2016

So it’s done. What I’ve called the most forgettable, shitty year, time and time again, is over. It’s true that last year I had more than a fair share of lows. But it’s also true that in bouncing from one low to the next, only keeping my head above water, occasionally remembering to thwack my limbs and move towards the closest object for support, I’ve often needed to remind myself that I’m still alive and breathing. Which is a convoluted way of saying, a lot happened in between the lows that really wasn’t bad at all. But I have been so occupied with just barely staying afloat that it’s felt like I’ve been mostly stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. The bad has a way of eclipsing the good, and painting a picture so dismal, you wonder why this is your life. Which is why I’m thankful for forced stops in the infinite loop of time. We put a date to the end of the year, we decide it’s a time to reflect, and I’m glad we have this opportunity to lay out all the cards, pick which ones to fold over and put away, and which ones to take ahead.

There is such a difference in looking back cursorily, because all I can see is large spans of time spent lying in bed, unable to move, just staring out the window, and looking back one day and month at a time. Broadly, I feel like I spent way too much time wondering why this is happening to me. This, being the thick and heavy fog that consumed me. But, it’s only when I combed through my archive that I realised I was diffident, cynical, exhausted from the get go. I entered the year in a terrible headspace. Maybe it set the tone for the year? Maybe I was a fool not to see how things were hurtling towards an inevitable crash right through 2015? Maybe this was all just a necessary intervention in the making? I don’t know.

What followed was a lot of indecision and confusion that really chipped away at my confidence and left me on very shaky ground. Pretty much the entire year after has been spent trying to regain that solid ground beneath my feet. Whether it was putting my confidence in myself and my work back together and resuming in a direction that made sense to me, but scared the shit out of me, or opening myself up to honesty of a different kind, running all my relationships through a sieve and keeping only the most important ones close, learning to distinguish between an inner and outer circle, basically redefining the very notion of love and friendship, or regaining some bit of pride and a sense of self and identity that I’d lost sight of — everything about 2016 was an effort towards building something in me that 2015 had broken.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to write a post a day, because looking back has helped me see that while 2016 was far from fantastic, it sure was eventful. It was shitty in many parts, challenging in ways I have not previously known but omg, you gaiiis, so much happened!

Mostly, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering honesty. Of coming to terms with many things I was either not seeing right, or turning a blind eye to. It all started with the decision to take some time off. To regroup and clear my head out. I had a breakdown at the end of 2015, that made me realise I was overworked, confused about my priorities and sorely needed some time out. My inability to be honest with myself was pushing me into a cycle of repeated losses that had left me very, very tired.

So, I planned to spend 5-6 weeks unwinding and doing the things that gave me joy, in the hope that it would make room for some clarity. I read and wrote. And that’s not counting my work. There was some drawing, some haiku, and an exercise regimen, all in the interest of building a routine that enriched rather than depleted me. With all the mind space to introspect, it wasn’t long before the truth, or rather the lack of honesty emerged strong and loud.

I don’t mean honesty in the sense of truth-telling. I mean honesty in so many different ways — the inability to break through my denial, my stubbornness in not admitting to seeing things as they were, the fact that far too many people in my life had more to take than give me, the false belief that the work-life pattern I had unconsciously fallen into was necessary for success, my misplaced conviction that it was what I liked and wanted, when the truth couldn’t have been farther from it.

I’d begun to realise a need for a deeper honesty in my friendships. As it happened several of my closest friends found themselves in a bad patch at the start of the year. It involved unravelling, together, and being there for each other and made me realise just how much I valued openness and vulnerability, even in or maybe especially in hard times, as a measure of authenticity of any relationship. I suddenly saw how I was surrounded by relationships lacking in it, even though I considered them to be the solid, long-term ones. I backed away from many that seemed to exist in a perpetual state of hiding behind convenient veils of passive aggression, demanding more from me than I could give, or they could ever give back to me.

This has meant being alone a lot more, staying with solitude and embracing this part of me wholeheartedly. This will always be the year I made peace with my introvert tendencies. After a hectic 2015 chock full of socialising, putting myself out there and pursuing things I never imagined I would have, giving the hedonistic life a shot I realised my place. It’s indoors, with myself, away from the mindless din of connections and networking. I much prefer the loud camaraderie of a few I call my tribe, even if we choose to exist in absolute silence.

