This gorgeous picture wasn’t taken by me. But it is in the newsletter I sent two days ago. Because it was taken by P, in Russia, where she and L spent three months away from Goa. It makes an interesting story, some truly beautiful pictures and lovely haiku, and I wrote about it all for the latest edition of the newsletter. Which, if you haven’t already subscribed to, is open for viewing, for just a bit. Here.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been unable to write full, comprehensible posts. I’ve had so much to say. About women and safety, about why I’m learning self defence, about Priyanka Chopra’s utterly vapid Refinery29 interview, about her obnoxious choice of teeshirt for the cover of CNT, about her “beneath the surface” interview (I don’t know why she’s on my radar so much, and I’ve to remind myself to stop clicking on any link that has her name on it because it always makes me raaaage), about my renewed reaffirmed feelings for the girlfriends in my life, and thoughts about those I have let go of, therapy and some surprising facts that it has unearthed. So it has not for the lack of having things to say, but the funk I’ve been in. My brain has felt like it had stalled, performing on half battery for a bit now. But I realise in retrospect that it was probably just the natural course of things, of conserving energy, words, emotions, given that I had so little to spare and what little I did, I wanted to turn inwards, rather than dissipate. Anyway, long story short – it was hard to communicate, write, share. So much remains to be talked about, and maybe I will get to it. In the meantime, here, smatterings of things I’ve thought about journalling, but didn’t get down to.
After absolute years, I’ve felt the need to escape my life. That theory about creating a life you don’t need to escape? Well, after many years of floating along painlessly, I’ve felt the simmering need to change things up again. Escape it for a bit. And I’m taking this as a sign that my life needs change. I’m starting by escaping temporarily. Early next month, I’m off to Bangalore again. This time en route to my holiday. S and I are running off for a week of girlfriend time. It all happened so fast and so unexpectedly. We were planning a trip to Gujarat, and I don’t actually know at what exact point it happened, but destinations changed and tickets were booked faster than I could say maybe-we-should-go-to. It started off being the four of us, and then one of us dropped out, then another, leaving just S and I. Much sad is happening at severely diminished numbers, but c’est la vie. Since our tickets were non refundable, we’re going, in the hope that the other two will be there in spirit. Spirit, heh, get it? Because we will have to drink and eat their share, I suppose. It only seems fair to represent them at the very least, no?
I’m mildly hysterical with excitement now that we are all finally booked, all hotel reservations done and ready to go. It only sank in once I saw all the confirmation emails. We’re going off to an island. We, well I have no plans, except to bum around on the beach, while S plans go diving. We then return to the big city, because it’s the kind of holiday VC and I would never take together. I needed to do it with girlfriends in tow, where the plan is to eat and drink some more. Just that, nothing else. If the past few holidays with the girls are anything to go by I have a fair idea of the shenanigans that will transpire. I realised somewhere in the midst of booking this trip that all my holidays/breaks this year, in and out of Goa, have been with the girls. VC and I haven’t even remotely entertained the idea of taking a break together. Okay, correction, I have entertained the idea, but not acted on it. I don’t think it has even occurred to VC. But that’s okay. Next year, big travel awaits us. (Fuck, did I just say next year?) We’re in that final leg of the year where everything is winding down and some part of me is already looking forward to wrapping up 2016 and moving on.
Holiday aside, I’m looking forward to being home, even if it is just for a couple of days on either side of my holiday. I’m still that baby that wants to go back home to mommy when I’m having a rough time. I just want to tune out from regular programming for a bit, and be looked after. Is there any place other than home for that? I think not. The lack of a laptop means I won’t be taking my work with me. Pure unadulterated home time. I cannot wait.
Speaking of leaving work behind. Something strange happened on the weekend. I worked. I had a sudden burst of inspiration and sat down to finish some stuff that wasn’t even immediately due or anything. I finished a lot of stuff ahead of time. And I realised I’d finished most of my big commitments for the month. With one fun on-going gig to keep me sufficiently occupied for the rest of the month before I go away on my break. Somewhere, in the midst of just trying to stay afloat these past few weeks, I didn’t realise it, but I’d gathered a lot of steam with my work. There’s a clue in there, about work and play and how much of it I need, want and am willing to give myself, that I am looking at. Because it was so good to be in that kind of flow again. The flow that has eluded me for some time now.
My communication woes with editors in India continue. I used to be convinced it was something I was doing wrong, but I’ve been analysing and introspecting on a few utterly bizarre situations with mind boggling communication that I’ve experienced in the last few months, and I’m that close to putting it down to just our Indianness. Too many people at our disposal, we have no value for personal interaction, for giving someone the time of your day, for reaching out just a little bit beyond your call and duty, for preserving personal connections, for being humble. There’s nothing to lose, I realise, one writer moves on, there’s so many more in line. Perhaps editors have nothing to lose? I’m just wagering a guess here. The funny thing is some of these communication trails have been open for almost two months now, and remain unattended. And I’m waiting to see how far this will go before someone gives me a clear answer on each of these.
As an experiment, I haven’t pitched any fresh work with Indian publications in about 6 weeks now. For a while, based on the stark contrasts I find between the work ethic and general level of professional communication styles I find between Indian and Non Indian publications, I’ve feel like this is just the space that we have a lot of learning and growing up to do. And I’m talking about everything here – response time to emails, the tone in which emails are written, the urgency to get work done and out there, the alacrity with which payments are made, a sense of responsibility in fixing a wrong when there is a problem, a complete lack of power play – everything seems to happen with a lot more purpose overseas. People give a shit. I know this sounds like a generalisation, and maybe it is. I am aware that freelancers like me working overseas have their fair share of woes and a lot of them echo the kind of problems we face here, but in my experience so far, which has been fairly wide and varied, I have observed this.
So I’m testing it out with this experiment. Unfortunately, so far, my worst assumptions are coming true. And it is all kinds of disappointing.
This week I had a massive flash from the past and traversed a lot of music from the good old days. Yesterday I went down the Seal-Guns N Roses-Bon Jovi-Def Leppard-Aerosmith trail and when I landed here, I got stuck. Good and proper.
