Day 239: Friyay 

26 Aug

Interrupting my long weekend of girlfrand time to note that we have become those people who go to the beach in Goa, drink multiple glasses of pineapple juice (instead of cocktails or beer, I suppose) and dig into greasy, oozy cheese garlic naans. 


Okay, don’t write me off just yet. There was a prawn curry rice meal to round it all off. Complete with crisp bleached white rings of pungent onions, a squeeze of lime and many diced green chillies. 

Day 237: It’s nothing, really

24 Aug

You’ll have to pardon this post. It’s nothing, really.

My minds a mess. I started the week light and breezy and someone I’m here, on a Wednesday afternoon chasing more deadlines that I thought were possible at the start of the week. I have some home stuff to set right. And I have to do it all and get to dinner with the girls. And I cannot be late because I’m driving hahaha

I don’t know how I am once again in this spot – in my head it was all beautifully chalked out. I’d chip away at all the things I needed to get done by this evening, little by little, efficiently. And then I’d go out to dinner on Wednesday. Wake up the next day and begin my long weekend. And yet, here I am. I ambled through little bits, and the bulk of it remains to be done. On Wednesday evening.

I’ve procrastinated on a telephone call I desperately needed to make. In my defence, I tried multiple times yesterday, which is when it was scheduled for. Goa being the way it is, I didn’t get through and eventually gave up. I had every intention of knocking it off this morning. But somehow I dilly-dallied until 4 pm.

I was never very good with telephone calls. Discounting a couple of years in my teens, long before cellphones, when I behaved like the landline was an appendage growing out of the side of my face. I have grown to really hate telephone calls. Messaging is non-intrusive, its non-confrontative. It’s easy. Why do people call me?!

This is a tragic predicament, though. Because literally all my work begins with a telephone call. Especially interviews. I’m overjoyed when people tell me they prefer email, because a bulk of it gets done without even having to dial a number. No transcribing either! And then I can save the telephone call angst for clarifications, which are easier because they’re precise and I can get straight to it. In and out, done.

Anyway, so I haven’t made the telephone call yet. Things I have done instead:
– Spent an extra 20 mins at the gym
Helped my cook make lunch
– Ate an early lunch
– Finished writing a whole other story
– Ate a snack (because I had an early lunch, remember?)
– Folded a big pile of laundry
– Changed sheets and pillow covers (houseguests tomorrow!)
– Checked footstep count and paced up and down to round it off to the nearest 100

And now I have to make that bloody call. Urgh.

Okay. I did. It was long, but it wasn’t that painful. It never is, it’s just getting to the point of making the call that is pure torture. Once I’m on the call and on my way, I’m good. Getting there can feel like an absolute age.

You know what else feels like an age? Ten years. I have an anniversary coming up. Which made me realise I’ve known the husband ten years now. TEN YEARS. That’s practically a third of my entire life. Of the ten, we’ve been together for practically 9.5.The realisation felt immensely staggering when it occurred to me. I’m not quite sure why, though. My memories are mostly stacked in large chunks of time periods, prefixed and suffixed by important life events, usually. And a decade of something feels like a long time, right?

What is it about time that puffs on gently, slowly swelling every little day, when suddenly you look back and see it in it’s endless enormity. Like a thick, billowing, trail of smoke that you can’t look beyond.

And what is it about time that makes it collapses into an abyss so effortlessly? Weeks are going by, and I feel like it was January just not too long ago. How is it that August is almost over? Where are the days going to die? How are we already on Wednesday, inching closer to the weekend already? Didn’t I only just talk about a weekend?

It’s part of the reason I went into a flap today. S gets here tomorrow for another long weekend of shenanigans, and I wanted to ensure my work is wrapped up so we can chill completely, preferably away from home and the need to be near a laptop and an internet connection.

At one point this afternoon, the possibility of that happening was looking very, very bleak. But guess what, you guys?

I’m done! I managed to finish. And I’m so ready for the weekend. 

Day 235: What my Sunday morning was like

22 Aug

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Somehow, this year I have skipped the entire phase of frustration with the monsoon that typically follows the initial days when I’m in raptures about how amazingly beautiful everything is. I usually go from revelling in picturesque views, accompanied by monsoon-perfect soundtracks that usually always make me super nostalgic, to working my way out of an insurmountable pile of undried laundry that just wont relent. But, somehow it’s August and the rain has suddenly slowed down to less than a trickle already. The temperatures are rising again. But there is clean, dry laundry and I realised I have skipped that rigmarole entirely, moving swiftly to complaining about how the best of the monsoon has gone by all too soon.

It was meant to be a good monsoon this year. They even issued warnings about its possible severity. It did lash down for the first two months. It lashed down so long, so hard and so incessantly that all of June and July have gone by in a blur of rain. I don’t know how they’ve just zipped by. When I left for Bangalore last week, it was pouring like there’s no tomorrow. I had to endure some tremendously unsettling turbulence on my flight out and back in, but I returned to bright, oppressively sunshiny weather. The laundry is drying to a crisp in under 24 hours. The doors and windows are remaining open all day. We’re back to using the air conditioning. I even dug my sunglasses out of hiding. Needless to say, I have not been happy about this super speedy sequence of events.

I wondered if it was over. I felt a tad sad too. I complained loudly to anyone willing to listen. And just when I was writing it off as the close of monsoon 2016, it began to come down in little spurts again yesterday. Reluctant, uncooperative bursts of mini showers just enough to bring the temperatures down a notch, and to tease me into believing there is more to come.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, that a piddly shower or two is all it takes to make me happy. A brief sprinkling, like a parting shot is all it takes to induce a full blown monsoon-induced sloth. Yesterday, I woke up way earlier than usual (for a Sunday morning), stirred by the patter of rain outside. Of course wake up is a bit of a stretch, because I literally only got out of bed to make myself a cup of tea and reheat a paratha, both of which were taken right back into bed. I got right back under the covers and stuck my nose tight back into my book. For the next four hours or so. The next thing I knew, it was noon and there was lunch to be made had.

