I shake off all that no longer serves me

I started to write this post on the 1st of this month, and wanted to add in a fitting song because I realised all of 2017 has passed without a single music track/link being posted on this blog. That is utterly unthinkable. But guess what, the silence and an inexplicable energy-saving mode of sorts has crept in so deep, I didn’t get down to finishing the post and I have now forgotten what song I wanted to add in.

Pardon this jagged, rushed job of a post. Its long winded, repetitive and very roundabout. I’m aware because I haven’t even bothered to edit or prune it. It is an attempt to get going and have it out. Something, is better than nothing, I tell myself. Letting go of my obsession for perfection and finishing all business to the T has been constant work in progress and this too is an attempt to express, and write even when the words aren’t coming out the way I’d ideally like them to.

*****

It’s December, and funnily that expected panic and omg-how-is-it-December-already feeling hasn’t hit. I don’t think it will this year. Possibly because I’ve spend most of the year in a state of churn, and haven’t really felt settled in the real sense of the term. There’s been a fair bit of travel and moving around always makes me feel like I don’t have my feet firmly on the ground. I vascilate between the comforting mundanities that bind my daily routine, and the little surprises it throws in terms of things to do, travel out of Bangalore, meeting new people and trying out new things.

The rumbling workings of moving from one phase to another is what 2017 has been about. Even as I think back and feel like I don’t have much to pen, I know this has been a big year of shifts, change on multiple fronts. It feels so full and hectic, even as I realise I don’t really have much to show for it, in tangible, tactical terms.

And so I have written this entire year off to WIP, a state of transition, with no expectations of having done big stuff, ticked things off the proverbial list and the like. It was much needed because it meant letting go of control, the very notion of it, and the contents and parts I tend to try and have a hold over in my own life.

This year more than ever, I let go of patterns, fixed ideas and considering the relocation back to Bangalore, I had no choice but to make space for the physical change it brought. The only way to make sense of it and move through it with least angst was to go with the flow. Truly go with it was what I was aiming for. It took a lot of conscious effort, but for the first time ever, I may have succeeded in some part. In doing so, I got a taste of what it is to surrender to the what-will-be-will-be philosophy that so far only sounded too good to be true. I got a better sense of what is important to me — personally, professionally and otherwise — and began to focus on it. I am coming to terms with constantly allowing space for change, not only within and around myself, but also in people I associate with. It has meant accepting changes in relationships, allowing myself to feel disappointed and shaking it off quickly rather than brooding over it, and most importantly it’s brought people I had turned my back on for good back into my life in a pleasant, refreshing way.

I’ve realised this year, more than ever before, that my feelings towards people and the longing for kinship of a certain kind has always been fraught with angst caused by my own tendency to remain fixed to a pre-meditated and cookie cutter idea of the nature of relationships I want in my life. This year, I accepted differences, tonalities and diversity in people and I know I am all the better for it. Differences matter less, disagreements bother me lesser, and my life feel full of people, even as I’ve trimmed some folks out.

All in all, If I spent the last two years anxiously in wait for change (not knowing I was actually laying down the path to move ahead), this year I stomped ahead and claimed that path. So there really isn’t much to take stock of. On paper, I have little to show for what happened and what was accomplished this year.

Yet, so much has happened. Most of it has been internal, and even though I pontificate and ruminate over it in cyclic fashion on this blog, I’ve found it hard to bring it into conversations with people around me. Even those who have been a part of and shared much of this journey with me. I’ve found myself conserving energy, feeling silent and sitting with the shifts I am experiences, craving more and more of it, and consciously moving towards a place of intensifying growth and becoming better with every passing day and week.

This was the year I shed a lot of my fear of change, examined more aversions that I’d like to admit I had, and recognised how much I was getting in my own way and how much of this has been keeping myself from getting ahead. But that process in itself has been the journey, and there’s no easy, short-cut to get around it. It takes painfully long, and my days are often dotted with tedious introspection and reflection.

The funny this is, it slows down time and yet this has been the fastest, most brisk year to have zipped by, yet. I know I say this every year, but 2017 has really made me feel it. The general theme has been wait-and-watch, rush nothing, look before you leap, but let go and move with the flow.

While I’m cursorily looking back on the year, its clear as the first rays of morning sunshine, that this has been a year of a great amount of shedding. The first step to a lot of that has been to truthfully look at everything in my life — people, habits, attitudes, work, likes, dislikes — and accept where it is and what purpose it serves. Many times it has meant coming to a painful conclusion that something/someone I love, or who makes my life look and feel a certain way, isn’t actually serving me any good anymore. Some times it has meant letting go of a stupid idea I believe defines me, when actually it defined me two or five or ten years ago, when I have actually moved on and hanging on to it is actually keeping me away from a fresh experience. There has also been the odd yet very humbling instance of seeing my own harsh and judgemental outlook on so much around me, and trying every single day to consciously be gentler with myself and with people around me, with the words that pass through my brain and the lot that carelessly slip out, has opened up something for me.

It is constant work. At being present. At being conscious. At being mindful and watchful. At being gentle every chance that I can. At allowing space for change all the time. At moving closer to a deeper, more granular level of honesty. At choosing kindness. And all the while reminding myself that nothing, not even all of this, is forever or permanently written in stone. What works today, may not have a few years ago. And may not serve me well in the years to come. Understanding this, is what has required the work, the mindfulness and the repeated need to quieten down and tune inwards.

I shake off all that no longer serves me. Again. And again. And again.

Same time, last year: Day 348: The last of the books for 2016

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Acceptance is a small, quiet room

About my post earlier this week: I see I’ve come full circle, from this post I wrote a year ago that echoes much the same feelings, albeit in an entirely different context and environment.

Acceptance. Peace. Contentment. Call it what you will – it doesn’t need the perfect situation. It doesn’t even need most things to be just right. It needs just the right things to work, and a little faith, is all.

It almost never comes with bells ringing and celebrations of pomp. It comes silently. Quietly. Sometimes when you’re all alone.

Illustrating my point exactly.

And while you’re at it, check out this post too.

Same time, last year: Day 320: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)

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

Some days I wonder at how I felt so compelled to uproot my near perfect life in Goa and swap it for this one here. Given how change-averse I am I used to be, it sometimes makes me want to pinch myself and go over the sequence of events in my head. On paper this shift makes no sense. Sometimes even I don’t have the words to explain the whys and hows of it articulately. Most times I do a lousy job of spelling it out, which is why every time that I’ve been asked, I’m met with expressions that tell me I’m really unconvincing.

It got me to thinking why I even need to explain myself. Aside from answering a question, what is this need for me to justify this?

Am I really just answering a question? Or am I trying to process the new normal myself?

I bumped into an acquaintance the other day, someone I first met in Goa, as I was walking down MG Road the other day. Of course the first thing he had to say was, “what are you doing here?!”

Maybe he expected me to say I was visiting.

“I live here now,” I said, instead.

“How come?!” began the volley of utterly predictable questions. It’s happened too many times. And I suppose it is to be expected. It is the most predictable train of thought.

But I’ve reached a point where I can’t help that my answers are so dead-pan and straight. There is no big twist in the story. I wanted a change, and so I moved. We started a business, and so we moved. I wanted to be around family and friends, and so we moved.

“You left Goa to come to this?”