I picked up Love, Loss and What We Ate, by Padma Lakshmi last week, to break a the lull that came over me towards the end of last month that made me so incredibly disinterested in everything. First, a bit of a ramble about the lull: For approximately three weeks I’ve been unable to function normally, an unnamed kind of anxiety manifested into a physical lethargy. Everything felt and seemed tasteless. I didn’t get out much, save for a meal here, a coffee there, which took a great effort on my part, to feel upbeat and excited. Coincidentally, I had a break with my workout because my trainers were on holiday. It proved lethal, because I’ve realised even when all else fails, exercise injects me with a little dose of energy to keep going. I was barely keeping my head above the water, getting just the bare minimum done, to get from one day to the next. My therapist says this is the by product of therapy, when one is keen and positively moving forward in working through issues. I certainly felt the shifts – distinct and drastic – in the last couple of weeks. From feeling beside myself with worry and a mind that is a tizzy with thoughts, I have felt like I am coming back to feeling like myself again, emerging from the haze that had descended over me. I realised last Sunday that I had made close to zero progress on the book I had started three weeks ago. I had lost interest not just in the book, but in picking up my kindle altogether. Last weekend, as I was packing up to go for our overnight stay on assignment, I wanted something to read, and starting a new book from scratch was the only way to go. This one appeared on top of Amazon reccos, and I just clicked buy without thinking twice.
Second, about the book. I heard folks call it a food memoir. But really, its just a memoir with food in it. It has many moments with luscious descriptions of food, traditions, food-related rituals, Lakshmi’s foray into cookbook writing, TV and eventually Top Chef. Yes, food is a major theme, but it’s hardly the primary theme or the star thread in the book. That said, I enjoyed the book. It’s certainly not a work of impeccable literary value, but it does its job as a memoir. As someone who barely knew anything about her versatile life, this book was fascinating, purely as a read about a life that is rich in experience and varied in overcoming hurdles to accomplishment. To read about her difficult childhood had been not just physically but emotionally and psychologically, the number of times she’s switched gears to choose things that made sense for her, the way in which she straddled her life of difficulty with the privilege, was most interesting. It touches on the emotional fall outs of being a migrant, a person of colour in a country so far form one’s own. There are bits about abuse, her mothers multiple and difficult marriages and the effects it had on a young girl growing up and trying to find herself. She goes into graphic detail about her life in modelling and the eventual destination she found in TV. The bits about her fight with endometriosis touched me the most, for some reason, as much as her fawning over how motherhood somehow completed her, irritated me. It’s a life dotted with a multitude of experiences, ranging from the very difficult to very glamorous, and she traverses them with equal intensity.
It has some feminist undertones in part, especially as she navigates the multiple contrasting parts of her life – her Indian heritage with her life in America, her background in theatre with her eventual career in glamour and fashion, the role models in her fiercely independent mother and grandmother with her constant search for a man in her life which eventually led to more than one relationship with high-profile men, and how each of those relationships eventually crumbled or failed to solidify. The writing itself is nothing to write home about. It doesn’t have any peaks and troughs, and maybe that also explains why I just breezed through the book. It has fleeting promise in certain phrases, descriptions and some segments where it feels very evident that she is writing from a place of authenticity and not wrapping an event very neatly in words. There are bits where she reveals herself as an almost unlikeable, narcissistic person. And then also gives you a peek into her softer, vulnerable sides. She straddles the two – what she is at the core, and what she struggles to be on the outside with such dexterity – that it’s what ultimately makes her a very relatable, real person. For that alone, I’d say this was a good memoir to read.
Most times calm is a feeling. The quietening of a racing pulse. My feet returning to the ground after days of floating just a few inches off, anchor-less.
Sometimes, calm is a deadline met. Well before time. Sheer delight billowing the insides of my heart.
Calm is the obvious lack of worry. Worry that’s draining from my finger tips. Worry that never belonged here, but that somehow had made itself so at home.
Calm is an enjoyable book that’s melting away faster than I realise. Blurring the line between its last page and I.
Sometimes calm is reassurance. The weight of the hand that rests on my chest, slowing my very being down.
Calm, it’s thin, like vapour. Like the invisible evening dew that wraps itself around me.
Calm is like quiet solace trapped, like hot air rising to the ceiling.
Sometimes calm is an afternoon. Sometimes it’s solitude. Sometimes it’s a room.
If there’s one message that’s coming at me again and again these past few weeks, it is the need for patience. It’s an old theme that keeps coming back to me, but even more so of late. Sometimes a live project helps, to literally slow things down, bringing you within arms length of the guileless nature of waiting and watching. It is a lesson in control, as much as it is in learning the natural rhythm of things, in picking up only when the moment is ripe. At the start of this year, I swam through a bout of waiting. It was like sitting in a cauldron of constantly bubbling, hot liquid. And it left me all sorts of undone. This time though, it’s lifting me up, one step at a time. Painfully slowly, but it has been oh so liberating. Because it has opened my eyes to all that I have ignored, compromised and lost, to impatience. In hastening everything up, in constantly rushing through time, I’ve forgotten to notice the little things — that which is unsaid, often not immediately apparent.
I’m glad for the fresh pair of eyes that has helped me see things anew. I’m happy there’s another perspective, diametrically different from my own broody, angsty one. But most of all, I’m immensely hopeful because I finally see the light. That’s all.
So here, take. Happy song for today:
I’ve been wallowing in the shitfest, still. But in the midst of it all I realised a few things today. I’ve sent 23 pitch emails in just 13 days this month. Pitch emails are not to be confused with pitches, which is usually unique to every different idea. These 23 pitch emails are for about 5 unique ideas. 23 pitch emails just means I went knocking on 23 different doors trying to sell them an idea. Even if I never do anything life-changing with my writing, at least I’d have gotten a nice thorough lesson in perseverance. Also sheer obstinacy.
It is tiring, though, being this determined in a month where the entire Western hemisphere is so focused on the election they’re not interested in minuscule stories from the East. They’ve got a month full of long weekends and national holidays which makes their mailboxes pile up, shoving our pitch emails deep into the slush pile. Every night before I shut down, I run through the emails I’ve sent on that particular day and I go to sleep preoccupied and anticipating responses that actually never come. It’s exhausting.
Today I moped to two people about how I’ve worked myself to a crisp, and I don’t really have much to show for it except two ayes, one maybe, one displaced story that found a new home after so much looking (explained later), and plenty of nays. However, they come with such encouraging comments on the ideas, and earnest explanations about why great as some of the ideas sound, they don’t work for them, along with a genuine request to “please keep pitching!” which makes it hard to really sulk. And yet, I was sulking today. Because even the three stories I have placed are not the three stories I’d mentally tagged under knock this out of the frigging park, this month. I was sulking, when A reminded me: it’s not just three stories. It’s THREE STORIES. And we’ll take these small victories. Because they count. Three stories in the bag, is better than none. And it’s better than one big story thats been “in the pipeline” for almost two months now. The stress of waiting to see it in print, is worse than waiting for a period you’re so afraid and simultaneously sure you’ll miss. Graphic analogy? Well yes, that’s how horrible it feels.
