Day 325: Discover some new truth that was always wrapped around you

[Goddamit, WordPress has gone and changed something around and everything looks different. WHY?! Why do you have an issue with things that work well staying the way they are?!]

With that out of the way, and while I try and figure out how to insert pictures *eyeroll* let me tell you about Auroville (and I’m going to quickly run through this).

All the non-stop running around since 1 September had really left me feeling very exhausted and in need of some deliberate, organised downtime. Outside my own home, removed from the urge to potter around and tidy up and generally keep myself needlessly busy. I have been longing for some time to just sit, be, slow down, empty my head, breathe easy. I wanted to go away somewhere — not fancy where I’d be tempted to sightsee — where I could wander aimlessly, or choose to sit with a book (or two, or three!) uninterrupted. Some likeminded company would have been good, I thought. In a wild, wild coincidence I happened to discuss the idea and the sudden urge to eat at the Solar Kitchen (in Auroville) with A, exactly when she was plotting to go over there on the weekend, by herself. So of course I just tagged along, in what she called our separate “alone trips”. But not without some overthinking of the fact that I would only just be back from Goa less than 48 hours before taking off again, that I have been feeling travelled out and should probably chill. But really, it took a split second to realise two days wasn’t going to change much. So I quit the overthinking and just went. With the express intention of accompanying A to eat at the Solar Kitchen. 

As much as I like elaborate holidays that require planning yada yada, I am oh so very happy with this kind of quick escape, with absolutely no plan whatsoever. We picked a spot to stay within walking distance of the Solar Kitchen. Because, priorities. And allowed the rest of the nonexistent plan to work itself out around that. Which it did, organically, spontaneously and rather beautifully for our liking.

What ensued was two days of mostly wandering around on foot, interspersed with lots of reading and eating. Yeah, basically just that.

The cyclone scare meant the weather while humid and sweaty, wasn’t exactly blistering and painfully hot as it could have been. We had pleasant-ish weather most of the way, which encouraged us to get out a little. We walked a total of 11 kms on day 1, despite spending most of it sitting around reading or eating. We hit the Solar Kitchen, the Auroville Library (which is oh-my-god delightful, and an ideal place to spend many uninterrupted hours, if you enjoy books and silence) and neither spots kicked us out in a rush. So there was much lounging, pulling out our books wherever we were plonked, and proceeding to lose ourselves.

Then we took a loooong one-hour walk to the beach to catch the sunset, making stops at the Auroville Bakery and Farm Fresh to stock up on Auroville goodies, followed by a super-early pizza at Tanto’s before heading back home. 

The great thing about eating at sunset means one still has a couple of hours before bedtime, which we of course spent, surprise surprise, reading, and still slept early enough to rise just after sunrise the next day. We walked upto the MatriMandir, which wasn’t too far off from our guesthouse, but of course we weren’t let in. No amount of referring to the sweet security dude as “uncle” seemed to help. The rest of the morning, post an excellent breakfast of muesli and yogurt with fruit and hot chai, was spent lazing in bed, you guessed right, reading. At lunch time we headed back to Solar Kitchen and hit the Visitor’s Centre to shop for some more goodies before walking back home again. When the sun went down a bit, we hit the beach again — earlier this time — to take in the evening sights and the sunset. A chai stopover later, we were back home to catch yet another dinner and lots of bedtime reading again.

You get the drift right? We were very, very focused on the eating and the reading, strategically planning all our wandering based on where we wanted to stop to eat and the moment we settled in a quiet spot for longer than five minutes, we’d whip out our books and ignore each other. Somewhere in between all this we chatted too, somehow. Lots and lots of chatting, some gossiping, lots of giggling. It was just the weekend I needed, and it couldn’t have panned out better.

We meant to book ourselves tatkal tickets to return on Sunday night, but a slow Internet connection, a two minute delay in catching the window and a large dose of not caring too much meant we missed our chance. And so we ended up staying an extra night only to leave on Monday. Which actually worked out excellently because it meant I got to finish three entire books, have an extra breakfast at the guesthouse and I always prefer leaving fresh on a new day than spend a whole day in anticipation of leaving at sunset (which is always so FOMO-inducing).

