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Day 366: December

31 Dec

It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines of the impossible levels of drivel I posted at the start of the month, and tell that I’ve been in a slump. My brain has been impossibly foggy for many weeks now, my motivation levels plummeted to lows I didn’t know possible, and it showed in all aspects of my life. If blogging through this year has been a study in the ups and downs of my state of mind, I hit an all new low at the start of December. This kind of unexplained, debilitating, chronic blues has hit hard, several times this year, but last month when I returned from Thailand, I felt myself slip a notch lower. As an otherwise naturally happy, easy going person, it has been particularly difficult to deal with this. For one, I haven’t known this level of dejection and disinterest that seems to have crept into everything. Second, the inability to put a finger on it has meant I’m slow to recover. Third, my usual recovery time to snap out of a lull is a few days, a week, at best. So this one has completely thrown things out of whack.

Finally, I was prompted to dig deeper, and follow through on a hunch that perhaps there was more to this – a physiological reason – than meets the (mind’s)eye. Turns out I was right, and taking this blood test was one of the best things I did this year, making me kick myself for not listening to my gut sooner. Which is not to say the things I’ve felt and gone through this past year were unwarranted or without other reasons. This has been one of the most trying years in recent time, a time of transition, the sort that only makes sense when you look at things in reverse. When you realise that every sucker-punch moment was a set up for what is to come. I’ve felt for a while that all this confusion, unsettledness and restlessness is not without purpose. That it is leading up to something. You may not recall, but I said it at the end of this post too. It really felt like November was a culmination of one phase. Like December was going to be a time of moving into a better, brighter, positive space. I had an inkling about some sense of a transition at the start of 2016, but I didn’t anticipate it would last all year long and make its presence felt as much as it did. But, the reason I reiterate this is because December felt like I was finally over the hurdle. The same one I have been painfully eyeing and struggling to get over all year.

I’m putting a lot of it down to the multivitamins kicking in and altering the chemicals in my body which have put my fatigue to rest, given me sounder sleep than I have had all year, and generally brought the spring back to my step. My motivation levels have shot up, which is to say, they’re back to normal. I feel upbeat, positive and happy. My moods are more evenly tempered and for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like myself again. All the layers of sadness, nostalgia, PMS, PTS, and dejection have lifted and I feel like the aliens have returned me to my place on this planet, just the way I used to be. (Inside joke: I’m beginning to think I was abducted for the most part of 2016 because I couldn’t recognise the person I had become. Yep, this might be your cue to unfollow this crazy lady.) I’ve dropped the oscillations from extreme highs to debilitating lows. And clarity, sweet, sweet clarity that has eluded me, is coming back to life.

Some part of this sudden upward swing was kicked into motion when I was suddenly jolted out of my misery seeing updates from some writers on a group I’m a part of. Nothing like a look back at the year gone by to really put things in perspective, no? It’s so easy to slip into a loop of negativity when you’re feeling shitty because it’s the most convenient thing to do. It’s easy, and getting up and out is unthinkable. But I was forced out of my lethargy and I had a pleasant and rather exhilarating realisation that despite it all, somehow I’ve had a good work year. From where I stand, looking back, I see so many gaps in my work style. I took so many unwanted breaks that put my progress back significantly, I was slowed down by rapidly dipping motivation levels, I was plagued by self doubt and had my confidence crushed by plenty unsavoury experiences. I ended the year knowing fully well that I hadn’t achieved exactly what I had set out to do at the start of the year. Yet, it wasn’t all bad, it seems. And that came as a very, very welcome silver lining.

A mildly altered morning schedule saw me waking up at 6 am every day this month, which while I dreaded, turned out to be a bit of a Godsend. Because it gave me a solid hour everyday to be by myself, at peace, reading. And I was able to really pick up the pace and finish up so many more books because of it.

Somewhere in between, a long-awaited and very special essay — another one about Indian women who have chosen to remain childfree — went live on The Establishment. It was the byproduct of a lot of data I had gathered for another essay, but was unable to use. So tada, I turned it into a whole different essay. Win.

There were more travels of course, the last of it to close the year. I ran away to Bangalore, and then to Coonoor with S, a trip that came about in the most spontaneous and speedy fashion. Four days in the hills, and a road trip up there and back to Bangalore was really the icing on the cake. I spent four days soaking in the mountain sun filtering through the mist, and questioned my love for the seaside. I saw mighty trees that made me feel oh so very small. And I saw a giddying variety of flowers, trees, fruit and vegetation of the kind that only mountain air can bear, and it made my head spin.

It’s been a year of tremendous travel. I may not have gone very far, but with every trip I snatched some lovely cherished moments and experiences, and have found something that my life was missing the past many years: camaraderie with just the right mix of closeness and space all in one. I came home with my heart feeling very full. It put a whole different spin on thoughts of distance, longing to be with friends I love, and the expanses of time between us. I returned to the news of George Michael’s passing, and it put me in a nostalgic, reflective mood.

But I also returned to renewed enthusiasm and a very refreshed, positive outlook. It feels like I’m over the bump. I was able to write so much in the second half of the month, spruce up the home that I have ignored for a better part of the year, stock up the house and I even spent four days getting prepped for the work weak ahead. I had some time to even reflect on what a surprisingly good year of reading it has been.

December marked the end of a shitfest of a year of course, but I’ll remember it as the month my vitamins kicked in and my body and mind began to behave like I owned it again. It’s the month I closed the door on 2016 in more ways than just the passing of 12 long months. I’m so ready for 2017.

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Day 365: All the books I read this year

30 Dec

I know the title makes it sound like I read a whole cartload of books. But the truth is, I didn’t. And yet, I read more books than I have in a long, long time (which is driving my OCD mad because it’s one short of 30 and there’s no way I’m going to finish the book I’m currently reading by tomorrow to round it off neatly. But, I’m trying to fuck perfection this year, so I’m going with it like I don’t care). Also, it has to be said that all the reading fury kicked in in the second half of the year, once I bought myself a Kindle. It has been somewhat life-changing because it altered the very nature of my bedtime routine which now centres around ensuring I make enough time to really read before I fall asleep, it has contributed a greta deal to making me more anti-social because I indiscriminately avoided/cancelled plans in favour of staying home to read, and it has really, really made a wonderful companion through all the travel this year. Apart from all of this, though, 2016 was the first time after years and years of trying to reclaim the habit of reading, that I can say I have succeeded. After what seems like a lifetime, I have given reading a place in my life, rather than fit it into the gaps and empty moments, or use it to keep me company when I was bored/lonely/killing time. And only I know what a difference, not just what I read, but the act of making a habit of reading again, has made to my life. So, in that sense it’s been a very good year of reading.

Anyway, here’s a quick round up of all the books that I read in 2016.

