Day 24: How about me enjoying the moment for once

I’m thankful for the extended winter. For how it made a comeback after a surprisingly warm two days last week, that seemed like it was all over.

I’m thankful for the music. For PJs overwhelmingly generous offer to lend me his Bose dock, indefinitely. For technology that allows me to share the music of others whose taste I trust and get.

I’m thankful for the access to fresh, pesticide-free lettuce delivered to my doorstep. For having found the answer after weeks of cribbing about this to all and sundry.

I’m thankful for the meals amma cooks me every single day. I think about how I’ve completely fallen out of the habit of having to cook my daily meals, and how amazing it is to have this option. Not just the ready meals but the company, companionship, the conversations over meals and the big-hearts-and-full-plates.

I’m thankful for the lunch date with A yesterday. For our common love for Koshys. For how we always find common ground to obsess and rant about. For the happy connections and the free wheeling conversation.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch Nrityagram on stage again today after almost ten years.

I’m thankful for weekend walks in the park. For discovering hidden pockets of space that I can get to love.

I’m thankful for the opportunities to meet people over business. I’m ever so grateful for the unexpected kindness of some, and the willingness of others, to help with these connections when I reached out.

I’m thankful for the times VC holds my hand. When we’re crossing the street. When we’re passing through crowded places. And sometimes for no reason at all. I’m thankful for the realisation that I like to be looked after.

I’m thankful for technology and how it enables connection in my life.

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Day 23: Tell me what you really like

I’ve had a strange few weeks since the start of the year. On the one hand, there’s an all-round positive energy, a really good feeling that’s pervading every day and every thing. But on the other, my routine has come undone a little bit. Nothing gets me worked up like this does. I am a creature of habit and so when my habits get shot to bits, I feel a little unanchored.

Primarily, this time it is because I just haven’t been back to the gym. And this is the one activity that typically sets my day rolling. Getting it done at the start of any day usually makes the rest of the day fall into place. I don’t know what is up, but I have just been flaking off, not waking up when I should, and not really doing much to push through that bit of resistance that one is known to feel.

Something is stirring. At a subconscious level, I know I am making my peace with getting off the food plan I was on. I want to strive for some kind of mindful balance, and in doing that, maybe I need to also re-look at the compulsive need to exercise 5-6 times a week.

In keeping with all the other surprising changes that I’ve been seeing in myself, I’m trying not to get too taken aback by this sudden volteface. I still have the odd day, like this morning, when I get really agitated and ask myself — what is wrong with you? how is this possible? it is so unlike you — but for the most part I’m really trying hard to let it go. Brushing aside the self-bashing, with thoughts that affirm positivity.

This morning, I exasperatedly told amma, “what do you think is wrong with me?!” implying that not wanting to go to the gym just feels so wrong. Cutting through the clutter in my head in a way that only she can, with a shake of her head she said calmly, “maybe this is what’s right for now.”

And so I wait, in the hope that this too shall pass.

Day 22: Pretty lights

For all the cribbing that I do about Bangalore and all the many ways that it doesn’t match up to the standard of living I want for myself, I have come to really appreciate some of the things it offers. Cabs, for one. I cannot imagine what driving around to get anywhere and get anything done would be like. It also leads me to balk at how ten years ago, driving around oneself was the only reliable way to get anywhere and get anything done.

The Bangalore I left was woefully lacking on the public transport front, but I’ve returned to a city that seems to at least try to fill the gap. Public transport — we have options! — are one of the few things I actually love, appreciate and feel much gratitude for. We haven’t figured it all out, as I realised the day I took the metro to go from Malleswaram to CMH road. It took 17 minutes flat. Which is all kinds of amazing. If you don’t count the twenty minutes it took to get to the Malleswaram metro station.

I’ve become an ardent user of shared cabs, which means I find myself taking all kinds of circuitous routes on my commutes across the city, sharing cabs with all kinds of people. I am always on the side of the argument that favours leaving a little early in order to get that shared cab and still make it to an engagement in time. Whenever a shared cab gets full, the type A person in me gets an extra thrill at how we have all collectively avoided putting three extra vehicles on the already clogged roads of this city.

I’ve taken to chatting with cab drivers a lot. Everything from how’s your day going to, what’s an average day driving around in Bangalore, to what’s new at Uber. And I’ve learned more about Uber’s capitalistic, exploitative ways and how we’re all just rendered powerless to protest because really, what are our options? I’ve surprised myself how accidentally breaking into Hindi is sometimes met with raised eyebrows whereas taking off confidently in Kannada guarantees that I’ll have a long chat. I’ve had conversations that have surprised me, moved me, pissed me off and some that just downright aggravated me. In turn, I vacillate between feeling admiration and respect for cabbies — because it is such a thankless job to do, with such pathetic work conditions in a city like ours, at the hands of monoliths like Uber — to feeling really angered when I realise how apparent and in-your-face the resistance to accept “outsiders” is. And it usually gets to that part of the conversation pretty quick.

Last week, I found myself caught in traffic at this odd time at sundown, that slice of time right between end of day, and the beginnings of night, sandwiched in a pink-purple-golden mess.

Most places get awfully congested, the city is usually a mess and no amount of planning can really guarantee escaping it.

But sometimes, a moment like this shines through.

One year ago: Because I want to remember
Two years ago: Day 22: Saaru-Anna

Day 19: Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Ever since the Aziz Ansari story broke out, I’ve found myself torn up once again. While there is little doubt in my mind that the details in the account definitely count as harassment, I have been torn up about reconciling the fact that yet another good guy, someone I really wanted to root for is, disappointingly, just another potential asshole. I’ve been torn up about the grey area I’ve talked about so often. The grey area that continues to linger over women like me who are not innately vociferous or aggressive across all situations. The grey area that surrounds experiences that don’t always have the quintessential signs of harassment, but somehow do leave us feeling harassed, uncomfortable and sometimes violated. That violation isn’t always physical. Sometimes it’s a violation of personal space, sometimes a kind gesture is taken for granted, sometimes it’s an abuse of our politeness, and sometimes it’s the abuse of the lack of an explicit no.

But here’s the thing. As we navigate this vast and ambiguous grey area, and as the debate around consent, aggression and harassment intensifies, it is near impossible to hope for clarity without getting graphic, granular and very, very nuanced. Which is to say, the shades of grey need to be looked at individually. For example, it is no longer enough to accept that no is no. Even absence of a clear yes, is and must be taken as a no.

Three specific, and separate things to say. 1: It is impossible to attempt to gain clarity about the nuances of harassment, without really undoing and unwrapping the various elements that make up the monolith we call “aggression”. And looking at it means taking into account the subtle and not so subtle strains of power play, of the dynamics between men and women when they share intimate spaces that lie in the twilight zone between work and play, the tendency for men to persist and push with utmost confidence even when the signs and cues they receive are all pointing otherwise. It means calling out all of this behaviour that sometimes leads to us feeling violated or harassed. Even if it sometimes takes upwards of six months to realise that what we experienced was in fact harassment, and that the experience left a bad taste in our mouths. So, while it may be a little premature to lump Ansari in the same category as the Wiensteins of the world, it is unnecessary to take his side and bemoan the humiliation that this story has brought him. Because to do so is to ignore and pull a sheet over the very obvious signs of aggression, unnecessary persistence on his part, and a complete disregard for the feelings of the woman he was with.

It is impossible to begin to discuss the entire gamut of harassment unless we take into account, and take seriously, all of the instances that fall in the grey area, outside of the purview of rape and physical assault, that we typically call harassment. And to do this means to talk about the way experiences make us feel. To tell our stories, continually and unabashedly.

2: While I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I am completely on the woman’s side, and I believe that the experience she had and how it made her feel, I cannot ignore the fact that original report, the Babe story, left me feeling very uncomfortable. Journalistically speaking. And the more I think about it, I realise it is not only important to tell our stories, but to ensure that when we seek support, we pick allies who will re-tell them or stand by us in strong and solid ways. In ways that leave enough room for debate, because debate is essential, but little room for blame. Blame for wanting to date a man, for wanting to wear whatever we wish to, for wanting help in booking an Uber, for taking our time to process and fully understand our experiences, for acknowledging how they make us feel, and for choosing when to speak up about it. This is the only way that we can ensure that the focus of all discussions, and the point of speaking up, remains on building stronger boundaries towards prevention, rather than devolving into what can just be casually passed off as witch hunts or attempts to publicly humiliate and bring shame to men in seats of power. Also, I want to take a moment to note that I can’t remember the last time that actually happened (even if it were the intention *rolls eyes*).

3: Just how hard is it to say sorry? Granted, there was an apology in the text message Ansari sent in response to the woman. But have you seen his “statement”? A politically correct, clever selection of words strung together, nowhere cleanly claiming responsibility and just saying sorry. One could argue that he got that over with in person, directly addressing his apology in an SMS to the woman herself. But why not take a stand in public, when you are after all a public figure?

In all of this, the greyness of what constitutes harassment keeps coming back to me. Perhaps he didn’t feel it was necessary to aplogise again because at the time he mis-read the signs and didn’t feel what was happening between them was not okay. He didn’t think he was being assertive or harassing the woman. Of course, he didn’t. Knowing what it is like to be harassed is a lived experience. One that only someone who has known and felt can bring to light. And so I keep going back to the need to tell these stories. To call out harassment when it happens. To help others identify, relate and sometimes even recollect, if they’ve been through similar experiences.

It isn’t always an act of violent rape. But there’s a whole range of things that happen to women all the time, at the hands of assertive, aggressive men, sometimes compounded by their power-addled brains, or just the desperate need to reach out and connect with a woman. Even when she doesn’t want to reciprocate, or engage, or react in a similar way.

Every time that I read a story of this kind, it takes me back to at least one similar experience I’ve had in my own life. Reading the Ansari story was no different. And I  know I can speak for most, if not all, women, when I say I’m sure it is the same for all of them. In navigating the ambiguous greyness of what constitutes harassment, our only measure is what it feels like. And when it doesn’t feel right, we must speak up. Because stories give shape to subtleties that otherwise remain in the purview of the nebulous grey.

