Day 110: I was born this way

Two days ago, I stepped into LifeStyle after nearly a decade. And I needed to scarf down an entire donut when I stepped out, to rid myself of the horrible taste the entire visit had left in my mouth.

First, I didn’t find a single regular, well-fitting tee-shirt that 1) wasn’t trying hard to be clever with a stupid caption printed across the front 2) didn’t cost an arm and a leg for something as regular as a basic tee. Why is it so hard to find basic tees that fit well, are made in good quality cotton and that don’t have stupid slogans/captions/prints/embellishments splattered all over them? An no, there ought to be regular brands that make these without having to rush off to the sports/athleisure brands of the world.

Minor displeasures aside, the visit was a frightening reminder of just how boxy fashion trends are, no matter what the year or season. The level to which the fashion industry perpetuates truly regressive stereotypes and women and their bodies, even in this day and age, is shocking.

Sample this:

Is it just me or do each of those “fits” look nearly identical?

It didn’t help that I was there with my MIL and SIL, who are far more avid shoppers than I ever will be, and do more to keep abreast with fashion trends than I ever will. I used to think of them as my pathway to knowing what’s in and what’s not, even though I have never really dressed in keeping with a trend. But something has clearly snapped inside of me, in these weeks of re-looking at and re-examining the way I look at my body.

While my in-laws samples this and that, trying on and rejecting a pile of clothes because, too boyish, too dowdy, too transparent (“I’ll need a skin coloured bra”), shapeless, too short, too long, my husband won’t like this, I spent my time trying to will my eyeballs back from the place they were wedged in at the back of my skull, because of the constant eye-rolling.

And then I had an epiphany. That perhaps my subtle, but unconscious slip into pressuring myself to change my body in the last one year is a result of hanging around with this family. All said and done they’re deeply entrenched in patriarchal notions of what’s beautiful and attractive. There’s literally just one body type that they find acceptable or desirable, which means they’re always feeling flawed, insecure, ugly and inadequate about something or another.

I think some of it has subliminally rubbed-off on to me.

The beauty and fashion industry is always peddling a new thing every few months, and in the process instilling the idea that we are always somewhat flawed. The promise of the newest trend, product, attire to fix that flaw is strong. And more than enough women will believe what they are told and what they see in stores, in advertisements, in popular culture, movies, TV shows and drawing room conversation, without a second thought.

My discomfort with arbitrary body trends was always high, but it is fast bubbling over into a tremendous discomfort, unease and rage towards the fashion industry, and how much of it is about adhering to a certain type. So much of it perpetuates fixed, rigid ideas of gender. Tom-boy, androgynous, girly, boyfriend-this, girlfriend-that, so on and so forth.

Most bodies remain largely unchanged through the lifetime of a person. Sure, I may lose or gain a lot of weight, but my bone structure and body type underneath it all will remain the same — for good. I have a typically Indian wide-hipped body, for example. Even at my leanest, my hips were always the widest part of my body. So it would be really stupid to attempt to fit into straight-cut jeans or pants that don’t have enough room to accommodate my ample backside.

I cannot possibly aspire to make every new trend work for me, because it will mean requiring a new body every few months. I can either embrace my body as is, wear whatever I want that makes me feel comfortable and look nice, or I can believe a fashion trend and give up the idea of ever wearing an entire set of clothes that I’m told aren’t for “my body type”.

That’s one thing. Another aspect is how everything about the way we dress, and how we choose to look, is done keeping men and their desires in mind. The extent to which how we view ourselves is linked to how we think other people think of our looks/appearance is appalling when we stop to examine it. (This realisation was one of the first wake up calls in my own life. I was disgusted with why I was so interested in fitting into certain kinds of clothes because certain kinds of people would be seeing me, more than I was interested in being comfortable and myself.)

And so here’s the thing; not everything I do to my body, my face, my skin, not every piece of clothing I put on or take off, is done to be beautiful. Sometimes I just like a piece of clothing, or a fabric, or a style or cut. Sometimes it’s too hot for one thing, and perfect weather for another. Sometimes it’s practical to wear shorts, sometimes it just makes sense to be layered. Some days I feel like making the effort to look nice, some days I don’t really care. I really value the freedom I have to dress and carry myself the way I see fit, regardless of who is going to view me. My choice to wear shorts even with unwaxed legs, to not give a shit about my bra straps showing from beneath a sleeveless tank-top comes from the same place.

The flipside of this privilege is also that I don’t always think I’m pretty. And that’s okay. Some days of the month, my acne flares up and it doesn’t make me happy or feel gorgeous to see it. I have stretch marks that I live with, but don’t love or hate. My teeth aren’t perfectly aligned despite the ridiculously tedious orthodontic treatment I’ve been through. My jaw and smile is a bit lopsided some times, in some angles. I don’t necessarily find any of this to be pretty all of the time. Some days I live with it some days I think it makes no difference. Most days it’s just the part of the human being I am. I don’t have to always look and feel pretty in order to be worthy of going about a day in full view of people around me.