  1. Fiction: 10
  2. Non-fiction: 13
  3. Self-awareness/self-improvement: 6
  4. Memoirs: 9
  5. Collections of essays: 6
  6. Books with marriage as a predominant theme: 11
  7. Books with food as a predominant theme: 2
  8. Books with women/feminism as predominant themes: 12
  9. Books that made me cry: 6
  10. Books that made me laugh out loud: 7

3 best reads of the year:

  1. Bad Feminist: Essays, Roxane Gay
  2. A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
  3. ToastNigel Slater and 31 Songs (alternate title: Songbook), Nick Hornby (I couldn’t help myself!)

3 most forgettable reads of the year:

  1. How To Sell Yourself, Joe Girard
  2. Before, and then After, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
  3. The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage, Veena Venugopal

And here’s the whole list:

  1. The Untethered Soul, Michael A Singer
  2. How To Sell Yourself, Joe Girard
  3. I Am You: a magical collection of stories and art about awakening, Carrie Louise Hilgert
  4. We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Adichie
  5. A Handbook For My Lover, Rosalyn D’Mello
  6.  Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
  7. Before, and then After, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
  8. Tanya Tania, Antara Ganguli
  9. Walking Towards Ourselves, Catriona Mitchell
  10. The Girl on the TrainPaula Hawkins
  11. A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
  12. Alphabet Soup For Lovers, Anita Nair
  13. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  14. This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
  15. Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
  16. Where’d you go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple
  17. Love, Loss and What We Ate, Padma Lakshmi
  18. In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri
  19. Would You Like Some Bread With That Book, Veena Venugopal
  20. Brave EnoughCheryl Strayed
  21. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown
  22. Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
  23. ToastNigel Slater
  24. Bad Feminist: Essays, Roxane Gay
  25. Love Warrior: A Memoir, Glennon Doyle Melton
  26. The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage, Veena Venugopal
  27. Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage, Nandini Krishnan
  28. 31 Songs (alternate title: Songbook), Nick Hornby
  29. The Private Life Of Mrs. Sharma, Ratika Kapur

In the coming year, I want to definitely read more fiction. I’ve been building a really long list of to-read books on Goodreads, and hopefully it will help do justice to that goal.

What did your year of reading look like? And what was the most stand out book for you? Tell all, so I can let my reading list growwww. Hopefully, this time around, the habit is here to stay.

PS: You can find all my posts about books filed here.

Day 364: Redemption reading

29 Dec

I needed to quickly redeem myself of the time and energy lost reading these two rather forgettable books last week, so I dived into what I thought was a guaranteed good read. You can’t go wrong with Nick Hornby, no?

31 Songs (alternate title: Songbook), Nick Hornby
I LOVED this book, predictably. And I suspect anyone that has music occupy a significant part of their daily brainspace would too. If you find yourself obsess over certain kinds of music, particular tracks, have a set of all time favourite evergreen songs that never get old, have the compulsive need to share your music and get people to love the same music you do and for the same reasons, bond with people over tastes in music and love the idea of analysing words melodies and inspirations, you will love this book. It’s a set of 31 really cool essays, each featuring a song the author loves. Think of it as a mixed-tape in words! It helps that the mixed-tape includes everything from Led Zeppelin to Nelly Furtado. So if your tastes in music are similarly eclectic (mine are!) expect to enjoy it even more.

The highlight of High-Fidelity was all the deep music references woven right through the story, and I know it’s a major theme in many of Hornby’s novels. So this is like a peek into his personal commentary about why some music makes him tick and other kinds of music don’t.

I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not particularly into music. Because even though every essay is based on a particular track, he delves deep into his insights on music as a creative pursuit, the importance of lyrics and writing in music, his love for analogue in a fast-changing digital world, and so many other things that influence the development of music today. His typically matter of fact, but clever, British way of writing is a charm that’s hard not to love.

The Private Life Of Mrs. Sharma, Ratika Kapur
This book came highly recommended on a couple of lists I saw, and I wanted a quick read to close the year, so I picked it. It was quick, but it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. It’s narrated in this very odd style, which I realise is a deliberate craft employed given the main character – Mrs Sharma – who is quiet, looking for someone to have a conversation about all that she is otherwise reticent about, but it didn’t work for me. I found it a bit forced and that annoyed me a little. That apart, it’s a sweet and simple story of a woman in Delhi, grappling with the challenges of being a single mother to a troubled 16 year old, while her husband is away, working in Dubai to support them. Mrs Sharma leads a “typical” life expected of this demographic of women – straddling a job with her duties at home, cooking, cleaning, caring for her in laws – and in the case of Mrs. Sharma specifically – dealing with a long-distance marriage. She hopes for a life that feels like it is just beyond her grasp at the moment, but she is filled with hope that very soon she will be economically better placed to do the things she wishes, for herself, her son and husband too. In  navigating this angst along with fulfilling her role as a mother, daughter-in-law and being a “respectable” woman as one expects Indian women to be, she finds her life unravelling slowly, leading herself down paths that she is conditioned to believe are wrong or questionable. Yet, she boldly continues, all the while convincing herself that it is normal. The story explores themes of conditioning, coming into one’s own, motherhood — thru the lens of Indian middle-class society.

It was quick, and I read it from cover to cover in a day. Apart from that, nothing about the book really stood out or touched me.

Day 363: Rewind

28 Dec


Year-end mode has descended upon me. And today I found myself digging through my archive in search of this post I wrote a decade ago. Yep, a decade ago. When I was 22 with a wee brain a touch more developed than a toddler’s. The embarrassment I typically experience on reading posts from that far back was nowhere to be found today. Instead, an oddly liberating relief and peace has taken its place.

I went hunting for the post because the Sunscreen Song has been on my mind today. And I wanted to recollect the context in which it was last relevant in my life.

I’m at that spot again, the crossroads where I turn to inspirational music, books and pinterest-ey quotes to reassure myself. To remind myself that this is a cycle. Turning and turning in the widening gyre, we are. While only the scenes and contexts change, the recurrence of angst is much the same, presenting itself in different forms. But it is, at its core, the same restlessness that is necessary to forge ahead. To force us to break out of our comfortable shells and just grow, live, shine a little.

I found myself thinking about the Sunscreen Song today. This part especially, because it’s a rather apt summation of what I’ve felt this year, and a little bit of the wisdom I’ve attempted to accept, to make my peace with everything that has happened and move through it.

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either

Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can

Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it

It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own, dance

Even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room

Read the directions even if you don’t follow them

Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good

Be nice to your siblings, they are your best link to your past

And the people most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go

But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle

For as the older you get, the more you need the people

You knew when you were young

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard

Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft

Travel, accept certain inalienable truths

Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old

And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young

Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble

And children respected their elders

Respect your elders, don’t expect anyone else to support you

Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse

But you’ll never know when either one will run out

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re forty

It will look eighty-five

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of

Wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off

Painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen.