One might argue that this is a widespread and somewhat baseless panic. one might wonder why so many women are suddenly speaking up now? Are we fining strength in numbers? Hell, yes. Are we slowly learning that it’s okay, and important, to speak up? Also, yes. But it is also that reading each others stories brings clarity to each and every one of us. It makes us think back to experiences we have had, that we may have dismissed as shitty dates. As bad behaviour. As the odd and uncalled for assertion. As the inability to understand real implied and stated cues that say no. Behaviour that we second guess, knowing all the time that it doesn’t feel right, but that we choose to ignore and not react to — with an explicit no, or a clear boundary, or a firm request to step back — because we want to be absolutely sure that we’re not imagining it. Because maybe, what we were subjected to, lay squarely in the nebulous, hazy purview of what we call the grey area. Behaviour that we know for sure makes us feel uncomfortable, violated, harassed. Behaviour that we’re too polite to call out for what it is. Harassment.

One year ago: Work. But also life.
Two years ago: Day 19: Hope

Day 18: Afterglow

Today was a really good day. For no special or momentous reason. Just many little seemingly insignificant things strung together. And I just want to remember it while I’m steeping in the afterglow.

Bunking gym and sleeping in.

Early morning reading even before I got out of bed and surfaced for the day.

Placing an essay that would have otherwise been just a blogpost.

Talking to S about hypno-therapy and social media.

Afternoon reading that lulled me to sleep.

Meeting P and having pasta for dinner for the first time in months.

Turning in early and tucking myself into bed with a book.

Two years ago: Day 18: End of day

Day 17: You’ve been on my mind

Fresh off the back of a long weekend, that also brought with is the unusual first-time that both my parents, and my sister are away, I realised how much VC and I are out of the bubble that was our default mode of existence in Goa.

Physically cut off from family, alone, in a home where we called the shots, had no social obligations even in the city we lived in, had a life devoid of most other sorts of obligations — we were really left to our own devices.

In Bangalore, the bubble doesn’t exist. With my parents living in the building adjacent to us, I’m more often than not tempted to go hang out with them. I spend entire days with my sister, with my folks around. More often than not, I choose going over to be with them, even when VC is home. This was not the case before. So, when either/all of them are not around, I physically miss their presence. Of course, all this is compounded by the fact that I am so ready to get out and go, these days.

We’re about a fifteen minute drive away from VC’s family, which also means we go over at least once a week. And we’re subject to invitations to lunch, dinner and other family hang-out scenarios, more often than we’re used to.

But this past weekend was different. Slightly under the weather, I chose to stay in, made no plans and had nowhere to go. VC, as usual, indulged in a lot of TV. But it was after absolutely aeons that we were alone. Together. And we had a weekend to ourselves like the ones that were the norm in Goa.

There is quite nothing like a weekend like this, extended time spent in quiet companionship, to reinforce and reaffirm my faith in the absolute, critical need to have someone in my life who is there for me wholly and completely, even as he gives me space to do my thing (while he does his). Who doesn’t need the noise and fanciness of plans and dates and conversations and the overtures of love. Who revels in the smallness of the rhythm of everyday life. Who is happy to just be beside me. In silence. And who still comes out of three days of just doing that and only that, to tell me he had a “fun weekend”.

I love the synchronicity of seeing in words the exact representation of what is otherwise just a jumble of feelings, a tumble of emotions on spin dry in your heart. Even as I was sitting down to write about this, and finding myself unable to pin down the right words, I opened The Artidote today after forever, and saw this —

I love when you become so close with someone that you can see parts of each other in one another and you begin to say the same things and steal lines from one another and have a similar sense of humor and can exchange an inside joke with just a glance you don’t even have to talk because you have such a strong connection with them and you can sit in comfortable silence but also talk for hours it’s really hard to find that kind of compatibility

Compatibility, while accurate, feels like a small, limiting word. Caging the immensity of togetherness — a far bigger, open, expansive word, in my mind — into a small cubby hole. If compatibility feels like the two parallel columns finally syncing with a ka-ching! when the right elements find alignment, togetherness feels like massive rivers gushing down from parts unknown, tumbling together in a noisy ashen blur, only to collide and find a peaceful merging, even in the cacophonous union.

Compatibility does the trick, but togetherness goes several layers deeper. It digs in to the depths of my soul. Touches and kindles a fire that fights through the hubbub of regular life, throbbing to stay alive even when we’re turning the lights out.

Compatibility is just the tip of the iceberg. To have this kind of comfort, connection and peaceful coexistence with a single person feels like so much more, I actually don’t have the word/s for it.

Day 16: Video killed the radio star (what I’ve watched)

I haven’t watched “TV” — as in, tracked television programming on the idiot box, in the good old way that we used to by tuning in night after night — in forever now. We haven’t consistently had satellite TV for many years. Barely a year after we first entertained the idea of doing away with it, we actually went ahead and kicked the idiot box out of our lives. Though we had our TV hooked up in our last home in Goa, only sporadically got the TATA Sky going. Typically, only when VC’s folks visited or someone mentioned a must-watch show. But it never lasted long enough to hold our interest and invariably our account would expire from sheer neglect.

When we moved to Bangalore, I was determined to keep the TV out of the living room as it had been for the last many years. The new home doesn’t have a conducive space for the TV in either bedroom. So the damn thing is currently languishing in a box in a cupboard, while I entertain the idea of selling it off, from time to time. I’ve gone several years without traditional television, depending on downloading shows when the sweet spot of my interest/inclination to watch something has met with a promising show showing up, and having the requisite amount of time to actually watch it. the number of shows I’ve started and abandoned is embarassing.

But, it would be inaccurate to say I don’t watch TV anymore. With Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar at our disposal, we’ve ben dipping in and out of television lala land. I’m still not quite there yet with binging the way one is supposed to with this kind of access. I don’t know, I suppose it’s watching it on a small screen that doesn’t really work for me. Also, I very rarely have that much time (or mindspace) at a stretch anymore, and I’m far too restless to actually binge watch anything, as the format demands. I do have spurts and the last time it happened was with OITNB, but by and large, I tend to give most of the much-talked-about shows a miss.

All this, to say I only very rarely get hooked to a TV show, and I’m usually very late to get the memo on most “good” TV shows. I just find it hard to keep up. So much TV, so much social media, so much news. Where are you guys also finding the time to read and cook and exercise and have a life? (which is what I tend to choose over TV)

Anyhow, last year, when I was dillydallying over choosing between forging ahead with my writing, or joining VC, I found myself with a lot of time on hand. I told myself it was time that would be hard to come by, depending on which way I decide to go. So I began to watch 13 Reasons Why. Long after everyone had watched, obsessed, critiqued and discussed it to death.

I hadn’t really read too much about it, and wasn’t even fully aware of the plot, so I went in clean. I had a fair idea what it was about, so maybe I had a bit of an expectation of how it could go. So, when it didn’t — and it actually progressively went annoyingly south — I was severely disappointed.

The only thing I really, really liked about it was the title track. I will not lie.

Okay, it’s mildly well-written, given the altered (from book to TV show) plot line, and most of the actors have acted really well. But it’s just, the very premise, and the way the theme has been dealt with, really, really annoyed me.

Straight off the bat, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the entire build up to uncovering and going through the tapes in gory, drawn-out harsh, urid detail, felt like it glorified suicide. It was really hard to ignore that it felt exactly like the opposite of what the show was trying to do.

If the show was supposedly meant to make a case for how suicide should never be an option, how come it comes out sounding like it’s a great way to get revenge. A legitimate way to make yourself heard. To serve justice. To come out victorious.

I know I’m treading thin ice even saying this, but I don’t buy the argument that this show aimed to build awareness. Sure, it got more people watching and talking about bullying amongst teenagers, cyber bullying specifically, peer pressure and suicide, but it definitely did it in a way that sensationalised the issues surrounding teenage suicide, and it exercised very little tact and sensitivity in dealing with the many facets of the issue.

Perhaps because I set off with this notion in my head, and I couldn’t shake it off at all, the show grated on my nerves right through.

I know, I know, you’re thinking why did I bother watching it. Well, I thought at 13 episodes, it’s far shorter than some of the worst shows I’ve subjected myself to. And I wanted to see if anything changed.

It didn’t. The well-intentioned message — that suicide should never be an option — just didn’t come across clearly enough for me. For one, Hannah never talks about having suicidal thoughts or never seeks any kind of help, despite having all the obvious channels for it. I’m not placing the blame at her doorstep, but her parents shock and devastation at having absolutely no idea their daughter was troubled enough to be driven to suicide, was telling. They assumed she was a regular, average troubled teenager, is all. Second, when she does seek help from her counsellor, in the very last episode, her efforts to talk about her troubles are dismissed by a counsellor who belittles and confuses her. This is a horribly wrong route to take, especially if the intention of this depiction is to steer people from towards seeking help, over suicide. This, amongst other things, really made me feel like the entire progression points towards glorifying suicide as a way to make yourself heard, when you have nowhere to go and nobody to talk to.

There is also the graphic representation of rape, twice over, despite the trigger warnings, that really troubled me. I know, you can go ahead and tell me, I shouldn’t have watched it. But here’s the deal, I read the trigger warning and I went ahead and watched it. As would anyone else, I suppose. And I was physically disturbed for several days after. I know it’s a fine line when you’re making a show like this, and you need it to work on a platform like Netflix. But to go so horribly wrong in the accent you take, when dealing with a topic as sensitive as this — it feels like the makers and Netflix kind of just abused the theme to catch as many eyeballs as they could. This isn’t to debate the need for programming to take serious issues into the ambit of production, or to choose a style that favours realistic depiction, but just like we’re increasingly being made to be aware of diversity, inclusion and representation, the issues surrounding mental health, teenage development, cyber bullying and suicide need a lot more awareness building and sensitivity to be woven in.

More than anything, I was hoping the show would tell us things we didn’t already know. I really wanted the show to delve deep into the reasons rather than give me a playback of how horribly wrong things went for Hannah. I wanted it to be more than a lazy retelling of the sequence of events that led up to Hannah’s taking her own life.

Oh yeah, it just occurred to me: in addition to being insensitive, I found 13 Reasons Why to be very, very lazy.

Earlier still, in October, while I was gallivanting around Pondicherry, I got into This Is Us. More because I had P telling me how every episode made him cry. This, I’ve got to see, I thought. And I’m happy to say, it worked out for me because enjoyed the show very much. Since I was on holiday with absolutely no agenda, I binge-watched it.

