.

Three years ago: Grow
Four years ago: Morning moods