It is unconvincing I suppose. Illogical too. And I don’t expect anyone to really understand or make sense of it. Which is why I’m getting used to the next reaction that follows, as it did with this specimen too:

Standing there, under the groaning weight of the concrete monster that is the Metro Line that has changed the face of what was one of Bangalore’s most iconic views, surrounded by the din of honking vehicles, hawkers shouting each other out to get our attention, the “left Goa” and “this” in that statement weighed me down.

There couldn’t have been a starker picture to illustrate how different my life and surroundings now are, compared to the where I used to be.

And yet my answer was a simple “yes”.

It was the first time I realised I didn’t need to explain myself.

***

This past weekend it dawned on me that I’ve finally found my place, after many months of coming to terms with the transition. Even just looking at the posts I wrote at when I just moved, I can trace the process. Part of it was explaining, over explaining, and making sense of it all myself. And it has been a process, not a mere turning of a switch. I see today, how crucial it was to take that time. Because it wasn’t just about adjusting to a new city and a new routine. Along the way, there have been lessons in making peace with the unlikeliness, opening myself up to uncertainty. In slowing down, letting that shit go. In being vulnerable and sit with the quiet, no matter how disconcerting. In allowing myself to unravel, come undone because how else can one grow out again, differently. In loosening up, expecting less and allow myself to be surprised. And shocked.

I was the most change-averse person I knew. But even that has changed. I find the more I let go of the rigid ideas I have about myself, the more I am in harmony with what is to come and the way things are panning out. The more I am willing to let things in, sit with them a little before I decide how I feel about them, the better I am able to deal with everything — the good and the bad. All this is not to say the transition has been smooth sailing. It has been anything but. There has been much getting used to, physically, emotionally and psychologically. This has taken a toll on both VC and I. We’ve both taken our time in dealing with this our individual ways. We’ve had arguments galore — disagreed and fought more this year than we have in a decade of being together.

But conflict always preceded great change, didn’t it? We’ve fought, differed, challenged each other, and I know deep in my bones we’ve grown as a result of it.

***

Last week, I met an ex colleague and friend from Goa, who is also back in Bangalore. This time, I was asked “so how are things?”

Again, there is no straight, simple answer. Honestly, I said “they’re so-so.”

Because that is the truth. I have learned to appreciate and respect and enjoy that which I know I am here for. Some new and enjoyable have presented themselves as a result, and it certainly sweetens the deal for me. But, I do miss Goa. I suppose that can never change, and I cannot expect it to go away.

“You’re never going to be happy, are you?” he grinned, almost as if to suggest coming to Bangalore was the silver bullet to every inadequacy I was feeling in Goa.

I don’t see it as not being happy, to be honest. I’m really happy. In fact I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, if you can even believe that. I know, I didn’t. But being happy isn’t a constant, one time state that I can turn on. I’m happy to let things go and come. And that is just the beauty of this shift. This new found flexibility. This give, the relaxation in the rigidity in my being. The openness to the possibility that I can love both places at once. And I can focus on the good, here and now. It has made space for so much change, and so much good has come from it.

I’m far more social than I have allowed myself to be.

I’m not the cagey introvert I was convinced I was.

I’ve reconnected with people I didn’t think I ever would.

the few people I thought my life would depend on, I barely meet. And it hasn’t turned my life upside down.

I’m loving the winter, and the wonderful choices I have when it comes to restaurants and food (since it is mostly all Bangalore likes to do).

I have embraced public transport and I barely drive anymore.

I’ve let go of the idea that being a writer defines me completely.

I’m open to working out new ways of earning money.

I find myself rediscovering the kitchen once again, after a bout of never wanting to look stove-wards again.

Things change. As long I’m willing to let them. And this fact in itself has been such a big learning to have come from moving base. If nothing else, I am grateful for this.

So no, I’m not peachy perfect and happy. I don’t believe I ever will be. Because it’s that rumble of unsettledness, that yearning for what’s next that keeps me going.

***

This past weekend it dawned on me that I’ve finally found my place, after many months of coming to terms with the transition. In a flash, I realised with utmost clarity, the many, many good things that have come from getting my change-averse self to uproot my near-perfect Goa life and swap it for the mad crawl of this city.

It doesn’t always make sense to people out there, but in my heart and in my bones, I know it’s what I most needed.

And I took a moment to savour the realisation that I somehow always find my way to where I most need to be. 

Same time, last year: Day 319: Homeward bound

Hotel hangover

It started on the 13th of last month, driving from Bangalore to Goa for an assignment with VC, and we broke our drive at Hubli. This marked the first of many nights to come, that would be spent in a hotel room. On day 1 I excitedly messaged P expressing how much I love hotel rooms for their plush pillows, bouncy beds, luxurious showers and room service, as I was drinking my single malt and eating kebabs whilst in said bouncy bed.

Oh and then there’s the breakfast buffets. THE BREAKFAST BUFFETS. For someone who’s been on a low carb, no sugar diet with a moderately strict intermittent fasting regime in place, the buffets just did me in. So I was all omg-I-could-do-this-for-life when I realised the convenience of just waking up and showing up to a mind-boggling spread of breakfast. Correction: breakfastsss.

(What I didn’t consider was the fact that I would be in hotel rooms for the next 15 days and nights (barring a couple of days in-transit) and that I might feel differently by the end of it.)

Our first assignment was for the newly opened Le Meridien Hotel in Calangute, Goa, and so we stayed on location of course. It has to be said, given the number of hotel stays I’ve had in my life, as well as this past year for all the reviews and travel I’ve done, this stay and this hotel has shot it’s way up to the very top of my list of best most memorable hotel experiences I’ve had in a long, long time.

I flew down to Madras next, en route to Pondicherry for the next leg of my journey. On an assignment reviewing hotels, I spent the next 5 nights in 5 different hotels. It sounds very exciting, and it was for the most part, but I’ll get to the not so great bits in just a second.

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Le Meridien for the impeccable service and hospitality that went several notches above anything I expect of a big brand hotel. Let’s face is, at the end of the day, they’re a chain, and they tend to be very generic and cookie-cutter at the end of the day. But this was starkly different.

Being away from home, living out of a suitcase and flitting from one hotel to the next has also given me a lot or mixed feelings and some angst about the indulgence and high levels of consumption of resources that goes hand in hand with travel. It’s hard to miss seeing it once you do begin to notice. And I am beginning to really question the hows and whys of this kind of big budget travel in general.

Then there is the matter about being a woman travelling alone. It all feels very liberating and for half a day I felt like a strong, independent woman.

Who is sometimes afraid of the dark.

In my excitement to be travelling alone again, I forgot that I am sometimes quite the scardey cat. So on just day 3 in Pondicherry, I had the strangest night, sleeping in a room with an attached bathroom with a shoer area that was open to sky.

I drove myself into a tizzy convinced that all it would take for someone to intrude was scale the bathroom wall from the outside and enter my room. So I slept with the lights and TV on. All night. And when I say slept I meant dozed from time to time.

Yeah, design and spaces don’t account for things like solo women travellers, and forget to put in little things like locks on bathroom doors, I suppose. I forgot going solo means also getting rid of some of these stupid fears. But that’s another thought for another post.

There is a place for big brands and what they do, but on the last day of my stay in Pondicherry, walking into a heritage-home-turned-hotel immediately gave me a sense of home no place else has, those past two weeks.