I feel the same way about clothes. Sure, it is important to want to look nice and presentable, wear all the clothes I wish to, yada yada. But it’s just clothes. I don’t need to be beautiful and presentable all of the time, in the way the world needs me to be, for me to feel worthy. Not every little detail about my appearance, whether physiological or sartorial, needs to adhere to an acceptable kind of prettiness suited to the male eye.

Far too much of how we dress is about making various factions of society feel safe and comfortable, and not enough of it is about how we feel and the choices we want to make. I’ve seen this happen — random uncles appreciating me in a saree, not because I just look nice but because “it’s nice to see you looking womanly”, well-meaning relatives telling me my short hair is taking away from “feminine face-cut”, enough members of my husband’s family who won’t think twice before telling me I’m “too thin” when they’re simultaneously commenting on all and sundry being “too fat”.

It’s on days like this that I wonder what it will take to really get more women to feel better about ourselves and our bodies. And how we can extend that to our clothes — sometimes the ability to wear whatever we want with confidence, sometimes to realise that there isn’t any one kind of “fashionable”, and most of all to be okay and as accepting of our bodies as with our means to clothe ourselves. Because, let’s be honest “fashion” doesn’t come cheap or easy to everyone alike.

We’ve got to take the focus off of appearances in general.

People are going to have opinions one way or another. Body trends will continue to be unhealthy and brutal to our mental health and general well-being. Fashion is going to always peddle a new normal to make us feel inadequate. But historically, and evolutionarily, human beings have been about diversity. We come in a massive range of shapes and sizes. Add to that our personal preferences, the sheer subjective nature of aesthetics, our genetic make up and predisposition, cultural backgrounds and what have you, and there’s literally a million ways in which we’ll want to dress or look.

How on earth can all of that be slotted into a handful of looks, trends, types for us to adhere to?

The mind boggles. Gimme that donut.

Two years ago: Day 110: Go far, they said

Advertisements

Day 109: The times they are a-changing

There’s something that has been swimming around in my brain for a long time now. and I’ve talked about it sporadically here, here, here and here. I just sent out a newsletter putting together some bits of these posts, and more thoughts that I’ve been able to dwell on, now that I’ve had some time to mull over it all.

There’s still so much more to be said where this came from, and maybe I’ll get down to it some day. But for now, here’s the newsletter that just went out.

If you’d like to subscribe to it, please head here:  https://tinyletter.com/HaathiTime/

***

I don’t know when the appropriate response to “How are you?” has switched to “So busy!” from the good old “I’m fine/Just so-so/Doing good, thank you!” (or whatever other version of this you might prefer), but of late, I find myself bored with this turn of conversation.

Like all epiphanies, the startling truth usually sparks only when it hits so close to home that there’s no looking away from it. This one was no different. It was some weeks ago, when I uttered the words “I don’t know if I’m going or coming” with extreme discomfort, that I realised this is just the sort of feeling I have carefully steered myself away from these past months. And yet somehow the tyranny of busy had briefly re-entered my life.

This is a syndrome — this addiction to busyness — afflicting us all. I do find it is far more pronounced and in-my-face in Bangalore, than I did in Goa. Is this a big city thing? Or does talking about how busy we are make us feel purposeful/productive/like our lives have meaning?

It’s true, work has been a little manic over the last month. But the welcome change has been how much my inner-self steadfastly resists getting caught in the undertow of that mania. To be able to ride the highs, give myself wholly to work when it demands it, but also being conscious of how much, and stopping just short of being completely consumed in what inevitably feels like a mindless chaos, is the joy I strive for.

The joy is in being mindful and present. And exercising that ability to make that choice as many times, and as often as possible. Busy times have a place, I know, but I’m becoming acutely aware of the price I pay every time I hit a particularly busy patch. I say price because I in 8/10 conversations about busyness, I sense that hint of regret, frustration and tussle at not having as much time on hand, as we’d like. Why is that delicate, precarious balance constantly just out of reach?

The only way I am able to have some handle on it has come down to being vigilant, aware and very, very deliberate about what I’m doing, and why. By consistently and tediously questioning my motivations, I’ve found the answers, though sometimes difficult to accept and digest, have freed up not just time and space, but a lot of wrongly held ideas in my mind.

The notion of extreme productivity to mark my days, for example. It left little room for rest and recharging my batteries, which is lethal for a creative person. Or the idea that our dreams and desires can only be fuelled by bone-breaking hard work. It’s nonsense. If the hard work comes at the cost of my sanity, health an joy, and I can get help to achieve those same dreams instead, I’ll take it. It’s been immensely freeing to shed the unnecessary glory attached working hard, or my own twisted ideas of self-worth that were entangled with ambition, ability to earn money and be “independent”. Most of this, when I began to inspect it closely, I’ve appropriated from external sources — whether my middle-class upbringing and values, my parents as role models, cultural messages that are constantly screaming hashtags and labels dictating what kind of women we ought to be. And in the bargain, I’d moved so far away from listening to the messages my own inner-self was giving me time and time again.