So, I landed on smallish story, but it’s a publication I’ve had on my wish-list for SO long. Just earlier this month, I posted a story they recently published, on facebook, with a caption about aspiring to have a story on their site soon. And here I am. It’s small, but it’s something. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.
I had one brutal experience of a story I worked quite hard to turn around in record time, being pulled an hour before it went to print, with no explanations given. Even after I asked. What gives, man? Why do people hate talking about things when things go wrong? I can deal with it, you know? I can try and be adult about it. Anyway, being dropped like a hot potato got me so fired up, I swore I wasn’t going to rest until I placed this story. So I carpet bombed my little universe with the idea and got such an array of responses, mostly negative, it was overwhelming. I had just reached a point where I was accepting that maybe I need to rework the pitch, and consequently the story too, when it got picked. By a publication I’ve never worked with, and have wanted to break into, in the past.
Some time last year I’d pitched an idea which was immediately accepted. I rushed off to do my research and interview a lot of people as the story needed it. But as I wrote the story, it evolved and took a form entirely different from the one I’d pitched. The story was published in it’s new form, but I was suddenly sitting with a bunch of data that had taken some effort collating. This month, I revisited the data and fleshed out a fresh idea. I pitched it. And landed it, and it’s a story I’m excited about.
Also, as of yesterday, I’m in The Telegraph. So I’m feeling a little silver-linings-ish now, in retrospect, after moping about all week.
Through all of this, my virtual circle of writers has kept me afloat. I find it downright amazing that the words of literal strangers, going through the exact same things I am, have the power to connect so deeply. So we do, and we prop each other up, handing out virtual high fives, hugs and the like. Time and again I feel social media fatigue, which makes me wonder if I should just take a break from it for a bit. But I quickly realise, these days I have more love, encouragement and learning, than noise on facebook. It’s where I find solace in advice that sometimes isn’t even aimed at me. It’s where I find solutions to problems — from the most mundane like getting over a patch of procrastination to finding an elusive editors email. It’s where I find inspiration in someone’s immense success story. It’s where I have found new role models. It’s where I go to see that there are so many hundreds and thousands of women like me, going through a shitfest of a month, no different form mine. We are in this together. My problems are not mine alone. Some times the victories are small, but we’ll take them. Because they count.
The great thing about being in a virtual community is also the kind of writing I get to expose myself to. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve LOVED this week.
This essay about What We Write About When We’re Not Writing gave me such a real reaction. I was moved to the point of instant goosebumps.
This piece called Grab Her, hit me up right in the feels.
This essay about domestic violence that somehow led to a rediscovery in the kitchen.
This is what I’ve felt like going at pretty much everything the last many weeks.
(Most excellent gif that depicts my sense of purpose, but just will not play. Which, strangely, also depicts the state of things in my life right now.)
This is what I feel like, when I have recovered from ^^
And this is what it is really like around here. Once I’m done with the meltdown for the day, adding a fresh new angle to the level of crazy I’ve brought into our lives these past few weeks. After I’ve given VC a complete download of all the frustrating and exciting things I’ve been up to in excruciating detail. When I’ve made fresh promises to myself and managed to thrill and scare myself simultaneously. When I cannot handle any of it on my own. He stays, patiently listening, probably chuckling inwardly and reconsidering his decision to marry me every single day this month. But still, becomes this picture of calm that eventually rubs off on me.
Letting it go is so hard,
perhaps then, I should
maybe, just let it be?
Remember this post? Well round two of said assignment saw me perched here this past weekend.
It was just what I needed considering the horrific news that began Thursday and just didn’t stop all weekend. I usually tune out of social media for a large part of the weekends but I got completely wired with the local news of a murder that hit too close home for me. And then there was the leaked Trump video that gave me such a instant physical reaction. I had to immediately shut it down and walk away and breathe heavily so the rage subsided. But only long enough till the urge to check updates hit again. And so I spent an inordinate amount of time online, getting increasingly devastated by the news, but worse, the reactions of people around me. In their gleeful rehashing if the sordid details of someones untimely death, the gross and insensitive conclusions that are drawn, the inevitable judgement that follows when it’s the story of a bold independent woman, and the inescapable instances of a few that lack the sheer brains to know that rape is not something to joke about.
Of late, I’ve been consumed with thoughts of what it means to survive as a woman in a world hell bent on snuffing us out physically emotionally and in every way other possible. I’m growing tired of the “better safe than sorry” story that I find myself resorting to only too often. This past weekend has only made those feelings bubble over. And so I wrote them out. It’s the only way I know how to restore peace in my head anymore.
I’ve gotten a bad rap for wanting to escape the harshness of reality, many times over. Someone wrote a whole op ed criticising this very urge of mine, to”escape”, that brought me to Goa. I’ve begun to shy away from the word a bit, embarrassed and hurt by the criticism. But this past weekend I realised that to escape is to find temporarily respite from the madness. It is to retreat into a personal safe space, whether physically or mentally. And it’s sometimes al we have got when the shrill opinions and criticism come at you, and your kind.
In a world so utterly undeserving of women, I am reclaiming my escape because sometimes it’s all we, and our collective allies, have got.
If I’d found this picture earlier this week, I’d have bunged it into my September post. Because this frame, right here, taken at the end of August was uncannily a sign of the month ahead of me.
I’m on it.
I’m feeling a lack of words again. If last month I worked myself to the bone, like a hamster in a wheel, this month I’m trying to get better. I don’t want to keep doing the same things I do wrong, over and over. I want to make it right. It means I’ve been reading a lot of things to figure where my pitches are falling short, looking at the work of some folks I am inspired by to see what they’re possibly doing right, and generally reading a lot of work that comes my way. And then there have been the emails — fresher, better pitches, three better crafted stories (one of which was killed after it had been commissioned, worked hard upon and submitted, but that’s a story for another day), some back and forth on a new assignment that requires me to be on the telephone way more than I have been used to, and remembering to come here and write a post a day. I feel like I’m out of words for the week, already. I’ve been unable to read at the end of the day like I am used to and I’ve been feeling quiet this week, not my usual chatty, responsive self on whatsapp either. Then there was the newsletter I sent out earlier today. Which makes a good post, because it’s a summation of everything that’s been swimming around in my brain, neatly distilled in a letter (with a really cute gif for extra measure!). So for all you folks who haven’t subscribed, I’m stealing a bit of it for this post. Because I have no new words to give today.