This too, required honesty. In laying the tussle between the virtually-social and actually-solitary, to rest. On the one hand, I live what many call a “social” life, especially thanks to frequent and frantic social media posting. And on the other hand, I was trying to teach myself boundaries, to say no, to protect my personal space and energy. This tug-o-war between sharing my life has given many observers a sense of false camaraderie that often oversteps the virtual lines that separate me and them. I began to see through social media veneers, and was disappointed by people on more than one occasion. I found myself wanting to dig deeper and find within myself the strength to accept the differences that these are just virtual interactions, while saving my energy for the solid core of authentic interactions I have in real life. Even when it meant accepting the truth that was far from pleasant, realising that seemingly normal people sometimes display unacceptable behaviour, or that I myself had untowardly let some folks far deeper into my life than was needed.

The need for this honesty came with a price. For one, I let go of the steady promise of work that I had in hand to make room for the work I wanted to pursue. Second, I had to consciously let go of a couple of friendships that I had assumed were easy-going and probably for life.

What I gained, though, was immeasurable. Because the time and energy freed up from it, was channeled into all that I wanted to put my mind to, but had failed to in the years before. I will always remember this to be the year I moved closer to finding myself, and my voice, professionally. The decision to quit a steady, decently-paying gig with scope for growth, to dive fully into the erratic, unpredictable world of full-time freelancing was a pivotal one. A lot of it happened because I had to own up to the fact that clinging to a safety rails was only going to get me that far. Yes, I’d have a salary in the bank at the end of the month, but the hours spent earning that salary was definitely keeping me from expanding my repertoire, aiming higher and going wide and deep into the kind of writing I want dip into. If I were to be honest with myself, and I was, I needed to be brave. Or at least pretend like I was. It was not without its moments of extreme imposter syndrome, but I know I am better for it.

There were moments of immense frustration. A steep learning curve that I didn’t particularly enjoy at all times because let’s face it I wasn’t feeling positive and upbeat for a large part. The long waiting periods, systemic inefficiencies, blatant unprofessionalism made me cynical and under-confident. Incidentally, it was the year with the most number of unsavoury professional experiences. But while navigating the doubt and incertitude with heaps of scepticism, I did manage to get a whole lot of work done. It’s funny how the haze of unpleasant experiences has clouded this reality that. Ironic that the shittiest year is the year I had several work wins that I am proud of. Like this, this, this and this and this and this. I never imagined I’d write essays worthy of being tweeted by the UN Women’s handle. I didn’t think I’d see myself published in The Telegraph. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d find myself in a publication dedicated to science and technology.

I even managed to throw together a website and a portfolio that I should have done a long, long time ago. Much of this had to do with trying very, very hard to unlearn my obsession with perfection. Of quitting the terrible habit of waiting for the ducks to get in an absolutely straight line before making a move. In accepting that well begun is half done, I may have taught myself a thing or two about what is possible when you accept what works for you and hold yourself to slightly more realistic goals and ideals.

One of the best things I did was write and write and write every single day. Whether it was the for the stories I worked on, daily posts on here, scribbles, ideas for stories, half written posts — I made sure I did a little writing every single day and this is a habit I don’t want to lose. I am a little astounded at myself for seeing the daily post habit through to the end of the year, even though I fell off the wagon and frantically caught up again, sometime. Even with all that writing, I have so much more to express and share. So I started a newsletter. Admittedly, it’s taken a break so soon after it was launched but I hope to be back this year. 2016 marked the completion of 10 years since I started blogging. I wrote 318 posts this year having blogged every week, which feels like a fitting way to mark a decade of rambles.

On Day 1, I decided it was going to be a year to move more. In addition to upping the ante with training by joining, pursuing and loving kickboxing, I let the husband get me a cycle. It transformed the middle parts of this year in ways I can’t explain. Unfettered joy and immense satisfaction have been had from the hours spent pedalling through Goa. Cycling changed the way I experienced what could potentially be my last monsoon here. I even finished my first ever 100 km ride.

