I have this hashtag going on Instagram, and I realised today that it has a fair number of pictures stacked up. Small packages of surprising things things I really never even imagined would come my way. Or that I’d jump in and do them willingly. And better still, enjoy myself. Little doses, small reminders that almost everything changes at some point or the other and sooner or later you end up doing many things you never imagined you’d do.
Good timing, because this morning it suddenly dawned on me that itsJulyalreadyfuckwhendidthishappen? and of course round 1 of OMGhowcanitbeJulyalready and has happened a couple of times over. Nothing like a hashtag to level things out and delude you into feeling better again, no? I mean, it was just the thing I needed.
So while the eternal cynic in me started counting down all the things I thought I’d do, things I wanted to do but obviously not bad enough because, well I haven’t. (You know that thing about life, and plans and lists — yeah, that) Little usually goes to plan and I realise I’ve done a fair bit of unplanned, unexpected things. Things I never imagined I would do. Yet somehow made me incredibly happy this year.
1) I’m an endorphin junkie to the core, the worst kind of cardio addict around. I used to pooh-pooh the idea of weights and strength training as boring, monotonous and only for those who wanted to bulk up.
I knew I wanted to be fit, and for some reason that didn’t include lifting weights. But this year I embraced weights and have just not been able to look back. I never imagined a day would come when I’d value being strong, more than sweating it out after an hour of jumping around. This is an addiction I’m going to have a very hard time ridding myself of.
2) The process of getting leaner and fitter has really opened up my eyes to what my body can do. I didn’t think I was the dance-till-I-drop kinds. I had been to a Zumba class a few years ago and walked out rolling my eyes, telling myself I could never be seen jigging to J-lo and Sheela ki Jawaani. All such besharam type of dancing was saved for the dark corners of discos or a room with the curtains drawn.
Now I crave my morning music fix and Zumba sessions. Heck I even voluntarily attended a couple of theme dance parties at the Studio, complete with costumes and custom-playlists and a couple of hours of non stop frenzied dancing. At the end of the most recent one — a Back-To-School party that was a complete blast btw — I drove home telling myself over and over “I never imagined I’d do this. EVER!”
3) I spent way more time with myself than I planned to. VC has had an uber-busy year, many professional changes that have kept him hard at work a lot more than we anticipated. A couple of my good friends moved away and I’ve drifted away from a couple of others.
Just as well, because I got to spend a lot more time with myself. Doing things in the peace and quiet of my home. Cooking, reading, writing, thinking, planning. Even a bulk of the outings I’ve had, restaurants, drives, trips I’ve made, have been by myself. I never imagined I’d turn into a creature of solitude so soon. And I really didn’t think it would be my chosen mode of existence on any given day.
4) Speaking of friends, I’ve always been the kind to stick to my comfort zone. A handful of people I know and who know me, and pretty soon its a clique. This year that was shattered. Partly by circumstance, and partly by choice. Even though I have cribbed and complained about how those I once called friends are no longer around, I realise I have more friends than I ever imagined. They’re many in number and they’re varied like I never imagined — from blog friends who turn real-life friends, gym buddies, to older friends with children, to people in professions from dentistry to scuba diving. I’ve befriended new people more willingly this year and it has been fabulous.
The days of only having one set of friends and doing the same things in and out are done. I’ve hung out with people over the weirdest things this year — making the Happy video, meeting a blog friend with spouse and dog in tow and having a fabulous time, having cook outs and barbecues, going cycling — and I’m sure I’m forgetting many other things. This year has been just so full. I never imagined that I would be in a place where I am never without more than a couple of options of people to hang out with or things to do, if I so wish. This is very new to me, especially for my life in Goa. Its been a year of doing many different things with many different people. I wish I had a picture for every different little group of people but just words will have to do for this one.
5) Thanks to the new-found and suddenly expanded circle of friends, I’ve found myself in situations I wouldn’t otherwise have willingly put myself. First of all, most of my friends are ladies. This is entirely new ground for me. I was too used to being the only girl surrounded by a gang of boisterous boys for too long. I never imagined that would change, but now I’m doing more girls nights out than I am willing to admit. Movie dates, dinners for two, potlucks when the boys are away, drinks with many noisy giggly women — yes, guilty of them all.And where there’s women, and when you’re hitting 30, there’s babies. So I sometimes find myself in situations like this.