It takes very little to change the mood around here. I am so easily distracted. I am so easily pleased. The slightest smidgen of cozy comfort returning to my cocoon makes me feel so content, that sometimes I wonder if it’s the situation that makes a moment perfect or a moment that can make a situation perfect.

Day 232: Manifesting a dream

19 Aug

A strange sense of listlessness is hanging in the air. I have decided to step back just a bit, temporarily, and take things easy on the work front, just this month. I’m finishing up ongoing stories, responding to emails and just staying afloat, not going out on a limb to push work the way I’ve been going at it the last few months.

For a while now, I’ve been looking for opportunities and experiences to push myself out of the cozy nook I’ve settled into. On the one hand, I see myself moving on away from some kinds of work I have become used to, and on the other I feel the kindling of an eagerness to learn. Many recent conversations about work have had me lamenting the fact that I have never received any “formal” training to do the kind of writing I do. I am feeling a little itch to formalise this – either by way of a more solid opportunity with a publication or an apprenticeship of some kind, or any other means of guidance to fine-tune my skills and set me off on a new trajectory. Something to channelise my efforts and take me from this walkabout kind of journey to something with a little more consistency, for the lack of a better word.

I’m feeling the need for the proverbial guru. I feel like I’ve come this far mostly through timely interventions, being in the right place at the right time, a lot of effort, constantly keeping my eyes open,  and learning on the fly. But it would be nice to have some fundamentals to go by – and not something I’ve arrived at on my own, the long way. Something to give me a bit of academic rigour, milestones to work for and a sense of accomplishment that doesn’t necessarily have to be a pay-check.

Completely out of the blue, I chanced upon a writing fellowship when I was not even looking for it. I hadn’t even considered exploring fellowships, but the moment I saw this one and had read through it, I instantly had a gut instinct about sending in an application. It involves working across distances, with the founder of a publication I have grown to love and respect, honing my personal style writing in an area I’m only dipping my toes into. I will have to work long distance and I paused to wonder how I might do that given the completely unstable and undependable state of connectivity I live with. But I threw caution to the wind, telling myself that I will figure something out, if and when I need to. We will burn that bridge when we get to it.

It’s a complete shot in the dark as far as I can see, but I was so inspired and taken by the immediate sense of positivity that came over me when I read the call for submissions, that I just wanted to blindly follow through for a change, without over-analysing or over-rationalising this.

I am usually very intimidated by situations that demand a bit of competitive spirit. I tend to cower away from anything that requires even the slightest bit of competing with others to come out on top. But I figured I don’t have to look at it that way, since there is no real contest. I just had to send in an application (a fairly simple one, at that) and leave the rest to chance.

As I put my application together, I realised I didn’t even have to actually write any samples because I finally have enough work to show for what I do. It felt like an affirmation for pursuing this, so I just had to send it off and literally forget about it.

It will be a while before I find out if anything will come of it. But I don’t see the harm in putting it out there – my little effort to manifest this opportunity,talking about how much I would love to experience this. How much I want and will cherish this. To work with a pioneering voice, to gain an academic/professional edge in an area I’m otherwise stumbling through alone, to have the work that will come out of the fellowship be published in a respected publication, and to have a fellowship under my belt.

It’s new ground, and it’s been ages since I have felt this combination of excitement, positivity and confidence about anything. Something tells me it could be the thing that shakes off the energy that see-saws between restlessness and listlessness, that I find myself sucked into.

Universe, if you’re listening, I’d be mega grateful if you could put the wheels in motion and make this one happen for me. I’m willing to trade a lifetime of gratitude for it.

*****

PS: I feel like I must apologise to those of you who follow/subscribe to this blog, for the incessant stream of email alerts that probably hit you over the last two days. As if the daily posts weren’t enough, I decided I must fill in the gaps for my absence over last week. I could have paced it out, and I did, but when I back dated the posts (to satisfy the part of my brain obsessed with sequences and completion) I lose the option of scheduling them. If you were tempted to unfollow (and you did) I fully understand :)

Day 231: About home

18 Aug

home

If you were to ask me where I most feel at home, two years ago, I’d have wasted no time in spitting out my reply – Goa. Seven years ago, my instantaneous response would have been Bangalore. I vehemently stood by these choices at the time, polarised extremes, one or the other. I had to choose. After all, there is a foreverness the word home carries in its all-encompassing grasp. An inescapable definiteness, bound within the walls that shrink and close in as the years roll on.

But time does that thing it does, smoothing out the bumps and straightening out the curves, lighting up the dark and opening up multiple avenues at once. When the rough edges turn soft with use, with experience and comfort, diametric opposites too begin to blend and the vast grey that lies in between the two begins to look inviting. More recently, I told myself I cannot choose. That I do not have to choose. Because it is impossible to choose when the heart is in both places at once.

Home is not one state in a binary. It is not in or out. Here or there. Come or go.

Many times it is both. And like water flowing deftly between the two, taking the best of each and melding it with the other, you slip and swim. You turn soft over things you once abhorred, grow fond of things you didn’t imagine you ever could. You long for that which you once took for granted, even as you revel in new discoveries that you make every single day. You begin to associate comfort and a sense of home, with people, slices of time, experiences, smells, memories, and not so much only the spaces you inhabit.

And when you’ve lived away from home long enough, the city you once called home has mutated beyond recognition, yet it houses all your best people, and when you love your current home in a heart-crushing way that can only be tested by your longing for what once was your old home (from a time too long gone) you realise that your idea of home has been altered so many times over. You no longer know which is which, and you cannot always separate the two.