Things I enjoyed the most:

  • A train ride after yonks! And unreal excitement about cooking and packing dinner to eat enroute. Train journeys are all about the food for me.
  • Walking, walking, walking. I’ve been feeling the need to move, and walking specifically, has been calling out to me. Ever since I had to make the hard decision to skip the next OXFAM trail-walk (because I’m woefully underprepared this year and in absolutely no shape to wing it) I’ve been feeling the urge to start walking in preparation for next year. Wandering on foot has been such a great way to get a hang of the areas I’ve travelled to, and creates a very different kind of connect with the space that I’ve loved and hadn’t tasted in ages
  • All the reading. To be able to read in silence, as much as yak nonstop is special thing to share with a friend. I’m happy to add another person with whom I can share this with, to my list. 
  • The sense of community at AV. While there’s a confusing slightly disorienting strain to wandering around a hot and sweaty area in Tamil Nadu surrounded by white people who seem to be more in tune with the land than most of us visiting there like outsiders, it definitely triggered a yearning for community living in me. One of the things that’s really come to the fore thanks to living in Bangalore is how isolating and insulating city life can be. In sharp contrast to my life in Goa where I’ve just had the luxury of camping out at a friends for three weeks, where everything is slower and harder to get done but the process leads to uncanny conversations and surprising connections and dependencies always gives me a sense of community and connection that I miss in Bangalore where there’s a palpable dog-eat-dog energy and everyone just fends for themselves and asking for help is so difficult. It warms my heart to see people come together, in whatever form, to nourish and nurture a common vision and I hope and wish that somewhere in my future, I have the means to experience this more deeply.
  • Watching women cycle around with such ease. In dhoti pants, in sarees, in cycle shorts and all the gear — so was so much cycling it made me think back wistfully to my cycling days in Goa.
  • The ease with which I could get up and go. This was a real thrill, one that I am still savouring slowly two days after I’ve been back. This is new and refreshing for me.
  • The food. The food. The food.
  • A visible, slowly permeating shift in my own ability to connect with people one-on-one. While on the one hand I’ve been talking about and feeling a sense of needing a community, deeper within, I’ve sensed a shift of sorts in my own personal connection with people. My “groups” seem to be dwindling fast, and it’s putting me in a very different space, forging healthier, more stable, and most importantly hassle-free equations with many of those same people, as individuals. It has come with a fair amount of anxiety about something very deep and innate about me changing, the resistance to let the comforts of an old and stable pattern go, but it has also been oddly liberating and that has encouraged me to push thru, let down my guard and not worry too much about the old ghosts that rear their heads so often. 
  • The sea. I realise I visit the beach so little in Goa, that going to the beach elsewhere is still a treat. I made a mental note to make the effort to go to the sea more often when I’m back in Goa, because it’s a luxury I don’t want to take for granted.
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Day 324: I’m feeling outshined

I wanted to write about the weekend, the food we ate, why we walked so much and the thoughts about community living that I’ve been having swimming around in my brain. But cleaning up my WhatsApp media just now, I saw these pictures and felt the ache of a big twitch in my heart.

Easy love. In three simple steps.

Irrevocable, irreversible, love. I’m grateful to have received this and have it touch me in a strange and unexpected way.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that in the emotional department, humans have nothing on dogs. In my next life, I want to be a sausage doggie in a home that will keep me well.

Day 323: So we want to stay, but we can’t find peace while sitting

Back from a weekend away at Auroville with A. I’m feeling enriched and energised. It was the kind of getaway where we meant to be away for one night but ended up staying two. And even with the extra time, spent 70% of our time with our noses stuck deeply in our respective books, stopping for nothing but meals, wandering in search of meals and chatting about past and future meals for the remaining 30% of our time, all the while contorting our lazing bodies into shapes conducive for uninterrupted reading but that gave one of us a crick in the neck and another to finish three books over the weekend.

A has been telling me about the poetry of Jeet Thayil for a while now. I’m not too big on poetry but sometimes something so apt comes my way and makes me wonder if it’s time to venture into these unexplored territories. In an unexpected coincidence while hunting for what to read next, I stumbled on this absolute piece of perfection, which I have just discovered is in his recent collection.

Home

Give me a home 
that isn’t mine,
where I can slip in and out of rooms 
without a trace, 
never worrying 
about the plumbing,
the colour of the curtains,
the cacophony of books by the bedside. 
A home that I can wear lightly,
where the rooms aren’t clogged
with yesterday’s conversations,
where the self doesn’t bloat
to fill in the crevices.

A home, like this body,
so alien when I try to belong,
so hospitable
when I decide I’m just visiting.