It is not since watching The Wonder Years or Brothers and Sisters that a family drama has tugged at my heartstrings this much. Possibly because it has been ages since any TV show so unabashedly deals with the story of a family like this, in all it’s dirty, raw, realness — feelings, mess-ups, emotional baggage and all.

A semi-naked Milo Ventimiglia in the opening scene definitely urged me on, but eye-candy aside, it’s a show about entirely mundane, regular family things. Shining a light on every aspect of family — from the immensely special bonds shared by siblings complete with jealousy, competition and an overarching undeniable love, to the frustrations one inevitably feels towards ones parents, the ups and downs of growing up, the triumph of being an adult and parenting your parents, the growing up of owning up to your issues and solving them in the hope of being a more wholesome, integrated human being, and most of all — in knowing that family — in all it’s imperfect glory — happens to everyone. It is not something you can forget, divorce, distance yourself from and ever move on. We are all products of what has happened to us growing up, and the families who bring us up, even if we’re not bound by blood.

It’s intelligent story-telling that weaves two timelines in parallel, creative and beautiful production, has an outstanding soundtrack and background score (by an Indian!), lovely acting all-round and also ticks all the right boxes for me as far as representation goes. It had many a moment that struck a chord so deep with me, as far as theme and plot go. The second season, typically, saw a dip. Especially in the pre-holiday phase, with unnecessarily long and dragged out story lines that say so much but do little to develop the plot or further the story.

Yet, I continue to watch. Because even though the writing may sometimes falter, and the scenarios feel too white or too American, the characters are heartwarming, honest, real and very, very relatable.

Day 15: Block rockin’ beats (Wayanad, 2017)

When VC told me he was meeting with R and R over drinks one November evening, “to plan our cycling trip,” I dismissed it as an excuse to drink and talk bicycles. But four hours later, when I caught up with them and they spelled out their well-laid plans to cycle 300 kilometres, over three days, all the way from Bangalore to Wayanad, I ate my words thoughts and kept my cynicism to myself. Because the second part of the plan, as I was informed, included me. They would need a support vehicle. To carry essential supplies, a bike rack for emergencies, and generally a fall back, should something untoward happen. Which is where I featured: designated driver or said support vehicle. At this point, I happily joined in what I thought was a mad plan from hell. I haven’t seen VC this excited in anticipation of anything, ever. Except this time, instead of his typical hyper-efficient, over-preparedness, he just had a lot of sleepless nights. Like an over-eager kid before a school picnic. I was a bit surprised to see he didn’t even dust his bike before the ride, forget getting it services or tuned up. They’d managed a few rides here and there in supposed prep for the long distances, but really, nothing that can actually be passed off as training. Anyhow, that’s what the support vehicle was for, they said. To jump into when the going got tough.

And so, on the long weekend around Christmas, they were off. The plan was to cover approximately 100 kms a day, over three days, halting along the way. Day 1 began at 7:30, saying goodbye to the boys as they rode off to battle Mysore road traffic on bicycles — all the while wondering why they wouldn’t just allow me to drive them to a point beyond the traffic jams, and then set off. But there’s no arguing with such determination. And stubbornness.

I had happily agreed to drive when this plan was first proposed, but on the morning after the boys had left, a wave of laziness came over me. I wasn’t so hot on driving all alone anymore. Slowly, over three days. What if I had a flat? What if I got caught by the cops (the car was GA registered)? What if I was just bored hahaha? Anyhow, too late to have second thoughts, I left a good four hours after them, and we merged about 10 kilometres short of Mandya, which was our first pitstop. On the way though, turned out my worries were unfounded. The car was a zippy Honda Jazz, and with absolutely no weight to carry around, some really good music and a better drive given less traffic at the time of day that I’d ventured off, I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the drive.

I met with a very dehydrated R stopped on the side of the road, with a flat tyre, waiting for the other two to back track and come help him. We made it to Mandya by about 3, ready to check in to the hotel. It was super entertaining trying to explain to the hotel staff in a very straight-jacket, respectable lodge, why three men dressed in neon coloured lycra wanted to cycle from Bangalore to Wayanad, when a woman was driving along with them. Not nearly as entertaining as convincing the same staff that VC and I were in fact married, and the other two “gents” sharing the other room were just friends. The request to carry our bikes into the rooms with us probably did nothing to help our cause.

Picture: VC

A terribly delayed lunch, a mistimed, extra-long nap and general disorientation from the schedule being so off meant we woke up bleary eyed at 8 pm, wondering what to do next. We drove off into the town looking for dinner. We circumnavigated the place  three times before we settled for a seedy local stop that promised Bannur style biryani. It was delicious, but not the kind of place we could chill and eat slowly. In and out quickly, we then headed back to call it a day in lieu of an early start the next. But not before finishing the tedious task of fixing R’s flat – which he did in amazing sync to Block Rockin Beats that played, as we all watched, amused.

Day 2, despite good intentions, began late. It didn’t really matter to me, but the boys needed to beat the rising sun and make it to the next stop ideally before lunch time. But that was not to be. Traffic, a horrible head wind and then cross winds, plus the sun beating down hard, meant they took it nice and easy. I sped off, drove through Mysore, and found a nice little spot just 20 kilometres short of our next pitstop, where I pulled over. I popped open my kindle and read for the next 2.5 hours waiting for them to catch up.

It was a glorious day, had they got that early start, but with the sun soaring and the wind to beat, the boys looked completely wiped. At this point VC threw in the towel, mounted his bike on the rack and drove with me for the remainder of the journey to Gundlupete, our stop for the second night.

200 kilometres done, I couldn’t believe they were still up and gunning for more. Crazy, crazy boys. While the other two caught some z’s, VC and I ducked off towards Gopalswamy Betta, to catch the sunrise, but ended up mucking around trying to catch light trails, on the drive up instead. Which is to say VC pitched his tripod up waiting for the right light, and that trail you see are my tail lights speeding off into the distance.

Picture: VC

After some much needed food, drink and rest, we convened for a round of drinks and other downers to set us up for a good night’s rest. The evenings were getting progressively cooler and I was excited to get to Wayanad the next day.

Day 3, the last third, commenced late once again. But, in terms of terrain and landscape, it was probably the best, most enjoyable drive for me. I know the boys thought so too. Undulating stretches of road, driving through not one but two states worth of national forest reserve, which meant a constant canopy of trees to hide under, gave them sufficient shade from the sun.

And thank god for the nice and refreshing first half of the ride, because the second half, once we entered Wayanad, was gruelling. Arduous ups and downs, punishing climbs, narrow hill roads in bad shape, unruly traffic. By the last stretches, we were halting every two kilometres or so, so they could give their legs and backsides a rest. VC, being VC had called it a day soon after the good bits riding through the jungle were over. He drove shotgun, and grabbed his camera to film what little he could of the ride. R and R powered through, all the way till the goddamned end.

We’d booked ourselves in a lake-facing resort with tented accommodation, which looked very promising online, as such things tend to. In person, it left a lot to be desired. Also, the resort was attached to a government tourism facility with boating services in the lake, which meant we had noisy, selfie-taking tourists traipsing around us all evening long. However, the view made up for it, once the facility shut shop for the day, we ventured out to sit by the lakeside, watching the sun go down, and a ghosty fog descend over the lake. The morning was supposedly gorgeous we were told, so despite three mornings of rising early, R, VC and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed while it was still dark, waiting for the sun to rise. It was stunning, and worth the few hours of missed sleep.

Wayanad is quite the stunning part of Kerala, and it takes a little scouting to find a nice spot tucked away from the humdrum of mainstream tourism, much like any popular destination in this country. But once you do, the sights and scenes are a feast.

Picture: VC

The acres and acres of banana and areca-nut plantations, blue skies, palm trees and winding roads, are all reminiscent of the slow life. It was easy to decide we wanted to stay another day. And so we decided to delay our return, and set off on the look out for a place to stay the night. A place that wasn’t as “public” as the lake-facing resort.

We found another tented accommodation set along the steep slopes of a coffee plantation. A setting and a price that was honestly too good to be true. Happy for the opportunity, we settled in. Pretty much all day was spent indoors, and we only set out before sunset, for a walk that took us from the wild and rogue growth of coffee plantations to the immaculately neat style of tea plantations just across a winding village road.

A splendid sunset sealed the deal and we returned, to repeat our evening routine – drinks, downers, dinner.

The next morning, R and VC trekked off once again to catch the sunrise, and apparently had the best hike of the trip. R and I missed it. Because, sleeeeeep.

The boys, of course, had their share of fun. High on adrenalin from the ride, and the thrill of having finished what was only an idea just few months ago. However, it was a really good three days, for me too. After ages, I found myself amidst a gang of boys — a feeling I’ve forgotten. I realise it’s a different kind of easy-going, hassle-free fun. Maybe it’s my own newfound fascination to let-it-go and go-with-the-flow and see where it takes me, and these boys were probably the best boys to tag along with on this kind of trip, but I surprised myself. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t feel lost or left out, so much so that I didn’t even open my kindle for the rest of the trip. Whenever they were off the saddle, we chatted, listened to music, ate some good food, drank and made merry late into the night. Road trips of this kind, are the best kind.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what the holiday did for me.

My memory was jogged back to days in Goa, with the same gang (a couple other boys sorely missed) when doing this kind of spontaneous thing — a random road trip to a faraway beach,  an unplanned but miraculously well-worked-out barbecue, a secret trip to a campsite in a neighbouring state, a monsoon trek upstream a river — was so passe, so normal, so regular. And so I took it in, happy to have had another chance to experience something I had pushed far back into my mind. Like I also said here. And here.

The best part, for me was how relaxed and devoid of rigid plans the entire trip was. Aside rom setting off to cycle every day, little else was fixed and we played it entirely by ear. There were several stops for chai, coconut water, pazham-puri, and on our return journey, toddy — which I’d never have ventured out to try on my own. I’m glad I did because I really, really loved it.

It was truly a trip that was more about the journey than the destination. And perhaps because I was meant to tail the boys and always stay within accessible distance, I was forced to slow down and enjoy it that way.

VC, he made a film, so we can always go back to it and remember the trip for what it was.

Next time around, I want to be on a bike, rather than in the car.