So now, when things get uncontrollably busy, the first step I take is to realistically, and (brutally)honestly examine my motivation — the whys behind all the actions/tasks that fill up my days and bring in The Busy. Step two is to then drastically realign and cull that accumulation of to-dos, making time for that which I most want to do (and this, after I’m convinced about why).

That’s it. There is no step three.

The whys are crucial for me. And the more I lean in to them, the more I find I am able to simplify my life, not just in terms of resisting spreading myself too thin, but getting to the heart of what it is I really, really want and chasing only that which uplifts me and brings me joy, the more I realise that life slows down.

I’ve had it all wrong all this while.

For a greater part of my adulthood, I’ve chased the “ideal” life based on what I want — money, travel, a nice home, lots of books, the flexibility to spend my money whenever/wherever I want to. But this has really gotten me nowhere. And in fact left me exhausted, physically and emotionally, and with frequent periods of feeling scarcity and inadequacy.

More and more, I find turning in and allowing myself to be guided by what I want to feel — secure, alive, content, healthy, at peace — brings me far more joy. Joy that lingers over weeks and months, rather than rushes in and out like a gale storm. It comes in sprinkles and healthy doses, a little bit everyday, goes a long, long way. It brings an ease, an un-rushed energy with it. And since it isn’t tied to stuff, it stays.

The more I allow myself to be guided by what I feel, I find myself making choices that feel like serendipity and I find myself in situations that seem like they found me, rather than the other way around. Conversely, I find myself moving away from situations that go against the grain of this truth that is fast becoming a cornerstone in the way I approach life itself.

It takes little or no time at all, to tune out of conversations revolving around The Busy, because personally, I am finally, actively moving towards that elusive balanceI don’t mean “work-life balance” because the term is too tied to tangible things, and is woefully inadequate.

My life today is quite unlike it has ever been for me. I am aware of and very grateful for the incredible privilege that it is, to take things slow and at my own pace, having complete faith and trust in knowing that I am looked after and well provided for. Where all my needs are met with barely any room for inadequacy. I’m fortunate to finally be in a place where I can actively resist the The Busy for the most part.

However, I don’t talk often enough about the journey to getting here. Nor nearly enough about the fact that this is a choice I make every single day. That it is not without it’s moments of doubt and worry. That this commitment has become a way of life. And a large part of the reason I cannot give in to being Busy anymore is because it will mean letting that commitment go. Leaving me with not having enough time to notice the signs, take the cues, examine my motivations and steer myself forward for the right reasons (for me). And the price to pay for that, is just too goddamned high.

It’s been a long and bumpy road (and maybe that’s the stuff of several other posts) to really accepting deep in my bones and to the depths of my very soul, that my worth is not tied to how much I work or how much I earn, rather how I feel when I do the things I do to work or make money. I resist The Busy because I finally accept how wonderful it is to take help, be looked after, and choose to build a life in connection and sync with the forces that work to make things happen for me.

Two years ago: Day 109: Essay aftermath

Day 108: All the small things

I am so incredibly grateful for the privilege to take life slow and at my own pace, having complete faith and trust in knowing that I am looked after and well provided for. Where all my needs are met with barely any inadequacy.

I often think about how this is a choice I make every single day. That this has become a way of life, but I don’t always give thanks for all that is at work (and play) in enabling this.

This is a week of mostly relaxing. And after the burst of activity in the past six-ish weeks, it is welcome. For three days in a row, I have finished up my emails and work for the day by 11 am, leaving the rest of the day for me to do as I please.

I have enjoyed tea and books. I have watched Netflix. Gone for a movie. Run errands for my father, shopped some. I have cooked dinners and lunches. I have spent time with my grandmother who is visiting. I have gone to bed on time. Made it to the gym every day. I have enjoyed aloo buns and sponge cake at tea time. I have enjoyed my home being back in order, and having it all to myself. Later today, I’m going out gallivanting with my MIL and SIL.

This kind of freewheeling day is the sort of privilege I am deeply, deeply grateful for.

Day 107: Where is the love

As it happens, I have just finished two consecutive books centred around the theme of marriage. Two very different genres, perspectives and very, very different takes. But both interesting reads in their own right.

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
This was a slow, deeply thought out, insightful and very, very honest look at marriage. Set against a backdrop of the severe consequences of discriminations and inequality in the criminal justice system of America.

Narrated in first-person, through voices of multiple characters in the story, An American Marriage looks at a typical marriage and what happens when Roy is wrongly accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is released in 5, but by then too many things have already happened to his marriage with Celestial. The journey there-on throws up a series of difficult, surprising and very relevant situations ad questions about loyalty, infidelity, right and wrong.

As such, my own views on the institution of marriage have undergone a wild shift in the ten years of being married myself, and reading this book really brought a lot of my own inconclusive thoughts front and centre. The book is simply written, and the story is pretty simple too, but through the theme and the different perspectives of the characters involved, Jones has done a splendid job of bringing out all her questions in a raw, rousing and very real way.

Standard Deviation, Katherine Heiny
Several reviews on Goodreads claimed this was an absolute laugh-out-loud book. I can say for certain that it was not. Not for me, at least. That is entirely an issue of the style and how it didn’t really make me laugh out loud. At best, it made me chuckle and smile a lot, but that was it.