The left and right halves of my brain have been in a perpetual twist over what I should be doing and what I really want to be doing. And it’s given me a terrible case of month-long hiccups. It’s always the hiccups that bring out the demons. The roadblocks that run you down, make your confidence plummet, and things seem a lot worse than they really are.
So when I found myself in a hole at the end of September, I had to take a moment and let the right side of my brain take over. Because it’s the side of my brain that rules, and reminds me that it’s the experiences that matter, that there are no mistakes – only lessons, that I am enough, that this may look utterly shitty now, but you can’t connect the dots looking forward.
The reason everything looked utterly shitty is I have been measuring myself by the rules of success that were never mine to begin with. I have never chased the kind of success that comes from hoarding an astronomical bank balance, or working 8 hours a week all week at something I don’t enjoy, or building it all up so one fine day I can sit back and enjoy it. None of this is to say it’s a terrible crime to want any of that. The astronomical bank balance does great things, I’m aware. As does the hard work and dedication extended to work that isn’t all enjoyable. But it’s just not for me. I have never been able to get on board with accumulating a lifetime of experiences, money and aspirations to enjoy it in a hypothetical time in the future, when really, all I have is the here and the now. And it’s waiting for me to step in and savour it.
All we only ever have is the here and the now. Maybe a little bit of knowledge to predict the immediate future, but not with any degree of accuracy, anyway. But what we do have, is a wealth of information about our past. To know what worked, what didn’t, and what you’d do differently the next time around. So that every moment ahead of you, is better than before. Isn’t that really what being happy is about? So if finding your bliss sounded like unattainable mumbo-jumbo, don’t worry. Here’s science to prove it:
Widely shared on the internet, this is an image of molecules of the protein called myosin holding up a massive ball of endorphins, dragging it along a filament into the inner part of the brain’s parietal cortex.
Happy hormones walking a tightrope, making their way to your brain. ALL SO YOU CAN FEEL HAPPY. Like S once exclaimed, that’s literally the most accurate depiction of happiness: just focus on the here and now, keep placing one foot in front of the other, and just keep going on.
What you will be left with is a trail of experiences — good bad, shitty, traumatic, a bucket load of everything that comes your way. A lot of it will be amazing. A lot of it will leave you cold. A lot may not make sense, not immediately, anyway. But it’s all essential. All of it has a part to play in the larger scheme of things, as you plod along, carrying your big ball of happy on your back.
When I was done telling myself time and again how shitty September was, which is when the right side of my brain took over, I looked back. I realised that first of all what I’d deemed shitty was really just one aspect: my work. I’ve let that one aspect eclipse all else, outshining all the other wonderful things that happened. Second, I realised that despite everything, I had some amazing moments. I celebrated my eighth anniversary. I broke into one of my must-crack international publications — Broadly, a VICE channel — with a story that I’ve wanted to explore for over a year now, this story that I loved interviewing for writing finally went live after over a month of sitting on the bench, and I bagged a semi-long-term gig with The Telegraph UK. Apart from that, all the confusion and upheaval forced me to a point where I decided I needed to move ahead, rather than wallow. So I did. I changed tracks again.
Movement is always good, no? And there’s the thing I realised once again: confusion is essential. Unhappiness, chaos, discomfort — they’re essential milestones for change on the path to getting on with it. Sometimes that path is rocky, a squelchy mess, far from fun. But that is okay. I wouldn’t have realised any of this, unless I’d looked back on the shitty, shitty September. So it’s true what Steve Jobs said.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.
I’ve always been a gut-feeling kind of person, counting life experiences over time, and I think Karma has a lot to do with everything that comes our way. Somewhere, I’d forgotten that. And it took a shitty September to remind me to recalibrate my measures for what matters, and how much I want to do to get as far as I want to get.
You know what gets me through annoying days? Terrible music, that’s what. It’s what I turn on when I’m having trouble powering through and getting through my work, or don’t want to think about how I’m being ghosted, or I have to sift through my ideas and make a plan to get going, or when I’m just plain overwhelmed. Through much of September, it was this utterly terrible, but immensely sticky, addictive trashy pop that got me ahead.
Turn it on, tune out, power on. I think it works.
Try listening to this once and not humming it for the rest of the
This one always makes me want to get up and jig. And I do.
Pretty sure this isn’t going to get old for a long time to come.
I had no idea who these Chainsmokers fellows were, a month ago. Now I have a whole playlist.
Try getting rid of these tunes form your head now.
Alternate headline options:
- Shitty, shitty September.
- Wake me up when September ends.
- Good riddance to bad rubbish
Pretty much all of September was eclipsed by Mercury going into retrograde. And I really felt the effects of it completely this time around. Right from a breakdown of communication and misunderstandings in relationships at the start of the month, the inability to think in a calm manner and plan ahead that stayed right through the month, the sluggish energy on the work front with nothing new materialising, a technological emergency that couldn’t be fixed, down to significant sleep deprivation which then has a ripple effect leading to confusion, irritability and overall impatience. Additionally, there were the effects specific to this retrograde: being overly self-critical, especially when outcomes were less than perfect, way too much energy spent in over analysing the changes I want to bring, when really nothing was likely to move ahead until the entire phase had passed. That pretty much summed up my September.
If I’d read any of this before September began, I’d have put it down to knowing too much too soon and being paranoid. But I only found out a lot of this stuff yesterday. It is sometimes is a little ironic, but mostly uncanny when things play out entirely to a plan outside of us and our brains, that we have not too much control over, regardless of how we feel about that lack of power. And that in itself is something I felt resound in my head over and over again last month.
It was such a meh month, that I don’t even want to go over it. But as always, it’s only in retrospect that I am able to connect the dots. And I see now how every little insignificant, seemingly disjointed, shitty event was actually linked, building up to the way things peaked on 30th September. It bubbled over and on 1st October, I made a decision that has been the first step forward, outside of the confusion I’ve been feeling.
Overly emotional and thankful for my friends.
Disjointed thoughts that I gave up on.
When the self-doubt hit hard, I had thoughts about work, that were more a means to reassure myself than anyone else.