One year ago: Two new pieces
Two years ago: Day 15: Come undone

Day 12: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)

As it happens, VC and I hadn’t taken a holiday together in a couple of years now. The last trip that comes to mind is Sri Lanka. There have been several weekend getaways in and around Goa, but my privilege doesn’t allow me to count any of them as “holidays”. And so this December, we decided to take off on NYE. Two reasons. In all our years away we’ve never “celebrated” the day with a typical bang. Save for the one year we went to P’s for a small party of close friends, we’ve always only ever stayed home, cooked something nice and had an evening by ourselves, or with a friend or two – tops! It would be nice to get away, I thought. Second, being in Bangalore I was deathly afraid of getting dragged to VC’s annual family get together. So I figured, anything would be better than being here.

Having woken up very late to this eventuality meant we were left with little choice. It’s Bangalore, and every single getaway destination within driveable distance was naturally booked up. So we made multiple bookings in multiple places, because we really didn’t have the luxury of choosing. Unsure till the very end where we’d actually end up. The week before NYE, we received a strange email from the hostel we’d eventually locked down on, asking us to make a final payment to confirm the booking. In it was a clause: a no-alcohol clause.

Now, I’m not the biggest drunk around. I can go entire holidays without drinking actually. But I’d definitely like to have the option to choose. Especially if I’m on holiday with my husband, over NYE. It was a dealbreaker. And that’s how our final choice too went out the window. Back to the drawing board again, I was frantically hunting for a place that would have us. Even if just for one night, we thought. All we needed was a clean bed and loo, some peace and quiet. I’d manage the rest, I thought. Our standards were really dropping.

Suddenly, a property we’d never stumbled on in the weeks of hunting before popped up. A home nestled amidst tea estates, aesthetically designed, small and cosy, not housing more than 7 people at any given time, and available over the long weekend — it seemed too good to be true. So without much ado, we booked it.

And so it was that we decided to be in Coonoor. I was super excited. It would be my third time there, the second being just one year ago when S and I took off for a blissful week in the clouds, with no plan but to stay-in.

I realised that over 2016, I took many holidays, none of which were with VC. 2017 was dedicated entirely to settling in, and despite considering several opportunities to go away, somehow nothing materialised. It really was beginning to feel like it was time to go on holiday. Together.

My new-found excitement about going to cold places (even though I’m petrified about turning into an icicle) peaked when this trip came through. I bought myself woollen gloves and a beanie, in addition to the ridiculous number of warm clothes I’d packed.

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Picture: VC

VC laughed, but within mere hours of landing in Coonoor, the sun setting and the evening mist settling in, I had the last laugh when he gingerly asked if I’d perhaps packed any extra warm things for him. I had. An extra sweater, a muffler and lots of socks. So there I was, in two jackets worn over my teeshirt, socks, gloves, a shawl around my neck and my beanie — snug as a bug. While VC had to make do with a double-barrel sock arrangement, a sweater inside his jacket and a muffler. Before long though, he appropriated my beanie.

Google told me night time temperatures would drop to 3-4 degrees. I had that exhilarating combination of thrill and worry when I read that. But when we got there, the homestay owner pointed at his very dead looking tea estates and told us how bitterly cold it had been this winter. Temperatures had dropped to -3, causing the tea to be bitten with frost, dying a slow bitterly cold death.

But this is the wonderful realisation I’ve come to so late in life. Like the Danish saying N told me about goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” if you’re adequately equipped, you’re mostly good to go. I used to think I was completely incapable of handling the cold. This was confirmed by short brushes whenever I’d travel to cold places in the years I was away, but it was exacerbated because I simply didn’t own the right clothes. I’ve been too afraid to consider travelling to Ladakh for this reason. For years I’ve nursed the dream, but stopped short of committing several times over. This trip though has been a bit of a game changer.

***

We planned to leave early on a Saturday morning to try and beat as much outgoing traffic as we could. Anticipating that most of Bangalore would be on the Bangalore-Mysore highway, an early start was crucial. But it was not to be. We celebrated VC’s birthday the night before, had a late night, and stupidly forgot to set our alarms (forgetting that the auto-set ones only goes off on weekdays!) so I woke up with a start, a good two hours later than the time we planned to be out the door.

Oh well.

This put us considerably behind in our schedule and extended our drive time by three hours. But, since we weren’t on a deadline, VC and I decided to just relax and drive. I had a playlist ready and it was a long, but comfortable trip up, despite considerable traffic along the way.

Once we were in tea land though, the landscape is just so gorgeous. Rolling gentle slopes of green, so green it makes your eyes hurt, achingly blue skies, with the of fluffy clouds scattered, mist floating in and out casually, with tea pickers huddled under the weight of their baskets, tea stalls selling piping hot tea and vadais, the narrow hilly roads made us relax and enjoy the ride.

In Coonoor, I had no agenda but to put my feet up and chill. We had the house completely to ourselves the first night, and on NYE night, we were joined by a group of five people from Chennai. The hosts were incredibly lovely, hospitable, and cooked us simple homely food. The rest of the time, VC was determined to be outdoors shooting pictures. Having recently rekindled his love for still photography, he wanted to make the most of the best two slots of any given day — sunrise and sunset —  so we ended up driving out everyday scouting for vantage spots. I’d carry my kindle along, and when we found a spot, VC would take off to set up his tripod and begin his patient wait for the right moment and right light. This would take anything from 1-3 hours, during which I’d listen to music and read. It’s how I finished the last book of the year in two days. I like this part of our life where we manage to make our love to travel and be outdoors merge, only to get there and have the freedom and space to enjoy it the way we please.

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Picture: VC
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Picture: VC
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Picture: VC

NYE itself was a very quiet affair, that surprised me. I had no expectations actually, and was fully prepared for another simple meal eaten between just the two of us, and an early night. However, the other house guests got chatty, invited us to share their daaru and maal, and were delighted when we offered them ours. It’s not usually like me to happily join a crowd like this, but I know now that that’s changing. So we joined them quite willingly, the hosts got a big fire going, and we huddled around it. Me in all the layers I could possibly have thrown on, of course. It was an added bonus that they had speakers, and remarkably good taste in music (they had a lot of Coke Studio Pakistan on their playlists, aside from some Beatles, good old classic rock and a few staple new poppy trash favourites). Dinner was simple, but it was all that was needed. I was high on the ambience, and the experience. Deathly silence, with our music playing softly, while we chatted — smack in the middle of a tea estate in a corner of Coonoor, with no humans for miles around us — it was like no other NYE I’ve ever had. Our house guests joined us half an hour before midnight, and entertained us with stories about interesting guests — of the human and wild kind — and by the time the fire began to die down, my energy was flagging. It was just before midnight when I called it a day and crashed. A hot water bottle snuggled into the sheets was such a welcome little touch of hospitality, in Coonoor!

Intoxicated on all the relaxation, and the perfect, best end the best months of the year, that I could ask for, I woke up on Jan 1st feeling physically energised. Happily grateful for where I am, excited for where I am headed. And just so happy deep into my bones. So happy, that we decided to extend our stay by another day, and drive out to Ooty, in the hope that the crowds would be on their way out.

We checked into a hotel there, spent the day roaming around, took an extra long nap, and headed out before sunset, grabbed a drink of thick hot, rich hot chocolate at Moddy’s and went off into the hills because VC wanted to catch one last photo opportunity. We topped that off with a hearty dinner at a rooftop Chinese restaurant in a hotel that VC has lots of memories from his childhood spent there. I was happy for the extra day and the chance to share this slice of nostalgia with him.

The next morning we woke up super early to hit the road back to Bangalore, only to find our car frosted over. Pretty soon I realised the grass all around that was looking oddly pale was actually encrusted with a layer of frost. I’ve never seen snow in my life, so this came pretty close and excited me no end!

It was a happy three days of peace, lots of snuggles, plenty of good hot tea and biscuits, soaking in winter sunshine, enjoying the mist and finishing off a book and just re-grouping all that I have been mulling over in my head. I cannot explain it, but the last six odd weeks have been so high on mental activity, I have felt like I have really crossed a major landmark and stepped into all new ground as far as self-awareness and growth goes. My heart was just so full. I came away with all the sights embedded in my head, and not more than half a dozen pictures. So almost all the pictures here are courtesy VC.

On the way home, the otherwise not very expressive VC gently shared how the holiday, simple and unplanned as it was, had unlocked something in his head.

“We’ve got it all wrong, Rere,” he said. “We can’t be working our asses off so we can travel. There’s got to be a way to make this our work.”

I’m summing up a conversation that lasted a good hour, of course. But I think he’s on to something. The same thing I’ve been on to for years now.

I heaved a sigh of relief, and ended the holiday on such a good note. My workaholic husband has come home to me, and is finally on the same page as I am.

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One year ago: Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read
Two years ago: Day 12: R & R

Day 11: I have my books and my poetry to protect me

Most days, I write because I have so much to say and I want to be heard. Contrary to popular belief, being articulate in writing doesn’t always mean a writer is articulate in speaking. I’m not very good with those words, so I choose these.

Most days, I write because it’s the fuel that keeps me going. Thoughts turn to words, words turn to thoughts and on and on and on.

Some days I write to silence the voices in my head. Some days, to give the meek whimper struggling to stay alive, a breath of fresh air, and a mouthpiece.

Some days, I write because I feel like I’m a part of a tribe of likeminded people. Writers. Women. What have you. Some days, it’s to remind myself that even at my loneliest, there are people who will read my words and some times write to say they could relate. Or that they’ve been there too. Or that they liked what they read.

I could go on and on.

These days though, I write as a means to conserving my emotional and mental energy. I write as a means to finish every thought that I kindle. I write so I can journal all that I’m figuring out, fully, before I make heedless utterances. I write to jot the stops and starts on this path that I’m on. I write to mark the milestones, the small victories and the dips that define it. I write because at the moment, I am selfishly committed to looking inwards — writing helps me converse with myself.

I write because it is a very good way to sit still and be present with everything that I think, feel and process. I write because it helps me make sense of this fascinating process. I write so I can journal it in long-form. I write because this is for me. I write because I’ve only just tasted the sheer pleasure of this intensely personal experience. I write because I’ve woken up very late, to the bliss of going this way alone. I write because I choose not to snap a picture for Instagram every time, or shoot out an update on Whatsapp, to make a declaration, every time I arrive at a noteworthy moment. I write because it makes me slow down and savour every memory better, twice over.