A beach party for toddlers, which was entertaining, to say the least. I was the official photographer, and pitched in with a few games. It also helped that the party had a start and end time, after which I went home and decompressed with a glass of wine, hah.It is now pretty normal to hang out with friends and a baby or two, and I have to admit, it doesn’t feel so strange anymore. Even though I am still the odd one out in this respect. My reservations about being around babies seems to have faded a wee bit. Either that, or I’m just lucky to have friends with adorable and entertaining babies.
The test of my patience in this respect was the four days of volunteering my time with a children’s theatre production, which came out of the blue. And it was oddly satisfying.
The things you do for friends! Some times its stuff you don’t imagine will actually be fun, but you go ahead in the spirit of friendship. And then it turns out to be not half as bad! My responsibilities began with helping set up the set and scenes in this little amphitheatre, ushering the 20-pdd kids in on cue and making sure everything was in order behind-the-scenes. By the time it was show-time, I was filling in for a 12 yr old who didn’t make it to the play. And so I read a couplet, with much gusto, from Vikram Seth’s Beastly Tales from Here and There.
And I never act.
6) I’ve started doing outdoorsy stuff like I once used to. Whether its joining the hugsband on the odd ride when he goes cycling, or playing a sport.
But Lagori with the neighbours? I totally never saw that coming.
Its mutated from a daily game of lagori into kho-kho, badminton and all sorts of obscure village games we fished out from the deep recesses of our humble colony upbringing.
7) I spent a fair bit of time writing letters this year. I was a bit obsessed at one point. Frantically writing them out every single day. Extremely satisfying to lick the stamps and post them off.
But receiving letters in response, beats it all.
8) And then at some point, this happened!
For just 10 days this year, we turned into accidental parents of these fur babies. And briefly, I warmed up to the idea of keeping pets. Much as I like the idea of keeping dogs, the commitment to care for them for life, and turn my whole life upside down to accommodate their needs has kept me from doing it. I’m a commitment-phobe in this respect. I love my life way too much to have to make a change and put myself in the position where I will not be able to take off for an extended outing because I have to rush home to feed a dog, or to not be able to go on a weekend drive out of town because I have nowhere to leave the dogs, or to have to walk them three times a day in the rain (of which we have plentyyyyy here).
But we woke up one morning in February and found these critters at our doorstep. They were barely 20 days old and some mean woman had picked the girls out of the fresh littler, put them in a box, driven all the way to my lane and dumped them in a gutter. Yeah we don’t like girl-doggies in this country, is it a wonder what happens to girls of the human kind?
It was heartbreaking, but I held my ground and fed them in a little bowl outside the gate, hoping their mother could come find them. No such luck. VC fell headlong in love, took them inside our yard and we named the black one Hash and the brown one Brownie (hash-brownie, get it?).
Life changed dramatically. We’d begin and end our days outside, at the doorstep. Feeding, petting, cuddling and generally being entertained by these fur balls. They had made themselves very much at home in a carton I had lined and put out for them. I wasn’t ready to take them into the house yet.But I was hopelessly in love, in no time at all. I was their primary caregiver, peeking my head out the balcony on the hour to ensure they weren’t wandering on the streets, or being too adventurous in my yard. I’d feed them three times a day and they’d recognise me when I came, run up to my feet and beg for food. I got no work done that week because I was downstairs playing with them, or just watching them, more than I was upstairs at my desk.
I wrote a post about how we had decided to keep them. But I never ended up posting it because in 10 days, Hash developed Parvo — a fatal gastro infection that attacks dogs that haven’t had enough mother’s milk to build a strong immune system. There is little that can be done to fight the disease, even lesser if the puppies are not with their mother. We took them to the local animal rescue where they would be better cared for than in our home and our inexperienced hands.
Leaving them behind was the most gut wrenching thing I’ve done in a while. I bawled like a baby as I walked back to my car and couldn’t drive because I couldn’t see through the tears. I went back every day for a week to check on them, but Hash got progressively worse and pretty soon Brownie caught the infection too. The plan was to hope against hope that they recover and adopt them when they were healthy and fit to be taken home again. Unfortunately neither made it. Now I think I can handle pets, sometime in the future. I’m willing to try, and I never imagined the day would come.
9) I’ve jumped into a lot of fun projects this year, on account of having more free time and less serious commitments. There was the Happy video that was creatively, super satisfying. And then there was the Dare video which we made right before the World Cup began. I am by no means a great dancer. Not even a good one. I used to be shy and inhibited about doing things like this in public — I never participated in college fests and the like. But somehow I care less these days (some might say I ought to care just a little bit ;)) and when Princy asked if I’d be in her Zumba video, I jumped right in.