Eventually, you’ll find that you can be at home, anywhere. Even in a third place altogether, completely unlike the two homes in consideration. Like I did last week, smack in the middle of coffee and rubber estates, surrounded by jungle noises and an insurmountable peace that rolled in and out, silently, like the clouds that floated along.

Being at home was suddenly about being peacefully comfortable in each other’s company. So far away from home, it was about reading an entire book in a day. Effortless conversation, four bodies smashed on a double bed, snores, cackling breathless laughter, failed selfies, and the occasional hug or belly rub.

And then the moment passes, and you find yourself in the twilight zone between two homes. The one you have been in, and the one you’re going to. That strange space where you’re torn up about leaving home once again, but eagerly anticipating going back home again.

How strangely comforting it is — to have two homes, to live and love them equally and to know you will probably never outgrow one to fully embrace the other. How wonderful it is to not have to choose. To know you can have both, because they will both always have you. Suddenly home is a wondrous, shapeshifting thing. Like water. Flowing, always. Stopping to take shape momentarily. wherever it seems fit, wherever it feels right. But always flowing, never settling. After all, there is a foreverness to flowing water too. That uncontainable flow that refuses to be bound.

 

Day 230: How many days

17 Aug

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Unabashed love
hides between the sheets
Waiting. A new day will break.

Day 229: Into the blue

16 Aug

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Untouched, wild and free
Blue skies meet the green
Begging you to look beyond.

Day 228: Sunday

15 Aug

The last day of a summer holiday was when I’d grudgingly pack a bag full of shiny new books, with freshly stretched glazed brown paper that gave them unwieldy, poky corners. It was a very demanding kind of Sunday evening. A starched uniform needed to be ironed, a pair of shoes — always one size larger than I was previously used — to lay waiting to be laced, there was the constant reminder to get it all done well before bed time that was suddenly advanced by an hour. And suddenly two months worth of memories of fun and frolic collapsed into a jumble, a little blob that would forever be wedged deep inside my brain only to be pulled out when bouts of nostalgia about the good old days hit me.

What stayed above the surface, always accessible, well into adulthood was that palpable sense of gloom. The last say of summer holiday was almost always a Sunday and it brought with it that special brand of end-of-summer-holiday gloom. The hazy uneasiness of grappling with time that passed by too fast, and time that will hit me too fast the next day. Thoughts of the next day only brought an unbearable, overwhelming feeling of intimidation. Next day would be a new day. A different kind of new. A new week, a new year. Just. Too. Much. New.

I liked the old better. Languid summer afternoons spent lying on cool mosaic floors, looking up at a fan spinning so fast, having absolutely no effect on the trickles of sweat making its way through the folds on my neck. Sunday evening gloom always made me want to stretch backwards and hang on tight to the weeks and months that have gone by. That’s where the comfort always was. Is.

Like a lazy nap. And it suddenly ends. Abruptly. A power cut makes the fan go off, or I’ve suddenly heard the violent cacophony of birds cawing their way back home. The din always makes me stir and if I’m unlucky, it is a touch past sundown. The sky is that odd shade of magnetic grey. Everything looks touched with a shimmery blue-grey hue. Silhouettes shine, but not in a resplendent, bright way, but like they’re tinged with the light of that strangest time when the last rays of the sun fight to stay alive. For just a minute more, even as the overpowering black of night swallows it slowly, inch by inch. Unwillingly, finally the day gives into the ebony might of the night. And I’m just left, stuck in that limbo with the play of light. That familiar gloom hurls itself back into the pit of my brain. Separating the bliss of the nap, from the Sunday evening gloom wafts above.

It’s like twilight. With the dusky rays meeting the night. Like something good ended too soon. Like the credits of a movie that touched my deeply, rolling on. I know I should be walking out the movie hall, but I want to stay and watch them right till the end. Just a few minutes longer. Or a book that had me by the scruff of my collar, gripped and unrelenting, that I rushed through so rapidly, the inevitable end leaves me bereft. Lost, confused, not knowing what to do with myself, or how to make time stop.

Sunday evening gloom is such a stark part of my childhood, I find it impossible to shake off the feeling even today.

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This time back home, I had not one but two Sundays. That same afternoon nap had ended. That same murky twilight lingered outside. A wonderful week, a beautiful holiday had ended. There was a cup of hot tea being had, much later than I normally would have. As I sat in the kitchen reading, watching amma cook, familiar smells of dinner filling the kitchen around me. That same feeling of a good time coming to an end washed over me.

I waited for that heavy thud of finality to hit me. It’s usually like gates slamming behind me, something pushing me ahead as I drag my feet on, dejectedly. I waited, but it didn’t come. Suddenly I realised Sunday at home, as a grown up, felt pretty damn good. It had the glow of good times, the promise of more to come, and the wonderful embrace of a home that was and always will be, and the home that is, that I will go to.

Day 225: Ele day

12 Aug

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It’s World Elephant Day it seems. So here’s a haathi and her baccha we saw earlier this week, driving through Bandipur.

Day 224: Wayanad things

11 Aug

I’m not very high up, altitudinally-speaking. That’s not a real word. I made it up to refer to the fact that I’m not that high up in terms of altitude. But I am high enough to see some clouds beneath me, and around me. I’m high enough, at the very top of this hill I’m on.

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PC: Niyu

The end of this estate that covers most of the hill itself, in this property, this house that is at the farthest edge, at the very top, with nothing but green as far as the eyes can see.

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Around me, the rippling undulating land is covered chockfull of groves of poker straight, slender supari trees that stand rigid, unrelenting, reaching up into the sunlight that’s weak, but there. Their barks are grey – silvery, taught and rough. The rows of these rigid towering trees, interspersed with the lax and soft green tree tops. The leaves tinged with grey, soft, cottony tufts that look like a giant green bouncy castle that I want to throw myself on to.

They’re rubber plantations, my father tells me. These trees so distinctly different from the supari. yet, evenly drenched as the wispy rain comes in. One moment the golden rays of the morning sun slant, struggling through the thick cloud cover, and the next, there’s dark layers of clouds rushing towards us. Needle-like drizzle coming down in buckets.