That said, it was a lovely read. Again, this is a story about the marriage of Graham and Audra who each bring their own idiosyncrasies as well as quirks and ample baggage from the past with them. They’re also raising an 11-year old son with Asperger’s, which lends a whole other complexity to their marriage. Audra is the diametric opposite of Graham’s first wife, and through the book the contrasts are presented over and over. This story takes a hard look at how things change, how it’s possible for a person to love such differing personalities. Obviously, I loved this aspect because this sort of fundamental needle-pushing change is what I’m currently obsessed with observing in my own life. So it really ticked the boxes for me.

It’s a light-hearted but poignant look at modern marriage and the many ways in which it seems to be transforming, giving couples space to define a whole new level of normal, outside the expected, stereotypical boundaries of what we have known marriage to be.

The style is light and warm, but has a punch. Audra’s character is full of life and that really comes through, while Graham is subdued and calm, which also comes through in an entirely different way. It will give you the fuzzies in parts, make you chuckle and also touch you. This felt like a Nick Hornby or David Nicholls book told by a woman. I loved reading it.

Day 106: Remind yourself: nobody built like you

For two weeks now, I’ve been back at the gym. I hesitate to say I’ve bounced back. Because, I haven’t. I’ve allowed myself to ease back into it. Pushing myself just enough to get going on most days, yet giving in to sleeping in or taking a rest day when I’m sore, lazy or just plain not up to it.

I’m making this attempt to take the focus off changing my body, and putting it instead on changing how I think and feel about it. So far, so good.

Reading Roxane Gay’s Hunger really hit very very close to home. The book couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. As a predominantly thin (and I cringe to even use these words anymore, so please take this as a mere descriptor and nothing else) person who has had the privilege of consistently pursuing an above-average fitness regimen for the greater part of the last fifteen years, reading the book made me realise how immensely superficial and ridiculous the rather unconscious shift in my focus has been this past year. I became acutely aware of my privilege, not just in what I am able to do to my body, but the sheer number of things I get away with because of my size and physical stature. It made me much more aware of what “big” people have to deal with, and how incredibly fortunate I am to have none of those issues. Consequently, it put all my fitness “concerns” into perspective, and really made most of them seem so ridiculous.

But all of this has got me thinking a lot about where the pursuit of feeling good about myself (as I am, as things stand) blurs into self-love. Doesn’t self-acceptance inherently come with a requisite amount of vanity? Doesn’t self-confidence dictate that I feel really happy, fulfilled and wonderful about myself more times than not?

I’m trying more and more to drop my disdain around vanity (mine or others’) and instead recognise where it is coming from. Because a healthy level of self-acceptance requires a healthy amount of vanity. A comfort with oneself, thinking and believing that I’m absolutely gorgeous just the way I am.

And so, if I was working desperately hard to alter parts of my physical self to meet some arbitrary standards (mostly self-created, but largely influenced by culture), under the pretext of loving my body and wanting to make it stronger, better, faster, how much of that love is real at all?

It has been interesting to admit how despite feeling the best I have physically (when I was on the food plan and working out harder than I have in years), my motivation was fuelled by a very distinct dissatisfaction. With my shape, my size, my ability. It’s like nothing I had achieved was enough. If I’d come this far, I must go farther, was the predominant motivation.

Unlike all the years before, when I have mostly felt gorgeous, beautiful, amazing, fit, fabulous, fine, and strong, despite being “larger” than the size I hit last year.

I see now, with utmost clarity and honesty that last year, I clearly traded all the self-love and self-acceptance I had garnered and nurtured, for a purely vanity-fuelled attempt at fitness.

And thankfully, I failed so miserably I had to wake up and bring myself back on track.

I could have gone on, not eating carbs, not touching sugar, and working hard at the gym. I probably would have even enjoyed the feeling of becoming fitter, faster and stronger. But since there’s no escaping how what’s on the inside dictates the changes on the outside, inevitably, I had to give in to my changing belief that being “strong” (literally and figuratively) was just overrated.

What I needed the most was to ditch the pursuit of being strong, and turn instead to learn to be soft. Vulnerable. It has meant allowing myself to accept my failures, recognise what I can, cannot and will not do. It has meant being a lot more truthful to myself, to tune in to my inner voice and listen more carefully, rather than shut it down and overpower it with an external message. It has meant aligning what is going on on the inside, with every single action on the outside.

Gradually, I’m coming closer to accepting that there needn’t be any kind of pursuit at all. I don’t want to lift more, feel stronger, do pull-ups or any of that. I don’t want to work towards any of it. I want to just work out because it keeps me active and feeling healthy.

I am okay.

And it is okay to be just okay. My body is worth celebrating most days. And there will be days when it disappoints me or triggers massive self-loathing. Some days I feel frustrated that a certain pair of pants will probably never fit. Some days I’ll delight in all the other kinds of clothes I confidently wear.

That is okay too.

Self love and vanity will co-exist. And hopefully they will bloom and grow into two well-grounded trees that will mingle, intertwine and co-exist.