The husgand and I have been taking our foodeos rather seriously, and it has given birth to many a video-keeda in our brains. I have fallen in love with the medium and plans to make several food and non food related videos over what’s left of this year, are afoot.
Over the course of a week in June, I helped my neighbour paint, distress and re-paint her dining set. I have never thought I had the patience or the creativity with fine hand work, and yet when she asked, I committed to it.
Afternoons in the sun were spent scraping paint and polish off 6 chairs and a table, until we had blisters, distempering and patiently waiting for them to dry and then scraping it all off again with that decidedly distressed look. In the bargain, I learned that distressing furniture (something that I have lusted over at Chor Bazaar and several expensive boutique stores) is deadly simple. It’s basically the organised way of taking something brand new, painting it, and scraping it all downto look old. It’s tiring and time consuming because it’s all physical work, but now I know that if the itch ever strikes again, I can do it myself, without having to spend a fortune on buying fakely distressed furniture!
10) And speaking of projects, I think I’ve turned into a pretty decent Project Manager. In February, when Arundati visited Goa, Aparna, she and I met and casually talked about having a Food Bloggers Meet. We began by imagining it to be a small event that wouldn’t attract more than 15-20 people, we’d get some bloggers to come talk about topics of interest and generally take the party offline. Since we know so much about each other only through the world of the web and our blogs, we thought it would be nice to meet for real.
We began working on the idea slowly, and rather organically when we were all busy doing our little bit to make it happen, the event has morphed into this massive project in our little hands. The Indian Food Bloggers Meet is now slated to be an annual event. The agenda is super exciting and we have received almost 40 registrations and the total participation has crossed 50 members. We started by making cold calls to sponsors who would help make the event happen, and now have some food brands knocking on our doors asking if they can partner with us. We aimed at reaching out to bloggers to speak to us, but the agenda has widened to include experts in food writing, food photography, publishing etc.
We are now in the final run-up and I am stoked by the response we have received. It is the first of its kind national meet for food bloggers in India, and to think it all started in a casual conversation over lunch, in a beach shack in Morjim, just blows my mind. To think that this is happening alongside people who were mere online presences to me a few years ago, who I only knew through the interface of the blogs I have read and loved, and who have now turned friends and fellow organisers (Aparna, Arundati and Nandita) makes it all seem like a bigger feat. I loathed the idea of managing projects, and the little view I had into it at work in the agency life turned me off. But it seems my personality is quite akin to managing projects efficiently, in an organised way, and if the area of work interests me — or as in this case, is close to my heart — I have it in me to pull out all the stops and go at it with all guns blazing. It has been an exciting, humbling, exhilarating an very satisfying experience to be a part of the team that is coordinating this across 4 homes, 3 cities and several different levels of busy-ness in our lives outside of the meet.
I’m looking forward to this being an annual food blogger event that isn’t just about the eating but more about the meeting, one that isn’t driven by commercials or a PR-agenda, where networking is a by product of the main focus which is to share some words, thoughts and a lot of laughs with those that we have read and respected for so long.
11) Incidentally, a few months ago, for the very first time in my life I have gone to the point of having zero income. I was in between projects and I quit my Burro gig — which was the only constant month-on-month fixed assignment I had. I did it for a variety of reasons, and it was a tough call to take, because coupled with the decision to cut back on other assignments and focus on a couple of personal projects has made me 100% dependent on the hugsband. Something I never imagined I would do.
The results have been mixed. I definitely miss the flexibility of having my own income, but I like that it has curtailed a lot of unnecessary expenses. I am now forced to think about every little thing I want to do and question if it is worth my time, and what it will mean for me, and also evaluate every big purchase I make. This is of course a temporary phase, and I will ramp up the assignments when I am done with current projects on hand, but the situation it has put me in has been an eye opener. It has also made me prioritize my time more carefully, pick people and projects wisely and therefore savour the highs even more.
Remember my thoughts on ambition, in this post? More and more I realise that yes, I could continue to work my ass off and there will always be lots of money to be made, but I am okay earning less (even nothing at all, as long as I have enough to survive) if it means it affords me the time to do some of the other things like cook 365 new things a year, or write a book, or learn to dance professionally, train for a marathon — whatever it may be.
For a year with less “work” and more things to do, it hasn’t turned out too shabby, eh?