I write because it is the only way I know how to record my truth. I write, so I can look back someday and ponder over how far I’ve come (or not). I write as a means to drop crumbs along the way, so others can follow if they find themselves in the same place. I write because words speak, connect and bridge distances. I write so my mind can go the distance and arrive at the destination I’m headed to, even before the rest of me can.

Two years ago: Day 11: This and that

Day 10: A hazy shade of winter

Mid-November or so, the weather in Bangalore turned. Nothing unusual in these parts. Winter was coming. But for my sun-fed, humidity-aged Goan muscles of the last almost-decade, it felt like an insurmountable challenge to take into my stride the nip in the evening air, the dark mornings and the perpetual cold fingers and tip-of-nose.

It comes with the typical tell-tale beginnings. The sun setting sooner, casting gloomy evenings upon me. Disoriented, I’d rush off into the kitchen too early, thinking about getting dinner started, prompted only by the too-early sunset that brings night time sooner than I’ve experienced in a long while.

Much as I loved the balmy climate in Goa, and luhhhved the rain (heck I have a whole category dedicated to it), I’ve been obsessed with devouring every little bit of the winter I’ve had. Maybe it’s time to jog my memory, and get more than my muscles to feel it and start writing about winter in a way that deserves it’s own category too.

The thing with being in tropical climes for long enough is that you body changes adapts beautifully. My muscles always felt stretched and well-oiled, my skin supple and perpetually sticky from the humidity. Here, it’s not strange to wake up in the morning, your limbs feeling stiff, my skin is parched and turns white and scaly if not adequately oiled and lotion-ed. At the gym, it takes awfully long to really warm up and break a sweat.

Because muscles, they forget.

I’m quite sensitive to the cold, quick to feel it and in need of warm clothes and socks in no time at all. This typically meant that in Goa, in December, I’d wear a jacket and people would look at me oddly. In Bangalore, it means I have been revelling in winter clothing again. I’ve discovered things in my wardrobe that have been stashed away in suitcases relegated to the loft for the last eight years. I’d forgotten I owned some of this stuff. Extra jackets, scarves and shawls. And still, I realised in shedding stuff from my wardrobe over the years, I’ve lost some of the winter basics one tends to keep when you live in a place that has more than one season.

It’s no secret, I love winter in Bangalore. So I was already really looking forward to this time of year. And lucky me, we’ve been blessed with a colder than usual winter, I think. Nippy mornings, bright blue winter skies with no clouds for miles, chasing spots of sunshine and snuggling into them, wrapped in warm clothes.

So, with great glee, I stocked up on a couple of warm tees, a woollen pullover, a new jacket (with a hoodie!) and a couple of warm accessories. When I step out, it’s nice to have a while new kind of clothing to dip in to. And then there’s the extras — jackets, stoles, shawls, sweaters! I may have spent a lot more time and energy than necessary being excited about the winter, and winter clothing. And don’t even get me started on the joys of socks and closed shoes *eyeroll*

Ever since I’ve gone off carbs at dinner time, it’s been complicated thinking up things to eat for dinner. With the weather turning I no longer felt inclined to eat cold, crunchy salads, even though it is the best time for winter veg. Soups have made a comeback, into my kitchen. And my life!

Now that I’m back, it has taken a handful of weeks to get my sun-loving body to get used to the biting nippy mornings that feel sharp, turning my fingers and tip of my nose perpetually cold. We’ve been sleeping without the fan for the most part, unthinkable i an older life. Even now, though it’s necessary, it feels odd. I’m torn between having the fan on slow and layering up to stay warm, or having it ff and sleeping easy, only to wake up in the middle fo the night feeling claustrophobic.

Waking up in the mornings is a huge task. With the sun refusing to peek out before 7, and even then, being a slow, hazy rise, it’s been an everyday battle to face. I like to get o the gym by 7, which in this season means waking up when it’s still dark out. Something about that just feels illogical.

I realise muscles have a memory and perhaps ours have forgotten what it is like to be in the cold. VC quite literally forgot. And he went around for the first few days claiming he was feeling feverish. After some medication and befuddlement when there was never a real temperature spike, when I asked him if maybe he’s just feeling cold, he replied with; “I’m not cold, I just feel nicer when I’m covered up.”

*eyeroll*

Mystery solved. Yeah. He’d totally forgotten that that’s what feeling cold is actually like. So I had to re-introduce him to the joys of jacket-wearing, sock-donning, soup-drinking, chappals-at-home Bangalore winter habits.

This winter, I’d like to think I’ve made the most of being out and about too. Lots of evenings out, walking about, a crisp sunny morning or two at Cubbon Park, drinks in outdoor places, warm soup and Asian food galore. Lots of chai and the like too.

There is something lovely about being in a Bangalore watering hole in the winter, and it’s filled me with so much happiness that I’ve been around to really enjoy that this past winter.

I wont lie. These are some of the things I’ve really missed in my life before the return to Bangalore. And to be able to experience it all again has done a number on me. Making me love being outdoors, rekindling memories from my childhood, and making for good Bangalore silverlinings, when I often feel overwhelmed by it all.

Because muscles, they remember.

The icing (literally!) on the cake was ending the year with back to back trips to Wayanad and Coonoor in the last week of December. But that is the stuff of another post (or two).

***

And because it’s Wednesday and I promised music at least once every week, and because I’m not sure how many of you have picked up on the fact that I’m trying to cheekily title every post with either the name or a line from a song I’ve heard or loved, here’s today’s aptly titled track.

One year ago: Happier: perpetual WIP

Day 9: The hardest part

is admitting that you were wrong. But once you’re over that hurdle, it’s like walking into the light, or unlocking the next level of a mystery you’re desperately trying to solve.

For someone so convinced I was an out and out introvert just over a year ago, the past year has seen a big change. The developments of recent time, specially the last six odd weeks have only confirmed what I have known to be true for a while now: I have changed, in ways I know, but more so in ways I am only getting to know slowly.

The more willing I am to sit still and observe, question and think about the changes I see, the more I know this to be true. And that willingness is the hard part. Because it means accepting that it may be time to let go of some rigid truths, or that I might need to soften up on some of my staunch aversions, or it means letting go of the safety of labels that I use to define me. It means instead, to look at the very real circumstances that are shaping me in entirely different ways.

It means finding new connections.

It means sometimes standing alone.

Daunting as it sounds, and is in some part, it is also incredibly energising. Nobody talks about how refreshing and life-giving the process can be. It is not without tedium, and there’s really no escaping the bitter realities that you’ll have to stare in the face, but once you’re over that hurdle, it is like a breath of fresh air. Light, rejuvenating, and puts the spring right back in your step.

Perhaps it is the mistaken ideas of adulthood and becoming-who-you-are that we have inculcated, that makes this journey seem one way. The pursuit of prescribed ideals, boxed definitions and perfection itself makes looking back, revisiting old versions of yourself and admitting less than ideal facets of yourself impossible, and a waste of time. Shame, envy, inadequacy, confusion become bad words we don’t want to believe are parts of us.

But the truth is, growing up involves going back and forth all the time. It is acknowledging these unsavoury parts of ourselves that unlocks the potential to plummet ahead. Never before have I valued retrospection so much. For it has helped revisit so much, only this time with a softer eye. Less self-loathing. Less judgement. More acceptance.

With every passing week, I realise I’m not the introvert I was in the months before I left Goa. It was circumstances that made me withdraw and seek my own company, closed in from the world. But I didn’t understand why or how it was happening. It was simply the playing out of what N articulated perfectly — Everyone can’t go with you everywhere — a truth (and several others) I’m only realising this now. And I’m changing, because of it.

Even until weeks mere ago, it was hard to say if it was a change brought on by changing circumstances, or if the shifts brewing within me in turn were reflected in my circumstances. Mostly this has been a revelation about how wrong I was.

I noticed around the middle of last year how suddenly I was much more willing to go out, be with people, socialise and do things outside of the four walls of the introvert cocoon I’d settled into. The frequency with which I’d surprise myself by volunteering to do something I thought was uncharacteristic began to rise, till I realised it was too frequent to pass it off as “exceptions to the rule”. It was, in fact, the new normal. Try out a new restaurant, I’m in. Want to come to xyz, with abs, def, (who you don’t know), sure! Want to try out a reading club where we’ll read a book on self-esteem, why not? Poetry reading, yes. Movie with the family, yes. Dinner with extended family, okay to that too. Cooking for fifteen people over two days, count me in.

Slowly I found myself feeling a lot more energetic and willing to to put myself out there, in situations I’d told myself were never for me. The clincher was willingly joining VC in his new business, and taking on a client-facing role.

Conversely, I don’t fancy spending as much time all by myself at home. It helps that amma’s home is in the next building, so I always have a cocoon of comfort to jump into when things get overly solitary around here.

This is a big change for someone who in Goa barely ever left home, and loved being alone. The most joyous moment on any ordinary day then, would be when VC left for work and the help finished for the day. I would savour the solitude slowly over the course of the day, wearing my space and isolation like a comfortable skin.

It’s true what they say, the company you keep really does reflect your state of mind. And maybe this, in some measure also explains the dissonance and distance I’ve felt with those I’d most easily turn to for daily kinship. I’ve carried this feeling, that something has changed, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it, around uncomfortably for a few weeks. Eventually, the truth dawned on me: in the face of all this drastic change, I feel less and less inclined to stick to fixed anythings. My faith in the rock bed of certainties has shaken, so I’m finding it very counter-productive to stick in places I am feeling restless. Whether that is a pattern of friendship, the habits I think I need to have, or fearing breaking them because it means being alone.

The last few weeks saw me do both. And surprisingly, it got easier. The fear subsided and I felt charged with an energy I didn’t know possible.

Do you know what it is like to watch yourself move from being a somewhat passive, this-is-who-I-am-and-I’ll-just-stay-here-until-the-right-stuation-happens to a let’s-go-out-there-and-find-a-way-to-make-this-work state of mind? It has been like dipping into a secret reserve of self-worth I have suddenly discovered.

We really underestimate how much we are capable of growth. How much we are in fact changing all the time. Drastic growth brings with it such significant shifts in the mind and body that inevitably, it leads you to the reality of leaving things behind. By definition, it is what movement entails.

So whether it’s a time (it’s futile being torn up about moving on from the perks of full time employment, for example, because it doesn’t have a place in my life or in my current reality), place (similarly, so meaningless to wistfully long for my life in Goa when this is where I am now and it is what I know is most necessary), or even company (If I am changing all the time, surely every body else is too. So what then am I hanging on to so tight?), the need to loosen the grip and ease up on expecting a pre-defined kind of certainty has slipped under my skin.