I love good design and good service is kind of a given when it comes to hotels, but I realised I’m so not a generic, expansive, we’ve-got-it-all resort kind of person. And after spending the three out of five days in such properties (that resulted in three back-to-back sleepless nights) with rooms as big as my home in Bangalore, making me feel small and intimidated, I felt so at home and on familiar ground in the heritage home.

Tucked under a regular duvet on a tall old wooden bed no different from the one you’ll find in your granny’s home, I breathed a sigh of relief.

So yeah, take your pretentious open air showers and air conditioning panels with so many features I couldn’t get the AC temp down. And give me small spaces chanracter. Give me rooms that feel like home. And give me a hotel that is an experience of the true flavour and character of the destination I’m visiting, and I’m hooked.

Same time, last year: Day 305: Light and life

More Goa postcards: walking through Mapusa Market

Easily one of my most favourite things to do in Goa was visiting the Friday market in Mapusa. Few things invigorate me like a market full of fresh produce can. And our visit to this one churned up all kinds of nostalgic and mixed emotions about how far away I am from the simplicity and luxury of this: going to a market this abundant, lush and thriving, where I can buy things straight from the makers/growers themselves.

Le sigh.

Filed under #youwinsomeyoulosesome

Goa mornings like way I like them: chai <3
Goa mornings the way I like them: letting my nose guide me through the piles of produce on a Friday at Mapusa market
Goa mornings the way I like them: bathed in a crisp, blindingly bright October light

Same time, last year: Day 305: Light and life

More Goa postcards: yellow

Walking through Fontainhas always gives me a sense of stillness. Like time stopped for a bit, and then picked up again, but the effects of that lag, those missed moments linger on indefinitely. Casting a cliche old-world hue, not just on the way the place looks, but energy it carries. I always feel like I can feel right to my bones, the yars and years of lives, histories and experiences that these buildings, little streets, tiny shuttered windows opening on to groaning balconies must have witnessed.

If I had one word to describe the afternoon we spent back in Fontainhas, it would have to be S T I L L.

And then there’s the beach of course. It doesn’t get more Goa than this. Peachy sun-kissed sunsets, a lilt in the air, beach dogs befriending you and succeeding effortlessly, and the smell of seafood and tandoori everything in the air as the shacks get set for dinner service.

After this trip, where every dog that passed us made a beeline for VC, and instantly struck a friendship and unreal levels of intimacy with him, I’m convinced he might be a dog whisperer.

Same time, last year: Day 301: Notes to self

More Goa postcards: blue

Assuaging my separation angst and  bittersweet Goa feelings (sadness at some of the things I witnessed and internalised, and happiness to have it as a perpetual part of my life) with an uber-touristy mini series to share the rest of my snaps from Goa. I’m going to be lazy and double post them straight of Instagram, on here.

Beautiful, beautiful, Goa — have I mentioned how wonderful it is to be at this vantage point? Of having enough distance, and time between us to let all the dissatisfaction simmer down, and yet be able to return (as a visitor) to find that same familiarity and intimacy still remains? And better still to now be a return visitor, and find a sense of almost-possessiveness, belonging and near-heartbreaking fury and inability to accept even the slightest change? To know that I can flit between the two states, and still feel at home? To be able to see everything differently. To compare, to open my eyes to perspectives previously unnoticed, to feel that gentle throbbing of my heart that still beats for the life you gave me?

Haiiiii – This is ReRe reporting from homeland! In all my years of living in Goa, I never ventured in to Calangute proper. And somehow, this time around, circumstances ensured that we lived smack in the middle of Calangute for six whole days.
Day 1 opened with serene beginnings. And a string of breakfast buffets that would slowly but surely break me. And the healthy food plan I’ve been on. The only saving grace? A swim here, every evening, after sunset.
On day 2, we set off to catch this church in the golden hour of the AM. But it was shrouded in mist which gave it an eerie atmosphere. Also pictured in here is my favourite partner. In life. And have I mentioned now at work too?!
Day 3 escapades took us to this beach that’s predominantly a fishing village. We’ve cycled here very often and it used to be one of the nicest, beaches in the north, pretty cut off from the humdrum. This time though, it was one giant festering toilet, with human fecal matter covering pretty much every square inch, for as far as the eye can see. It infuriated me to have to dodge shit piles to get out and get our work done, until I realised these fishermen were working there too. Smiles on their faces. Dogs romped and cows lolled about on the shitty sands too. Surely this isn’t a choice for these fishermen, I imagined. Nobody would *choose* it, this is what insurmountable circumstances look like. Nothing bursts my bubble of privilege than a reality check like this. Someone want to take the Chief Minister or Modiji down there for a walk? Not a dustbin or bathroom in sight for miles on end. Pretty sure there’s issues with running water too. 
Back at the beach, at a different time of day on day 4. And the colours in the magic hours between 4.30 and 6 are always all kinds of amazing.
On our last day out, I went to what seemed to be one of the nicest azulejos stores of the many many stores Ive been to. Deceptively small but has a delightful variety of things made from using these tiles creatively, for a very decent price too. Custom name boards etc still take ridiculously long (and I wonder why nobody’s figured out a way to work this out faster) but you’ll find a lot of other things worth taking back from your holiday. Head to Azulejos de Goa on MG Road in Panjim. It’s in a little alley like entrance set back from the main road, right opposite Clube Nacionale.

Same time, last year: Day 300: Three hundred

 

Postcards from Pondicherry

There was a brief period in my life, around my late teens and early twenties, when I visited Pondicherry once a year at least. The last trip I made there was with VC a month after we got married in 2008.

So I’m coming back here after nearly ten years, and like every tourist place in the country, Pondi has changed. And I’m saying Pondi for convenience sake, but I specifically mean the heritage parts of White Town in the heart of Pondicherry. This isn’t the Pondi I remember, this Pondi has changed, but it’s so refreshing to see a good change, for a change.

For one, the Heritage Town is hugely spruced up, clean for the most part and chock full of little cafes, boutique hotels, galleries, stores and the like. Most places tastefully and respectfully keeping the original structures intact.

Cafes full of character, serving basic to elaborate all day menus, offering free wifi, and basically doing their best to get people to spend as much time (and money) as possible in there.

The two gardens I strolled thru were lush, clean, green and beautifully maintained. I saw locals and tourists alike, using and enjoying the public spaces like they’re meant to be. lounging on benches, picnicking on the soft grass, taking pictures alongside the pieces of art installed in there.

The narrow alleyways had vehicles neatly parked, and the main sea facing promenade itself was blocked off on Sunday evening, to create a walkway for pedestrians and tourists to enjoy. I walked down after sunset — the pavement newly redone, with sufficient seating and brightly lit, it was alive and buzzing with music, food stalls and people enjoying the outdoors.

The next morning, I took an Ola Cab to get to my hotel. Coming from Goa where I was stranded for the most part because I refused to be robbed in broad daylight just to avail cab services, I was beyond thrilled to see this transformation. My cabbie informed me it’s been in service for three years, and many auto drivers have upgraded to cabs. The few that haven’t tend to create problems through their unions, but it hasn’t deterred the entry of services like Ola.

I have to say, these are very superficial observations made based on a coupe hours of walking about a tiny part of the town. But it is the heart of the tourist part, where all the action is. It really reminded of Fountainhas, and made me rueful about what could have been, and what isn’t.

