Spaces in-between

This morning I felt immense gratitude as I was driving to the gym. Waking up and heading straight to the gym has been the routine for the last 10 days, and it hit me this morning how easily fulfilled this desire to get disciplined about working out has been. A gym close to home, my mothers car for me to use every single day, unencumbered mornings to spend at the gym without anyone or anything to rush home to. I am a very easy creature of habit, I realise. Especially with things I love and want to do everything to sustain. So to be able to chase this, so easily with literally nothing in my way, felt overwhelmingly special.

It’s a little thing, I know. But in the end it’s the little things that have the most impact, no?

In the moment I felt free. And I felt gratitude for all that enables this deep sense of freedom. In the moment it felt like gratitude for being in Bangalore which gives me access to so much that I need right now. But I immediately realised it’s not limited to the city, to geography alone. It’s those little things. The very things I’ve needed for so long, that are somehow being fulfilled here, at this point in time in my life, formidably aided by the options and opportunities this city has to offer.

***

Bangalore leaves a lot to be desired. I am routinely enraged, frustrated and bicker about the traffic, the apathy, the garbage and what not. I feel helpless and very agitated by the slow nosedive we’re making to utter destruction. I have to think twice about what I want to wear before I step out. In many ways I feel limited and held back. But even so, on a daily basis I feel a sense of freedom and openness — from within — that overarches everything else.

I didn’t know it then, but I left Goa because I needed space. Space to grow, space to stretch, space to explore and widen my inner life. And somehow, physically as well as emotionally and perhaps metaphysically too, Goa with all its wide open green spaces, overlapping social circles and limited options, had begun to feel so very small. Claustrophobic. Crunched up.

It’s the strangest thing, and I know it sounds odd even as I describe it awkwardly as I am. But this is the truth: this is the free-est, most wide-open I’ve felt. Open to change, open to uncertainty, open to love, open to discovery, open to surprises. Just open. And free. In a way that settles something within me. Gives me space, and a deep sense of openness, freedom to run, to be. A very palpable widening of myself.

***

Long after I left Goa and moved to Bangalore, I found myself constantly tossing up the pros and cons of both places to live. This is typical nature, isn’t it? The need to validate and justify our choices completely. Especially the difficult ones. And to keep trying and trying till we’re sufficiently convinced we’ve done the right thing. I constantly craved and looked for the big things, larger than life events, overwhelming circumstances that would feel like valid reason enough to have done the unthinkable and moved back from Goa to Bangalore — a city I’d run away from and sworn never to return to only 8 years ago. I found solace in some small things, but they were always just that — small consolations — and a larger part of my heart tugged with confusion and a mixed-up longing for…I-dont-know-what exactly for many, many months.

I knew with growing clarity that my time in Goa was done, that wanting to leave was reason enough, but in the years I was away Bangalore has exploded into a slowly self-destructing monster of sorts and the transition from quiet, green, expansive Goa to this gave me bouts of severe cognitive dissonance. The gentle, welcoming, unhurried Bangalore of the 80s and 90s that I knew, has been totally engulfed by this busy, chaotic, always-on-the-run city that I couldn’t quite make sense of. Even though, in pockets, I found comfort in nostalgia, familiarity and many little things (again, it’s the little things that made a difference) that felt like a throwback form my years growing up here, at a macro level, something didn’t quite fit.

That “fit” — that snug clink of pieces falling into place, of things making sense (in whatever way that they do) — is what I’m suddenly feeling I have found. A foothold, a grounding, a series of satisfying little moments on a daily basis that make me grateful for being here. In this city. Here in this moment of time.

It’s nothing tangible of course. It’s a state of mind, maybe? But I have it now. Today, it was the drive to the gym and way in which I lost track of time only to realise it had been 90 minutes since I began working out, that made me register that same feeling. That fit.

It isn’t the desire for fitness alone, though. There is also the desire for people. For family, and for friends. There is the urge to be out in public spaces — parks, cafes, bookstores, restaurants — anywhere but sitting at home all day long, basically, or avoiding public spaces for fear of bumping into someone I knew and didn’t want to meet. There is the need to move freely, the ability to get around freely, on my own. For dependable public transport.

This morning, I felt gratitude for how much all of this is so easily being fulfilled in my life right now. Access to space, all kinds of it, the means to get to places, to people, and to the in-betweens of it all.

***

Last week was chock-full with so many quintessentially Bangalore highlights, it really affirmed how much (and why) I am enjoying being where I am — in this monstrous city. To be walking distance from N and to be able to meet her once every week is a treasure. To hit the gym 6 out of 7 days. To be next door to amma and have so much time to spend there, doing nothing, or everything with them, cooking, chilling, working, lazing, whatever it may be.

There was brunch with A at Koshys one day with the option to amble into Blossoms bookstore, hanging out with S at Bharatiya Jalpaan another day and not feeling satisfied so prolonging our chatter over lemon chai after. On Friday Niyu and I took the parents for a pizza lunch all the way across town, and later that night I ended up (without prior planning) partying at a brewery surrounded by the sounds and smells of people way too young for my own good and bumping into the ex, and then a bookstore/cafe opening on the weekend where I got to listen to Mahesh Rao (who I have loved for so many years, and missed for so long now because, no social media) and Arshia Sattar talk about how they became readers and eventually writers, which was followed up by a chance almost-unplanned dinner with D at Koshys again, and Sunday brunch with S over too many Mango-Chilli Caprioskas and the allowance to indulge in berry pulao.

I know this sounds like an ode to Bangalore, maybe? But the thing that clicked into place in my head this morning was that this was never about choosing one city or another, it was yet another act of making space, and doing it in a place that allows me that luxury, in the way that I need it now.

There is space in my life right now. So much space, so much of it. And the freedom to meander and navigate it just as I please.

I was so done being cooped up in the way that my life in Goa had begun to feel. It is wonderful to now be out and about in more ways than one. I am so grateful for this time and all the things that have gone into bringing me here, all that it takes to keep me afloat and allows me the privilege to enjoy it.

One year ago: When the rainy days are dying
Three years ago: New tricks

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