Part of the reason I caught the cycling bug was the undeniable urge to get out and get out. In the open. To travel. It’s something I’ve denied myself the pleasure of indulging in, for various reasons in the past few years. I travelled back home more than I ever have since I have moved out. Cleartrip sent me an email calling me a Happy Tripper today, for the 18 flights I’ve taken. There was a trip to Chettinadu, KeralaThailand and Coonoor. There were a few mini vacations right here at home too. I turned 32 in the company of these lovelies who came down to celebrate over a weekend of beach time, with me. And it reaffirmed my faith in certain inalienable truths about why some relationships endure and others don’t. It’s the one year VC and I haven’t taken a holiday or travelled anywhere together. And no, we’re not complaining.

The other big change I made this year was I kicking myself back into the reading habit by getting myself a Kindle. It has made all the difference and  finished the year with 29 books read, a high for me. While I’m looking at numbers, it seems a good time to look back at this post where I detailed the few things I want to see myself doing through 2016.

  1. Read a little everyday – check, post-August
  2. Write a little everyday – check, check, CHECK
  3. Give in to the urge to draw/doodle as much as possible, don’t put it off for “later” – check, for as long as the inspiration and urge lasted
  4. Avoid multi-tasking at all costs – yes and no
  5. Wear a saree at least once a week (any more is a bonus!), and don’t wait for the “right” occasion – ditched
  6. Call ammamma more often – check
  7. Meditate every morning, consciously remember to slow down – check for the first half of the year, then abandoned
  8. Go to the beach more often, even if it is for a stroll or to catch the sunset – check, check, check (run a search for “beach” to see how)
  9. Actively avoid clicking random links that lead to news on social media – CHECK!
  10. Whenever posting something on facebook, ask myself if the post would annoy me if I were looking at it posted by someone else – check, followed this for the most part, but slipped a lot, now correcting it by slowly deleting all fb activity from all of time
  11. Generally, avoid oversharing on fb – not every thought needs to be telecast to the world on fb, do it here instead, in longer form – check
  12. Keep phone away from bed and sleep-time – failllll!
  13. Sneak some more kisses – CHECK!
  14. Choose things, make decisions with purpose – CHECK
  15. Make the most of Goa, get out, breathe, watch, listen, do – CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK, cyclecyclecycle
  16. Reclaim stillness whenever it happens, and when it doesn’t, create it – this is WIP
  17. Fuck perfection – this is WIP

Speaking of WIP, one of the best things I did for myself in 2016, was take myself to therapy. When the cycle of breaking down, finding my footing, stabilising, coasting and only to slip again recurred three times in a span of 8 months, I knew I was in over my head. Again, it called for a kind of honesty I didn’t have, but so desperately needed to find. To accept that I cannot navigate this alone, that I need a fresh pair of eyes to see things differently and help me work my way through, rather than away from this. It has been the best, because it brought to the surface things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. It made me reclaim myself, discover and strengthen crucial aspects of my identity that were slipping away form me. Much of my newfound peace, focus and positivity is a result of this, and I know that every day I am making progress in facing up to and loving my imperfect self.

It hasn’t been an easy year to live with me. Every break down has brought with it several emotional outbursts, thoughtless spewing of anger and frustration, violent mood swings, long periods of demotivation. But through it, VC has been my constant. Constant everything. Punching bag, sounding board, friend, foe, confidant, co-homemaker, support, voice of reason, strength and solace. We celebrated our eighth anniversary. Ironically, it was a year that made me fully understand how relationships that nurture are the ones that help you growing together, separately, rather than collapse and grow into one entity, and completely turned my beliefs about marriage around, that somehow also brought us much closer.

I find myself feeling a little sheepish about how much I have bashed 2016. It had so many sore points, so many weeks and months I wanted to just wish away. So many events and incidents I wish I didn’t have to go through. It all felt so damned shitty. And yet, when it all stacks up and I look at it in retrospect, it was rather eventful. Memorable, even. But most of all, transformative. They say things sometimes need to get really bad before they can begin to get better. Maybe my bad bits were peppered right through 2016. But right there, in between the bad events, things were already beginning to get better.