Of course, Niyu made a picture.

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There’s a lone papaya tree where I’m sitting, much closer to my outstretched feet. I’ve been here long enough to listen to the subtle rustle every time a pair of bulbuls and green bee-eaters visit. Taking turns, sharing the luscious fruit that hangs from below the fronds. They’ve eaten the papaya inside out over the course of the three days I’ve been watching them.

The cats have learned our smells and tangle themselves up at our feet, making infinity signs between them, every time we arrive at the door. They’re a quiet couple, mostly interesting in licking themselves clean, and only once in a while casting an eye over to check what the other is doing. That kind of peaceful equanimity that I want, at some point.

And then there’s Julie the smelly, but most adorable dog, who surveys the land like the matriarch. Her slender limbs, hold up a shapely, rugged body. She’s the queen of everything, as far as her eyes can see. Turns out what she’s interested in is a squirrel scampering on the tree below. Frantic, one moment shes on the balcony, head sticking out over the edge veering over to catch a glimpse of it, and the next she’s darting out to catch it before it rushes off. Back and forth, this goes on for about thirty minutes. Some tenacity, she has.

The jungle sounds are eternal. In the day its birds and the frequent peacock calling, and at night it’s crickets and assorted suspicious noises that suddenly change the atmosphere around. The warm, sunshiney, rainy welcoming outdoors by day, turn ominous after sundown.

The peacock/s sound like they’re awfully close. The cook tells me it likes to dance in the porch of one of the homes on the property. On the morning the calls get particularly loud, we trudge off, silently, phones in hand, because picture, or it didn’t happen, right? We were met by one of the plantation workers happily ambling by, walking towards us a pleased grin on her face. It was there, dancing, she said. I saw it. How content she looked. And the others back home, were content just to hear it. It happened. And no, we don’t have any pictures to show.

When all the sitting around lazing, inhaling my books and taking in the views, listening to every little creak around me gets boring, there have been walks.

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Everyday. All the days.

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The view from the other side. Niyu had network!

Somehow, despite all the endless hours staying still, I’ve clocked more steps than I have in a long time in Goa. The walks – up and down, up and about, through squelchy slush, shin-high weeds and grass, trundling through the wild, dodging dung and with salamanders slithering over my feet have jolted me back to a time we did this so, so often.

PC: Niyu

PC: Niyu

It’s been forever since I’ve been out like this, and I realise for the very first time how this, what once used to come so naturally, now takes such effort. Living in Goa has made me soft.

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The nights are pitch black, like a curtain comes over the spectacular view that faded to black only hours before. The stars are overwhelming. Too many for a pair of eyes to feast on.

The meals are simple, delicious and full of flavour. The fish is small, thick and full-bodied. So different from the sea-fish I’m used to. The papaddams are puffy, blistering into bubbles that flake when you pop them.

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The vegetables grow on campus, juicy green beans, rich, luscious red leafy bhaji, sweet soft cubes of potato and fragrant curry leaves and ginger. It’s Kerala and your meal plate won’t let you forget that.

What I feel most palpably is the silence, even in the midst of so much ambient noise. The birds chirp relentlessly, the trees rustle, the peacocks are conversing, the koyals making love. This is probably what silence sounds like.

PC: Niyu

PC: Niyu

Day 223: I’m reading again, so books

10 Aug

I finally decided to just bite the bullet and go the Kindle-way, and I couldn’t have been happier about when I chose to do so, and how quickly Amazon sent me the device, because it came right in time for my break and while I’m hiding away doing absolutely nothing of consequence, I have been guzzling away at some books. I don’t know if the Kindle has anything to do with it, or if this is just my noob excitement of a shiny new toy, but I feel like I am suddenly reading much faster than I did on the iPad or I ever read an actual book. This happens sooner or later, every time I get back to reading again. My pace picks up gradually. But not like this, not from the word go.

Anyhow, this is what I’ve read.

Before, and then After, by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
I’ve been a big MRM’s blog fan ever since her days beginning with her super popular blog. I even loved her first novel. I didn’t much care for Cold Feet, the only other book by her that I’ve read, but the blurb at the back of this book made me want to pick it up. Also, I wanted something light but engaging for the holiday and given my penchant for Indian narratives, I thought it was a good fit. But this collection of short stories did absolutely nothing for me. Maybe I’m missing something very fundamental, but I found the writing to be plain, filled with very safe, cliche stereotypes, predictable situations, characterisation and just didn’t have anything unique to offer or to hook me. It was a breezy read so I stayed and finished it.

Tanya Tania, by Antara Ganguli
When I was done with Before, and then After, I used a tethered connection to browse for something else to read and I didn’t want to risk taking my time or exploring the deeper recesses of Amazon given the rather weak connectivity I had. So I just picked the first of the three recommendations that came up at the end of the previous book. Tanya Tania was one of them and I bought it without even reading the blurb. And I loved, loved it. Written entirely through letters, this is the story of the friendship between Tanya in Mumbai and Tania in Karachi, that builds over a span of 6 years, coinciding perfectly with the rise in extremism in both countries. The girls are dipping their toes into adulthood, experiencing amazing, confusing, exciting changes within and around them, while the two countries two seem to be going about some major changes that have subtle, far-reaching effects seen around them. The stories of the two countries are beautifully woven with their personal stories. It is deeply absorbing, perhaps because of the letter-writing style, and filled with mystery (the girls have never met, and the only thing that brings them together is that their mothers were good friends), poignancy, and has just the right measure of humor and gravitas, peppered with lines that will make you chuckle and some that will make you sit up and think. I devoured it in less than a day, and if Antara Ganguli writes another book, I will definitely pick it up.