Arundhati Subramaniam

Of course the collection has made it to my TBR list, immediately. But it’s also worked itself I to my newly content heart where I will allow it to germinate, unfurl slowly, watching closely as this idea of home takes new form in my head yet again.

Such a joy to be home, to travel, to have this sense in two places, and yet feel anchored within too.

Two years ago: Day 323: Holiday reading

Day 322: Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.

Remembering Maria’s excellent advice from a few years ago, that never gets old and that I like to revisit at least twice every single year.

Two years ago: Day 322: One night in Bangkok

Day 320: Do you need me before I fade away?

Today was such a good day. It started with meeting N for breakfast at CTR and then a big fat loaf on Commercial Street. I don’t realise it as often, or admit it often enough even when I do realise it, but there is a deep connection with this city that is rekindled every time that I have an experience that feels le a throwback to the good days. Commercial Street remains largely unchanged and walking through it always feels like going back in time. Hitting the send haunts — Vashis, Suryanarayana, Woodys, Bhagatram, Mysore Saree Udyog — ways takes me back to a familiar and warm headspace, and gives me a big dose of nostalgia that seems to dull the ache of being in the city and the parts of that trouble me.

I’m grateful for the extra time we got to hang out today. We yakked pretty much non stop and I’m lucky we always make the time for that. This is an ease that I don’t have with too many folks in my life and it is a good place to be.

It was such a good Bangalore winter day! I caught a long nap before I packed up to leave. It’s been a while since I made a trip so spontaneous, so short that I need nothing more than a small backpack. The lightness of it is palpable.

And now, Im on a train after almost three years! So excited that I made a production of the dinner I packed for us and I’m unnecessarily happy about this side berth I’m on.

I’m so looking forward to two days off the grid.

See you on the other side of the weekend.

Two years ago: Day 320: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)

Day 319: Guess I’ll have to leave some stuff behind

Back to base in my own home after three whole weeks is feeling bittersweet. On the one hand I’m so happy for the promise of what is to come, but there’s no denying that the newness of it all is strange and will take getting used to.

It’s in the little things, like an entire empty cupboard next to mine, a single toothbrush in the bathroom, everything so spicnspan, I never imagined it would feel strange.

There’s a jumble of emotions sitting side by side with a pool of calm inside of me, but we’ll take it one day at a time.

For now my immediate interest is in finding some footing, within myself, again. I’m off to Auroville with A for the weekend, with no agenda but I relax, read and recoup from the hectic-in-my-head eight odd weeks that it has been. When I’m back, I’m going to take the wheels off my heels for a bit and give in to my bodys calling for some movement, and balanced, nourishing food. This has been a long time coming.

One year ago: Acceptance is a small, quiet room
Two years ago: Day 319: Homeward bound

Day 318: I have tried in my way to be free

Things that haven’t changed (and probably never will):

  1. Last minute panic. Despite weeks of planning, spreadsheets and lists, and being in Goa for three weeks now, the bulk of all the work to be done with setting VC up in our new home happened in the last three days. And since this was largely due to reasons out of our control, there was no option to even be frustrated about it. With nobody to point fingers at and nobody’s door to place the blame on, we’ve had no choice but to go with the flow. Right up to the very last minute. Which means I have to leave home at 8.30 tonight to make my flight back home, but at 4.30 I’m in the house (which now, in addition to the other work going on here, has a hole where the main door lock used to be) waiting for work to get done.
  2. New beginnings in a new home with the same old tradition of getting locked out. So, for three weeks now as I’ve been slowly getting things in order, we’ve waltzed in and out of this flat with ease. Today we finished some major bits and D and I lit a little lamp and laid out a few cards to honour and invoke new beginnings and good luck, and just we wrapped up and locked the door, it has refused to open again. It took my (very new) neighbour to valiantly climb out of his balcony adjacent to mine, teeter on the edge and climb into my home and enter through a thankfully unlocked balcony door, before he could open it from the inside and let me in. My parents have had this utterly strange phenomenon where almost every home they’ve moved into, they’ve been locked out of at an auspicious moment. I guess I’ve continued that tradition perfectly and I’d like to think of it as good luck. Phew.
  3. It’s still horrifically difficult finding a handyman or handy-people to do odd jobs here in Goa. It’s largely why everything has come down to the wire in the last three days. Goa is Goa is Goa, I suppose.
  4. While it has been largely easy to swallow the hiccups and resign myself to the slowness of this situation, I think the stress of these last few months has finally started to show on me. And as usual, the first thing to be shot to shit as a result of internalised stress, is my skin. Its so apparent this time around, with my face looking and feeling really, really crappy. Oh well, back to square one and getting things back in order once I’m back.
  5. We’re far from done, and the house is still so bare but as usual, just the sight of curtains and dappled light makes everything feel homely. Immediately.