Much like hanging on to older ideas of a version of myself did nothing but delay the movement that was waiting to happen in my life, I’m realising that hanging on to a fixed, rigid idea of the kind of friendship I am made for, or what I am capable of in relatonships, has made it hard for me to find deeper, authentic connections suited to where I am now.

 

One of the things that has become utterly clear to me in the recent past is that my life has little meaning without connection. I’m craving it all the time. In people, in activities, in experiences, in spaces, in habits. I’m only now learning how believing so hard in the fallacy that I am a complete introvert, has held me back in this respect.

It was hard to acknowledge that my introvertism was a temporary shield I donned, while I waded through emotions I didn’t want to face. I mistook a streak of introvertism to be a personality-defining thing, when actually it was just me seeking safety in numbers, in memes that scream relatable truths that made me feel like I belonged. Because I wanted to belong anywhere, but to the real self that was desperately running away from feeling all the feels.

Until, I was ready to break out and do all of that — face those scary feels, be as vulnerable as I possibly could, acknowledge how wrong I was, look at new and intimidating ways of being that my situation now required.

Now, I’m less afraid to make connections.

Similarly, I am less afraid to stand alone.

This shift in my attitude has already brought tremendous positive change — I see it in the most significant things like the way I was able to accept moving to Bangalore to the smallest, seemingly insignificant things like suddenly embracing hot pink lipstick with a casual comfort that was alien to me.

I see it in the way I am suddenly more outgoing. Accepting invitations to meet new people, pushing myself out to events, trying out new restaurants, making plans to beat traffic and increasingly seeking new experiences, over the comfort of mundanities, when it comes to people. I’m reluctant to keep going over the same motions out of habit. I have little to share in terms of mundanities, and the lack of conversational sharing does mean I’ve fallen out of the loop. But I’m dealing with that, and even with its difficulties, I feel it’s better than the hollow, exhausting efforts of continually trying to flog a habit I’m clearly not in the space to hang on to.

I am so not that person anymore.

Accepting that was the hardest part.

This business of looking back at the trail we’ve traversed now seems like an essential healthy practice, one that I should probably do more often. To see where we were, how far we’ve come, to ask crucial questions about where we’re headed, why, and if we’ll actually be happy once we get there requires so much reworking of of our old selves, to take what’s best for us and to let go of all that no longer serve a purpose.

But I won’t lie, that is the hardest part.

Day 8: I’m just too good at goodbyes

I really am. The people-come-people-go theme of my life continues. The only difference I’ve come to notice is a decrease in angst or disappointment every time it happens. Earlier, I’d be very torn up about it, even the times when I consciously chose to distance myself or cut off ties with someone. But now, the blues come and go quickly. It bothers me, but doesn’t affect me in that lingering sort of way. Earlier, I’d see the end of a relationship as The End. Now, I see it as a timely intervention for a new beginning. A chance to either alter something in the relationship or just to move on and find something new elsewhere, with someone else, perhaps.

At some level, I think I’ve made peace with this pattern. In the last few years, I’ve noticed how deeply linked this is with my own growth curve. Every time that I’ve hit a situation that has caused me to either step back from a relationship, or retreat into myself, it has been a time when I have experienced a shift in my own growth.

In December, I spent quite a lot of time pondering over this, and I’ve come to some conclusions. I’d like to think these are fundamental caveats that I have taken way too long to arrive at. And the process was not without it’s share of rife and pain. But I think of what Glennon Doyle Melton says, and take heart.

The truth will set you free, but it will hurt so badly first.

This is what will help ease the pain every time I find myself at a goodbye.

Making friends, maintaining friendships can sometimes be intimidating, at times exhausting and seemingly futile. That’s normal. And completely okay. There are times when you need and deserve companionship and the company of people can be uplifting, but there are some experiences you have to go alone. I’ve been going through some changes myself of late, details of which I’d usually be very keen to unravel and discuss and share with my closest friends. But this time around, I’ve been unable to (also not very inclined to) do this, except for N and D, who really get this process and side of me, for obvious reasons. I was a bit perplexed at my own behaviour, but over time, I realised that there is a certain sanctity in the process of change that is best enjoyed alone. It doesn’t need an audience, or that extra boost of confidence that we tend to sometimes seek from sharing information with our friends, when we’re unsure and we need a pat on the back and someone to unabashedly side with us. Tell us we’ll be alright, that in a similar situation, they’d do exactly the same.

Every relationship/person will come with some disappointment. This is bound to happen, because no two people evolve at the same pace, or ever have circumstances so similar to keep the likeness going. Evaluating what you value in each relationship, at each of those moments, will decide what parts you’re willing to ignore and let slide, and what parts become deal-breakers. Consequently, what relationships remain thick, which ones morph and move to the fringes, and which ones are eliminated altogether.

There comes a point in every relationship when the way things are going will be a clear reflection of some aspect of your sense of self. This was a hard one to acknowledge. Because it means taking responsibility for things that you’d normally pass on to the other party. It means noticing that you get what you give. Most recently, I saw it pan out when I came face to face with an extremely judgemental and critical side of myself I didn’t like. It took noticing and feeling bothered by someone elses judgemental behaviour to see my own. As I tried to work this out in my own head, I found greater and greater dissonance with the friends in whose company I was indulging in said judgemental behaviour. Things became harder still when I realised that I didn’t need to or want to talk about the process of reworking or course correcting this behaviour anymore. Doing so felt like a lot of roundabout justification of what I had come to realise was just shitty behaviour coming from a place of shame. I needed to just shut it down completely and move on to doing something about it. Quietly, without a fuss or much explanation.

Walk the talk, minus the talk, actually. In fact, this is the first time I’m even articulating these thoughts in writing. I saw in that situation that the friendships involved had devolved into a lot of casual chit-chat that involved wide-swathe judgements passed rather casually, and seemingly harmlessly, but that involved thoughts that were deep and really telling. In these friendships, I saw a reflection of this aspect of my sense of self that needed alteration. For those of you suddenly reaching out to ask why I’m off Instagram — this has something to do with it. I felt I needed to eliminate the trigger first, if I were to honestly address the issue at the heart of this.

Your spouse/friends will very well not be the answer to every one of your needs. And that is okay. You’re going to have different people for different things. Someone for the laughs and the fun. Someone else entirely for the truth-telling conversations. Sometime you reach out to for strength and support. And maybe none of these people will be the one you want to travel with or think of when you want some lighthearted fun. This is okay. Your friends are not and cannot fulfil every need at once.

N and I have discussed this at extreme length these past few weeks (given the time zones we’re in, every time I find us deeply engrossed and furiously sharing away, I worry that it means one of us is awake at an ungodly hour usually meant for sleep haha!) and she put it beautifully, in words I keep going back to.

Everyone can’t  go with you everywhere.

Every relationship will lack something. And that’s okay too. Because every relationship will give you a whole set of other valuable things. I am increasingly finding myself constantly evaluating this, and I realise how my equations with various friends keep fluctuating. When I moved to Bangalore, I came with huge expectations, looking forward to being in the same city as some of my closest friends. In reality, I didn’t connect with them nearly as much as I did with people from a forgotten past. I found that my family was there for me, far more than friends who promised they’d be. I inadvertently spent a lot more time with them, and by myself, focusing on things that really needed my time and attention. I saw myself enjoy the process of making new friends, when I realised the ones I had didn’t have the time or space for me. And that has been a wholly enriching experience in itself. I don’t feel the loss, as much as I have soaked in the gain.

Every time you hit a bump in a relationship, it is an opportunity to evolve. It’s natural for relationship to get old at some point or the other. These situations are inflection points that can be turned around positively if looked at as a call for evolution. Each opportunity is in a sense, a test of whether there is scope for evolution or not. Last month, I met a friend I was convinced I had put out of my life just three months before. I was over the moon thrilled to realise that over that period of complete silence and no contact, meeting again brought out conversation and experiences so telling of the growth we’ve both had in our time apart. No part of that meeting was reminiscent of our friendship as it used to be. It was utterly refreshing and in a sharp contrast to the time before, I didn’t come away exhausted and mentally drained. I felt uplifted. Nothing excites me these days as much as a kindred spirit who gets what I’m on about.

Not every goodbye, is goodbye for good. Yet, the truth hurts. It’s not easy to feel like you’re about to lose a friend. Because it means facing the truth about how much we want to be seen, known, loved and heard. How much we want to belong. But, I’ve realised that the silence from the frenetic activity of friendship presents crucial moments of pause. Moments necessary in cultivating a focus on belonging so wholly to yourself first.

Two years ago: Day 8: On waiting

Day 5: Here I go again (on my own)

It’s that time of year where I set off once again, resolve firm in place, willing myself on the path to fitness again. It’s January after all. This is the way things go even if it sometimes takes three odd weeks between intention and action fully kicking in.

Truth be told, 2017 was excellent as far as health, fitness and body positivity go. I started the year on a high. I felt fit, my vitamin D and B12 levels were back on track and I fell ill all of three times. I know without a shadow of doubt, that exercising played a major role in dragging me out of the funk that was 2016. As far as kickboxing goes, I was getting better, stronger and enjoying it more than I had since I started. Things were really peaking for me.

And then I moved cities. Losing access to my kickboxing teachers was easily one of the biggest losses of this year. Eight months in, I’m convinced I will never find a replacement or any fitness activity that will top the high kickboxing with them gave me.

The weeks in the transition to Bangalore saw erratic schedules, and in an attempt to bring some sanity and regularity, some grounding to a life that was otherwise up in the air, I signed up at a gym even before I signed a lease on a house to live in. As long as I have it my way, it’s not often that I slack off on the exercise front. I’m known to go to great lengths to juggle my schedule around in order to fit workouts in, even in the busiest of times.

Then, in August a serious fitness bug bit me. I put it down to the sudden proliferation of fitness gurus and trainers on Instagram posting relentlessly about their workouts, their diets and lifestyle. I was coasting along, nobody would even say I’m fat. I didn’t feel unhealthy. I was lifting heavier weights than I ever have. But suddenly I wanted to commit myself to a goal.