Before I depress myself anymore, there was some good stuff too:
Our eighth anniversary, was the only bright spark all month, I think.
This assignment that was a staycation in disguise.
In which I also decided to stop being confused, and decided to start working it out.
Decision about doing a 100km cycle ride was taken, and it turned out to be the best decision ever.
OH, AND. I started a newsletter. Which you can sign up for by adding in your email id here.
Bas, that’s all. Off with your head, September. Be gone, now!
So this happened, after all.
After some deliberation and accumulation of a lot of blind over-confidence, I decided to go through with it.
Even the morning of the event, as my alarm woke me up at 4.30 am, I got out and looked at my bed. It was so inviting, tempting me to just get back inside and stop kidding myself about this insanity I had signed up for. As much as I have come to love cycling, I haven’t reached a point where I can say my love for cycling has overtaken my love for sleeping in. The difficulty of waking up early is strong and real.I went in completely devoid of any expectations of myself, fully psyching myself to give up if I needed to.
What I was lacking in confidence, I made up for in snacks. I was over-prepared in that department. Obviously. Lined my stomach with fruit and a sandwich even before the event began. Plenty of chikki, a handful of dates, two packets of ORS on the go. And I wiped it all out before end. This is not counting the large breakfast we had at checkpoint 1, and the ice cream at checkpoint 2.
I was one of two women in the event of about 25 participants. I was expecting more women. But clearly I was in the minority with that expectation because not one, but two dudes gave me the statement of utter surprise — “hey, you’re pretty good!” and I could almost feel the “…for a girl” subtext.
The ride: it was fantastic. For all the starting trouble I have, every time that I get on a bike and get going, it is rewarding. There is something
mildly massively addictive once you’re on a bike, zipping through the wind and experiencing early morning like nothing else can, really. Not even walking or running. Okay, maybe doing this in Goa adds a million points in favour of the activity, so yes, I’m giving thanks for the wonderful place I’ve found myself in. The weather suddenly turned that morning, and we had grey cloudy skies. A ten minute downpour was a welcome relief, and I seemed to escape even the harsh noon sunlight which caught up with me only in the last stretch of about twenty minutes as I was struggling to the finish line.
Thankfully, the event wasn’t a race. It was about finishing, and there was a very comfortable outer time limit in which to do it. There were enough triangular shaped, testosterone pumped men who didn’t have a moment to spare to even smile or exchange pleasantries because they were dashing off to beat each other, or their own personal records, I’m not sure. I was the very very very last person to finish. I can’t say I didn’t expect it.
I’m just glad I finished. That was my focus, and I’m glad I didn’t waver there. I couldn’t have done it without VC who pepped me up with his inspirational talks, R who absolutely insisted this was going to be a cakewalk and then stuck around cycling with me for the entire second half of the ride, and a random friend we made, let’s call him A. A is a 51 year old man (possibly the oldest participant) who was also lingering around the back of the trail with me. We’re the guys who stopped to take pictures all along, got lost a couple of times, bothered to look at the map, ask for directions and generally have a bit of fun along the way. He claimed all he’d ever done in life was smoke and work, and that bicycling was a new interest. He’d so far only ridden a maximum of 30kms ever. He stuck around with us, we definitely drew off of each others’ energies and somehow stayed together until the end.
I couldn’t have done it without my people. And my playlist, which I heard from end to end for the very first time in my life. Twice over, in fact.
Also, training. For all the heavy duty working out I’ve been doing in the last 3 years or so, I’ve never done anything that’s tested my strength or stamina. This was quite the test, and it completely reaffirmed my faith in sticking with working out and always trying to remain fit. It always pays off.
I’ve also never felt a gush of endorphins as strong as I did at the 88km mark, when R and I, unsure of what turn to take, stopped to ask for directions. Except I wasn’t of much use because I was collapsing in a huge outflow of uncontrollable guffaws. For absolutely no reason at all. R watched helplessly, not sure what to do next. And try as I did, I couldn’t hold back the laughter. It was coming out in heavy, loud bursts that just couldn’t be contained. We had just pushed ourselves over a 8 kilometre stretch, hitting the highest speeds I did on the entire ride, and maybe the energy rush just got the better of me.
A stupid move at the very end, possibly caused by the lack of oxygen going to my brain by then, made me take a wrong turn. I was leading the trio at the point, so the other two followed suit, and we found ourselves off track, adding a whole lot of unnecessary kilometres to the finish, not to mention one major chunk of which involved backtracking across the stretch we had just covered.So as it happens, I didn’t just complete a 100 kilometre ride. In fact, I clocked 109 kilometres to the finish line. And it was worth every minute of excitement, adventure, pain and exhilaration.
Cold beers waited us at the finish line. Which we emptied into our water bottles to consume. Because, Gandhi Jayanti = dry day, it seems.
The next logical step is to attempt 200km. If someone had asked me last week, if I could see myself doing it, I’d have laughed loudly. But ask me now and I’ll say, hell yes, without batting an eyelid. I’d just like to be better prepared, maybe actually train for it next time around.
Honestly though, I didn’t think I could finish it this time around. I went in blind, like I said before. But maybe the endorphins kicked in, maybe being in the presence of all the other cyclists gave me a boost, maybe I just went into auto pilot, but it was hard to think about giving up. I actually didn’t feel the need to at any point. It was only somewhere around the 60km mark that I realised how far I had come and that I was actually possibly going to finish this.
So while the ride was physically taxing, as was expected, beyond a point it was entirely a mental game. Every 10 kilometres knocked down felt like a huge milestone crossed. There were moments when an unexplained energy kicked in, pushing through my lower back that had begun to ache, my quads that were tensing up, and my butt that had gone numb. I’ve never felt that kind of resilience in myself, I don’t think.
Clearly, I had underestimated my capacity to physically push myself, and overestimated the time it would take me, in the event that I did finish. I overshot my estimate by a 120 whole minutes, finishing in 6 hours. Despite coming in right at the very end, this was a win I needed to undo the collective shittiness that September was.
So that’s done and dusted.
There are good months. There are meh months. And there’s various kinds of meh. Professionally, it means that sometimes I haven’t received enough responses. Sometimes it’s that I’ve received so many responses, but I haven’t successfully converted as many of my pitches into stories. Sometimes it also happens that a story I expect to turn around really quick, drags out painfully. Sometimes I turn a story around in record time, and then the editor sits on it for an impossibly long time (seven months has been my longest wait, no jokes). Most times, I only get paid when a story is published. So, to take the story that was 7 months in waiting, it really does feel like what I’ve eventually earned is a significantly shredded amount, given the effort and time (including the wait) that has gone into a piece of work. Sometimes I send a story per a commission, and the editor ghosts me out. It happens, sometimes for legitimate reasons too, and then you can’t even be pissed.