Things that have changed:

  1. VC has surprised me by being the worked up, easily hassled and frustrated one of the two of us this time around. Every time that we’ve been in a situation like this in the past, with life up in the air and very little control on what’s going on, I am usually the first one to cave. This time around we’ve reversed roles and I’m pleasantly surprised.
  2. I’m excited to be nesting again. But this is the first time we’re doing in a home of our own. The energy has been so different this time around. I’ve always thought I’m the sort who likes to daydream about homely spaces, and be in love with the idea of a lovely home, more than I actually have the will to act on it. Every time that I have felt a burst of inspiration to do anything around the home, it fades immediately after bare minimum is achieved. Perhaps this is because none of those spaces ever felt fully like my own. I’m noticing how much free-er we are able to be with decisions and spending money on the things we want to believe we deserve now that this home is for keeps. I’ve watched amazed as we’ve taken swift decisions and extended ourselves in uncharacteristic ways, with all things to do with the home, these past few weeks. There’s been a lovely sense of permanence about this that is so new and enjoyable. I’m almost envious that VC is the one who gets to enjoy this new space all on his own before I ever will!
  3. Maybe it’s for the same reason that I’ve also felt far more connected with this home. And it’s the newness of it all that spurred me to do this. I’ve never been one for rituals. Especially if the house warming sort. But something has shifted in recent time, making me create rituals of my own. Little acts of faith, grounding and sincerity that probably have no place in religion, but mean something far more to me than my supposed religion ever will. And so I lit a lamp, and gathered these cards in the name of prosperity and celebrating new beginnings and sent out a wish to the universe to bless us as we do this. This song and dance of nesting that we’ve done so many times before. And yet this time it seems so very different.
  4. After largely being emotionally in tune for the most part of the last many many months, I’ve been front a bit frayed these past few weeks. A sense of loose ends, everything up in the air, an unsettling front of everything around me building up to something but having absolunk idea what, and the stresses and strains of thisove have left me quite beside myself. I have felt disconnected and it’s shown on more than one occasion. All of which was revealed in this card reading for today. I long for some time to root myself again and the coming weekend promises just that.

Day 317: But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need

Today I had thoughts on going with the flow, the weird thing that social media does where the simplest everyday things are treated like massive achievements, how acceptance and surrender are probably two sides of the same coin, and how the I manage to be weighed down by the sheer lightness and transience of friendship. But I’m cheating with a picture again today. My brain has just been all over the place these last few days and I’m not up to really articulating much.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: The sweet, sweet taste of acceptance

Day 316: Maybe I’ll get it right next time

I’ll try again tomorrow. Over and out for today.

Two years ago: Day 316: That’s how the light gets in

Day 313: And yesterday becomes tomorrow

Two steps forward and one back. On and on it goes.

Amazed and humbled at how things one feels confident and sorted about have a strange way of cropping up when least expected.

Surprised myself at the latent anxiety I have obviously absorbed and locked away these pastany months, only to have it surface when I roamed a supermarket in Panjim last week.

It led to this post and much introspection and eventually a light at the end of the tunnel. But not without first running myself down just a little bit.

But it helps to have timely conversations and frequent insights from folks who help realign my mirrors, clean the fog up and remind me see the me I am now, when it seems easier to be stuck in a difficult past.

Two years ago: Day 313: Mid-week blues

Day 312: While the world plays for our pleasure

It’s been two days of being completely at home, because the help around here took some time off for Diwali. It meant staying with the puppies full-time, which I was  fine by me because my work has been mildly shot to bits with all the frenetic running around. So I was happy for the excuse to be housebound and glued to my laptop.

The pups make for great company because they mostly, well, just sleep really. Nineteen hours yesterday. I counted. Waking up only to be fed, immediately after which they did a splendid job of pulling that face like they’re starving little homeless runts or something, while I tried to eat my lunch. There has been an incredibly peaceful vibe and I’ve felt an ease and unencumbered sort of energy that has energised me.