So far, I’d only ever focused on the bare minimum, which was to get in enough movement and burn excess energy and calories. I love food too much to consider dieting. It has never been on my mind. But I was also aware that coasting along would only get me that far. I suddenly wanted to see what was possible if I were to push myself. You know what they say, right? 70% of the fitness game happens in the kitchen, not at the gym. I knew that if I had to push myself and see real results (more muscle, better definition and power) I would need to look at what I was eating.

So I signed up for a six week training program with a trainer I followed on Instagram. I won’t go into details, but for the first time ever in my life I decided to watch what I eat. And it quite literally changed my life. First, the results were insane. The plan involved some major alterations in my daily intake. I wouldn’t call it a diet because the basics were very similar to my regular intake, just minus white rice and sugar completely, and a few other tweaks, putting the focus back on wholesome, home cooked, balanced food. That, combined with a daily workout plan. I saw myself shred fat I didn’t even know I had, I felt super energetic all the time, and I realised how eating right can really fuel my body to achieve impossible things. This was the difference I was curious to see. I was lifting harder, running father (I haven’t attempted long-distance running in five years now) and I felt incredibly light, I was sleeping better and my routine had fallen into a lovely rhythm.

In addition, I lost 5 kilos and 4% body fat in those 6 weeks. I touched my pre-wedding weight, a number I’d given up on. I dropped nearly two sizes, and fit into 28″ jeans — something that hasn’t happened since I was 18 or so.

And then I hit a major travelling spurt.

The thing with working with food restrictions is you can only manage it when you have full control over your meals. Which makes sticking to it outside of home nearly impossible. For the six weeks I was on the program I was extremely dedicated to making my own meals, planning outings such that I would eat before I left, and avoiding any sort of potential temptation. But that’s very hard to do when you’re travelling, especially on shoot, where we tend to eat what we get when we can get our hands on it, and when you’re staying with friends you don’t want to impose these rules on.

What’s more, I was on the road for nearly three weeks, and that’s when I hit the low. I guess after the high I was on — looking and feeling the leanest I have ever been — it had to happen at least once before the year ends. It started with all the travel in September and October. Skipped workouts, holiday feels and three weeks of living in hotels and subsisting on hotel food meant eating a crap ton of all that I’d successfully trimmed from my daily intake.

The other bitter truth about any fitness effort is that it takes barely any time to undo weeks and months of effort. The math is all lopsided. And so, I found myself at the beginning of December, staring at signs of swinging right back to where I was before I made all this phenomenal change.

Exasperation met frustration when winter hit and waking up in the morning to get to the gym became a Herculean task. Of course, I turned to emotional eating. Dessert every other day, sugary tea, alcohol more often than I cared for, lots of unhealthy carbs and erratic meal timings, with lots of frequent missed work outs.

cake

It’s all related, in my case. The worse my eating gets the harder going to the gym gets. The worse I’m feeling in my head, the harder it is to get myself back to any sort of routine. Conversely, getting back to routine, and fitting in a strict fitness regimen is a sure-shot way for me to normalise and feel grounded again. The absence of it shows on everything from my skin to the way my pants fit to my energy levels and moods through the day.

And then there’s the second life-changing part of this experience. At the start of last year, I had touched an all time high as far as body positivity goes too. I never used to talk numbers or weight to begin with. My focus has always been health, strength and looking as fitness an exercise as a key tool in maintaining overall well being. I even remember telling P that something had switched in my head and I had entirely stopped worrying or thinking about that nagging belly roll that I was so desperate to get rid of. It was like suddenly I was more okay with me just the way I was, enjoying exercising for the energy it brought to my life, and eating healthy just the way I was. So, I’m not sure what triggered this sudden need for a goal, a number to hit. Didn’t help that the phenomenal and very, very obvious results (I’m talking pants dropping off my waist in mere weeks of changing my eating) really pushed me to keep going. When I fell off the bandwagon, I noticed that my exasperation was more with the way I looked and how my clothes fit, rather than just hitting the gym because it’s good for me, again.

This is really problematic for me. Because it took a lot of work to ditch the pursuit of slimness in favour of the pursuit of strength.

Not to discount any of the amazing health benefits eating better has given me — I’ve never looked at and consciously understood what my body can deal with, or bothered to eat in a way that facilitates what I want my body to do — but somewhere the pursuit of a random goal, pushed me over the edge and made me a bit size and shape obsessed.

I was quick to acknowledge it, and to realise what parts of this don’t fit with my personal goals or my personality (realistically acknowledging what I am and am not inherently not capable of). In an attempt to let it pass without being too hard on myself, I let it go and went a little easy. I went back to regular eating and just stuck to exercising everyday again. That’s really all it took to regain the rhythm. I found my stride in no time at all, and I was happy again, without having to worry about what I was putting in my mouth.

And then the holidays were upon us again. As of today, it’s been two weeks since I hit the gym because I’ve been away for nine out of fifteen days. Nine days of eating and drinking, no holds barred.

The plan was to resume some manageable, more realistic form of the fitness plan in January. But there is some part of this tussle I am still working through. I feel myself torn and not yet at peace with where I am. I’m questioning why some part of me chased after a number and got so drawn and consumed in the chase. If I wasn’t “big” to begin with, why did shrinking feel so good? What is big anyway? I’m asking myself what I am really after.

The difficult conclusion I’ve come to is that while I gained a tremendous amount of awareness about food science and eating right, the six week plan definitely put me way back as far as body positivity goes. This is not sitting well with me right now. I want to find a balance that satisfies my mind and body as much as it does my need to be fit — and I’m reworking what this fitness means to me. I want to be in a place where fitness doesn’t come at the cost of feeling positive and good about my body.

So, it’s meant asking myself what really am I after? Why is it this important? Is there something more to this than I care to admit or even be aware of?

I wasn’t kidding when I said this has been a year of incredible shedding. I shed a lot of kilos and body fat — duh — but I also shed a lot more. My preconceived notions I had about how I’d never be able to give up rice or sugar, for one. My ability to forget everything and eat what I want, when I want, convinced I’d burn it off when I hit the gym again. But I’ve also shed some of the comfort I had developed with my body, and the focus on making it work and respecting it for all it does for me, that I had so carefully inculcated in the last couple of years.

This year, I want to go back a bit and regain some balance. And that’s no piece of cake.

One year ago: 2016
Two years ago: Day 5: In-Bloom

Day 4: Going by the book (and all that I read in 2017)

It’s safe to say the reading habit took a big bashing in 2017. I started off so great, and went full power until about August. Which is exactly when life took over — the physical, logistical aspects of shifting were done and I was in the throes of adjusting to living in Bangalore, figuring out work and the rest, and basically finding a new rhythm. And you know how we all have that one thing that takes a hit the minute there’s a time crunch or heavy demand on our mental faculty? That one thing that you’re most likely to give up in a pinch? Well, reading is that thing in my life. When the going gets tough and I’m pressed for time, I push reading on the back burner. So yeah, I slipped. First to infrequent reading, and reading so slow I didn’t finish a book for yonks, to eventually just giving up and thinking “oh well, the new year is around the corner, I’ll just resume in January!”

I even went back and sneakily edited my Goodreads challenge to reflect a success! Yeah, I know. I hate losing. The odd thing is half way through the year I was more than half way mark as far as the number of books I promised myself I’d read. So I was on track to finishing, and I fucked it up. Anyway, I still closed the year with some good books under the belt.

Which brings me to where we are now. Last week, right before we left for our weekend in Coonoor, I quickly downloaded a book I thought I’d finish over the 2-3 days we were away. I didn’t want to dip into something I already had, or try and finish any of the books I’ve been struggling with. I wanted something I could start and finish before I returned to Bangalore, and I didn’t want something too frothy or vapid.

I picked The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson because I remember reading an article of the same title, on his blog a few years ago. Also the books been showing up on my Goodreads for a while now. I steered away because I’ve not had a very good experience with self-help in recent times. But, I’m happy, albeit a bit ashamed, to report this one hit the spot. The cleverness isn’t so much in the content — which is to say a lot of it is common sense and you wont really read anything revelatory or that you haven’t heard or thought of before — but in the way it’s packaged into neat little precise truths. Truths that hold good for each and every one of us, without exception.

In this latest book, Manson presents what he calls a counter-intuitive approach to living a good life. And he boils it down to simply re-prioritizing what you value and want to care about. IE: What you want to and don’t want to give a fuck about. As the title suggests it’s about choosing not to give a fuck about the most common things that we tend to, and pick other more valuable things that will result in a fuller, wholesome life. Like I said, nothing earth-shattering, but maybe it’s the fact that he uses relevant and relatable examples, anecdotes and experiences, or the fact that much of what he dwells on — overcoming the need to be right, letting go of the need for certainty, figuring out toxic relationships and learning boundaries, to name a few fundamentals in the book — is stuff I’ve been pondering about a lot this past year, or it was just the right time for this kind of book in my life, that I rather surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the book. My only gripe: he does come across as trying too hard to sound cool and cocky at times, and sometimes he’s downright sexist. I nearly put the book down at one point when he goes into a particularly sexist example of the differences in the way he and his wife approach differences, but I decided to count to ten, breathe deeply and finish the book. I’m glad I did.

I suspect I’ll thumb through some parts of this book again and again, as the journey he describes in the book is a lot like the one I find myself on. Figuring out what/who I truly care about and how much of my time and effort I want to spend indulging it, all while being better every step of the way, and becoming my own person has consumed me off late. This is why the book spoke to me. I’ve committed myself this year, to make this journey an active part of my life, and not something that happens at the fringes or in my free time. I want to mindfully, actively participate in my growth, and if you’re familiar with his work, Manson’s craft is really fine-tuned for this.

It was also nice to finish the year with a book I closed on the very last day. Clean slate for the year to come, and a good time to look at the year that’s been. In terms of books, of course. Much like I did last year.