A few years ago I loved my body hard enough to make it do things that challenged it. Now, I love it enough to just let it be.

I am okay.

This needn’t be a downward spiral or an uphill climb. Today, this is just a beautiful path, along this journey I am on.

Things have changed, it happens.

And I am okay now.

Two years ago: Day 106: Satisfaction

Day 103: I got mad, mad love

This past week, I felt immensely grateful for all the work coming our way. We had multiple meetings, an unusually high number of leads land open up out of the blue, and a fun and satisfying shoot on hand.

I am so grateful for the luxury of being our own bosses, reporting to nobody but ourselves, planning our days the way we want, doing the work we love most days. And I’m so thankful for the clarity and for being on the same page about the value of time we both need off. And the ability and privilege to take it when required.

I’m grateful for the shift in my definition of being busy/productive and for new clarity, new boundaries and new realisations in this respect.

I’m very, very grateful for my family. Especially my mother who keeps the “normal” going when I hit these busy spurts. I’m thankful for the hot home-cooked meals, her concern for how we may be overworking ourselves, and for her comforting company when I am chilling at home. And my sister for her endless love, warmth, entertainment, and ability to make me laugh and cook a darn good meal.

I’m so thankful for VC for having taken the professional calls he has these past few months. It’s not always immediately apparent, but I love when things slowly work out for the best. Being in that spot watching it unfurl is lovely.

I’m thankful for coffee. It’s been such a booster every morning this week.

I’m thankful for the beer and dinner with S, despite threats of being unavailable to meet me before June. And the unbelievably fantabulous (non-alcoholic and veggie) dinner she and I managed to catch with the other S. Burma Burma, if you’re interested to know.

I’m grateful for the connections that were rekindled quite unexpectedly this past week.

I’m thankful for N and our sporadic intense conversations. I love the ease with which we can take to whatsapp with our bouts of verbal diarrhoea and unburden/unload, knowing fully well that we may not get immediate responses, but when we do they will be conscious, heartfelt and thought-through. In these days of limited engagement, and wanting to only really talktalktalk about a handful of things, I am grateful for this channel being always open.

I’m grateful for my kindle.

Two years ago: Day 103: Lucid

Day 102: And I’m feeling so bohemian like you

This week:

  1. My house turned into a makeshift studio. Which is to say it was turned upside down entirely. We papered over our living room windows with black chart, cleared out the flood seating, dragged a heavy-ass carpet over from my folks’, set up lights and a tripod (which one set can’t be moved until the shoot is entirely done). It’s been four days and counting. No sign of finish yet.
  2. My house hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned like it usually is every day. Because we’re unable to move this very elaborate set up out/around to allow said cleaning. I’m happy to report, I did not lose my shit.
  3. I added hand model and stop-motion art direction intern to my list of roles/responsibilities at Something Filmy. That would be in addition to my existing titles and roles as co-founder, partner, co-director, friend, foe, confidant, general errand person and master of all resources.
  4. My fridge turned into a restaurant fridge with four kinds of plated meals and a gazillion sides being piled in there, for the shoot.
  5. My freezer turned into a cold stone ice cream shop and my living room console has enough toppings and cones and waffles stashed to open up a little pop-up.
  6. We knocked off a major part of an edit for a stop-motion film we were asked to make. It was challenging, because we had such a steep learning curve, figuring things out on the go, realising it was much more physically taxing than we anticipated, and yet thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying.
  7. I got an extra workout every day from all the physical labour that stop-motion filming demands, and I’m hurting in places I usually only hurt when I lift weights after a break.
  8. Despite good intentions and great ideas every single day, I have been unable to turn my laptop on and post on here. For obvious reasons. My hands have been busy elsewhere (read point #3), and my brain too (read point #4). So I’ve been doing a lot of lazy posting off the phone which always leaves so much to be desired. But the shoot involved a lot of good food, dessert and ice cream. So it took priority. These things happen.
  9. When I haven’t been working, I’ve been either completely relaxing — there have been naps on some days, hangs with the sister (who is all healed and well now!) lazy meals (mostly cooked by amma or Niyu) with the fam on others, plenty reading — or letting my (non-existent)hair down with friends.
    Is this what work-life balance is? Because I fucking love it.
  10. I crossed two major milestones and couldn’t get around to writing what I really wanted to, to mark them. But. Good food, dessert and ice cream took priority. These things happen.

Two years ago: Day 102: Mondays like this

Day 101: Forever inbetween

Cheat post, in the nick of time with a Pessoa quote that I love, and the rare occurrence of a bathroom mirror selfie.

We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept—our own selves—that we love.

One year ago: Serendipity

Day 100: To the gypsy that remains

Two milestones today. And I’d like to think that too is not a coincidence: finishing 100 days of writing this year, on a day exactly one year since I landed in Bangalore, in what ended up being the first step in a series of many many steps towards uncertainty and an open ended kind of oblivion.

I have many, many thoughts about how far we’ve come since we took this leap. Of faith, and so much else. It was not just the start of life in a new city, but the start of a committment to tuning into myself and cutting out the external clutter and noise. So, it makes me extremely happy today, standing where I am, to look back at things I wrote 365+ days ago, and see I was already on this journey. And that I’ve steadfastly stayed focused and committed to it. And that I’m all the better for it.