It’s been a good taste of the days to come, of the extreme luxury of entire days to do just as I please. I’ve enjoyed leisurely breakfasts, working in my night clothes thru the morning, throwing together quick meals convenient food-for-one to shove down my gullet. Generally, it has been tender and easy — taking one hour at a time without rushing around like I have been for so many weeks now.

I got a surprisingly good amount of work done, and I managed to read in the afternoon, and catch a nap before walking the dogs later in the evening (which is more exercise than I give it credit for). Evenings have been about sitting and chatting with VC, who is suddenly pulling a volte-face about his feelings of my going away. In Bangalore he was all I-think-I’m-going-to-be-too-busy-to-miss you, but that has quickly changed to I’m-really-going-to-miss-you. We’ve been turning in by 9.30 pm, which gives me ample time to read for a good long while before sleep hits.

And that’s pretty much my idea of a perfect day. I have had two such days. And the promise of an undecided number of such days ahead of me thrills me no end.

Gratitude today, for this life of absolute luxury. For the power to choose this while the opportunity presented itself. For D who opened her house up to us, complete with space in a cupboard, access to laundry, and so many many hot fresh meals and the company of the puppies to boot. I cannot imagine getting our flat ready while living out of suitcases or in a hotel. For VC who always has my back and encourages me to slow down.

Title from lyrics of this goooood track that came back to me like a flash from the past:

Two years ago: Day 312: Holiday mornings

Day 311: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?

Dogs, I tell ya. They’ve got my heart ticking in ways nothing has in many, many years now.

It’s been more than a few days since D left on her holiday, leaving the puppies with us. It seemed like a huge responsibility we were only to happy to take because of how fond of them we are, but also because of how familiar being around them has been thanks to the many many trips I’ve made this year. Not just being around the pups themselves, but knowing their daily lives and whereabouts, their routines, food habits and even the intricacies of their weird whines, barks and unique manipulative moves. I have loved these dogs for a while now, so there was actually little thought or consideration involved when D asked if we’d puppysit. All three of them have (Leo leading the way) have long wormed their way into my heart, so I was prepared to have my heart crushed by puppy love. But this much?

I honestly didn’t see this coming. I booked my return ticket to Bangalore today, and while I am excited to be going back to resume life all on my own, I am already prematurely heartbroken about going back to a puppy-less home.

Safe to say I am beyond smitten.

(Yeah, how did I get to the dark side? When did this happen?)

Since we’re avoiding leaving the two of them unsupervised and alone for long periods of time, I have been timing my errand runs during the first half of the morning when the help is still around, which means our days have fallen into a neat little routine. So much so that Olive now knows that I will step out between 9.30 and 10. So she begins to follow me around like a tail, waiting for that moment when my sunglasses come on and my bag goes across my shoulder. Then she begins to bark and bring the roof down, demonstrating a full-on protest with gusto, giving it her all in the hope that either I will stay or take her with me. In a last ditch attempt, she dashes off to the gate ahead of me, bounding in double-steps, and stands between me and the gate defiantly. She may be small in stature and size, but she is larger than life in confidence and determination to have her way. In that moment, in her eyes, I see the wild, unbridled firmness of a woman who wants to get her way come hell or high water. It’s like she is oblivious to the fact that her ground clearance is barely four inches off the ground and her height is not more than a foot in total. And it means nothing to her that I can actually just step over her and proceed. Because she has the grit of a woman who means business, she seems large. Massive, even. And it makes me stay a moment longer, get down on my knees and pet her and mumble a few weak and unconvincing words to let her know that I will be back really soon.

What she lacks in size (how can anyone be so damned cute and small and contort themselves into something that resembles a puppy-inspired sushi roll? HOW?) she makes up in her vivacious personality.

Lego on the other hand, is best known for the way he uses his lanky front limbs like hands. Grabbing, holding, pawing, nudging like a bloody human being. It’s like a constant defiance of his doggy-ness and a consistent effort to be human in the way he carries himself. Inside his large head with impossibly big ears is a small brain, from the looks of it because he is dufferest of duffer dogs I have ever come across. But aren’t they the best kind?