From the sound of it, the decade old post is a rant related to decisions involving a boy in my life. Which is sweet and innocent haha considering it was a boy that was the epitome of “conflict” back then.  If I could go back in time, I’d tell 22-year old me to relax a little, because the “decisions” and “choices” and “tough calls” I’ve attempted to make this year have made boy trouble from a decade ago feel like a cakewalk.

In the old post I’m clearly making not-so-veiled references to my parents. They’re the “audience” the eyes that I thought would judge me. The reason I felt like justifying my choices. And the hardest thing I did then was do as I damn well pleased anyway, leaving them to deal with it.

And deal with it they did. So gracefully.

If I could go back in time, I’d tell 22-year old me to relax a little, and prepare for a much harsher judgmental pair of eyes to come. Watching closely over every decision I make.

I mean myself, of course. My own eyes, watching my every move. I’d tell 22-year old me to stop trying hard to justify myself to the eyes around, and turn inwards and learn to appease that eager gaze first. I’d never have imagined coming to terms with decisions, building the courage to break and follow through, and learning to go a little easy on myself would ever be so hard.

I’d tell 22-year old me to stop being my harshest critic. Nip it in the bud.

I’d tell 22-year old me to relax a little, because no matter how meandering life is, and no matter how many different ways it unfurls in, no matter how varied, diverse and infinite the situations we find ourselves in, the inspiration, solutions, solace, advice and faith we turn to come from a finite set of things we know to be true.

And thank god for that.

Day 362: Time

27 Dec

Remember the time, loneliness was like a tree*? Large,  expansive, with arms shooting out in every direction, rooted and there to stay. If ever you felt yourself slipping out of its grip, an arm would appear out of no where and scoop you back, placing you at the heart of it all over again. 

Entire worlds would pass you by. Seasons would swim by. Colours changed within and without. 

And the tree remained. Ever pervasive.  Rooted. There to stay. 


Today, loneliness is a speck of dust, suspended in time. There one moment, gone the next.  Floating, free falling, impossible to grasp, unwilling to stay. 

*throwback to one of my most favourite, most loved posts on TRQ’s blog. 

Day 361: Spinning the wheel

26 Dec

2016 seems cock sure and determined not to go out quietly. As if the blows we received this year weren’t enough, today we lost another gem. I woke up to the terrible trending news, and in my head I ran through the whole gamut of GM memories. From ogling him in his itty bitty denim cut offs to heartbreak when we realised he was gay, to rediscovering the full depth and breadth of his repertoire in my late teens, to having some songs associated with some of my best people. Oddly, I spent a whole day listening to GM last month, binging on his entire Vevo channel.

It’s been a year of unprecedented loss, but if I didn’t write the typical social media outpouring of grief or an eulogy for most people this year — not Bowie, not Prince, not Muhammad Ali, not Glenn Frey, not Doris Roberts, not Zaha Hadid, not Harper Lee (I remembered Leonard Cohen, though) — it was because I just couldn’t keep up with the frequency anymore. Most times, words seemed futile.

Today, I feel no different.

So, I’m going to sleep listening to some of my all time favourite George Michael tracks.

 

 

Go well, GM.

Day 358: Home is where the yellow roses are

23 Dec

VC is not usually one to feel the need to state the obvious. He sees no need to tell me he misses me, or that he wishes I was around. For one, he assumes it is understood, and doesn’t need constant repetition. He doesn’t find it endearing. So the only two occasions this year that he explicitly stated the fact that he missed me, I knew there was good reason for expressing himself. This time, I was away for longer than usual. It felt even longer so, with all the hopping travel and transit through multiple modes of transport. While I was enjoying my time away, and at home in Bangalore, I was suddenly told I was being missed. And that I should perhaps lay off on the travel and just “be with me” for a bit. Hein, yeh kya hua? I thought to myself, but brushed the thought aside almost immediately, thinking VC was yanking my chain, or being unnecessarily dramatic. It was only when I landed in Goa at 10 pm last night, and was picked up by VC who came bearing a bouquet of yellow roses, that I realised just how serious he really was. This year has seen one heck of a lot of travel. For both VC and I. Separately. Which has meant a fair bit of time spent apart. It has been altogether wonderful. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on my own, home and away, and I know VC has too, I think it has allowed us an opportunity to really miss each other again. And even though I cannot actually remember the last time VC gave me yellow roses, for no damned reason, I haven’t forgotten what they mean. 


Day 357: Cutting the fat

22 Dec

If there’s one unifying theme that ties all my travels, in and out of Goa this year, it has been the spontaneity that kicked all plans to action and the unbelievable effortlessness right through every one of them. Well, that’s if you discount the effort it took to find enough cash to carry in hand before we hit the road last week – *eyerollllll* – but that aside, effortless. And it has a lot to do with the kind of people I was surrounded with, on each of those occasions.

Of course when I think of effortlessness, actual instances of smooth, near-flawless and easy planning and events come to mind. But really, it’s so much deeper. It’s been so long since I have experienced this kind of light, clear and direct quality of relationship in my life that I have come to value all that it brings with it. A large part of which is this effortlessness. The easy way in which personalities, no matter how disparate, plans, people, just fit. And by fit I mean, making it work, without necessarily getting enmeshed or tangled.

I realised this with astounding clarity as S and I were quickly calculating out expenses on the return leg of our trip, over hot filter coffee at the A2B we’d stopped it. The entire exercise was a good reflection of how most of our trips, and some others that I took, have been this year. No loud haggling, no complains, no mismatched expectations, no effort. Very quickly and simply, we knew what we’d spent and how it was to be divided and who owed who what. Done and dusted.

Perhaps it is the slowing down of time, being free from routine and allowing time to empty out your mind that makes room for mini epiphanies like this. Earlier this year R, S and I had a conversation about why some combinations of people work better than others, and all three of us agreed on the high premium we placed on effortlessness and a complete distaste for drama and passive aggressions. Increasingly, I find myself gravitating to effortless people with whom I have an effortless equation. So much so that I notice the daunting, weighted and complex relationships have withered away rather, well, effortlessly. Without trying too hard. Earlier, I would be het up about it. Now, the aftermath is effortless too.

I’ve learned this from VC a long, long time ago – trimming the fat in all my relationships – and on returning form this trip I felt rather pleased to realise it’s become an unconscious, effortless part of my life. I don’t know if this makes me lazy, but it’s not that I want to stay away form putting in an effort or investing in relationships. It’s more about investing in less drama, more honesty and clarity. And I’m extremely glad and grateful I am finally in a place in life where I am surrounded by people who feel the same way, understand and respect it as much as I do. It has made a lot of the events in the last year less painful, less intense and less demanding of emotion and heartache. But most of all, I’m glad I have started to parse people and tell the genuinely effortless relationships apart from those that inevitably leech. I’m better for it.