This year I just want to build from here. Make some goals, shut up about them, work hard, live big, laugh loud, love hard, breathe deep and smash them to the sky.

*****

Quick guide to posts in 2016
Monthly recaps: APostADay
Bheja fry, since this year had so much of it
Work and writing
Books and reading in 2016
Travel and photographs
Cycling and exercise
Music

Same time, last year: Day 5: In-bloom

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Day 366: December

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.

Day 337: November

It’s December.

That escalated really quickly. And even within this year that seems to be in such a rush to slip through my fingers, while I’m still trying to get a grip, November was the fastest month of them all. It really, well and truly went by in a flash. And like I just said the other day, that only ever happens when you’re either having way too much fun, or you just have way too much happening in general. And the past month was a bit of both for me. Practically half the month went by in a holiday blur, and the other half went by in recovery, a little skulking around trying hard to normalise again, and a week with my sister. And poof, the month was done.

I have to pinch myself to check if this is really happening. How are we already in November? Wasn’t I just here, dealing with way too much at once, and feeling completely at sea?

But November was a month of contrasts. If the first half was spent zipping around, wheels on my heels, the second was spent being a homebody. Where the first half had be getting out and about, the second half had me avoiding everyone. For the first two weeks of the month I felt so upbeat and confident and with it, and the second half saw me nosediving a bit, trying to get it together again.

It all started with Diwali, which was actually the most non-Diwali-like Diwali of all time. It was a combination of many things — pre-holiday excitement mixed with a complete lack of enthusiasm for anything even remotely social — that led to having a meh festival. But I don’t mean to complain. It was a good day, and what was telling was the completely effortless way in which not doing anything after all these years felt normal.

I was wrapping up a lot of loose ends at work and barely had any time to really post in the first week of November. So there was the recap of October, some reading I shared, and before I knew it I was off on my long-winding trip across multiple cities, continents and modes of transport.

VC and I had planned separate holidays over the same period. This was a first for us, and I realised this is the first year we haven’t taken a single holiday together, but on the other hand we’ve traveled so much, separately. While I landed in Bangkok and was able to post from a quaint little cafe with wifi, VC was in the boonies of Goa where he had cycled to. I’ll admit, despite being en route to my very own exotic location, I was a tad envious.

But it was silly being envious, because I can (and we’re already planning this) always repeat the cycling trip in Goa. Thailand on the other hand was special. I can’t say epic or fantastic in the way that one might imagine girlie-trips in Thailand could be. This was special, most of all for the sunsets, quiet company, the epiphanies, the books, and the chance to go home again.

That’s the short version. For the longer version with excruciating detail, read this post about day one in Bangkok, the almost-week on an island, and the slightly bizarre and insanely fun return to Bangkok.

After that, and the bonus of spending time at home with the parentals, something strange happened. For the very first time ever, I had a serious case of blues to be back in Goa. Again, this was very telling. With every passing day I feel the curtains closing on my time here. And in small and big ways, in moments that take me by surprise, I realise I must accept this sooner rather than later. My usual unpacked-and-back-to-normal routine was shot to bits this time. I was lethargic, sluggish and sad for a whole week during which I got very little constructive work done, aside from tending to emails, doing the bare minimum amount of work, and reading. And then my sister arrived! Which called for interruptions in programming again.

Aside from the restful holiday, the other bright part of November was coming back to an abundance of published work that had either been sitting on the bench or waiting for a publishing date. What followed was a sudden tidal wave of payments, of course. But in a surprising turn of events, this month I also had a shockingly high number of inquiries for work. Thank you, universe.

Somewhere in between, I also watched and ranted about Dear Zindagi. And about a new Instagram disease called fashionblogging.

I’m in a strange headspace. On the one hand things are moving swimmingly. On paper, I have a fantastic life. But inside, it constantly feels like a gentle storm is brewing. I have bouts of lethargy alternating with restlessness. I realise a lot of this is a by product of on-going therapy, which is also a reason why I’m acutely aware of every damned little thing I feel. Nothing passes me by as just a mood anymore, and sometimes that gets tiring.