  1. Sula, Toni Morrison
  2. The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
  3. The Rachel Papers, Martin Amis
  4. Girls of Riyadh, Rajaa Alsanea
  5. Things that Can and Cannot Be Said, Arundhati Roy and John Cusack
  6. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  7. The Smoke is Rising, Mahesh Rao
  8. The High Priestess Never Marries, Sharanya Manivannan
  9. Karachi, You’re Killing Me!, Saba Imtiaz
  10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer
  11. All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg
  12. Baaz, Anuja Chauhan
  13. Heartburn, Norah Ephron
  14. When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
  15. About a Boy, Nick Hornby
  16. Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist
  17. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
  18. Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott
  19. Sex Object, Jessica Valenti
  20. One Part Woman, Perumal Murugan
  21. Bangalore: A Graphic Novel: Every City is a Story, Jai Undurti
  22. The Rosie Effect, Graeme Simsion
  23. Men Explain Things To Me, Rebecca Solnit
  24. Dongri To Dubai : Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia, S. Hussain Zaidi
  25. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  26. Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
  27. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson

Looking back I realise I’ve done absolutely no justice to fulfil my desire to read more fiction last year. If anything I’ve read a lot of non fiction, a lot of writing by women, and despite repeatedly telling myself self-help probably isn’t for me, I’ve reached out to several titles because some excerpt, some nugget somewhere spoke to me.

My current want-to-read list is bursting at the seams. It’s a good mix of fiction and non fiction, but I want to try and broaden me perspective this year. Not just in terms of how much I read, but what I read too. Essays are still my most favourite format, I realise. But it is possible to go deep and read essays that talk about life and times in places and scenarios so very different from mine. I’m looking forward to that.

Let’s see how it goes.

Two years ago: Day 4: Love letters

Day 3: What is life

Something terrible happened last year. Despite sporadic posting, I went through the entire year without posting a single music track, or writing a single Things about VC that I never want to forget post. It says a lot about what occupied my brainspace last year. It’s not that I didn’t listen to any music. The truth is I listened to an awful lot more music than I have in the years before, thanks to high speed internet in Bangalore — at home and on my phone, having to entertain myself while on the treadmill and realising 4G actually works and means I can watch youtube videos instead of just listening to my ipod. It’s opened up a spectrum of music again. One of the first things I did in the new year was get myself on Apple music again. And after six months of having these speakers in my wishlist, I’m lusting after a slightly more realistically prices portable speaker again. I don’t know how long it will be before I buy it, but I’m so ready for more music in my life.

So this year, as I embark on writing a post a day for a whole year again as long as I can keep it up, I want to try and have enough music to go back to. Because, I routinely go through my archives and hit the music tag. It’s a good archive of all my favourite music through the ages, and invariably looking and listening back sends me down a nostalgic trip. It’s also doubly amusing and heartwarming to see what I listened to at different points in time reflected in my writing. So, a track a week at least? That’s very doable.

In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I’m super eager for the new year. I love a fresh start, a clean slate. Amongst other things, it feels nice to have a neat little beginning to set off a new habit on track. And since motivation levels are typically skyrocketing, there’s a good chance starting off now will mean some of these habits will stick.

So here goes.

Because, I listened to it on Coonoor on new years eve, huddled around a bonfire with a bunch of strangers I least expected to engage with, let alone enjoy the company of. (The strangest and loveliest things have been happening, ever since I opened myself to it. And that will make for another post.)

Because, I’m back.

Because, what is this life (without music)?

Two years ago: Day 3: Reminders and notes to self

Day 2: Gratitude. That is all.

It’s just the second day of the year and already we’ve had a super moon. Silly me, it didn’t occur to me to check that first, while I pondered about the sudden surge in emotions and the very contemplative mood I’ve been in. The last month has been a lovely end to a rather special year. A month of deliberate silence, lots of stolen quiet time, enough busyness with work, plenty of socialising, food drink and cheer and to top it, some really needle-pushing realisations that have given me some much needed clarity and reassurance right in time for the new start. It’s made me look back at the absolute ride that 2017 was and my heart is full like it hasn’t been in a long time. Combine that with the obvious new-start shininess that has kicked in and I’ve been a bundle of gratitude for a few days now.

I’ve been wanting to take stock of all that I am thankful for. A couple of nights ago under a misty sky with a moon so bright, it allowed no stars to shine thru, I realised with humbling coherence that the only steady, unflinching, silent, unwavering and absolutely constant support I’ve had this year has been my family. My parents, VC and my sister have consciously (when I vocally asked for help) and unconsciously (by just being there and giving of themselves) seen me through a year chock-full of uncertainties. The morning after, I woke up feeling content and utterly filled with gratitude.

There are umpteen reasons why moving to Bangalore made, and continues to make, sense. Depending on various variables and situations we’ve thought this back and forth and through to the heavens and back a bazillion times over. Sometimes it is to reassure ourselves of the decision, sometimes it is to find reserves of courage to plod on, sometimes it’s to take stock and see where we’ve come. All of the time, though, I pat myself on the back for how we managed, and I feel grateful it’s worked out. But really I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t acknowledge the kind of help I got. I’d be doing the entire move and the effects it had on me such a gross disservice if I didn’t acknowledge how much therapy for my soul it has been to just been in such close proximity to my family.

I mentioned finding belonging yesterday and this has been the missing piece in the puzzle that I’ve only recently uncovered. Whether it’s the daily home cooked meals I enjoy with my parents, the sharing of workspacebwitb my sister, being just around the corner from my mother, or always having a home to come too even when the city still deceives me with its homeliness, I’m convinced that this pivot in my life came at the right time, and for reasons I didn’t fully understand earlier.

Now, I do.

It’s late, we’ve just touched down in Bangalore after a long drive back from holiday, and I want to get this post out before I call it a day, so this acknowledgment of gratitude will have to do for now. But I will be taking stock and giving thanks soon. It’s such an important part of moving on and stepping ahead, I don’t want to miss out.

For tonight, this is gratitude for where I’m at, and excitement for where I’m going.

Two years ago: Day 2: Love

Day 1: Onwards and upwards

In the new year, I wish for more honesty. Of and with myself, with people around and who matter to me, and of the relationships I choose to keep.

I wish for more vulnerability to peel back the layers, strength to recognise and accept whatever I find beneath and creativity in dealing with where to go from there.

I wish to be better and more on-the-ball with my work. To be able to deliver my promises, on time. I’m aware that this means I will have to actually give some fucks about deadlines again.

I wish to come back smoothly, but effectively, from yet another hiatus. I want to crack as many pitches as I can, with less heartache and more accuracy. I want to deliver better first drafts and turn them around quicker than Ive done in 2017. Again, start giving a fuck about my work.

I wish that VC and I move ahead in our business plans with alacrity and focus. So we can fulfil the multiple small dreams we’ve nursed over the past twelve months. But if you’re a rich person looking to adopt a young and capable couple with a head full of dreams, you can reach out to me via the contact form.

I wish for not abundance in numbers as far as friends and people that matter go. But I really desperately wish for the courage to break old patterns that keep me from digging deeper and giving (and receiving) a higher level of kinship from each of these. I’ve come to accept that the people conundrum is a recurring cycle in my life so if I am going to go through it time and time again, I want to aim to have better experiences with each round!

I wish for simplicity. In the smallness of my day to day life as much as in the bigness of the things I chase. Let things be simple, not easy. Basically talk less, starve distractions, feed focus and do more. (Hah!)

I wish for a little more travel. Not just holidays, but chances and ways to experience life outside of the set patterns that we know and exist in. For this, I’ll have to shed a little bit more of my fear of uncertainty and learn to deal with the cold better!

I wish for just a little bit more discipline. so I can inculcate some of the daily habits I want to, this year.

May your year be filled with opportunities to do over all that you missed doing last year. May your bellies and hearts be full. May you always have enough of all that you desire. May your work be satisfying, even when it is challenging, may you be surrounded by people who bring out the best in you, and may you find a balance that lets you enjoy them both equally.

I hope the idea of 2018 and yet another fresh start is brimming with potential and optimism and fills you with as much sense of promise and is has, for me.

Two years ago: Day 1: Move more

Crossing over

It’s looking-back time, I know. But I find myself only filled with wishes for the year ahead. I ended 2016 with a strong burning need to find my place — physically speaking — as I dealt with the growing certainty that it was not Goa. but I had no idea how that search had little to do with location or city or anyplace. And everything to do with looking within.

I moved cities, back to Bangalore, a move I didn’t imagine possible even ten to fifteen days before we took the decision. And it was merely the start of a series of unexpected, but so necessary, changes that would surprise and challenge me in equal measure.

2017 has been one heck of a year and the thread unifying it all would have to be one of transition and transformation. It’s been a time of letting go of the reins in order to figure out a new way ahead. In a strange space of being back on familiar ground, yet recognising so little of the city I once called home, I found fertile testing ground to stretch my ability to allow change, move with it and realise I actually enjoy it. Physically, it took wrenching myself out of the comfort zone to find myself again.

How odd that it took cutting the roots off to find belonging. It’s been a year of discovering that belonging and my place. In family, in work, in friends and camaraderie, in connections, in extended family, in my marriage, and most of all, within myself. It’s been a year of peeling back a few more layers and getting closer to what’s at the core. A year of understanding, with extreme clarity, how necessary it is to be so wholly comfortable in my place and in my skin, in order to belong to each of the systems that I do, need and want.

This will always be the year that I realised with astounding certainty how much I need and love my family. I’m closing the year rich with memories and experiences of time spent deeply engaged with my parents, amazing times with my sister (who fortuitously moved back home around the same time that I did), VC — my truth-teller and fellow braver-of-change, and a handful of friends who have walked along with me as I navigated the shortest. I feel so much gratitude for the gift that was 2017. Even with all its oddballs and challenges it was a gift to realise and claim a whole new set of values to go from here on.

For all my life I have craved stability, consistency and the safety of roots. This year I let that need go and turned my life around in the most significant way possible. The truth is, I have seen how different the entire year turned out to be, as a result of it. I took a wild chance, shut my eyes and jumped with little idea of what was waiting for me. I’m happy with how taking this chance has turned out. Because it turned out that at the bottom of that jump, I had an army of support waiting to hold and bolster me. Giving me a huge step up even as. Picked myself up with okay feet and wobbly knees. It’s been an incredible year of vulnerability that tested my resilience, but gave me surprising revelations and staggering opportunity for personal growth. And it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t changed certain fundamental truths and values I held to be mine.

I’ve seen as much loss as I have, gain, this year. People have come and gone. Work has transformed. My sense of home currently lies in shambles (and it’s okay). Like I said before, it’s been an incredible year of shedding. But all the room created by it has only opened me up that much more for what’s to come.

I’ve already signed myself up for another year along this path. To discovering more. To talking less and doing more. To belonging more and more to myself.

Same time, last year: Day 366: December