Day 356: Book post, of course

21 Dec

I’ve read an alarming number of books related to marriage, this year. And before I realised this, I unconsciously picked two more books about women and marriage, to end the year*.

“I want something light and breezy to read on holiday,” I thought to myself. And then I picked these up before I left.

The Mother-in-Law: The Other Woman in Your Marriage, Veena Venugopal
I’ll admit, this might not have been a book I’d have otherwise picked, if I hadn’t already read and really enjoyed the other book by the Veena Venugopal.

It’s a book of individual essays about the experiences of 11 very diverse Indian women, exploring equally diverse and unique marriages. What ties them all to the unifying theme is that each one tells a different tale of why the mother-in-law is the villain she is made out to be in the big Indian family. I’ve heard enough stories to know this not a mere cliche or cultural caricature, but a very sordid and difficult reality for many Indian women.

I was initially excited to read this because the premise was intriguing. I have a less than perfect equation with my own mother in law. While we keep it civil and amicable, and the geographic distance makes things a lot easier, I can never lose sight of the fact that our relationship leaves a lot to be desired. The essays bring out the many facts and complexities of our “culture” and what it imposes on women, especially after marriage. Bring in a mixed-marriage, I saw myself in snatches in a couple of the situations, I could relate to some of the women too. Some tales are funny, some ironic, some downright disturbing with instances of domestic abuse, rape and emotional cruelty detailed. But beyond that I found the book to be a dull and very glib telling. Contrary to the description on the book cover, I didn’t find it rich with “incisive observations” rather just a plain re-telling of a series of interviews, that put in words a lot that I already knew and understand about the complicated, often difficult relationship Indian women have with their mothers-in-law. While the premise held promise, I just didn’t think the contents were meaty enough to warrant a whole book — *shruggy guy*.

Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage, Nandini Krishnan
Maybe I was already worn out with my reading of The Mother-in-Law, or perhaps I shouldn’t have picked up yet another non-fiction book about Indian marriage immediately, but this book was even more disappointing than the one before. Again a series of slice-of-life essays told through the words of a spectrum of Indian women, describing a host of situations they find themselves in before, during and in some cases, after marriage. Again, the premise help promise, but the writing was utterly dull, reduced to she said this, then that happened, then she felt this way and was prompted to do that. It just felt like a series of rather refined transcribed interviews. I really struggled through this one, wanting to give up several times. If it weren’t for the glorious weather, reading in the sun or snuggled under multiple razais while a fire raged in the fireplace in our room, that made it easy, I might have succumbed to the feeling.

Has anyone read a insightful, enjoyable book on Indian marriage that is meaty enough to really dig ones teeth into? I’m almost tempted to write a story or two about this myself.

*As it turns out I’ve surpassed the goal that I belatedly set for myself! And from the looks of it there will be a couple more to go before we really close the year.

Day 355: Too much nature ho gaya

20 Dec

I find myself unable to fathom the proliferation of vegetation I’ve seen up here. It’s in the mighty trees, the dazzling slopes of glistening tea bushes, a mind boggling array of flowers in every colour possible, the piles of zesty winter veg in the every corner veggies, the fruit we ate straight off the trees. Just breathing in deep fills me up with a freshness I cannot get enough of. Maybe nature is on a heady high of much the same stuff. It makes everything look positively luscious. Eye popping hues, shiny petals and peels, textures and grain in the irregular horizon, the sharp way in which the sunlight streaks everything, casting a glow and providing enough warmth for life to persist.

Just look at this, will ya?

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Day 354: Old and mighty

19 Dec

There’s nothing larger and more powerful than slices of mighty nature to make you feel small, insignificant and futile. Whether it’s sitting at the very edge of a long beach that seems to go on for miles, watching the waves as they relentlessly come and go, or standing perched at tip of a cliff, surrounded by rows and rows of undulating hills. And wondering what might happen if your knees buckled, or you lose your footing. Something about the sheer age and might of the forces of nature make me feele xtra vulnerable, fragile and completely destructible.

Driving through this eucalyptus plantation really put it in perspective, as I felt myself shrink, feeling utterly minuscule and powerless. It reminded me instantly of one of my favourite quotes from The Untethered Soul.

You’re sitting on a planet spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Go ahead, take a look at reality. You’re floating in empty space in a universe that goes on forever. If you have to be here, at least be happy and enjoy the experience. You’re going to die anyway. Things are going to happen anyway. Why shouldn’t you be happy? You gain nothing by being bothered by life’s events. It doesn’t change the world; you just suffer. There’s always going to be something that can bother you, if you let it.

Yes, the allure is in the size. But it’s also in the sheer might of scale. It’s in the weight of ancient wisdom that bares down on your, the crisp mountain air that breathes life back into your lungs, and in the sparkle of life that shimmers through in places you never seem to look.

Day 351: Misty mountain hop

16 Dec

For as long as I can remember, the winter cold has been a source of many a fun time coming to a sorry, sniffly end. It’s not just the winter, though. In my years in Bangalore, the frequent slightly-more-than-minor dip in temperatures that followed the frequent spells of rain typical to Bangalore, saw me bundled up in sweaters and shawls, socks and slippers indoors too. I have distinct memories of wishing my uniform had trouser just to escape the draft that came in through the open doorway on my bus. In college, when I was free to wear whatever the hell I pleased, jeans became my unofficial uniform for the same reason. My college was  along way away from home, and the journey involved changing two buses in the early Bangalore morning weather. I had a wardrobe replete with full sleeved pullovers, woollen tops, plaid and knitwear, and the odd polo neck too. We had “winter wear” too. The button down granny sweater to be worn at home, a sporty jacket, a hoodie, and a sweatshirt that worked with everyday college clothes. I’d even stretched the arms extra long, all the better to dig and snuggle my fists into, and made tiny holes where my thumbs would stick out from. This, long before the thumb-hole became a thing.

Of course all of this was discarded and/or packed away when I moved to Goa, which has barely a smidgen of winter. Certainly nothing to warrant precious real estate in my cupboard being wasted on “winter wear”. Worse, my body has unlearnt what little it did to manage or deal with the cold, rendering me progressively immobile and useless as temperatures drop.

It’s why in our very own Goan winter where temperatures teeter delicately in the early-mid twenties, in November and December, I feel the need to pull out a pullover or a jacket. And it’s also why I always carry a jacket to the movie hall, regardless of the season or weather outside. It is also why, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve stayed away form visiting Leh or Ladakh. Im mortally afraid I will just buckle in the cold and be a vegetable, unable to do anything or enjoy very much.