I’m not sure about the politics of it all or what was lost, or who was pissed off in order to make all of this happen but I’m mighty impressed to see a tourist place cash in on what they have, building around a culture and atmosphere of tourism that already exists, rather than making harebrained elaborate plans to bring in new and innovative plans that are at cross purposes to its inherent culture and style.

Clearly tourism is thriving. It’s there for the taking and it’s visibly on the rise. I saw it in the streets, in the cafes, in the throngs of people bustling about.

Pondicherry, I’m so impressed.

Same time, last year: Day 299: Book quandary

On going solo

On Sunday morning, I read a quote (by Rainbow Rowell, from Attachments) on The Artidote’s instagram post, and it resonated so deeply with me:

So, what if, instead of thinking about solving you whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.

I got to Pondicherry late on Sunday afternoon. I will be here for the next weekish, wandering about by myself. And here’s the reason it really spoke to me. This is one of those happy(making) things I have been wanting to do for a while this year: to take a trip, no matter how long or short, no matter where, near or far, by myself.

The last time I truly travelled solo, all by myself, I was 19. And I think back to the time that is clearly tinged with absurdity. I was at an age that comes with a lot of natural casual, carefree naiveté, of course. But my parents too, had only but supported and encouraged my going. Fuelled the pick-up-and-go energy that was ever present. Undeterred by the fact that this was my first long solo journey lasting 8 weeks. No matter that it also happened to be the very first time I’d be travelling outside the country.

I think back to that infectious impulsiveness, that ability to respond to an idea with little reason, because I know it’s what gets watered down with time. And with growing up.

Back then, I don’t remember once stopping to rationalise or reconsider or double-think anything. Literally nothing stopped me. No good reason. The opportunity presented itself, my parents supported me, and I got down to making the trip happen. I’m painfully aware of having lost that essential spontaneity and impulsiveness in recent time. Far too often I find myself thinking and over thinking even my littlest dreams and desires. And often, I brush them aside if I can’t think of a bigger reason than “doing this would make me happy”.

This is something I’ve woken up to recently. There are so many little, doable, realistic, essential things for the doing. For the taking. And I stop myself because better reason gets in the way. I don’t know when being happy has become an insufficient reason. But it’s something I want to try and change.

Combined with the fact that the desire to head out solo has been bubbling up for a while now, I grabbed this opportunity with both hands when it came my way. I didn’t think too much, even when the voice of reason and logic tried to get in the way and raise some potentially crucial points to consider.

I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

For someone who has done a lot of other solo stuff, and for whom solitude has been such an important piece in recent time, it was alarming to realise I hadn’t travelled alone for over a decade. To be fair, the thought or the desire hasn’t even occurred to me. I’ll put that down to the phase in life that didn’t demand it. I got so much alone time and was on a semi holiday for the most part of my life the past eight years, I didn’t feel the need to get away.

But the thought has raised it’s head multiple times this year. And it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, acknowledging it rather than brushing it aside as something I don’t need or desire. So when the opportunity came out of the blue, in what seemed like unlikely circumstances, I was mildly overwhelmed that all my thinking had probably created it.

Anyhow, this post is to acknowledge this change. And to acknowledge the gratitude I feel to be in the incredibly privileged position that allows me to tune in and listen to these seemingly unnecessary desires. To be able to indulge most of them. To have the choice and the ability to build this life wholly on on the belief that it’s worth it. To allow myself the spontaneity. Even if the reason for it is is nothing more than to add another thing to my pile of happy.

***

So much of growing into myself again this year, has been about acknowledging and honouring myself and my individual needs and dreams, outside of who I am in the many roles I play. To shed the fear, the guilt, the embarrassment and sheepishness that sometimes accompanies owning up to that truth. To free myself from previously held notions of who I am, and allowing myself the flexibility of changing again. Perhaps this too is another piece in the puzzle.

Just the idea of being presented with a chance to take off, with most things worked out, felt so freeing. In the run up to my travel to Pondi, I felt all kinds of excitement and empowerment.

Except, I’m a strong, independent woman. Who is sometimes afraid of the dark.

In my excitement to be travelling alone again, I forgot that I am sometimes quite the scaredy-cat.

My third night here, I found myself in a room with tall wall-to-ceiling glass panes on two sides of the room. The kind that are usually used in boardrooms and conference rooms in offices. Heavy glass doors without frames, that take an arm workout to open and close. Which means they don’t shut nimbly or speedily. Anyhow, I didn’t think too much about it, until after sunset when I had to draw all the drapes, and realised I was in what felt like a tent of heavy drapes. There was an added catch, the room had a bathroom attached, with the shower area open to sky, and a giant window with a ledge right in front of the pot, which had no bars or shutter or anything. It overlooked an indoor courtyard of sorts that nobody was ever likely to go into, beyond which a tallish wall enclosed the loo to allow just enough privacy.

Once the sun had fully set, the nighttime creatures began to make their presence felt through an orchestra of croaks and buzzing sounds, I began to convince myself that someone was going to scale the courtyard wall and very easily make their way into my room. I was convinced that in the face of an intrusion even screaming for help wouldn’t d much because my cottage was tucked away in the corner of the sprawling property.

I had the strangest night, sleeping with the lights and TV on. And when I say sleeping, I mean dozing in and out of sleep from time to time.

A restless eight hours later, I was just so happy when it turned 7 am and I could get out of bed where I was pretending to be asleep, hit the breakfast buffet and get on with my day. Everything seems better and safer in the light of day!

***

I remember that first trip I took to Europe when I was only 19, figuring out the Metro in Paris all by myself. I remember fumbling through, not knowing the language and being stuck on more than one occasion when I couldn’t figure out a map or a sign on the street or a station. I remember taking the last train back at 3 am one morning, and rushing through the underground station, dodging the homeless man who was drunk, singing out loudly who turned and came after me. I remember exiting the city limits my metro card allowed me to and sneaking in thanks to some careful thoroughfare. I remember being on top of the Arc de Triomphe enjoying the view where I was suddenly cornered by two incredibly good looking Algerian men who absolutely insisted I join them for a drink. It was a good ten minutes of conversation before reality and reason dawned on me and I realised I should probably not indulge them. I remember travelling through Brussels, Amsterdam and Brugge all by myself, taking trains at odd hours, walking through strange new towns where I was a stranger. I remember sitting on that pebble beach in Greece towards the end of my trip, when I finally realised I had overstayed my Visa and that I needed a quick plan of action to get home.

Yet, through all of it, I don’t remember too many moments of fear. Yes, there was shock, panic or an adrenalin rush. But never debilitating fear of the sort the stupid open-air bathroom caused last night.

I guess it’s going to take a lot more getting out alone because it’s been so long, I seem to have forgotten that going solo means also bracing myself for the odd situation where I am sometimes afraid. To get rid of some of those fears and remind myself that I am enough.

Same time, last year: Day 298: Weekend snippets

When one door shuts, open it again

There is something to be said about how despite everything positive that has happened for me in Bangalore, every time I return to Goa it immediately feels like home too.

This is my second visit back in the six months since I’ve moved, and it honestly feels like I never left at all. Even more so because we drove down this time around, and I immediately realised how different it is to drive around in Panjim. In Bangalore, I’m edgy when I drive. I hate it, I feel out of my depth. In Goa, it comes naturally.