He is VC’s favourite, and vice versa. Nobody in this home greets VC with the kind of unrestrained enthusiasm that Lego does. When VC walks in the door Lego loses his shit and doesn’t know what to do with himself. So he darts back and forth, between jumping on VC to bouncing off pieces of furniture like a crazy ball. Except if VC walks in with his full-face helmet on, or with a broom in his hand like he did the other day. Then Lego has no idea who he is and the only way he will run is in the opposite direction. We’re major fattu like that. Despite his small brain and easily triggered flight response, he has the body language and demeanour of the man in charge. Restlessly pacing about, investigating and inspecting things all the time, always walking around with an officious look on his face that would make you believe he’s the boss around here and everything runs on his watch.

He is also completely oblivious to his stature and size which, when he is standing, is about four or five times Olive’s. So sometimes she gets caught underfoot, as he tramples over her like collateral damage to his attacks of excitement.

After a morning of all these adventures warding off humans from leaving the premise, or pacing up and down in anticipation of our return (which leaves them quite hyper and wound up, borderline traumatised on occasion), some semblance of normalcy returns at lunch time, which is when I am usually back home. Nothing settles them like the sight of a plate of food in a human beings hands. They turn into the quietest, most docile dogs with the sweetest, googliest eyes. They sit, transfixed by the food focusing all their attention on the plate as if willing it to float towards them. At that moment, they’re a picture of perfection, the most innocent, angelic dogs. Until Olive’s drool pool begins. Depending on what’s in the plate it varies from being a drippy, leaky tap to a full-on open tap.

Afternoon naps follow. For the first two days after D left, Olive staged a massive sulk by hanging around us but at a safe distance, refusing to respond when called, making no eye contact and generally avoiding too much contact. But after 48 hours, something switched and she has become my tail. If she had it her way she would be attached to me, I suspect. And so we regroup in the afternoon, almost to assuage the trauma of separation from the morning, usually clustered on the couch — me stretched out reading or working, with the two of them curled up on 2/3rds of the couch. If I so much as stir or move, they wake up. If I get up to leave, even to just go to the loo, Olive follows me while Lego looks on from a distance.

Evenings are easily my favourite time of day. I have been walking Olive, while VC has been walking Lego. I didn’t know it, because I have no experience with dogs, but there is something so very grounding about walking a dog every single day, on the clock. The rhythm, the trail, the clicking of their nails on the tarmac, the same spots they stop at, the other dogs we encounter, the predictable fashion in which they behave at all the known spots.

In all of this, I deeply feel the absence of Leo’s presence. I feel it the most when we walk because I remember how different it was walking him. He’d saunter like the King of the land, scoping his field as far as the eye can see, his head held high. I find myself wondering what it might have been walking three instead of two dogs and I yearn for the missed opportunity. Yesterday especially, I was lost in a daydream thinking about him when we were out on our evening walk carrying around a heavy heart like I was aching for a person.

Evenings have been passing in a mellow, quiet fashion. It really is the time when the frenetic activity of their days too, winds down. I’ve found comfort in sitting together with the pups in silence. Them chewing on a bone, while VC and I read or Netflix before we eat dinner and turn in. There is companionable silence and an unspoken togetherness in sharing your day so closely with animals who so easily make you their own.

It’s taken barely 4-5 days for us to make this our routine and figure out how to manage the two of them together.

It’s not taken much doing really. The simple life that a dog loves, makes it easier. There’s barely any managing needed beyond feeding them and walking them on time, giving them adequate pets, belly rubs, back scratches, watching their poo for anything suspicious and holding them close when Diwali crackers begin to thunder around us. They make it very easy because they’re ruled by their hearts, and they know nothing else. So they go after what they want, demand it with all their might and don’t rest until we’ve understood just what they need. And in return for just that little bit of care and attention, I’ve been at the receiving end of a love so, so very pure. Filterless, distilled, concentrated love that is very hard to fight and not feel. It has swept me in, into a life-long snug embrace.

This kind of filterless love, this way in which puppies go all-in with all their heart, the endless giving even in the face of everyday little betrayals and disappointments (I still leave every morning, I still withhold that little morsel of food), this is the stuff worth aspiring for. Who knew, these doggies might teach me a thing or two.

Two years ago: Day 311: Okaybye

Day 310: It’s a lazy afternoon

Finally getting my reading grove back, as per usual, in Goa. Even with the crazy days we’ve been having, I’ve managed to read more in these last ten days than I have in the past two months. Mostly catching up in the afternoons, with the puppies at my feet and the sunlight slanting just so like it does in Goa, compelling me to slow down just a little.