The good months can be all kinds of awesome. I’ve had months when I’ve knocked it out of the park with my energy to pitch relentlessly. I’ve also tasted what its like to hit that sweet spot of having a high conversion rate. Some times I am able to knock the stories out as per the schedule. On extra good months, long pending payments come in, to tide me over until the work I’m now doing eventually pays me. The wait is long. The struggle is real. In an ideal world, the balance is a part of the routine and rhythm of this freelancer life.
I am far from that world. I swing from extreme highs to extreme lows of energy, commitment and digits in my bank balance.
But I am also slowly realising that the best months are the months in which I have sustained my routine, and my discipline and the months where I have let that slip, it shows. It shows in my work, it shows in my state of mind, and it shows in how I deal with what I am feeling. September has seen me all over the place, agitated, restless, sleeping badly. But every time I hit an emotional downer this past month, I’ve had a reality check that has made me question my perspective about some of my beliefs to do with my work. Eventually, I had an epiphany that I thought was a crucial breakthrough in the emotional tussle I am going through. It made me take myself to therapy this week, to address it. It’s all you need sometimes — a conversation with someone completely removed from your reality. It’s definitely what I needed, for starters, because it has caused a shifted in my brain.
I’ve been mulling over everything we spoke about at therapy for the last two days and this morning, I found a strange but timely affirmation of it all in a conversation with N. Later she posted a status message that had a sentence I needed to read;
Productivity and following plans is great when it happens but it’s not everything. On a day like this when life wants me to realise this important fact, I’m glad I took the bait and listened.
She’s talking about her life, and her important facts, and unproductive day, but I could completely relate. September has been a strange month, as you’ve probably already figured. I started with such gusto, and then slipped into a sea of self-doubt immediately after (if you received my first newsletter you’ll know, because I talked about it there). Then just as I got going again my laptop died. And here I am today, a week from that horrible day, realising it’s the end of the fucking month already. Part of me wants to cry and scream for the days that have gone by in a blur. But a larger part of me has this strange resigned acceptance.
I haven’t got nearly not as much work as I planned to do. I haven’t done nearly as much of it as I’d have liked to. But for the first time in months, I’m telling myself that it’s okay. I’ve been unproductive with work, but I have done the best thing I could do for myself, which was to take the bait and listen, at every point that life was giving me a cue. It’s how I had the epiphany. It’s what made me go to therapy. It’s what made me want to get to the bottom of this.
If you’ve stayed with my self-indulgent navel-gazing ramble and read this far:
Because I’ve lost some of the patience I have carefully built in the recent past, this post aptly titled Shut Up and Be Patient, really spoke to me, with sentences like,
These are all great transitions, good changes coming to a life that is slowly inching its way into its next stage. But life transitions, even when good, are always difficult, and they are always slow and gradual.
A good life is not a life without problems. A good life is a life with good problems. And so, despite the turbulence of the rocky waves and twisting tides, I can sometimes stare into the heart of my confusion and the crossed strains of joy and sadness, and smile and be grateful that it’s all there.
Did you watch the Presidential Debate? No, I’m not going to share yet another article that breaks down the obnoxious mansplaining of downright idiotic beliefs that one of the candidates displayed. It’s this interview with Chelsea Clinton that really stood out amongst a lot of the heavy post-debate analysis that has been doing the rounds.
I love that the topic of child-free-dom is seeing so much press. We’ve gone past the point of asserting out legitimate choice for a life without children, to talking about the many other ways in which those of us who have made this choice fulfil our instinct to care for and nurture people. This essay makes a lovely point about the presence of child-less women in the lives of mothers. I’ve always said I love being an auntie, and I am an auntie to so many lovely babies. This piece breaks it down so well, and while it is about alternative roles played by the child-free, it is mostly a case for building a life with community and kinship.
Remember that picture of Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama seated on plastic stools in what looked like a tiny eatery in Vietnam, sipping a beer each, that surfaced around May this year? Well here’s an interview with Bourdain, and deets about the episode that will feature the POTUS. So heartwarming.
Okay, c’est fini.
I’m looking forward to a weekend of reading, a 100km ride on Sunday that I eventually decided to bite the bullet and go through with. I have had no practice in about a month now, so I’m going in blind. Armed with dates, chikki and ORS. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.
When Monday rolls along, I hope to feel more refreshed, ready to wipe the slate clean and take on a new month.
So it came to my notice that I have let this entire monsoon pass without a single Coke Studio post. Baffling because this is the time of year that I miss, relive and enjoy my annual CS-Pak binge. As it happens, it is also the time of year when a shiny, new season is unveiled. This time, said new season had come and gone. And that should tell you how little it mattered to me. How it made close to no impact, and didn’t send me into raptures of love for the show, as it usually does.
I could go into miles and miles of analysis about why it didn’t work for me, as I have so many times now with various folks who share my ardent love for the show. We’ve dissected it to shreds, given our VTs and watched as the current season plummeted to irrevocable lows. But I’m going to spare you the analysis, because it’s a personal opinion and I know not everyone needs feel the same way. Long story short, I found this season lacking in clarity of thought. With a new director for every song, way too much instrumentation and the so-so production quality that Strings can deliver, there was just way too much happening this year. Every song felt loud, mish-mashed, noisy and not a single track stood out with a distinct character or a unique sound of its own – which is what I clung on to as the shows forte, for so many years now.
Yet, even in the noise, these tracks stood out for me. They’re not fantastic by any stretch of imagination. They don’t match up to the legendary level that some CS-Pak tracks from the past have achieved. I know this for a fact because none of these have consumed me in the day-long-loop fix that I usually find myself in with every season. Still, these are the only songs I enjoyed. And I think it’s only fair to share the love. However little it may be.
Best track of the season, as far as I’m concerned.
Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Unplugged version of a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan classic. It was hard not to like this one. Despite the fact that I think the starlet here is completely unnecessary and doesn’t have a patch on the bucket-fulls of personality RFAK brings to this track.
Because, Javed Bashir. I don’t need much else. I managed to even get to a point of listening to it while blocking out the abomination that is Ali Azmat.