It got me thinking back to how unhappy I was towards the end of my time here, and  realised how much of it I unknowingly attributed to the place and situations I found myself in. When really I should have been looking within, at the heart of my dissatisfaction. It made me wistful, and some part of me longs for a do-over. Like I said, life isn’t linear, and perhaps I had ti be that dissatisfied, and at sea with that feeling, in order to work it out in a way that led me to Bangalore, just so I could come back to Goa, where I would look at things anew.

So I’ll happily take this life of frequenting Goa, the magnet that it seems to be. I’m grateful for the opportunities to split my time between both homes. To the chance discovery that I have actually found the near-perfect arrangement to satisfy my cant-I-make-both-places-my-home state of mind.  To enjoy Bangalore for all that it has given, and continues to give, me and yet have the peaceful hug of homeliness that I know Goa will always have waiting for me. I’m grateful to have the second chance, and a place to go to every time I need respite from the humdrum that Bangalore inevitably brings.

I’m happy for the opportunities. Period.

Maybe this is my do-over. My second chance.

Like they say, when one door shuts, open it again. It’s a door, it’s how they work.

Same time, last year: Day 294: Link loving

Postcards from Goa

It’s been such an overwhelming week. Sensory overload. Hectic, tiring, physically taxing. Mentally and emotionally too, Ive felt stretched. But it has also been so satisfying.

Details to follow. But for now, thank you Goa, for a sparkly time, yet again. And before I head off to location two, here’s a few postcards from the past week spent wandering in spots I’ve roamed countless times, that I got to see through new eyes.

As a traveller. As a visitor. As an outsider. As an assistant to a film maker. As a professional on assignment.

Looking at everything anew sometimes makes all the difference.

Same time, last year: Day 293: Stuff

On being present 

I’ve gone from being a complete sceptic to a firm believer in creating the change you want to see in your life, by affirming and living it every single day. It sounds very woowoo, I’m aware. But here’s the thing: it is.

I’ve learned that for the most part of my life, especially in times of flux and indecision, I’ve let fear take over so much and take me so far away from the goal, that I am my biggest obstacle. Nothing else gets in the way more than me and my very own thinking.

It’s taken a lot of effort, unlearning, softening, and believing to remind myself that it’s so important to keep that focus. On the goal. On where I want to be. To believe in it so damn hard that it’s like Im already there. Even when it feels like the timing is off or the situation isnt perfectly conducive or the ducks aren’t in a row.

This was once the only way I used to live. In freer, less fearful times. Call it naiveté or delusional optimism, but I was that eternal optimist. I knew no other way of living other than to dive in headlong, without waiting for perfection and correctness. It’s what helped make the most of the wildly messy spurts as much as enjoying the ride when the going is good.

And maybe I’m just going back to the way I used to be.

Same time, last year: Day 292: Love loss and what we ate

Things change

You have to know by now that the change theme is likely to be a recurring one in the foreseeable future.

Speaking of change, it has to be recorded that I used to be a homebody. In the last few months before I left Goa, this peaked. I’d pared my life down so much that I really went nowhere. With the exception of the gym and the supermarket and sometimes the odd coffee or drink out, I spent most of my time cooped up at home. Because that was where I felt good. Sane. Safe. It meant also avoiding people. Losing some friends. Missing out on social outings and some work opportunities. But it was all very deliberate. A conscious choice. So I’m not complaining. Merely recollecting how it used to be not so long ago.

And then I moved to Bangalore. And while the homebody in me still exists, I’ve surprised myself with how I’ve turned 180 degrees. Now, I sometimes find myself willing to brave traffic, rain, crowds, people and everything I thought I could never tolerate again, to get to places I want to see, to meet people I want to hang out with and do things I didn’t think I cared much for.

Case in point: I went to Nasi & Me on a day when it rained cats and dogs. Most uncharacteristically, I agreed to drive thru peak hour traffic, all the way across town, because I was told if there’s one Asian food place I absolutely had to try this was it.

***

For a few weeks now I’ve had the feeling that I need to get out of home to get into work mode. Such a swift turnaround from life in Goa where for the most part, writing in my guest room was where things worked best. But never say never and all that, this week, I tested out alternstives. And to my surprise, it worked.

***
Just when I was making peace with the slower, stiller life. Possible new definitions of productivity and the like. Looking at accepting a life less “busy” than the one I knew and the one I thought I was made for, things have happened.

Today I had not one but two meetings. And both took me outside of home, which meant  encountering the worst morning and evening rush hour traffic getting to and back from them meant. I had more work telephone calls today than I have had in a long, long time.

I felt terribly busy all of a sudden.

On a long day like today, when I got home at 8.30 pm and still had to send out e-mails that can’t wait till tomorrow, I stop and ask myself — omg who are you?!

Things change all time. All things. Everything. Us included.

Same time, last year: Day 285: Shifting gears 

What coming home feels like: Revisiting old haunts II

Quite a bit of the comfort and solace I find in being back in Bangalore comes from seeking pockets of familiarity. Whether it’s the closeness of meeting people I want to be with, or or the intimacy of spaces that once held a special place in my earlier life in this city, or going through the rhythm of acts, actions and rituals that lent a sense of comfort then. This old haunt has already become so oft frequented, I feel like furniture again. Some days, it’s like I never left.

This comfort overwhelms me the most, every time I find that there are still many little things that haven’t changed, even in the face of the sea-change panning out all about me.

In some ways it has been super hard for me to deal with and digest the change I see, since I was away for exactly those years that saw the most exponential change. This Bangalore I have returned to, is not the Bangalore I grew up in for sure, but it isn’t even the Bangalore I left. But it has its ways of wooing me. Especially when I find those pockets of comfort that seem to exist just as they did years ago. It’s so endearing.

Visiting Scottish Pub (that I frequented when I was in college) after more than a decade, to find that aside from retro cool coloured chairs having replaced the plastic bucket ones, the addition of an awning (so the rain doesn’t interrupt your drinking) and some really (accidentally, methinks) cool mood lighting, literally nothing else has changed. It has the same eager waiters, the funky house made, dodgy wine that you can’t stop having, watered down draught beer, a super non-indulgent, fuss-free menu that’s ended before you can say w-i-n-e and that same amazing chicken pakoda.

I spent a few hours there last week while it rained batshit crazy outside, and for those few hours it felt like I had gone back in time. Slipped back into the comfort of that familiarity of a memorable haunt that once was. Cut away from the metamorphosis that seems to have swept through everything that lies just beyond.

Yet again I realised, the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. And I find that oddly comforting.

Same time, last year: Day 284: Escape

A good life is a life of goodness

I’ve been talking in clear and indirect ways about wanting to get away. In June I declared to VC that the next thing I’d like to do for myself is to take a solo trip. The yearning has been bubbling within for a while now. But between my phase of not working, and VC getting his start-up off the ground, I have felt like this is not the best time for me to up and go.

So, I’ve dreamed about (and considered) holidays that I can’t take at the moment. I’ve worried about why I’m feeling the need to go away when I’ve done nothing to deserve the break. A break from what exactly? My busy schedule chockfull of introspection, navel gazing and self development? I’ve pondered about changing streams, looking at new avenues of work and stumbled at the very beginning, because I don’t know where to make a start. I’ve longed for openness, greener spaces and fresh air, every time I have wanted to get out of my home, even when I’m headed out for a coffee. I’ve articulated how much I long for a life that is mobile, agile, nomadic.