Walking Towards Ourselves, by Catriona Mitchell
This is an anthology of essays of the perosnal kind, almost all first-person narratives, of experiences of women in India. And while there may be many books like it, this was a first I read with this kind of diversity. There are stories from women like you and me, Dalit women, women from lower castes writing in regional languages, stories by Bollywood actresses, celebrated feminist/activists, and they deal with numerous issues, in a ratehr diverse, nuanced way. From talking about gender rights to reproductive rights, career choices for women, the politics of how we dress, the colour of our skin, adoption, bringing up children, freedom of expression, sexuality and so so much more. I liked that it gave me a wide view into these perspectives, allowing me to choose and go deep into each of them – diverse and wide as they are. Very relatable, very moving in parts, completely essential reading for someone like me. It had me choked up in parts, especially the story by Salma about her personal fight to be allowed to write and express herself through her poetry, in the face of an oppressive, abusive husband. Reading this book once again made me acutely aware of the privilege I live with, and the excruciating struggles of women before, and around me that have gone into bringing us this far. One can never, ever take that for granted.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
I’m late to this party, but if you’ve read Gone Girl and not this one, pull up a chair, sit down and listen. This should have been the first holiday book I read. It was perfect for that kind of mindset. A completely absorbing page-turner, this book kept me on edge, much like Gone Girl did. I just couldn’t end one chapter and close the book, without taking a peek at the next. And so on. This is the story of a, surprise surprise, Girl on the Train, and the lives of a few she sees around her. Then something bad happens, and everything spirals into this massive web of mystery and suspense, that you just have to read to know more about. It is gritty, scary, has so many fucked up characters that leave you guessing all the time and has all the requisite ingredients that make it a traditional thriller. The most intriguing part was the bit about how the story is mostly viewed through the voyeuristic eyes of the Girl. On the train. I’d recommend this if you want a fast, engaging, quick holiday read.

(2 out of these 4 books made me realise I’m such a sucker for voyeurism – haha)

 

Day 222: Extreme relax

9 Aug

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A view. A book. Or three.

Birds, sunshine, some rain. Sufficient cups of tea. Three good meals per day.

My family, conversation, laughter, cuddles.

And socks. All the time, socks.

That is all.

Day 221: On the road

8 Aug

It’s been ages since I have been on a road trip. Even longer, since I went on one with my parents. This needs to be said, because trips like this were par for the course when my sister and I were growing up. Ours was a family that was always ready to get up and go. We did this an awful lot, with far too many Sunday mornings that saw my parents overcome by the sudden need to take us on a picnic. Amma would quickly pack up some sandwiches, or puliyogare and curd-rice with some assorted nicknacks – chips, sugar-boiled sweets. It would all get stuffed it in a large bag along with a thermos full of juice for the kids and juice or tea for the adults. We’d wear our outdoorsy clothes, throw on our sneakers, pile into the car and take off. We never went to picnic spots or resorts, as was typically the norm. My dad would open out his most recent road map, show us the direction in which we’d be headed and we’d simply just drive, listening to music – everything from cassettes playing old concerts of my grandfather’s to The Beatles. The fascination of that kind of meandering trip, with no real plan or purpose but to just be together was enchanting. I always felt like I was on an adventure.

We’d converse a lot. We’d learn to identify birds, be told about important landmarks, our curiosity over everything from a roadroller at a new road coming up, to a tractor in a field where we’d stopped, or how the rain falls and why the trees are so many shades of green, would be piqued. And our questions entertained. We’d talk about all kinds of things and have most of our numerous questions answered. When we’d have driven out far enough from the city, my dad would pick a nice big lush tree and we’d pull over. Sometimes beside farmlands, sometimes overlooking a lake or river. Sometimes close to a little hillock which we would then climb, and I’d feel like I’d scaled the highest mountain. We’d spread out our trusty olive-coloured tarpaulin over which we’d open out all our food and drink, eating out of banana leaf plates, and making sure to gather all the waste, leaving the spot with no trace of us having been there, before we left.

In words, in conversation and in action, by example, I think I learned many a lesson about being on the road, and outdoors from my parents through these trips. It was very simple, but I distinctly remember those outings being my first experiences with understanding the concept of getting out, of travelling, of venturing into spaces outside where you usually belong. I could perceived the meaning of words like destination, duration and the passage of time.

Later, when we were slightly more grown up, there were innumerable trips to the jungle. My father is (used to be far more enthusiastic then, than he is now) an avid wildlife photographer, and was wont to making surprise plans with his photographer buddies and take off into the jungles for a weekend of photography. Every now and then, we’d make a family trip of it. I have fond memories of being huddled up in the porch of a jungle guesthouse, in the dim light from a naked bulb, thanks to the lack of electricity in the wild, listening to jungle noises creep around me, building impossibly imaginative animal stories in my head, giddy with excitement about the morning safari the next morning and the prospect of seeing a tiger. The forest guesthouse had a kitchen where basic meals of rasam/sambar, vegetables and rice would be prepared and brought to us in steel tiffin carriers. We’d turn in early and wake up in time to ride off into the jungle in an open jeep. Simple, invaluable things like dressing in sober colours that don’t stand out in the jungle, speaking in whispers or not at all, of looking behind you (because sometimes that’s where the best view is!) and most importantly, being patient began there – in the jungle. My urge to get out into the wild was stoked then, I’m sure.

For many reasons, these trips waned away. My father no longer goes away as often or as enthusiastically as he did back then. Over the years that my sister and I grew up and developed our own interests, family outings of this sort took last priority, as is known to happen. Ten years ago, my sister moved away to Bombay. Seven years ago, I came to Goa. And ever since, getting the four of us together at the same time has taken so much effort and orchestration, we’re mostly just happy to be under one roof – either in Bombay, Goa or Bangalore. Barring a family holiday to Sri Lanka in 2007, and another to Mahabs (that I could evidently not be bothered to write about!) in 2008, there haven’t been too many trips out of this sort.