For old favourites Sanam Marvi, Saieen Zahoor and parts of one of my most favourite folk songs.
Some of you lovelies may have received my newsletter today. If you have any reactions to share, I’d deeply appreciate hearing from you.
For those of you who didn’t, and want to subscribe, go here, check out the archives if you want, and if you like what you see kindlydotheneedful,yourssincerely,thanks.
It’s been a difficult, heavy few weeks. The kind of difficult that quietly piles up when you’re not even looking, the kind of heavy that has manifested in ways I couldn’t understand – an unexplained lethargy, an inability to find the words to say the things I want to, an inability to engage in conversation beyond the bare minimum. It’s the kind of difficult I didn’t even notice until it had, as usual, burst and unraveled before me like a bag of marbles gone bust. When I have my mind set on something, I can keep going until something physically stops me. And in this case, disrupts my flow, and sends me flying, completely by surprise. That’s here’s the thing: when I have a goal, I’m a blinkered horse on a mission to reach the end.
2016 has been a year of monumental discovery and change of a transformational kind that I cannot begin to put into words. I’ve had some high highs, but when each of those phases have passed, I have also sunk to lows that have needed a good lot of effort to pick myself up from again. No matter what, I always get back and get going.
I get by, mostly because I am surrounded by people reminding me of all that I have going for me. Between VC, my parents, my friends, my tribe of girlfriends, some connections I’ve made online I am able to stay afloat, get up again and get going. I am immensely grateful and I never forget.
When enough time has passed, and I have smoothed over the creases, settled into the rhythm I like for myself, I have always felt like I’ve got this, I can do this. I am worth it. Increasingly, I realise I am so easily satisfied.
So when a new situation turns up and strikes me down, I am also easily alarmed. Things spin out of control and devolve much more than they should, or need to. I am strong, but I am also easily ruffled. I’m not talking about the laptop going bust, or the uphill climb that garnering work has been this month. It’s not the self-made pressure to make that holiday happen. It’s not the niggling issues I’m juggling around the home that have kept me from working full steam ahead. It’s not the guilt I have carried around like a burden of pebbles at the bottom of heart. It’s that same old shapeless, unputdownable, nebulous restlessness that keeps raising its head. Does this sound a bit familiar? If you’ve been reading my daily posts all year long, you will know how many times I have mentioned that I am feeling restless. That I am aching for my what next. That I am ready for something bigger, but have no idea what or how to begin getting ahead. This has been bubbling inside for pretty much all year, thus far. Time and time again I have found momentarily fixes that I have used to tape over the pain. Each time I have managed to even get on with life. Things have moved smoothly for weeks on end. I have had some spectacular milestones, some amazing wins. Eventually life has caught up, work flowed in and out, abundant travel happened, friends and family visited, I got busy with the mundanities. And every day the sun rises and sets as it should, the motions of it all are consuming and leave little room for deeper thought. Until the next big upheaval strikes, opening up old wounds, making new ones, exposing raw sides of me that need looking at. But you know what: no matter what I always pay attention. I’m not afraid to do the work that needs doing, to get up and get happy again.
2016 has been like wandering in a grassy field without a map, to reach a mystery location at the other end, with no idea how far I need to go, or in what direction. I know what I need to do, I get up ever single morning and I do it. I know where I need to go, but for a large part of this year I have felt like I don’t know where I’m headed. And yet, I have been forging my own path as and when I pleased, in the only way I know. I try. I keep trying. And I move ahead.
Today I realised that I have held on to my restlessness as the spark that I must keep fanning, believing it is the fire that will eventually force me out of the current space I’m in. But the truth is it has turned into a burden. And I am done lugging it around. I am done being weighed down by the immense proportions it has grown to. I am so over giving it more space than it needs in my life.
There’s the other thing about me. Once I have put my mind to something, I turn things around. I’m willing to live through the change, I can do the work it takes. But I always turn things around.
And so I decided don’t want to be restless anymore. Instead I want to go back to being keen. Eager. And always open.
So often, the trouble with me, is that I mistake taking charge for taking control. They’re two entirely different things, and my mind boggles at the number of times I have confused the two. Taking charge involves accepting certain inalienable truths in any situation, and yet finding a way to move through it, without trying to tame in untameable circumstances that might reign at any given moment. I am incredibly stubborn when it comes to trying to take control and make things work the way I see fit. The past year, my work has tested this side of my personality the most, reminding me time and again how little is in my control. Yes, I can take charge and learn to make things work, get better in areas that need work, but I cannot change certain fundamental truths about myself, my personality and what I hold dear. In trying to take control, I forget this too many times for my own good. That, coupled with the constant tussle between my head and my heart, in choosing what comes naturally to me (even at the risk of it seeming like the mediocre choice), in wholeheartedly, peacefully cutting myself some slack and letting go of this unnatural need to always have things in control has been the reason for a lot of mental gymnastics in recent time. It’s taken a lot of rejigging the very idea of success in my mind. I don’t mean just success at work. I mean success as a person, in my life. In the littlest, most inconsequential things I do.
So much of this learning has led me to re-discover myself in ways I didn’t think possible. It has created space for accepting new facets of my personality, reclaiming older identities, creating newer ones, seeing myself as whole just the way I am. Minus the expectations of family, spouse, client, social media, professional networks. Minus the ideas of what should be, that despite all my intelligence and awareness, I tend to imbibe and impose on myself. Minus the ridiculously, unnecessarily high standards or perfection or achievement I then set myself up.
It’s taken repeated reminders to scale down, (even when all the world is talking about scaling up) because it’s what works for me. It’s required me to never forget what is central to my sanity and my happiness. To remind myself to play small, to be creative, to be joyful, before all else. It has taken constant stripping down the layers to get to the core. Im not there yet, and this is possibly the stuff of a lifetime. But I’m game to do the work. And these mini upheavals are but lessons in taking charge, but letting go of taking control. They’re markers that point me back in the right direction, every time I have staggered off track.
An unexpected setback on Friday has thrown up several hurdles in my mind that I am busy working out. Smack in the middle of a busy day of knocking off some mini goals, my laptop died on me. Out of the blue, no warning, no signs. One moment I was banging out a story, and the next my screen was blank, and my laptop unresponsive. For a full five minutes after that I felt like my world had caved in, broke into a sweat and frantically tried a whole bunch of thing to elicit some reaction. But nada, the damn machine was dead as roadkill. It’s not the kind of thing anyone is prepared to deal with at 2 pm on a working day, especially not the kind of day when for a change the demands were miraculously met with adequate motivation levels too.