The first two of these updates are books I read in August and September that I’m only just catching up now. That’s how much I fell off the reading bandwagon.

Cyber Sexy: Rethinking Pornography, Richa Kaul Padte
I really, really enjoyed this one! The book is an attempt to define what constitutes porn in a modern Indian context, specifically given digital media. But it reallly felt like a lot more. It’s an intelligent, intimate journey through all the sexy-stuff on the Internet, stopping by everything from homemade videos to nudies to camgirls and fanfic. And along the way, it deftly discusses and dissects topics like consent, violation, sexual abuse, privacy, cyber law and so much more. Thoroughly researched, peppered with the right amount of insightful and intriguing academic references, yet written in a relevant and relatable style, the entire book is meaningfully put together. Cyber Sexy brings together such a wide variety of topics and touch points in its deep-dive into the world of porn in a way that is brave, yet casual and very, very normal.

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
I picked this up on what was meant to be a ten day break by myself in Goa, which unfortunately got hijacked into a work trip to Goa. I read it never the less, but it didn’t quite have the same effect as I had imagined in my head hahaha. I thoroughly enjoyed it, all the same.

S recommended it to me at class, when I was discussing with her my growing need for space and how for the first time, I am experiencing coming into my own, separate from everything else around me and all the strings one usually finds oneself attached to. An apt, apt book for a time like this given the ideas swirling in my brain. It was all that it was cut out to be, fiercely independent, bold and so invigorating. And yet the language isn’t harsh and forceful. There is a quiet power in the subtle and polite way in which Woolf owns her space and place. It’s a quick read — about 120 pages or so — and even though I dragged it out for way longer than I needed to it left me feeling so energised and inspired.

Born a CrimeTrevor Noah
OMG Trevor Noah can write. Man can he write! And because I absolutely love memoirs this was an excellent read. And a great pick to get back to reading again. This is the incredibly moving story of Noah’s life before he became rich and famous, with it’s devastating beginning in apartheid-ridden South Africa. He was born in abject poverty and difficult beginnings, but tells an incredible story of how he was always surrounded by kind and powerful women who brought him up to be who he is today. Right from his years as a toddler, traversing his difficult teenage years, life with an alcoholic stepfather and a misguided early youth, I found out so many things about Noah’s life that I didn’t know about, but that also make his journey of triumph so much bigger. It’s fun, funny, moving, inspiring and entertaining all at once.

Two years ago: Day 309: Invitation

Day 309: The rest is up to you, you make the call

The #metoo updates have been consistently triggering for me. Much as I have tried to measure how much information I am taking in, I find myself drawn by the seething rage and the collective bubbling over of the resistance to silence with mind-boggling numbers of women continuing to bravely speak up. The last month has felt like the unclogging of a long-blocked pipe, and there is just no stopping it now. I’m enraged, yes, at the sheer extent of the extreme atrocities, violence and exploitation women have put up with for decades and decades. But I am also flummoxed, watching from the sidelines, at the uniform confidence and entitlement male predators possess. Across the board. I’ve watched as so many communities that I have belonged to or engaged with at some point — advertising, journalism, tech companies, the dance and music fraternity — have had so many of their star men and heroes fall. I have felt deep empathy and connection for every single story from every single woman, and a growing sense of blinding rage at how much we are all in this together. Every story (and there have been oh, so many!) that sounds eerily similar to a experience I have had has driven home the truth about how the casual and brazen this violence and exploitation is. How much this  tendency to take advantage of women has been normalised. For us, and by us. And just how much of it has continued to grow and be strengthened by our silence.

But it was this clever little comic that hit closest home for me, bringing back a flood of memories from the time when my trainer came on to me in a way that violated my personal space and consent, left me confused about what I might have done to bring it on, wondering whether he was really being inappropriate or just doing his job as my trainer, and most of all gripped me with worry and fear about whether speaking up would mean having to stay away from and essentially give up what was actually the best form of exercise I had ever experienced.

This was too powerful, nuanced, familiar and clever not to share. I hope you’ll pass it along, far and wide.

One year ago: Hotel hangover
Two years ago: Day 309: Invitation

Day 306: Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend?

Recently someone remembered me as that person with a strong aversion to people I have changed my mind about. It had obviously irked said person enough to remember me as someone who inexplicably rejects and moves on from people without so much as a thought.