I realised how much living in a hot place impacts not just the clothes you wear, but your entire wardrobe, accessories, footwear and the way you process weather too, when I began to pack for this trip a few days ago. Since the start of the week, I’d been furiously googling the weather, only to be frightened by the single digit night time temperatures being reported there. I then messaged S to say I was preparing to turn into a semi-icicle.

I realised I don’t own closed shoes anymore, aside from the two pairs of sneakers I can only wear to the gym. I distinctly remember saving two full sleeved tees, for a rainy cold day, somewhere so safe I couldn’t find them, of course. I’ve distributed, given away, donated what was once my rather large collection of stoles and scarves because I got tired of storing them and watching them lie in abject neglect. At least they’ll get used this way, I told myself. Thankfully I’ve been recently gifted a couple of rather pretty (and warm) scarves, so there’s that. But for the rest, I’m banking on snug jeans, and layering up in two jackets, with scarves for good measure. And socks, plenty of socks. Which would be worn inside slippers. Such a winter fail, but I was not about to rush out and but a new pair of shoes just for a 5 day trip.

I shuddered to think about the temperatures all the way here. And last night, I needed the whole shebang — jeans and tee, jacket, a shawl over it, socks and footwear — when outdoors.

But all my worry faded away when I woke up to this view.


And I followed it up with an hour of sitting in the sun, reading, until I felt blind from the crisp light reflecting off my page.

Unlearning the ways of the winter, a tropically trained body and fears of frostbite aside, I have in recent time, realised I miss the winter. I crave colder climes. I long to wear warm clothes and be bundled up in layers.

From niggling yearning for a change of climate, it’s turned into a raging need for the cold again. It had to happen at some point, I guess. The first of it hit me in August, in Wayanad. And today, as I stared out at the clouds slipping through the valley, kissing the mist that cleaved the tea bushes, that mighty feeling that I have held down with some difficulty, in recent time, reared its head once again.

Should I stay, or should I go?

I’m at that point where cooler weather is calling out to me. Misty mountain tops are making balmy seaside scenes feel overrated. The hills are competing with the sea.

And it’s getting very, very hard to remain loyal.

 

Day 350: Ohhaii again, Bangalore

15 Dec

I touched down in cold, cold Bangalore yesterday.

I cannot believe how lucky I’ve been this year, with umpteen trips back home to visit this city, my folks and some of my fondest friends. 

I love love love Banvalore in the winter. Post cyclone weather has been splendid. My nose and toes are perpetually cold and it’s hard to fight the snuggle up with tea and books kind of vibe. 

Bangalore has been the starting point of many trips out from here. And this time it is no different. I’m off on a roadtrip with S. Somewhere hilly. Somewhere amidst the clouds. Somewhere surrounded by tea. And somewhere a lot colder than Bangalore, methinks. Brrrrmmmm. 
 

Day 349: Indian Women Speak Out About Choosing Not To Have Children

14 Dec

I’m stoked to be finishing the year with a couple of pieces that have been amongst the funnest stories to write, most wonderful and enriching writing experiences, for outlets that have really been an absolute pleasure to work with. The first, is an essay about what it’s like for some childfree Indian women. It also touches heavily on one of the books on the topic that has deeply influenced me. I’m especially happy that I was able to interview my very own tribe of women who have embraced the choice, who I have befriended n the last 5-6 years of my life, who were willing to share their opinions and experiences with me. It’s likely the last of my rambles on the topic. Phew.

The version below is an initial, and longer, edit of the piece that was eventually published on The Establishment.

Selfish, Shallow, And Self-Absorbed? Five Indian Women On Remaining Childfree.

In many Indian homes, the intensely personal decision to have a child is not limited to the space between spouses, and certainly not women alone. I often joke that discussing procreation and being inquisitive about people’s desire to further their progeny is a national pastime.

I’ve had distant relatives  — people I don’t know too well — feel no hesitation to check about my plans to start a family. But it’s not limited to relatives making polite conversation at family gatherings alone. Friends report being grilled about their reproductive choices at staff meetings, conference calls, job interviews, and even first dates. There’s just no winning even with a baby in tow – one-time mothers are often chided about not having a second child, and ones with daughters pressured into having another in the hope that it will be a boy.

Despite my society’s obsession with it, I was initially ambivalent to the prospect of motherhood. Culturally, it’s deeply ingrained as a crucial milestone of adulthood, so I believed that sooner or later I would ‘lean in’ and accept it. Over time,this ambivalence turned to clarity that motherhood was not for me. For one, I never felt the pangs of maternal instincts so many women speak of. Thankfully, the myth that all women want children has been busted. Also, I couldn’t think of a single aspect of my life that I wanted to off-load (even temporarily) to make room for a child. But most of all, I intuitively knew that motherhood just didn’t call out to me.

As an Indian woman, my decision to not have children meant facing a barrage of intrusive questions, fielding off unsolicited advice, steeling myself from unwanted ‘treatments’ and ‘fixes’ – all offered to correct this ‘obvious flaw’. There is a common notion that motherhood “completes” a woman in a way nothing else can, and I felt lonely in my choice.

I was 31 when I stumbled on Megan Daum’s anthology Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to Have Kids — a book of essays about a range of experiences of writers, men and women of varied sexual orientation, living a childfree life. In this anthology, I found comfort, peace, and a sort of camaraderie that made me feel less isolated about eschewing motherhood.

It was only in my 30s, that I found company in a tribe of Indian women who echoed my sentiment. They listened, without belittling or rushing to offer a solution to alter my thinking.

Having faced their share of meddling questions and conjecture about their reproductive choices, I knew they’d appreciate the essays in Daum’s book as much as I did. I set out to talk candidly with four friends about the book … and gain insight into their own decisions to challenge motherhood – a concept so inextricably linked with my culture’s ideal of the perfect woman.

***

“I don’t hate children. The children of family and friends are much loved and pampered by me,” my friend Chandni starts off. “Just because I don’t want my own, do not assume that I won’t be interested in activities involving children.”

Contrary to the most common assumption about being child-free by choice, like Chandni, I do not hate children. Nor do I hate people who choose to have them. Our inability to acknowledge the possibility that some of us are simply not excited by a life caring for little ones, is dismissive of our agency to find purpose in places and activities outside of motherhood.

Roshni is 40 years old and an accomplished author. She tells me that motherhood didn’t particularly ever appeal to her. She finds the lives of whose with kids, stressful, burdened, and not enviable. But social conditioning runs deep, and she bore some guilt acknowledging a future without motherhood.

On finding solace within Daum’s book, she says: “The book provided some useful reference points to help me begin letting go without feeling unnecessary guilt or attachment to ideas I had been holding on to as a consequence of social conditioning.”