And yet there I was. Rendered helpless by a damned machine that was working perfectly fine just the instant before it decided to die.
What followed was 2.5 days of complete restlessness. The computer fixit people figured it was a fried logic board which costs about as much as the laptop itself to fix. So I’m not going to be doing that. I managed to have all my data recovered so I guess I must thank my stars for small mercies. But my flow was broken, hacked, severed and killed. And it has caused all kinds of unexpected demons to rear their heads.
I had two deadlines to meet today, and my day began driving to Mapusa to lug back the dead computer and all my data. I couldn’t wait to get home and get working again. Thankfully, I have a back up system, a desktop at home that was lying largely unused, that meant I could pick up my work exactly where I left off.
The hurdle, though crossed almost as instantly as it cropped up, has left me questioning a lot of things. So many questions about how I’m using my time, my preoccupation with being busy, working harder and earning a living. Some where, at some point when I wasn’t looking these things have gone from being things to do, to things I am and it has caused a fair bit of restlessness. I realised it only in the absence of it. Somewhere in all of this, a lot of latent frustration about the compromises I’m making with my work have also surfaced. Things I have either overlooked or pushed aside to a corner of my mind have made their way to front and centre of my mind and I was no longer able to ignore it this weekend.
In a rather unbelievable turn of events (for the homebody that is me) I spent a major part of the weekend gallivanting outdoors, unable to make my way home to just sit still and be. Ordinarily weekends see me ignoring my laptop completely. So many times it doesn’t even come on. I have been using my weekends as deliberate down-time, and yet the fortuitous events leading to the absence of a laptop suddenly saw me itching to use the laptop only, and nothing else. My mind refused to tune off from the woes of whether my data would be recovered or how much the repairs would cost me. I suddenly wanted to listen to music, watch Greys Anatomy, catch up on work (*eye rolllll*), send out another newsletter and what not.
Amongst other plans for Friday, I wanted to send out my next newsletter and chalk out the next 3-4 issues, but that was not to be. I realised yet again the less control I have, and the more I try to regain it, even if I’m only clutching at straws, the more it runs away from me.
The more I try and stake my claim, take control, the more things seem to slip away. Yet again, I was reminded how little is really in my control. And how much I cannot ignore some fundamental thought processes buried deep in my mind. Every time I do, they raise their heads, forcing me to listen, pay attention and address them. Once again, I have been forced me to take a step back again, and re-evaluate something I set off to do at the start of the year, that I have somewhat steered away from. Once again I have been taught I need to learn to let my unrealistic levels of perfection go, that I must relinquish control because it was never mine to begin with.
It’s a drippy, rained-all-night kind of Friday morning. 8.30 am and I have the lights on in my room. I’ve just finished reading the last book that had me so engrossed I’ve been waking up, turning over and grabbing my kindle to read a few pages even before I get out of bed or brush my teeth.
This book: This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
A book of essays about a huge range of experiences and topics from across Patchett’s life, this book was first recommended to me by B, when I met her in Singapore last year. I have fond memories of a couple of hours I spent with her in her chatting about life, writing, reading and books, over home style chai and pakodas, while intermittently chatting with the incredibly cute Bobo. I snapped a picture of the cover of her book, and made a mental note to get to it at some point. Of course that point, of reading in earnest again, only came earlier this year.
So, about the book: it’s an incredibly diverse collection of essays about such a range of things that the writer in me, who hopes to be able to someday write an essay about any dang thing in the universe, is in serious awe. Entirely a work of non-fiction, this is a collection of her essays from over the years contributing to an array of magazines like The Atlantic, New York Times, Gourmet, Vogue. They cover everything from making a life in writing, to choosing to remain child-free, heartwarming essays about her relationship with her father, a particularly moving one about caring for her grandmother, her complicated first marriage, eventual divorce and her how she made marriage work the second time around. Some of the essays were hyper focused to a context so American, that I read them without really getting a feel for it. But 80% of the book was a sheer delight.
I found her essays about writing particularly relatable. And reassuring. Patchett is considered one of the seminal writers of essays in the ilk as Rebecca Solnit and Joan Didion, so I’m glad I could read this to start off on exploring her other writing.
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Some books need the right time place and pace of reading. Clearly this was one of them for me. I’d picked it up about two years ago, read only about 20% of it before abandoning it entirely. I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it, for some reason. Which was odd because I’d really loved Dress Your Family In Corduruoy And Demin.
Anyhow, when I finished reading The Bell Jar and was contemplating my next read, I found this already on my Kindle and decided to give it a second go. This time around I breezed thru it and enjoyed large parts of the book. Mainly because I’ve realised I enjoy this brand of wry, almost sardonic humour. I don’t do humour, and I know how hard it is to get it right, so when I chance upon writing that is simple and funny, it makes me very happy.
This is a very simple memoir of humourous anecdotes that — and this is the bit about Sedaris’ style that I enjoy — display his ability to turn inane, everyday observations and events into fully fleshed-out anecdotes. The events are relatable, even though he masks his cynicism with humour that’s witty, yet wry and almost acrid and may only sometimes make you LOL, but that you will otherwise just breeze through with a chuckle here and grin there. Again, the context is American, so it takes a little familiarity to really get it. This, I suspect, is why I didn’t enjoy it so much the first time.
It’s not a book that’s going to deeply impact you, or stay with you and linger in the back of your mind for a long time to come. It’s a fun, quick read and that’s another one struck off this list that I’m still aiming to work through.
Bernadette is an oddball. She’s a woman with too many loud opinions about everything, wild unconventional ideas about life and her work (she’s an architect), and has what could be naively considered a strange relationship with her husband and daughter. She goes against the grain in every set up — professional, social, familial — and this is what makes her loveable. And then she goes missing.
The mystery that then unfolds as her daughter and husband take an epic journey to the end of the earth (literally!) in search of her is quirky, funny, yet moving. In searching for her, they’re somehow also searching for themselves, and the relationships between them. Between the mystery and the emotional bits, this one was hard to put down.
It helps that it is written entirely as an epistolary narrative and is cleverly put as the story unfolds through letters, emails, blog posts, magazine articles and flashbacks. The writing is simple, but satirical and very relatable. I later found out that Semple has a career in TV too, writing for shows like Arrested Development and SNL – so no surprise why I enjoyed it so much.