2016 has been a lot of things. But most of all it has been tumultuous. We (I speak for VC too hear because everything that happens to me, affects him too) have struggled through some parts, over a lot of different things, questioned our motives and looked for answers and alternatives. And it’s beginning to feel like this time of guessing is shutting shop. In my gut, I feel like the end of the year is going to be the end of the transition. November certainly felt like a fitting culmination of everything that is going on. A build up to crescendo, as we reach the pinnacle of the year, before we turn the lights out on the year with a bang. The hope is that the storm settles, the mind finds a uniform swing in the step, and life mellows out a little.

Everything looks better in retrospect of course. When the heat of the moment has passed, the burning angst has settled momentarily, and the day ends with a gorgeous sunset, is when you’re able to sit back and inspect the trail you’ve left behind. Oddly, everything makes sense.

img_7519

But enough of this. To the forces dishing out juju for net year, listen up. I’d like 2017 to be well done.

Day 307: October

If September was the month of all things shitty coming to a head, October was the month of patiently sifting through the mess. I had a distinct from-this-point-on-it-can-only-get-better moment.

It was an oddly mellow month. A time of repose, for the most part, that really felt like the calm after the storm. Strange, considering the high of finishing my first 100k cycle ride, right at the beginning. It was such a high point for me. But, after that, many many long days of feeling quiet happened. It kind of turned into a month of quietude, of doing my best to break fixed patterns, old thought processes, unnecessary expectations. Of slowing down and letting go. And maybe that’s why I felt a tremendous lack of words. Again, not for the lack of things to talk about, but just the lack of motivation to talk about it all. It was a quiet time. In real life too.

I’ve talked about slow days before. Of appreciating solitude. Of savouring the time between the big moments. But nothing, no prior experience of it has been like some of the days I had in October. And that was so crucial to crossing over into the bright, blinding life again. I physically felt like I was returning to myself. Like things were moving, changing.

The universe conspires in strange and magical ways. Almost as if to echo the slowing down inside of me, I was forced to create an atmosphere of slowness around me. VC travelled for a greater part of the month – more days and a longer span than he has been away in a long, long, long time. That inevitably makes me slow down and slip into my own routine, undoing the ways in which we function as a unit. I retreated into myself, escaped on assignment, sank into my very own un-routine. I read a fair bit. This book, and some more. But mostly it was a time of being forced to sit with myself. To truly examine what is happening within, up close. I didn’t have a routine, responsibilities or work to busy myself with, or use as an excuse to ignore it this time. And honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better time or coming together of events that eventually forced me to do just what my therapist asked me to: empty my mind. I realise that is perhaps why so much of what I have been talking about has been so cryptic, nebulous. I’ve been so non committal about putting any of it in words that really make sense or tell you exactly what is going on. But that is just the way it is. Part of me cannot find the words, part of me doesn’t want to try. It wasn’t all easy, but it was so essential, so needed. And as with all transformational change, it takes time. It’s never like the turning of a switch, but more like the slow unraveling of a sock. Eventually, you reach a point where you  begin to see the light. And if you’re anything like me, you feel immensely overwhelmed and thankful for all that helped in taking you there. Somewhere in between, I hit the 300 post mark, despite it being a low month in terms of blogging. And sent out a newsletter.

It was a slow month. And it had it’s moments of difficulty. But it was such a good month. The benefits of going solo are seriously underrated. But very often, it is the link between wallowing in a mess and coming out of it. And now, I just want this week to be over so I can fly off on my holiday.

molly

 

Day 278: September

Alternate headline options:

  1. Shitty, shitty September.
  2. Wake me up when September ends.
  3. Good riddance to bad rubbish

Pretty much all of September was eclipsed by Mercury going into retrograde. And I really felt the effects of it completely this time around. Right from a breakdown of communication and misunderstandings in relationships at the start of the month, the inability to think in a calm manner and plan ahead that stayed right through the month, the sluggish energy on the work front with nothing new materialising, a technological emergency that couldn’t be fixed, down to significant sleep deprivation which then has a ripple effect leading to confusion, irritability and overall impatience. Additionally, there were the effects specific to this retrograde: being overly self-critical, especially when outcomes were less than perfect, way too much energy spent in over analysing the changes I want to bring, when really nothing was likely to move ahead until the entire phase had passed. That pretty much summed up my September.