So today, as I’m driving through rolling fields of sunflowers and marigolds at the edge of the Bandipur forest, I’m running on network fumes as it is about to disappear entirely out of reach, I realise this is a day worth recording. Especially because these are the views I’ve seen, en route to Wayanad.

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Heartbreakingly beautiful colours sweeping through swathes of plains, usually give all four of us the completely raw and visceral urge to just stop, get out and get as close to it as possible.

Par for the course, while we were growing up. I’ve touched sunflowers, held them against my face and marvelled at how large they actually are, dipped my toes in hill-side streams, touched passing clouds as we climbed mountains.

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This is probably the last of my posts for a bit. I don’t suppose I’m going to have any network in Wayanad where I’m headed. I don’t have my laptop either. So yes, I’m going to be MIA. For about a week, depending on how long I’m off the grid. And how long it may take me to surface once I’m back. See you on the other side.

 

(17th August, 2016, edited to add: I returned to Goa and once I was over the post-holiday stupor, I filled in the gaps with back-dated posts about the trip away.)

Day 218: Stack overflow

5 Aug

July was one trying, tiring month, and I’m already thinking up what I’m going to do differently so August doesn’t see a repeat performance. A little introspection made me realise that ever since I gave up the cooking at home, I’ve been gripped by this irrational need to fill every one of those hours freed up with work. I don’t know if it’s my middle-class upbringing but I don’t know where this excessive and unreasonable sense of frugality has suddenly hit me. I realised after giving it some thought that I was unconsciously working harder in order to justify taking time off from cooking, and outsourcing it. Silly, really because this is the whole point of growing and moving on to bigger things. So you can let go of that which no longer interests you, holds your attention, or you cannot make time for. And in my case that doesn’t necessarily mean filling each of the hours freed up from domesticity, with work. I had somehow forgotten about taking advantage of a free hour to read. Or catch coffee with a friend. Or go for a drive. Or hit the beach. These are things I did not so long ago. When I remembered to get my ass off my work chair, and away from my desk.

I realise the ups and downs in my productivity are fairly predictable, perhaps I must just make my peace with it, and give up the perennial quest to balance it out. Maybe spikes and dips are the way to go, but I do want to even out those extreme highs and lows, so I don’t have to swing violently, as I do, between the extremes. The vast in between lies untouched, and it’s where I’d like to be. That is always a challenge. In some part, I’ve already accepted that this swinging between extremes is perhaps the workstyle that comes most naturally to me, and yet some part of me still wishes for less upheaval every time there is a low. Only too often, I find myself pushing myself so hard to one extreme that the only way out of there is down, so I come crashing down. And then, the way up again is usually a hard stop, before I pick myself up again.

Thankfully, most times an opportunity for a forced break presents itself – even if it is a surprise day off to turn my laptop off and spend the day quietly. But this time, I’m off to Bangalore tomorrow, en route to Kerala for a break with my family. Well timed. Much needed. So I’m taking this very timely intervention to cut back. After a very long time, it’s going to be just us – my folks, my sister and I – on holiday. And I’m looking forward to the famjam. Going away to the hills, out of range means I am going to be inaccessible. Which also means this is a great time for me to wipe that metaphoric board clean, recharge batteries and come back set to do things a little differently.

In a wonderful twist of events (again so timely), I managed to buy myself a Kindle this week. The order said it would take a week or ten days at best. But it has arrived, right in time to be loaded up for a week of vegging out.

Alvida.

Day 217: So green

4 Aug

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Stripped of all the fluff
Torn down to the core
We always want to roam free.

Day 216: July

3 Aug

If there’s one word I had to pick, to describe the month of July, it would have to be tired. I wasn’t just tired, tired became me. I may not have shown it, but at various points I felt physically, mentally, emotionally depleted and wrung out.

When I fell pretty badly ill and even the doctor couldn’t figure out why, I boiled it down to the fact that I may have overworked myself. Just a tad. There was a fair bit of writing that happened, but I may have over committed and reached out for more than I can grab at one go. But there was a lot of fun work too. I wrote this piece on Indu’s 100TinderTales project and this piece on my favourite, homegrown chocolate brands. I cracked one new pub, instead of two like I originally aimed for, but I’m not complaining because a lot of this month was wasted, so I’m discounting a lot of the time. By wasted, I mean time was spent “at work” but not quite working. 

It’s been a slow month because of it. Several days were spent at my desk, in front of the computer, struggling to just follow through. I made every deadline dangerously in the nick of time, which causes a lot of stress and is really not the way I like to work all the time. My attempts to fight the sloth that seemed to come over me in waves, included driving away to places far from home in the hope that a change of scene may get the creative juices flowing, plenty of snacks and drinks which I can now feel settled around my belly, looking up writing tools like this crazy drastic but much-needed one right here, and trying everything short of strapping myself to my chair to get my work done in time, I’ve accepted that I’ve hit a major productivity slump. The weather has been amazing, and that hasn’t helped at all. Right from the start of the month I’ve been wanting to stay cooped indoors. It began with a serious extended holiday hangover, coupled with the effort to make myself work even though every cell in my body was revolting, which resulted in a lot of navel gazing about solitude and the unlikely, unexpected way in which I realised I’ve become a thorough homebody and realised I may actually be more of an introvert that I am willing to accept. Add to that the forced week off from all activity, and the most gorgeous rainy weeks, and you realise why it has been such a slow, sluggish month.

It isn’t the kind of slow that made me irritable or has left me unhappy in any way. If anything, I’ve felt like it was a natural course of required slowing down that I always find being enforced in my life when I am not looking, but when I need it the most.

I’ve been relaxing over the weekends by cycling again. The rain notwithstanding. And as with every monsoon, this year too I have been listening to a lot of music. I don’t know if it’s entirely the weathers doing, but I have been overly emotional. Feeling things I don’t really need to feel. Weeping over things I shouldn’t have to. Ranting about minor annoyances. And just feeling very, very wrung out.