It’s truly gratifying to see how one year ago I was talking about all of the same things. Back then I was eager and yearning for change — my voice was filled with trepidation, yet it was hopeful. Today, I feel a confidence and conviction, even as I am still talking about the same things. I can see the journey Ive made so far, and I know which way I am longing to go, in the coming future.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this journey. Of the place mindfullness and self-care or self-improvement or growth or authenticity (to me, they’re all different words for the same thing) has come to occupy in my life, and what an incredible value it has added to my daily life. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll do a look back. But today, at the exact moment that I realised it was the anniversary of moving here, I was in this sunkissed office, and something about the way the golden light streamed in and set everything aglow, gave me a moment to ponder. And all I wanted to do was to give thanks for every little thing that went into pushing me to do this. And all that continues to hold me up, helps me keep going and make all this movement continually possible. And no, I’m not talking only about moving cities. But you already know that.

To me, moving to Bangalore has been something of an inflection point in life. But it is also a symbol of possibility. A reference point of what happens when I suspend thought. A memory of the ultimate move of self-serving love. A prototype of the kind of agility I want for the rest of my life.

Day 99: You’re beautiful, it’s true

Unexpected validation in unlikely corners. Just in case you’re feeling debilitating low self esteem on your way up the stairs.

***

I took today off to catch up on some really long pending, much delayed errands. And then I took the afternoon off to read, which went into a really long nap. Then, I woke up and went for a haircut.

Somewhere in between, I caught up with S over a call — most uncharacteristically. But it left me with the fuzzies and I made plans to catch up in person later this week.

In the evening, I called A after literally putting off the call for one whole year. And she said something that again gave me the fuzzies.

“With you, there’s no need to talk every week or every month. No matter how long it’s been, we always pick up just where we left off.”

I couldn’t agree more. I met A back in the good old days of blogging. We’ve met all of three times in person, and we realised today that we’ve actually been talking for fourteen years, and have seen each other through some pretty transformational, life-changing phases.

I don’t always acknowledge the many ways in which kinship finds its way to me. But it does. And today made me feel blessed for it, right in my bones.

Two years ago: Day 99: On being average

Day 97: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

I’m thankful for having been introduced to the idea of being in agreement with the diverse, imperfectly-perfect, non-uniform, never-in-our-control, queer ways in while life sometimes unfolds.

I’m thankful for how much room for acceptance, how much courage to change my mind it has allowed. And I’m thankful for how much unexpected warmth and camaraderie that has opened up for me.

I’m grateful for the opportunity for a do-over, to be able to see things in a new light, and to allow this considerable opening of my very own narrow mind.

Two years ago: Day 97: Maybe I’m finally making my peace with being mediocre

Day 96: Where the cares of the day seem to slowly fade away

I started writing a post about the syndrome of busyness, and how pronounced and in-my-face I find it is, in Bangalore, but there’s way too many thoughts jostling for space in my head, so I decided to let it simmer for a bit.

I feel especially aware and a little sensitive to the busyness trap, because I find myself finally moving towards an actual balance in this area of my life. And I don’t mean “work-life balance” because in my current context the term is severely inadequate.

The more I simplify my life, not just in terms of resisting spreading myself too thin, but getting to the heart of what it is I really, really want and which of those things brings me joy, the more I slow down and let things happen, I see how this balance is possible, and I realise why it has eluded me all these years. And I understand why conversations around how busy we are are becoming increasingly tedious and downright boring.

Is it a big city thing? Or do people actually just love to talk about what’s keeping them busy?

I don’t know when “So busy!” became the appropriate response to the good old “How are you?” but I find myself glazing over and tuning out the minute that a conversation veers in this direction.

Maintaining this balance is an ongoing effort in my life but one that I am only now paying conscious attention to, only because I’ve tasted the joy that comes from making room for that play, when Im not consumed by “work.”

But even that isn’t a fully internalised habit. I struggle to remember it at all times. I often forget to be thankful for the quiet, and in turn don’t notice all the good things that come from it. Some weeks ago my aunt said something to me, when I ranted to her about feeling lazy and unworthy just because I wasn’t able to crack the gym jinx and get my ass going already. She said:

These are necessary autumns of our lives.

It’s an idea that immediately stuck in my head. Autumn: a time of pause, regeration, when timecycles close as we inch towards new beginnings. It’s a natural slowing of energy, in anticipation of fresh starts, new canvasses.

It’s exactly the shift that I have been slowly internalising, what I have been indulging in and making conscious efforts to allow it to slip into every area of my life. Taking time off from all that I think I should be doing and allowing myself that incredible privilege of doing what I want to do and bringing time, attention and energy to the things that I know will actually fuel joy. It’s not in the money I make, the meals I eat out, the clothes I buy, the holidays I take. Yes all of that is essential, desirable and awesome but it isn’t the goal. They’re mere milestones along the way.