And suddenly, I’m sitting at the brink of two back-to-back opportunities for exactly all of the above. Opportunities that landed in my lap out of the blue, and that took minimal effort to bring to fruition. Opportunities that bring together exactly all the things that I’ve been dreaming about. To get away, be in green, wide open spaces, travel, do some new work, get some time by myself, take that solo holiday.

Opportunities that could be the start of something new.

***

Did you read this fabulous piece in the NYT? It hit so close home, I read it four times over the course of yesterday, and every time I had a different takeaway.

For far too long we’ve been peddled the incredibly restrictive definition of what success and achievement is. Especially in the context of the average middle-class Indian who is a product of the regular education system, the weight of making a living and/or finding a higher purpose in life is heavier than it needs to be. I have many thoughts about this, especially given how I have been a peddler of the there-has-to-be-more-to-your-life spiel at one time. Enough time, experience and age has shown me that this isn’t necessarily true, and not a tenet for everyone to uniformly aspire for. But I’ll save that for another day.

For now, read the piece. If you are a person, woman especially, stumbling through your days constantly looking for ways to downsize everything in the pursuit of simple things, it will definitely speak to you. I’ve written too many things about ambition, success and how I often feel like I am happy with less — whether it is less hard work, less people, silence, less consumption, minimalism, and even less money if it is the logical outcome of the above — too many times before. And this piece brought it all together, while also beautifully pitting it against a current generation of social media bullshitters who seem to be creating a new aspect of that same age-old theory that of aspiring for more — more money, more clothes, more travel, more work — automatically means more successful, thriving and full life.

Having idealistic aspirations is, of course, part of being young. But thanks to social media, purpose and meaning have become conflated with glamour: Extraordinary lives look like the norm on the internet. Yet the idea that a meaningful life must be or appear remarkable is not only elitist but also misguided.

I almost feel like some of the curated social media lives are a front that we need in order to justify so much of the evidence that we are all just pursuing the very simple, basic joys in life. The ones we all want and deserve. Simple joys that we’re trying so hard to give higher meaning to, because it might mean we’re not aspiring for a higher purpose. How on earth could we settle for less?!

Because how can our lives be just a collection of completely vain selfies one after another, or an selection of exorbitantly priced dress, a day of make up for no reason at all, a well-cooked meal, an utterly messy home, a badly behaved tantrummy child, a meal of maggi and grilled cheese, unless we somehow tie it in with a spiel that talks of something higher. Like, say, a superficial feminist message. A lecture on living an organic life. A whole lot of excessive consumption pretending to be a lifetime’s dedication to sustainability.

I ‘ve often looked at posts of the kind this piece describes and winced at the extreme elitism that they exude. Sometimes my mind boggles at the complete lack of awareness of their privilege too. 

Maybe part of growing up and creating this pause, stepping back and re-evaluating things is also about realising that a lot of my own idealistic aspirations from a younger time no longer hold true or serve a purpose. It is sobering and humbling to be able to recognise that and rework them. 

I’ve come to believe this inescapable need to be extraordinary at everything — whether it’s in your job, being a homemaker, a mother, a keeper of pets, or any bloody thing at all — is an outcome of growing up on a steady diet of the message of achievement and purpose being shoved down our throats. So much so that we’re now uncomfortable with the simplest things that are actually enough. And so we cannot admit it to ourselves, unless we package it in a shimmery wrapping of a “higher purpose”.

Heck even our selfies are now statements of a higher purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant against vanity or self-indulgence or even presenting every little detail of your life on social media. I love it when people can unselfconsciously post pictures of themselves and their lives, and I really admire an unbridled dose of that kind of vanity. I just wish more people would be 100% true to it, and admit it.

I say admire, because even given my very high frequency of posting pictures on Instagram, there are have been far too many times when I’ve stopped myself from posting some specific things. Part of it is because I always question if what I am about to post is something I really want to share. But it is also because I realise I don’t possess that perfect balance of vanity and more importantly, true self-assurance, to present a completely authentic side of myself. A side that is at times vulnerable and feels inadequate.

It’s work in progress. And no, the goal isn’t likely to be being able to post an unselfconscious selfie, but rather, to decrease how much I subject myself to the lies, instead surround myself with authenticity.

I’ve unfollowed a crapton of handles that are increasingly feel like forced, hyper-curated display that uphold wholly unrealistic standards of purpose and achievement under the garb of glamour. It wasn’t because I wasn’t able to see or digest it anymore, but because I am beginning to see right through it. And I feel terrible about the kind of unrealistic pressure it unconsciously contributes to audiences unable to see through it.

***

To come back to aforementioned dream opportunities that I am on the verge of embarking on: It’s taken a lot of unlearning, and rewiring to recognise that I am already privileged. And that I have enough. I am taken care of. I am blessed enough to probably never be in a state of despair where money will be hard to come by. That I do not have to work hard or be famous or necessarily find a higher purpose to make my life more meaningful. That it’s okay to want less, it’s okay to be looked after, it’s wonderful to revel and find joy in small simple things without attaching the pressure of finding a deeper and higher purpose to everything I do. That I am not letting myself down by changing what I want from life. That surrendering and accepting this truth does not make me small, lazy or useless.

That it is completely possible to live a meaningful life even without any of that. That the pursuit of goodness is enough.

You don’t have to change the world or find your one true purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances.

How liberating it was to read the last line of the article.

For far too long I have bought the largely inaccurate theory that as a modern woman I can and must have it all. To aspire for anything less would be a let down.

I have only recently learned to tune myself to the abundance I already have, despite wanting, and doing, lesser to chase after is. It exists in intangible places and forms that I cannot always touch or describe. And it bubbles over as gratitude.

My life is and always has been full of this kind of abundance. I have failed to see it because I’ve constantly been looking for the very staid, predictable and downright cliched markers of achievement, success, purpose, call it what you will. Turns out most times it isn’t in the form of money in the bank, or a dream to change the world, or a life of overachieving.

Some times it is in the form of magical opportunities that crystallise almost as an answer to the meandering, disconnected thoughts I’ve had over a period of time.

I am getting closer to being completely okay with (and so extremely thankful for) that.

Same time, last year: Day 281: A picture

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

I’ve been in this floaty in-between space, I call my extended time of transition, for so long now. First I was transitioning from Goa to Bangalore, then from my parent’s home to my own. At some point I realised this transition wasn’t just physical. In some ways I was transitioning from the 2016-me to the now-me (for a lack of words to explain this). And somehow, the process doesn’t feel complete. A trail remains, and I’m gliding along slowly.

Some part of me knows this is WIP, and perhaps not a start-stop kind of event that will ever end. This is a transformation of sorts, a shedding of what was and stepping into what could be. And I say could be because I’m not sure as yet where I’m going. I am sure of the lack of surety, because I see the signs that tell me not to rush, to wait and to allow things to settle in their own time. Because the process, and what’s happening now, is crucial.

I need to sit with the quiet. I know that much.

I have been in a funk with work. For many reasons, and that is the stuff of another post, should I choose to ever discuss it. C put is so perfectly yesterday when I was whining about this to her.