The slowness, it just doesn’t seem to leave me. It brings to the surface the restlessness that I thought I had channeled into my work. But somewhere that seems to have gone a bit tits-up, and it calls for a little revision. So I’ve kind of allowed myself to go with the flow. It was a high-emotion month, with low-energy — which results in a lot of heart not keeping up with the head, head not cooperating with the heart. I’ve wanted to do a lot more, but have been unable to get moving. This is possibly the natural order of things, there has to be a low, so we get a chance to rebuild momentum to take things up again. So I’m hoping that this too shall pass.

I’ve started August in the same uninspired mode, finishing up some work from last month that has trickled into this week, thanks to the lethargy. At the end of this week I’m off to Bangalore, and Kerala and hope to be back mid-month, when I will hopefully take stock of things and begin again. If I were to listen to my gut, this is going to be a month of taking it slow again.

Day 215: Moving on

2 Aug

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With every step
Forward moves closer
And fear gets left behind.

Day 214: Cycling in the rain

1 Aug

It’s hard to think that the same monsoon that’s wreaking havoc in the North East of India has been an essential source, of solace in the west and down south, and closer home, complete and utter joy. If it isn’t already abundantly clear, I’m revelling in the monsoon this year. More than usual. It’s been one of the nicest I have experienced in all my years here. — perpetually damp laundry notwithstanding.

When I began cycling this year, I thought I’d hit upon this absolutely magical thing because it somehow altered the very way in which I experienced my surroundings, my neighbourhood, the streets I’ve been driving around for only the last 6.5 years, and my immediate surroundings in general. Being out in the open like that, using your own physical effort to push yourself forward up climbs, down slopes, speeding down straights, feeling the wind, the sun, the heat, the rain on your body, taking in the smells, observing the sights closer to the ground — millipedes calmly meandering on, dead frogs, just-finished bottled of alcohol from a late-night road-side drinking binge —  mountains of trash in the vicinity that you somehow never noticed before, the quirks of lazy passersby, all of this really changes how you take in what you see and feel around you, how you engage with it, and what it comes to mean to you.

When I began cycling this year, I knew it was easily one of the best things I have done in a while, but I had no idea what was to come. Cycling is all well and awesome, but cycling in the Goan monsoon, now that is really something worth writing home about. It’s taken me father and deeper into parts of Goa I haven’t experiences up close. And it’s rekindled a deep my love for Goa that has been somewhat going through a flux the past 8-10 months now.

We cycled to the jetty at Ribandar and took the boat to visit two islands close to Panjim this past weekend, Diwar on Saturday and Chorao yesterday. I’ve been to these islands many, many times before. And yet doing it on a bike, going far, going beyond and being exposed in a way that only a bike can, really made it feel like a unique, first time experience.

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There’s something immensely simple and beautiful about how life just doesn’t stop in Goa, no matter how heavy the rain is. Dogs take the ferry up and down, people get their rain pants on, get on their scooters, take the ferry and get to work on time, going about their routines like oh, it’s just some rain, nbd, as the feathery drizzle turns to a storm that lashes down on us all in no time at all.

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PC: VC

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We’re closing in on 7 years in Goa, and with every ride I realise just how much is still left to see and experience. It’s the kind of unbridled beauty that leaves you not wanting to take any pictures because you would just do no justice.

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American Beauty moments abound, echoing the emotion laden in every word of that monologue at the end of the movie where Kevin Spacey is lying in a pool of his own blood, thinking, “…it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

Except, I’m not dying. And it’s me, I take a lot of pictures at all time. And I did this past weekend too. Not too many, but just enough, before it all got too overwhelmingly beautiful and I couldn’t do it anymore. So this picture-heavy post borrows heavily from VC and R.

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The average weekend ride lasts about 4 hours. There is always a breakfast stop, sometimes a second chai stop, and lots of halts to stop and take the sights in. But, I swear, the happiness from every ride lasts far longer. It remains for days, long after we’ve returned, washed the gunk off our bikes and settled into a lazy weekend mode, and even slipped back into a regular work week.

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There is chit-chat and conversations. VC always gets his ass taken for being the studious, serious cyclist that he is, with pressing, pertinent advice for us. But there is also peace and quiet. And once the giggles and banter dies down, we just sit in silence, until someone suggests that it’s time to head back.

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PC: R

As I mull over the restlessness about what I’m doing and where my life is headed, thoughts of what-next and where-to-from-here gnaw at me from time to time. And let’s be honest, sometimes the answers and options that look exciting do point outside of Goa. I nurse these thoughts from time to time. And then I go cycling, sometimes it is on a rainy as hell Sunday morning, and I find my heart quietly brimming with an overwhelming joy that makes me believe I’m crazy to think I ever want to leave.

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Day 211: Interwebzy things

29 Jul

I’ve functioned at sub-par productivity levels this whole week, my mindspace suddenly hogged by the the DNC. I don’t know why I suddenly got engrossed in watching the speeches at the convention, but I found myself waking up to catch up with the happenings of the previous day, for the last three days. And once you go down that tunnel, it’s hard to get a grip and crawl out because the videos are abundant and endless.

I realised today that regardless of which country you belong to, what your politics may be or the real, final implications of this election (no matter which way it goes), the fact that Hillary Clinton has made it this far is a seminal moment in the history of womankind. I was choked up at several points in many of the speeches where they spoke of this moment in history (from the perspective of what it means for women as a whole, than from the perspective of HRC as a person) with pride and joy, for what it stands for and what it means from this point on.

Of course, the downside (upside?) of suddenly tuning into the election at this juncture, and because I almost don’t read any news anymore, meant that I had so much catching up to do, so I was spent some time lost in the news, reading up on how things have gone so far. It’s been a few days of trawling the internet in ways I haven’t in a long time. And I may have ambled this way and that, so I’m sharing some of the finds that I liked reading.