We both agreed that Pam Houston exemplifies this in her essay “The Trouble With Having It All”: “What if I’ve always liked the looks of my own life much better than those of the ones I saw around me?…What if I have become sure that personal, freedom is the thing I hold most dear?”

Accepting what is right for you, even if it means embracing an unpopular choice, requires conviction and courage in a society that has no trouble exerting its opinion on you at every turn.  Often it means going against the grain and shunning motherhood even if it looks like a weakness or selfishness.

***

I would love more well-meaning aunties to read Daum’s  introduction: “It’s about time we stop mistaking self-knowledge for self-absorption.”

The book does a fantastic job of plainly presenting the spectrum of reasons to choose a life without children. My friend Shilpa says it took her upwards of 30 years to really grow into herself as a person, become comfortable with her body and in her own skin. The idea of stepping into motherhood and inevitably unsettling that newfound comfort therefore never appealed to her. Her favourite essay, “Mommy Fearest” by Anna Holmes, states: “These days, as I enter my forties, I find that I am only now beginning to feel comfortable in my own skin, to find the wherewithal to respect my own needs as much as the others’, to know what my emotional and physical limits are, and to confidently, yet kindly, tell others no. Despite (or because of) my single status right now, becoming a mother would feel like a devolution as much as an evolution.”

Even the most self-assured women amongst us, cannot sidestep the painful possibility of waking up to realise that perhaps, we made the wrong choice. In “Beyond Beyond Motherhood” by Jeanne Safer, one of the most relatable pieces for me, she says, “There is no life without regrets. Every important choice has its benefits and its deficits, whether or not people admit it or even recognize the fact: no mother has the radical, lifelong freedom that is essential for my happiness. I will never know the intimacy with, or have the impact on, a child that a mother has. Losses, including the loss of future possibilities, are inevitable in life; nobody has it all.”

***

I sometimes wonder if being selfish about what I want of and for my life is really such a bad thing. More so when I consider the crucial fact that in most Indian families childcare is shouldered almost entirely by women. Even the most hands-on father will never experience pregnancy, childbirth, recovery or breastfeeding, leaving women to be primary caregivers.

In “Maternal Instincts” Laura Kipnis, debunks the idea that society favours parents. “Until there’s a better social deal for women—not just fathers doing more child care but vastly more social resources directed at the situation, including teams of well-paid professionals on standby (not low-wage-earning women with their own children at home)—birthrates will certainly continue to plummet.”

Nisha lives in Chicago, with immediate family across the world. The distance from this support system means she has to carefully consider everything that she will need to give up in order to transition to parenthood. “If it was easier to visualize a life with children I bet more women would choose it. But without help from family or financial resources to hire people to take care of cleaning, babysitting, shopping etc, it’s definitely not an easy choice.”

Increased dialogue around this means we’re also opening ourselves up to the idea that it’s okay to make this choice. We find common ground in circles of likeminded folks. We join Facebook groups for childfree people, we share essays, books, resources, and we engage with others, who like is, acknowledge that parenthood and living a wholesome, meaningful life are not mutually exclusive.

I’m a willing and happy auntie not just through blood ties but through bonds of friendship of my choosing, and I have, at various points, contributed to and been a part of some milestones in parenthood along with my closest friends.

Like Daum says, “These essays have so many people talking about the ways that they do have relationships with kids, nieces or nephews or kids that they mentor. You’ve heard the cliché ‘it takes a village.’ There are so many ways of being a responsible villager,” she says. I couldn’t agree more.

(A version of this story appeared on The Establishment.)

Day 348: The last of the books for 2016

13 Dec

Chuffed by the realisation that I have, by some strange twist of fate, read more books than I planned to, caved and committed to a reading challenge on Goodreads.

 

Very conveniently, I set it up at the end of the year based on the very encouraging (for me) progress I realised I’d made. And I set it up to reflect at a very safe, easy 2-books-a-month average, which is more or less the pace at which I’ve moved. I know, so much chitting. But anyway, I wrapped it up with these two books.

Bad Feminist: Essays, Roxane Gay
Essays that delve into the lives of women, marriage and feminism have strangely become a theme for the year. I’ve really dipped myself into non-fiction side of things and while there have been many loved books, this one is the best read of the year.  In Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay touches on aspects of feminism that I have grappled with a lot this past year. It is feminism at the core, but it is also so much more. With dexterity, she beautifully weaves in allied topics, such as race, privilege, cultural influences such as music, popular television, movies, news and media into the way it shapes and transforms current day feminism. As a woman of colour, she talks about how feminism has evolved and shaped her identity. She amplifies the need to raise feminist issues from the perspective of women of colour, and that is where I found the book so relatable. She’s spectacularly insightful, raising delicate issues with the sharp, incisive stand that they sometimes need.  She’s got the right blend of wit, seriousness, fact and opinion which makes most of her arguments hard to refute. Especially as a woman of colour. Most of all, this book really touched me because the central premise, as outlined in her introduction is about why she calls herself a Bad Feminist. This is something I grapple with a lot – as I find my opinions around feminism shifting, evolving, with every new nuance that I am made aware of, every experience that unfolds a new facet that I may not have previously acknowledged, and every time I am made aware of any of the many privileges that I have – I find my feminism might refusing to fit the sometimes watertight boundaries of “good” feminism. This book was comforting in its description of an ever changing, fluid kind of not-one-size-fits-all feminism, which is honestly what we need today.

This is a book every woman must read. You can find my favourite essay in this post.

Love Warrior: A Memoir, Glennon Doyle Melton
Simply put, this is the true story of Glennon Doyle Melton’s journey through self-discovery as she puts the pieces of her life back together after a long and supposedly stable marriage falls apart. However, it is as much a story about coming of age as it is about a woman reclaiming her identity and finding her feet again. This, I’m beginning to think is a never-ending journey in my own life, and therefore a theme that will appeal to me at all times. Told as a memoir, the book is a story about healing, forgiveness (of oneself, primarily!) and learning to accept with grace the situations where life forces us to unlearn some of our habits, attitudes, philosophies we hold true. Through the work Doyle does in getting herself back together after her marriage breaks, you can expect to learn a thing or two about reclaiming your identity and moving towards living a life of honesty and authenticity.

I’m happy with the selection of books I managed to cover this year. The themes that have emerged are clear and  so reflective of the phase I’m going through. I’m hoping for some enjoyable, light on the brain fiction in the coming year. However, this list is calling out to me already. So help me God.