If I’d read any of this before September began, I’d have put it down to knowing too much too soon and being paranoid. But I only found out a lot of this stuff yesterday. It is sometimes is a little ironic, but mostly uncanny when things play out entirely to a plan outside of us and our brains, that we have not too much control over, regardless of how we feel about that lack of power. And that in itself is something I felt resound in my head over and over again last month.

It was such a meh month, that I don’t even want to go over it. But as always, it’s only in retrospect that I am able to connect the dots. And I see now how every little insignificant, seemingly disjointed, shitty event was actually linked, building up to the way things peaked on 30th September. It bubbled over and on 1st October, I made a decision that has been the first step forward, outside of the confusion I’ve been feeling.

Overly emotional and thankful for my friends.

Disjointed thoughts that I gave up on.

So much up and down, and up and down again.

Morning moods. And ruminations.

Just emptiness.

When the self-doubt hit hard, I had thoughts about work, that were more a means to reassure myself than anyone else.

My very own control issues were explored. In not just one, but two parts.

Before I depress myself anymore, there was some good stuff too:

Our eighth anniversary, was the only bright spark all month, I think.

Books. And more books.

This assignment that was a staycation in disguise.

Music and good internet reading here, Coke Studio season 9 best picks here.

In which I also decided to stop being confused, and decided to start working it out.

Decision about doing a 100km cycle ride was taken, and it turned out to be the best decision ever.

OH, AND. I started a newsletter. Which you can sign up for by adding in your email id here.

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Here take, customary happy photo.

Bas, that’s all. Off with your head, September. Be gone, now!

Day 251: August

Facebook brought this post I wrote at around this time two years ago, back to mind a couple of mornings ago. Reading it made me so very misty-eyed because it was such a different time, and I was such a different person back then. Arguably, it has been a long enough time for change, even if just at the hands of progression of time.

The posts makes excuses for being MIA, and those excuses are hectic! There was so much happening then, events, random people in pictures, a social scene, a chockablock calendar from the looks of it.

I’m currently MIA, if you were to go by all the action from 2014, of course. I’m missing, just from those aspects. Going out, being at every food event, meeting random groups of people and taking the trouble to put myself out there. Today, I’m MIA becuase I’m mostly cooped up at home. Or out with the few people I can be around, doing the things I like. Like reading in silence, cycling or watching a movie. Some of my friends here have expressed that they don’t know if my withdrawal from all things social and externally stimulating should be taken as a call for persuasion to break out, or to just let me be. That’s quite a sea change for me. But, that aside, it was mildly comforting to see how otherwise predictable August is.

  1. The monsoon is in that weird transition petering out the finale when it’s all over
  2. It seems to be the month my parents always visit
  3. Invariably there is some travel for me

All of that happened this year too. Despite it being a month to consciously pipe down from the overload I was feeling, it was busy (in other ways). With travel, to Bangalore and Wayanad that was the fall-off-the-grid that I needed. There were visits – friends throng Goa in the monsoon, and this year has been no different. A weekend with S, hanging out with with L, and my dad clocked his August visit too. I missed amma and Niyu desperately, but I’m also so glad to see how our individual lives have become so full and taken us our own respective ways to follow our bliss — amma all the way in America for her annual teaching and performance trip, Niyu otherwise engaged with adult things like keeping a job, my dad in the throes of building his home in the woods.

Of course there was the rain, even though we’re gearing up to say goodbye and bracing ourselves for the heat which is slowly creeping up on us. And there was plenty, plenty of cycling, because I suddenly realised there;s really no better way to do it than to cycle in the rain. I cycled so much, and so far, and did so many things as a by-product of cycling that I’m feeling really thankful I took to it this year.