I was taken aback when I heard this. The thing is, the description is not entirely inaccurate, but it isn’t completely true either. And even though better sense has prevailed, I haven’t been able to shake off the judgement. Perhaps it bothered me, and continues to bother me to some extent, because I realise fully why it might seem that way to onlookers who take the convenient position of watching my life from a distance and who get this sort of second-hand information passed on by other onlookers.

From the outside, if does really seem like I run through friendship like seasonal wardrobe changes, I’m sure. I have built and broken far too many friendships in the three decades I’ve lived, with most of the action in this department being concentrated in the last decade. And here’s the thing, I’m finally in a place where I am at peace with that. After years of longing for forever friendship, I’m more in acceptance of the idea that for some of us, that is not a realistic goal. And the more I accept the very transient nature of relationships in my life, the routine coming and going of people, the gradual building of some friendships and the natural fading away of others, the more it seems to make sense, and the less angst it causes me.

So in that sense, it is a bit like wardrobe changes with seasonal spring cleaning and doing away with that which no longer fits or interests me, while keeping some ever-green favourites that will never go out of style, and having that stash of items in the periphery towards which I have temporary difficult feelings, but that I hang on to for nostalgia’s sake or in eternal hope that we will fit again. Someday.

This no longer feels like a bad way to live. It works for me. However, there’s no denying that the uneasiness of this judgement bites me. And nothing makes it bite harder than a visit to Goa, because the judgement was based on the state of my relationships in the time before I left Goa.

I moved cities, yes, but much before that happened I had moved on from many people in my life here. But today, over a delightful few hours spent with C — fellow freelance writer and dear friend from Panjim — I realised that every time the uneasiness about being judged for this surfaces, I give away a little bit of my power. I dim a little bit of the light that is my lived experience and my agency — both which shined bright in guiding me through these choices.

Every time that I am affected by how easily I have been branded, I am weighed down by that opinion that is quite honestly only a half-truth. But most of all, hanging out with C and having the delightful time that we did made me realise that every time that I feel bad about this judgement and I wallow about being misunderstood for walking away from some relationships, I undermine all those relationships that I have allowed to remain. I lose track of those that I actively chose to nurture and grow. I fade out the light and love of those that I continue to keep thriving in my life, even 700 kilometres away.

Meeting C who I have such a soft spot for, had me overjoyed and so content. And I realised its a friendship that has had none of the typical markers. We barely hung out, we’ve met a handful of times in real life, but we’ve connected over so much more. And every time that we meet, we seem to have so much to talk about. It’s one of the few connections that has endure even after I moved on, and she is one of the handful of people I feel like connecting when I come back. We’re frequently sharing things of mutual interest over email, catching each other up briefly on where life and work is, sharing writing contacts and passing assignments on to each other. And I always feel a genuine warmth without the song and dance of it.

Most times I tell myself I don’t care what people think, but today, I acknowledged that the reason being judged in this instance bothered me is because it hurt to be judged and misunderstood. I have not done a very good job of dealing with that hurt. And so every time it surfaces, it takes me right back to that half-truth, misinformed judgement. It takes me back and it makes me focus on the lack. The lack of empathy, the lack of understanding, the lack of people in my life at that time, and the lack of my ability to deal with it then. But that was then, and I have come a long way since. But in choosing to focus on the then, I discount the abundance of all these little connections that I have now. Many of which have flourished in the time after I moved away. I discount all the relationships that stirred over a few commonalities that only bloomed as time passed, and I discovered friendship beyond the limited definition I had back then. I think of people like C, and a couple other “work friends” who I am in touch with virtually, and how despite how little we hung out when I lived here, are always quick to jump at any opportunity I present for us to catch up. I am overwhelmed at how my relationship with D and K has turned into so much more than mere friendship. I think about B and R who keep checking in on me to see if I’ve had enough of Bangalore and if I’m returning any time soon. There’s R and S and J who are some of my fondest friends from Goa, and how our relationship has gone so far beyond the time we spent together here. And there is A who I know I can always turn to and lean on, in times of need. I think of P in Finland (Hi, P!) and how we catch up over infrequent but frantic bouts of messages about things we feel deeply about. And all I feel is a sense of abundance.

So, I came away wondering why it takes so little to shrink that sense of settledness and abundance I know I carry within me. What is it about hurt that makes everything that’s otherwise solid, so fragile? And what do I need to do to make it go away?

Two years ago: Day 306: Diwali 2016