“I can’t stop thinking about writing. And yet I can’t seem to get myself to write. For work.”

So it’s what I’ve done. I’m only quietly pursuing a few opportunities that landed in my lap, and not aggressively going after anything. I have enough, and yet it feels like a lot. What I am doing, I am really struggling to keep up with.

On the home front, I’m semi-interested in most things. I feel like I could do with a project and there are so many up for the taking, but I don’t seem to want to actually push myself into investing time and effort into any of them. I’ve been doing the bare minimum to get by. The house is not always spic and span, the laundry tends to get ignored for longer than is ideal. Our meals are a far cry from what they used to be — sticking to basic stuff now that my diet has given me permission to scrap all the fluff.

Socially too, I’m not over-eager, neither am I cutting myself off or anything. I’m doing what feels easy and doable. Much like work, there’s a lot I think I want to do, but I realise maybe it’s just the idea of doing those things that excites me, and not so much actually going out and doing them.

I’ve considered travel several times these past few weeks. It just seems fitting no? To go away, be with myself while this shit works itself out. Especially given how I’ve unlocked new reserves of patience I didn’t know I had. But again, same issue — half of me is willing and the other half doesn’t want to budge. I just want to remain and watch as things happen.

I’ve discussed a hypothetical Europe plan with J and S three times this year. Finally semi committed to dash off to Singapore. And discussed numerous desirable weekend getaways with S and R. I stalked Goa airfares for about eight weeks before actually booking ourselves on the trip last month.

So yeah, maybe you get the drift? Have you ever felt like this? In limbo, on all fronts? Ennui-like and just happy to be afloat?

***

And then when I returned from Goa, it occurred to me that virtually, social-media-specifically too, I seem to be in the same headspace. Nothing compels me. Work was the only reason I would frequently visit facebook, and now with that fading, I don’t check in nearly as often. I am not feeling the burning need to respond to every notification or do anything else while I do check in. I’m only frequently posting on Instagram, because I still love picture-making and rambling on. But there too, my follow list has been pruned and transformed so much. I’m surrounded by art more than anything else. My interest in watching people and their lives has nearly died. Much like it did for food, clothes, cakes. But the icing on the cake was finding myself indifferent to whatsapp too.

Could it be that the quiet is creeping deeper than I thought it could?

Right now, it feels like there are several moving parts that are making small, almost non-existent movements to come together. I feel the movement ever so slightly. It is only some times overwhelming, but mostly tantalising. And yet I am only still waiting. Watching. Patiently waiting, quietly. To see where it is all taking me.

It is really beginning to feel like this is going to be a year I should write off to WIP, transformation and about enjoying the process while I get to where I am headed.

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

As for the title, it’s another quote from my favourite Glennon Doyle Melton. I read this somewhere a while ago (and I really wish I knew where it was) because it came back with resounding alacrity on one of our evening walks in Goa last week, as I watched this amazing sunset, wondering about exactly this. This limbo, and what I need to do next.

Time and time again these past few weeks wait and watch keeps coming back to me. It is the next right thing to do.

***

Speaking of limbo, I chatted with S last night after what felt like absolute aeons. I don’t think we’d actually properly caught up, giving updates on all that is happening in our lives, since we met in Bangkok last year. That is a long, long time for us. Listening to him tell me about his very own kind of comfortable limbo, in a world so different and remote from mine, I still felt an affinity. I could relate. In as many ways as our worlds and experiences are poles apart, that feeling of being in a comfortable limbo, in waiting, is so, so familiar. We spoke for an entire hour before I realised we were all caught up.

Literally all of this year we have made plans to catch up, promising to call each other as soon as a window frees up. The weekend, after work, when I’m back from my trip, when I’m feeling better — and somehow the right time just never came up.

I don’t know about him, but for me it was a lot of avoidance. I didn’t want to have to give updates about things I wasn’t fully sure of myself. Maybe I was worried I’d be judged? Maybe I was too shy to admit I was downsizing my amazing Goa life to a seemingly-less than ideal one in Bangalore? Maybe I just didn’t want to have to explain everything that had happened in the run up to this transition because it felt like just too much to have to talk about on the phone? I’m not sure. Maybe it was all of it.

But it felt like I needed to get out of my hole and call him last night, as it has for a few weeks now. The wonderful thing is that once I did call, it was just so easy. Conversation flowed, updates happened, all the things I thought I didn’t have the words for, suddenly articulated themselves. It helps when you have an eager, earnest person on the other side, genuinely concerned and interested in knowing what you have been up to.

It didn’t feel like an effort at all. It didn’t even feel like we were catching up, merely talking.

And then there was the kindred spark — the mention of that limbo. The only too familiar feeling of being comfortable while I wait and watch. And boom, i changed the conversation for me.

I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner, really. With S, I have a really special bond that has time and time again made it spectacularly easy to pick up where we left off, with barely any effort. There is never any awkwardness or the need to fill gaps and silences. It’s not something I have with too many people, and I realised last night how much I really, really cherish it.

As I drifted off to sleep, it dawned on me that actually, I have had this with a lot of people off late. With N, who I chatted with at length last week — catching her up on the amazing, life-changing experiences I had in Goa that I absolutely knew she would relate to. With P, who I had sworn I would never have anything to do with again, but with whom, time and time again, I have relevant, insightful and meaningful conversations that matter. With D, who came into my life most unexpectedly, but with whom conversation is rarely just that, and almost always impacts me in deeper ways.

I went to sleep with my heart brimming over. I have said this so often off late — that I don’t have much to show for on paper, when I think of what I’ve done/achieved this year. Yet, my life, even in it’s utter slowness, with the pregnant pauses and tantalisingly slow trajectory, feels so goddamn full.

***

And so I continue to wait, basking in the overwhelming gratitude for where I am, the people I am surrounded by, the connections I have and those that come back to me even when I’m not making the effort, and for everything moving along until it finds it’s place.

I wait because it just feels like the next right thing to do.

Same time, last year: Day 279: Sticky trash

Booooooook post

I should have known the reading spree in July was too good to be true. Pretty much all of August and September went by without tasting that thrill of being completely absorbed in a book to the point of being lost to the world. Mostly because I’ve been very preoccupied. It’s strange, I don’t really have much to list by way of explaining what I am up to, or what’s keeping me busy. It’s not stuff-stuff, you know? Maybe you don’t, and maybe saying this makes me sound crazy.

But things are happening. It’s not work. But it is life stuff. And I feel like a zen master on my way t mastering this wait-and-watch game. In the meantime, I’m helping around, family with a couple of projects, friends with some personal stuff.

I’m moving along, I’m hobnobbing, meeting people, friends, getting out some. I had two sets of friends visit in August and September, amidst festivity and travel. And, there’s this new word game I’m addicted to, which, I’ll be really honest, has me hooked to my phone a lot. So yes, that phoneless streak probably had a lot to do with the good reading streak.

Heh, anyhow. I’m trying to get back on the bandwagon, and a glance at my Goodreads also tells me how I’ve picked a few meh books, back-to-back. That never does my pace or motivation levels any good. I need to shake off this impossible determination to finish off every book I start. Yes, even the bad ones. But I haven’t gotten there yet, so I’m plodding through.