Day 347: 6 am essentials

12 Dec

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For the last two weeks my days have begun at 5 am. Because of a situation I mentioned here, I have found myself in this far-from-ideal situation that I had to very grudgingly adjust to. I now wake up a lot earlier than usual. So early, that its in fact still dark out, which is typically my reason to stay in bed. But no, I have to wake up to dark, moody, wintry beginnings of day. One would think two weeks is long enough to form a new habit, or get used to it at least. But no, it’s still difficult. And I still grudge it, complain every night and go to bed hoping I fall asleep instantly, so as to maximise sleepy time.

Today began no different. The doorbell rang at the dot of 6. I trudged down the stairs, bleary eyed, opened the door and wished K good morning. Usually I proceed to flop on the futon, for a whole hour while she potters about and does her thing. I could just go back to bed, but a strange sort of guilt takes over. How can I be asleep while she works hard to keep my home clean? So I sit, fighting residual sleep, chat with her sometimes, or give her a hand, make her some tea and make my presence felt. She doesn’t need me. She’s perfectly efficient, and barely talks at all, so it must actually be pretty annoying to have someone trying to make conversation when she’s trying to work. So, I took to sitting by the balcony door, reading. Which I’ve realised, is brilliant. Almost a whole hour of uninterrupted reading time – it’s bliss, really.

Today, I realised, I’ve watched the sun rise every day these past two weeks. It’s pitch black when I wake up, and the inky sky shivers to life, blotting as the sun breathes life across it. Bright shafts of light cut through the horizon. It’s a daily show, and I get to watch it.

Today, there was a definite draught in the air. My legs had gooseflesh all through, but I couldn’t get myself to wear longer pants, get a sheet or shut the damned balcony door. It’s a slim sliver of ‘winter’ time in these parts, and I get to actually witness the best, most dewy time of day.

Today, I finished a quarter of my book, just sitting there in peace. The dogs go batshit and fight sometimes, ruining the silence and annoying the crap out of me. But that apart, it was lovely. I was once a morning person, the sort who loved to wake up super early and get shit done, maximise the day yadayada. I don’t know what happened to that person. Despite whining about not wanting to wake up early just last night, I was strangely happy to be up in the dark today.

Today, I realised it’s an oddly nice time of day. There’s silence, but with a distant drone of things humming to life. Everything is slow, but you know it’s only building up for the day to come. There’s darkness, which makes everything feel like it’s on pause, but there sunrise is always only minutes away, slowly creeping out and changing everything irreversibly.

It’s a time I usually spend coiled up in my blanket like a pea in a pod. Oblivious to everything. Asleep. And yet, there I was, enjoying my moment in the chill, with the lights on, because it’s too dark outside, only two things keeping me awake. 6 am essentials – a hot cup of tea, and my book.

I could, perhaps, get used to this.

Day 344: Looking back

9 Dec

The dregs of this year, they’re dragging. If anyone has a fast-forward option, I’d be down for that. The sudden bouts of clarity, positivity, and hope for 2017 to be better, way better, than 2016, are egging me on, teasingly. If someone could just push me straight into the throes of the new year I’m in. (Okay, anyone listening and trying to make it happen, please only give it a shot after next week, when I go off on what may be my last holiday for the year.)

This blog has been a largely accurate reflection of what’s going on with me, and in my head (except when I’m faffing off by posting silly haiku and pictures that only interest me). So it’s been an all round mope-fest around here for the past many weeks. I’ve lost track of when I began to slide and the multiple occasions on which I’ve felt hopeful and upbeat only to slip right back into the doldrums again. Around me, the world has fallen apart, everyday there’s shocking news that bristles and causes reactions worth being spoken about, I read things that amuse and entertain me, move me and impact me in ways that I can only describe in writing, I’ve done more things than I’ve cared to talk about here, and there are plans afoot of which I haven’t really been very articulate at all. All I’ve focused on is myself, and my sads. Of late, that has turned into a 100% pity party. I’m aware. Today too, I was moping to A on fb, when a thread from a bunch of writers caught my eye. Each one of them taking stock of the year and reporting their achievements, challenges and stating their plans for the next year.

I’ve contemplated this, and made small beginnings, to some extent. But I just haven’t had the inclination to further it. Instead, I’ve been moping about the catastrophe that was 2016 and wishing for a magic trick to teleport me right into 2017. Seeing everyone’s inspiring updates of the year gone by, though, I was prompted peek into my excel sheet, to see just how I’ve fared. Considering it’s been a year with a shocking number of forced and unforeseen breaks from work, I’ve felt my focus and motivation shot to bits. So I wasn’t particularly inclined to do this looking back business. But I have an excel sheet I’ve been rather meticulous about keeping this year, so “looking back” is a matter of glancing at a well-formatted excel sheet, rather than rummage through work folders and files like I had to last year.

2016 was a largely challenging year, personally, of course. Professionally too, there were challenges a plenty, but in retrospect it has all been positive. As it turns out, 2016 has been the most prolific year in terms of the amount of work I’ve done. I realise I have a lot to be thankful for, despite everything.

I’ve written 50 stories, for 16 publications. These include 7 new (for me) international publications and 4 new Indian publications that I broke into. This was a bit of a happy surprise for me, something I haven’t registered even though I am doing the writing, and excel sheet tracking. At the start of 2016, I had a measly goal of breaking into at least 3 international publications. It was only looking at the sheet right now that I realised until I’ve more than surpassed that goal. As for earning, I’ve doubled what I earned last year, but I could have done a lot better if the hiccups and forced breaks hadn’t kept me away from writing as much as they did.

The other big change, and win, is that I’ve finally made peace with facebook, because I’ve learned to wield it to work best for me. I say this because I found almost all my work this year, through resources and discussions through facebook writing groups that I am on. Through them, I’ve been exposed to some incredibly inspiring writing from around the world, got a glimpse into the lives and routines, challenges and successes of some wonderful women writers. I’ve found inspiration and solace in their virtual companionship. In their numerous anecdotes I’ve realised that no problem is unique, someone somewhere has already been there, done that and will most likely offer to help. I’ve also made some new friends through these groups and I’m really glad for some of the writer connections that keep me going.

All said and done, this year was not without its fair share of lessons. Every big meltdown this year was caused by a professional situation that had bubbled over when I wasn’t looking. And each of those situations had very clear lessons that I had failed to pick up and act on before. I continue to trust people blindly. I still sometimes fail to consider all options before jumping in. And I still don’t fully know how to put a high enough premium on myself. I’m still utterly useless with managing my collections and don’t fully understand the business side of managing my work. This is something I hope to either outsource or take steps towards mastering myself, in the coming year.

I’m still growing a pair of lady-balls, and learning my worth. I’ve had moments of success in the rare instances that I was able to be brave and push myself outside my comfort zone, but those situations were scary and will take a lot more getting used to before it begins to come naturally. I have such a long way to go.