This realisation, about making room for the autumn, sitting with the quiet, sometimes the discomfort, accepting the uncertainty, loops back to several disconnected threads that have been weaving an all new outlook to life.

There’s no running away from finally understanding that Ive had it all wrong all this while. So I’m slowly but surely trying to cultivate the patience to correct this. It has meant giving myself these moments (frequent, long, unplanned) of pause. So crucial to having those moments of clarity which somehow only come in the silences in between. And so I must make space for the autumns. To rest, to re-worked, re-observe, re-grow.

I noticed today, driving to my meeting, that just as quickly as spring had sprung last month, the seasons have turned. And like in nature, with the trees, the wind, the clouds and the birds and the bees, that have set periods of rest, when the action is done. Just like there is a time for waiting and watching, when we’ve acted, sowed the seeds, set the ball in motion. Just like there is time for recharging energy, when we’ve spent it all, there is a need for set periods of regeneration. To breathe in a fresh breath of air. To sit still. To wait. And let nature take it’s course and do it’s thing.

Two years ago: Day 96: Busy bee day

Day 95: A life of stranger things

Brain worms for a Tired.Thursday

There’s this one thing about living and working in Bangalore, that I’m still grappling with, unable to come to terms with. The prevalent sense of time-keeping. Actually, I mean the general accepted levels of tardiness. In the beginning, I thought I was encountering stray cases, when everyone from the plumber to my landlady wouldn’t show up at a time even remotely close to the one committed to. There’s also the ever-prevalent time-sucking blackhole — unpredictable traffic — that is a legitimate reason for delays. I know and understand that sometimes even when you take traffic into consideration and leave early, there can be unexpected delays. That’s just how unpredictable it is. And yet, having said that, in the many, many months that we’ve been here, I have come to realise that it’s not just about arriving late, but about a general sense of time expanding and stretching as per convenience. Appointments aren’t kept with a start time in mind, they’re scheduled within a window of time. Or at least that’s the unsaid understanding, I think. Because if I had a rupee for the number of times I’ve arrived for a meeting and had to wait upwards of fifteen minutes (which is my standard grace time), I could have probably avoided opting for EMIs when I bought a new phone last month. Yesterday, I waited for 45 minutes for the person I was scheduled to meet. And this is after they had given me the time. I’m really beginning to think this casual tardiness is a cultural shift, rather than an outcome of circumstance.

***

What’s you opinion on the kind of passive aggression subtweeting allows? Have you ever been the butt of someones subtweeted (is that the right way to put it)? I’m a bit confused, and don’t know what to make of it. I ask because a couple of days ago, it came to my notice that I was the subject of a subtweet. I’m always flummoxed and amused when this happens, but I’m downright baffled when I am become the subject of a subtweet made by someone I don’t even know. I wish I could go into details and dissect it the way I am in my head right now, but I don’t want to name names (primarily because I don’t even know this person personally, but also because it would just be pointlessly passive aggressive. Not to mention, rude.) and then I’d also just be subtweeting right? So, no.

***

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a strangely high number of instances of minor injuries to my hands. A paper cut one day, a smashed finger the next, a hangnail, a kitchen-peeler incident, a scraped knuckle, a pinched pinkie — I’d probably have not even noticed if it weren’t all so focused around my hands and fingers. Also, they’ve all been seemingly small injuries, with disproportionately large inconveniences. The paper cut, like all paper cuts are known to be made it super awkward to get through the day without wincing every time the finger was stretched or bent. The smashed finger had me seeing white spots for five seconds and profusely bawling like a baby.  The pinched pinkie made it really hard to hold pretty much anything for the next three days, let me not tell you what it did to my driving and other essential activities.

***

And then, there was this cat in my basement last night.

I returned after a long day and noticed it in the basement, wailing in loud and long complains as I approached it, fully expecting it to dart and shoot off into the dark as cats are known to do. But no, she approached me fearlessly, accosted my feet, stepping all over them, digging her paws in, outstretched limbs, curved back. And then she proceeded to trace infinity signs, winding and worming her way around and between my feet, rubbing the entire length of her body, chin and face all over my ankles and shins. I could have so easily just picked her up and taken her home, but resisted temptation. I also thought she was just there to get her evening fix of love and then run off to spend the rest of her evening. But no, she followed me into the lift and made loud protests about not being allowed in.

Two years ago: Day 95: March

Day 94: Because everything is never as it seems

I’m grateful for medicine, the hospital and how quickly Niyu was able to spring back from her illness. I’m grateful for reiki. For D and K, and my in laws who pitched in with the healing.

I’m thankful for my mother, who is easily the best kind of mother in any crisis. She just knows how to put everything on hold and channel her entire being towards where it is most needed. I’m grateful for what I see and admire in her.

I’m grateful for idlis. Bangalore’s best, just outside the hospital, no less.

I’m thankful for having made it to the gym three days in a row. No questions, no expectations. Just getting up, getting going and moving.

I’m thankful for my body. For its cooperation, kindness and agility.