Here’s what I’ve finished since my last book post a very, very long time ago.

Men Explain Things To Me, Rebecca Solnit (who I love so much, for this piece)
This one is clearly not amongst the bad choices I’ve made lately, because I I guzzled this ihhhn-creddddible book of essays in just a couple of hours one weekend in August.

I have a lot to say, but it’s the kind of book that you need to just read for yourself. This titular essay, in particular, is essential reading for men and women everywhere. Solnit is funny, fiesty, to the point, and so relevant. Just going by the title, it’s pretty evident why you must go read it now, if you haven’t already. Here’s an excerpt, if you need encouragement:

…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I am talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self doubt and self limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

It so happened that this post about a woman who dealt with a bad case of mansplaining, while she was reading this piece about mansplaining, went viral and hit my facebook feed the day I finished reading the book. I got a good half an hours worth of extra chuckles thanks to it.

Dongri To Dubai : Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia, S. Hussain Zaidi
I am hopelessly curious about the Bombay’s constant love affair with the underworld. A chance conversation with a friend prompted me to buy this, because even though I’ve seen the book around, I never felt compelled to pick it up. It just looked like it belonged in the same category of books as CB and DD. I totally judge those books by their covers and price.

But, as it turned out, and I realised only recently, this is a chronicle of the history of the Mumbai Mafia. Not just the story of how Dawod Ibrahim came to be, as I had presumed. So I bought it. It’s written by a crime reporter, so how bad can it be, I thought.

It’s terrible.

To be fair, it’s got a great level of detail. Excruciatingly so. But it’s reportage trying to be packaged as a book, so it makes for a very confused, bland, boring read. If you’re curious like me, I’d say it’s still a good source to get the details and “facts” but you my risk losing a few million braincells to boredom along the way, is all.

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
It’s probably not right to call this a book, when I’d read it in the form of the facebook post it originally. And I probably shouldn’t list it here because I technically re-read it the second time around. But, it’s here. Another piece of essential reading for everybody.

Adichie lists just fifteen, seemingly simple points, what she calls suggestions, on raising empowered, sensitive, strong women. And every one of those fifteen points will likely touch a chord so deeply you’ll want to re-read this piece every now and then. It explains why I now own it on my kindle. This is a piece you will keep going back to again, and again, and again.

Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
The opening line of the blurb — “A lush, thrilling debut about a year in the life of a uniquely beguiling young woman, set in the wild, alluring world of a famous downtown New York restaurant” — is all it took for me to want to pick this book up.

It started off with promise, but somewhere along the way got tedious. The premise, and superficially speaking, the writing style had all the makings of an exciting breezy read. I don’t know if somewhere that same edgy writing style became overly choppy style for me, or if it just was too self-indulgent and set in a world too different from mine for me to relate and really sink into it, but I lost interest somewhere around the 50% mark. Then I just breezed through the rest disinterestedly. So much so that I don’t really remember what happens.

Meh.

Onwards and upwards then?

I’m currently reading Elon Musk and really enjoying it so far. Let’s see how it goes from here.

What are you reading? And if you have been around here long and have a sense of the kind of books I might enjoy, please leave me a recommendation?

Same time, last year: Day 278: September

What colour is your sky?

I’m still coming back to life in Bangalore, seeking rhythm and grounding in the mundane habits of my routine. It’s been an effort trying to find my pace again, while my mind is still in Goa at least 50% of the time. And I find myself wondering about perfection. Not the pursuit of it in action and practice. But magical picture perfect sequence of events. Like sunsets are for me. A performance in perfection of time. Like vignettes suspended mid air, the world on pause, waiting for you to notice.

There is something magical about sunsets. Especially like this one. When it feels like moments of perfection playing out before you. And you can’t help but wonder about the massive movements in space that are responsible for it. How much synchronicity must it take, for every little molecule and particle to find its place, align itself and move in sync, cushioned by the entire universe guiding the show, gently nudging things on so this plays out.

What decides the moment? When does the sky know it is time to put in a show? What goes into that one little move that clicks this rapid, vibrant, staggering play of light into motion?

Just how much churning energy does it take to create moments of perfection? And when you’re standing there, witnessing this, what colour is your sky?

Same time, last year: Day 277: 109 kms done

On letting go of what is meant-to-be, and enjoying what-is

This was my view on a rather magical, blissed out Saturday, this past weekend.

The sky was on fire, putting on quite a show just for us, on a completely shack-free Morjim beach. Fishermen bustled around and we walked up to the sea not sure what to expect. The tide was drawn far back, giving us what felt like miles to go before we could kiss a wave or two.

I stayed on shore, though. Watching the magic as it unfolded above and all around us. Glorious golden magic on one side, and a cool, icy blue on the other.

It was a weekend quite like nothing I’ve had in the last six months in Bangalore. It was the kind of weekend I had a lot of when I lived in Goa. When in all of ten minutes, a short drive or a longish walk, I’d plonk myself in one of my three favourite beach spots near home. Either sipping a beer or a G&T, book in hand, or simply staring into space.

It was a weekend quite like nothing I’ve had in Bangalore. And immediately it brought back the yearning for that simple life I’ve temporarily swapped for my current one. But, I was too consumed in enjoying the present, to wallow in the what could have been. What struck me the most was how it was such an easy, comforting, comfortable time. A bit rushed, but no complains, because it meant that we managed to squeeze in some pool time, a morning swim at sea, lots of great conversation, considerable bellyful laughter, and two outstanding meals of two of our most favourite cuisines. My belly was full of course. But my heart, even more so.

And so, with new memories, we returned to Bangalore early this week, and I said to VC that as much as I have surrendered and made my peace with the purpose and my time in Bangalore, the short trip back to Goa has rekindled that longing. Making the contrasts, the pros and cons of both sides so very apparent.

“I don’t get you. How can you change your mind so soon?!” he said, a little exasperatedly.

I haven’t changed my mind.

I am still very much at peace here in Bangalore. In the now. What I was probably missing was a taste of all that I had drawn the curtain on when I left, and the week gone by gave me just that.

I realise I can choose to feel positively about both places. Both states of mind. Both my homes. I don’t have to choose one at the expense of another. I can have both. I can long for both. I can appreciate and loathe them both, equally.

In yet another instance of letting go of the old and being more open and accepting of the new, I realised that the idea the way things are meant to be is often restrictive and just so limiting. I rewired this in my brain this past weekend, making room for accepting what is, and how it is rather than being hung up on what is otherwise just a utopian and frankly sometimes just unachievable notion of what is meant to be.

Life never happens in a linear fashion. It comes us at in waves. Gentle lapping ripples sometimes, that give us the luxury and privilege to ease ourselves into it. Sometimes, it is in painful shocking shards ripping right through us. In both situations, I’d like to learn to let go of the controls. And take things the way they are, opening myself up to what is, and how it is more often.

So I’m back home in Bangalore. My other base. Oddly liberated from the preconceived notion that I have to choose one home. Freer still from the idea that it is how it is meant to be or vaguer still, that life is meant to be everywhere else but where I am now. Richer from a weekend of sea salt, sunshine and solidarity. And best of all, rejuvenated after having relived Goa as a visitor, brimming with optimism with a new goal to work towards. One of moving closer to a life that allows me to split my time between both places. Never having to choose.

Same time, last year: Day 272: I am eager