This will always be remembered as the year I took the difficult decision to let go of an anchor gig that while offering economic stability, only leeched away at my joy and creativity. It will be the year I actively worked towards bettering my professional communication and saw amazing things happen as a result of it. I’ve bettered my working relationships with a few editors, seen a duplicitous side of others, and managed to navigate through all kinds of situations.

Does 2016 make me feel proud and victorious? Not really. Could it have been better? Definitely. But, am I happy with the way things stand? Hell yes.

Day 343: Essential reading

8 Dec

Today, I’m found myself at that painful point again. With three different browser windows open, way too many tabs to keep track of, and nothing read to completion. Every time things get “crowded” on a particular window, I open a fresh one, to ease the claustrophobia. And then the tabs pile up, inevitably. On and on.

So I sorted through them of course, and here are some things I wanted to share.

I have an essay about Indian women and their choice to remain child-free coming out soon next week, so it’s been on my radar for a while. Probably why I bookmarked these three essays. Entirely different matter that I only read them in a rushed manner yesterday! This is probably going to be my last essay on the topic, for a while (phew!) because between the last one and this, I’m wiped dry.

Disproving the myth that all women must want children has been an ongoing century-long effort. A whole goddamned century. When are we going to get over this?

An essay, and a whole new book called Why Have Kids? about the need to normalise the choice not to have kids.

I’m now the person who received links to a story from multiple sources because they read something on the topic and instantly think of me. Heh. This BBC story, with a mildly sensationalised title, Changing the world is more important than changing nappies, was sent to me by four different people.

Every year I come across at least three pieces that make a pretty compelling case to quit social media. I’m too far in now, and will probably take a lot to get out, but it always makes for good reading. Especially stories like this about improving your career by getting off social media, that come at a time when I’m making over 95% of my income through social media.

This brilliant Rolling Stone interview with President Obama the day after the election. I’d love to see someone do something similar in India, with as much candour and a sense of humour even in grim times.

Soeaking of things I’d like to see happen on Indian news/media, how about our version of this?

Research for an interesting story I’m working on led me here, to this story about a delightful book about bookstores.

And I’m saving the absolute best for last. Currently reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. And it is slowly creeping into top spot in the list of best books I read this year. It’s a collection of essays about a great variety of themes and topics related to feminism, but this essay really hit home. Gay, on safety, fear, the illusion of safety, and trigger warnings, is an essay every woman needs to read. Some quotes from the essay;

I used to think that I didn’t have triggers because I told myself I was tough. I was steel. I was broken beneath the surface but my skin was forged, impenetrable. Then I realised I had all kinds of triggers. I simply had buried them deep until there was no more room inside me. When the dam burst, I had to learn how to stare those triggers down. I had a lot of help, years and years of help. I have writing.

It’s an impossible debate. There is too much history lurking beneath the skin of too many people. Few are willing to consider the possibility that trigger warning might be ineffective, impractical, and necessary for creating safe spaces all at once.

…there is value in learning, where possible, how to deal with and respond to the triggers that cut you open, the triggers that put you back in terrible places, that remind you of painful history.

Find it here on The Rumpus. For more such compelling, relevant, important writing that raises important questions, questions the status quo even in an established space, takes the difficult route to arrive at a whole new stance and constantly questions our privilege while doing so, read the book.

 

 

Day 342: Mini breakthrough

7 Dec

Deep down, I knew this uncontrollable swinging from elation to utterly lost, confused and in a daze, was not me. Yes, there have been challenges, and I’ve pushed myself into a corner more often than not, this year. But that’s because I’ve allowed issues to surface, after they came knocking time and again. And rather than shut them out, I’m trying to face them. This, inevitably, has brought more lows than highs. I was prepared and in many way’s even resigned to feeling out of it more often than not. But nothing prepared me for the physically debilitating manifestations that has come with it. I have spent more days stuck, stiff in bed, listless and unable to function, think, or even figure what is making me feel so low. Truth be told, nothing about what I am going through, or my life, or anything in my environment is so catastrophic that it warrants the kind of utter sadness I have felt.

I’ve often confused this plummeting mood with PMS and/or fatigue. On way too many occasions, I’ve given in to the haze in my head, and gone with it. Often, it’s felt like I should just give up and let myself float. Or drown. But most times I’ve chosen the third option. I’ve beaten myself and struggled to stay afloat, at the very least.

The hardest thing has been with putting a finger on a potential cause. My sadness is exacerbated by the fact that I do not have clarity on that one thing that is causing it. Somewhere deep down, however, I have known that this is not normal. It’s not just the situation. It’s not just the transition. It’s not just this kind of self discovery that can cause the blues.

Nothing I am going through warrants the extreme lows in energy, the chronic need to nap, negative levels of motivation and enthusiasm to do anything at all, the intense dislike of social situations and company. This week I reached an impasse. Utterly frustrated with the see-saw between the lows and highs; the transient moments of steadiness and the fleeting clarity that just will not stay. So, I had some blood work done. Some basic blood counts, TSH panel, and essential vitamin levels that are crucial to optimum levels of happiness. While most of it is normal and the numbers are as they should be, it turns out I have severely low levels of vitamin b12. I am not entirely shocked because I have had a hunch (not strong enough to act on) for some time now, I was definitely a little surprised to see just how low it’s dropped. And surprise, surprise, a lack of vitamin b12 has a profound effect on brain function, is known to adversely affect moods and cause moderate-severe depression.

It’s a bit weird how the brain works because the lack of energy and motivation has attacked every facet of my life except exercise. And it is exercise that has been my saving grace. Perhaps deep down, I also knew that endorphins would keep me afloat, would give me the massive daily dose of energy I needed to get from one day to the next. Because, deep down, I knew this was not normal. That it wasn’t just brought on by situations. The intense lack of control I have felt in trying to understand where this abject sadness is stemming from, when nothing in my life or situations I am in can be called a legitimate cause, has doubly affected me.

The test results depressed me a wee bit :P Because it means potentially facing another fear – needles. And it means embracing the other thing I don’t particularly love – raw food. But I was also immensely relieved to know that I’m not fighting a lost battle. That the cause for the cloud over my head is partly physiological, and just knowing that it has a specific course of treatment, and can be corrected is reassuring. This feeling of all matters coming to a head, much of the clouds of confusion parting to make way for clarity, and the road ahead looking cleaner than ever before is playing out with uncanny accuracy. As the year comes to a close, a lot of the loose ends I’ve been untangling for so long now, are coming together neatly. I’d ask for nothing more than to begin the new year on an energetic, healthy and happy vibe.

Day 341: Grasp

6 Dec

Clarity has been a lot like gazing at a pretty picture like this. Great to look at from afar but so dang hard to grasp in reality. Delicious in appearance, but probably not really convenient to touch.