I’m thankful for the music that keeps me going as I make yet another attempt, this time with my focus shifted, resolve renewed. I’m thankful for the 180 degree turn in my head, and for what feels like going back to things the way they used to be — as far as exercise goes. I’m thankful for having waited this out to get where I am today, rather than rushing to find a quick-fix.

I’m thankful for R who has the best playlists. And for how he always has a smashing recommendation. Or three. Like so:

I’m thankful for the work that’s coming our way. For the possibilities that are opening up. For the gumption and courage not to compromise on what we want to do and where we want to be. I’m super grateful for the timely and reliable partners. For the few good clients that are such an incredibly rare breed in a sea of mostly assholes.

I’m grateful for the current ease around friendship. I’m thankful for those who have come and gone, for the purpose they served, for the lessons they brought. I’m very aware of and thankful for those who have stayed. And some time I’m humbled to find reminders of genuine friendship in people who I am least expecting it.

I’m grateful for the patience an the stillness. I’m grateful for the awareness. I’m thankful for the slow absorption that continues to happen.

I’m grateful for the relief of summer showers. I’m thankful for the respite from the heat and the dryness. I’m grateful for coconut oil from our farm. I’m grateful for breakfast mangoes.

Day 93: Out here without a shield

The last couple of weeks have been such an emotional rollercoaster, reminding me time and again, that in life, there is a place for the entire gamut of emotions. That even the pursuit of happiness brings with it a range of events that spark a range of emotions. And within them, a range of lessons waiting to be unwrapped.

The only way to get in on those hidden lessons it seems, is to allow myself to feel everything as fully as I possibly can. And for some reason, every single day in the last two weeks has given me at least one event that drove this point home. It started with my course, where every single day reinforced an aspect of life seen through the lens of accepting, facing and owning it’s consequences and embracing the lessons within. From acceptance, to boundaries, to the twisted unpleasant nature our lives sometimes take, to fear, to guilt, denial and giving an receiving love and support. There is no turning away from some truths when they arrive, knocking at my doorstep, in all their glory.

Then there were three days of endless free-wheeling conversations with K and D that further bubbled up so many of the feelings triggered over the three days in class.

Then there was a week of watching Niyu as she fell ill, dipped to a scary low, got taken to hospital and then nursed back. Even as she convalesces at home right now, I find myself thinking back to how family rallies together, how these situations bring us together and how much joy and togetherness there is to be found even in difficulty.

I’ve got the message. Loud and clear. This — the process of self discovery, mindfulness, living in the preset moment, call it what you will — isn’t about uniform happiness, or seeking joy alone. The joy is in the process, perhaps. But the process itself is punctuated with all kinds of loss. In these last few weeks alone I have been forced to face some of these losses — the loss of familiarity, of security in well-worn habits, of friendship as I once knew it. But perhaps, for the first time in forever, I found myself not phased or rattled when that realisation hit. Instead, I’ve found a new and comforting understanding that I’m still fumbling my way around, feeling in the dark and trying to make sense of.

Sometimes there is loss of the intangible kind — loss of a sense of self, of confidence in a strong aspect of my identity, of comfort in holding some things true only to have them turned around, or of control when change comes in big gusts and storms. Sometimes, though, when it feels like I’ve hit an insurmountable loss, I wait it out and realise that it is actually just a minor iteration — an opportunity to move one level up, rework the old and find a new normal.

I’m getting comfortable in that space in between the old and the new.

Loss is a crucial, and essential, part of making that journey and travelling that space in between. Riding close on the heels of loss, is fear. Fear of uncertainty, of the new, of the unfamiliar, of losing control, of breaking new ground. And of actually being better.

My coping mechanism when dealing with fear has always been to try and control it, in an attempt to bring some order to the chaos that change brings. It’s my way of regaining certainty. But, ever since I’ve tasted the sweet joy of approaching the chaos by allowing myself to be surprised, loosening my grip and fully feeling the fear, the disappointment and sadness (or whatever else that may ensue) that surfaces, I find myself staring at what lies beyond.

The good news, I’m happy to share is that the fear abates. Almost immediately. The fear that something’s changed, that I’ll have to inevitably face loss, that I will have to start over, that I am somehow smaller/lesser than the person I was before — it all just fades away when I commit myself to feeling through it rather than building a wall around myself to protect myself from it. Fear is reduces to a mere list of outcomes.

The even better news is that this has been the key to turning the corner — the inflection point — of fear. Of crossing over from just pure, crippling emotion to the lesson that lies in the light, just beyond.

I’ve said this before, the process of letting of of that which no longer serves me is essential to the process of rediscovery. Loss is important. But I realise now that so is fear, disappointment, rage, grief, and sadness and everything else that rides on that loss. Because if recent experience is anything to go by, when  I make the effort to stay with those uncomfortable feelings, it invariably affects me in deep sort of way. That is when I know that the loss means something, and I have always come out a better person for it.

The best news of all has been learning that loss is not just crucial, it is inevitable once you commit yourself to turning inwards. Yes, it is scary. Yes it gets messy as fuck, sometimes. But it’s the only way that I have been able to get closer to a desired level of vulnerability, empathy and acceptance. It’s the only way to trust that my emotions will show me the way.