Despite the overwhelmingly positive energy the DNC exuded, for the most part, when you considered it in isolation, panning out and looking at the events up until now and the delicate point at which things are so precariously balanced for America, you can’t help but feel a sinking sense of doom. The same kind of doom I felt in the run up to our election of 2014. Despite the glimmers of hope, there was the undeniable rise of an ugly beast, and we watched the news everyday, helplessly hoping against hope that what you know is going to happen, doesn’t actually happen. This Michael Moore piece nailed it for me, and the sense of gloom turned so big and real in my head. For someone who is otherwise so over the top and fatalistic in his views, this piece breaks it down quite logically, and raises real points that you can’t just refute as being silly and sensational.

At the end of day 2, HRC made history by being named the first woman presidential candidate the USA has ever had. Several newspapers honoured her by plastering their front pages with pictures of the other Clinton. Her husband. This piece mocks that hooplah. My favourite line – “He may lack current first lady Michelle Obama’s upper arm strength, but he makes up for it with a nice head of hair.”

I watched Hillary’s speech this morning, and I was so overwhelmingly inspired by her. People are mocking her intonation, delivery and choice of clothes, but really get over it, people. She slayed her male opponent with one heavyduty line after another, and I couldn’t keep up with all the lines I wanted to remember. But I found this amazing piece that collates some of twitter’s best reactions and comments on her speech, and it makes for such a fun read. My favourite line – “No you don’t, Donald!”

Closer home, things are imploding way faster than we imagined. I stay away from the news for the most part, but it’s difficult, and when it does eventually catch up with you, it’s the most grotesque, heinous happenings that do catch your eye. The Dalit uprising, our very own French Revolution is well underway and it is the one thing that has really shaken me up since last week. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the group of men and what was done to them at the hands of that “cow protection squad”. And I worry about where this is all headed. It makes me often question the one-sided overly negative narratives we subject ourselves to online. And I wonder if in many ways this mode of constant consumption, of this endless stream of polarised, sensationalised news paints a picture far worse than it actually is? Mark Manson throws some light on whether the world is really going as crazy as we think it is.

The Establishment is fast becoming one of my most loved sites to visit. For its writing that is diverse, inclusive, relevant and powerful. And it’s run by women only. What’s not to love? Two pieces that made me sit up and notice, this past week. First, this scary but important commentary on physician abuse that made me feel like I could have written it, it so close home to what I have been through and felt so alone over. And two, this educative piece on the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir.

Have you read Richa Kaul Padte’s latest BuzzFeed essay on India’s domestic violence problem and all the various chinks in our systems and our culture that silence us, indirectly perpetrating it.

If you feel things are getting heavy around here, read this informative interview about what it’s like to be a food writer in the world right now. As an Indian writer who dabbles in writing about food sometimes I found this particularly relevant for where we are right now, and for the fraternity I belong to where food writing is and has been limited to a minute range of topics and styles. For the most part, food writing in its most common avatar is a glamorous thing to do, and only deals with an elitist perspective and take on the subject of food, as something to be consumed. I am increasingly becoming interested in the other aspects – politics, culture, history and trends related to food that we often gloss over thanks to the uni dimensional way in which we look at food these days.

While we’re talking about food, read this delicious piece of writing by Mahesh Rao that while it talks about food is really a commentary about our culture of excesses and over the top habits.

See this howlarious collection of tweets by Medieval Reactions that superimposes modern day issues on hugely appropriate pieces of historic art. I had tears from laughing so hard at this piece.

And, lastly I’m sharing another video by enthu cutlet VC, that endorses these group cycle rides that happen in Goa, that we sometimes participate in and always thoroughly enjoy. If you ever find yourself here, with a bike to spare, this is definitely an interesting and unique way to experience Goa.

Day 210: 2016 monsoon earworms

28 Jul

As I began to write this, I titled it Day 2010. You know, 207, 208, 209, 2010. I’m losing my head, I really am. I realised yesterday that my music listening really spikes in the monsoon. It’s definitely a result of an overall chirpy mood. Good weather makes everything better, and makes for awesome ambience, all the damned time. All every day needs is its own sound track, which I have been providing very willingly, right from the very first year here.

Every monsoon ends up having it’s anthem – that one track that gets used and abused, on loop, for weeks on end. It’s the one track that gets forever labelled with the monsoon it is assigned to, and will then forever be categorised with that year for all of time to come.

I quickly scrolled through the The Rain tag and realised just how many posts are accompanied by rain music. Every monsoon even has it’s own mammoth music post that usually features a lot of Coke StudioThis song always makes a comeback in this season.  And all the music listening makes me very, very nostalgic. As it did even as recently as yesterday. But mostly it’s an odd unconnected mix of lots of music that is inspired around this time of year. Sometimes it’s Bollywood-y. sometime’s it’s an ode to our annual dose of Coke Studio.

This year, it’s been a random assorted bunch of stuff but there have been some frequent, oft-repeated tracks that are going to always be associated with the Monsoon of 2016.

Like Moon Child, which is just perfect for the rain and gets played a minimum of three times a day, no matter what else I may listen to.

And then there’s been a strange Shakthisree comeback thanks to listening to a lot of Indian inde music that R digs out and shares with me from time to time. Have you watched this movie? Just listening to this song I don’t understand, makes me want to watch it.

I can’t remember when or where I first heard this song, but I had it shazamed and ready to listen to when I got home, and it promptly came back to me on one particularly rainy day. And then it has stuck.

Have you heard the wonder that is Nicholson? This song in particular? You may have seen it on my instagram.

This song from Waiting has been getting a daily play.

And my interest in this old Coldplay song was rekindled.

Okay, that’s all, I think. Enjoy maadi. And if you want more music, look here.

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