This is what months of recharging should be like. Slow days spent wandering about with no plan, out in the real world or in your head, virtually, tossing up worlds of words and ideas. I didn’t pitch for any new work all through the month, focusing on finishing up some spillage from work I’d submitted at the close of July. Being caught in this “in-between” kind of headspace made even that a bit of a challenge. But the downtime meant I caught up on somethings that needed uninterrupted time and attention. Picking up the reading habit once again. Sending in a well-thought out (rather than half-assed, which is what it would have been if I didn’t have downtime) application for a fellowship. And writing for myself, things that often brew at the back of my mind and die like stubbed out cigarette buts that could have smouldered if I’d had the time to let them. Despite blogging everyday, I am constantly grappling with allowing more immersive, trains of thought meander and make their way here, because it means giving it more time, and an ease that I don’t always allow it. So I wrote yet again, about my shapeshifting idea of home and where that might possibly be. I got dragged down a tunnel of nostalgia, way back to gloomy Sunday evenings before school, and found a delightfully new memory to take its place.  I took a lot of pictures, and so I wrote a lot of haikus this month, too.

August was definitely the month for refuelling that I needed, and made time for. I drank up the slow, empty days in big gulps, and I saw myself enjoy the busy times with the folks I hung out with. The weird restlessness I talked about in July seems to have passed, and I’m aware its probably only temporary. Big and small changes are afoot, many of which I am unable to put a finger on even for myself to acknowledge. These are exciting times.

Day 216: July

If there’s one word I had to pick, to describe the month of July, it would have to be tired. I wasn’t just tired, tired became me. I may not have shown it, but at various points I felt physically, mentally, emotionally depleted and wrung out.

When I fell pretty badly ill and even the doctor couldn’t figure out why, I boiled it down to the fact that I may have overworked myself. Just a tad. There was a fair bit of writing that happened, but I may have over committed and reached out for more than I can grab at one go. But there was a lot of fun work too. I wrote this piece on Indu’s 100TinderTales project and this piece on my favourite, homegrown chocolate brands. I cracked one new pub, instead of two like I originally aimed for, but I’m not complaining because a lot of this month was wasted, so I’m discounting a lot of the time. By wasted, I mean time was spent “at work” but not quite working. 

It’s been a slow month because of it. Several days were spent at my desk, in front of the computer, struggling to just follow through. I made every deadline dangerously in the nick of time, which causes a lot of stress and is really not the way I like to work all the time. My attempts to fight the sloth that seemed to come over me in waves, included driving away to places far from home in the hope that a change of scene may get the creative juices flowing, plenty of snacks and drinks which I can now feel settled around my belly, looking up writing tools like this crazy drastic but much-needed one right here, and trying everything short of strapping myself to my chair to get my work done in time, I’ve accepted that I’ve hit a major productivity slump. The weather has been amazing, and that hasn’t helped at all. Right from the start of the month I’ve been wanting to stay cooped indoors. It began with a serious extended holiday hangover, coupled with the effort to make myself work even though every cell in my body was revolting, which resulted in a lot of navel gazing about solitude and the unlikely, unexpected way in which I realised I’ve become a thorough homebody and realised I may actually be more of an introvert that I am willing to accept. Add to that the forced week off from all activity, and the most gorgeous rainy weeks, and you realise why it has been such a slow, sluggish month.

It isn’t the kind of slow that made me irritable or has left me unhappy in any way. If anything, I’ve felt like it was a natural course of required slowing down that I always find being enforced in my life when I am not looking, but when I need it the most.

I’ve been relaxing over the weekends by cycling again. The rain notwithstanding. And as with every monsoon, this year too I have been listening to a lot of music. I don’t know if it’s entirely the weathers doing, but I have been overly emotional. Feeling things I don’t really need to feel. Weeping over things I shouldn’t have to. Ranting about minor annoyances. And just feeling very, very wrung out.

The slowness, it just doesn’t seem to leave me. It brings to the surface the restlessness that I thought I had channeled into my work. But somewhere that seems to have gone a bit tits-up, and it calls for a little revision. So I’ve kind of allowed myself to go with the flow. It was a high-emotion month, with low-energy — which results in a lot of heart not keeping up with the head, head not cooperating with the heart. I’ve wanted to do a lot more, but have been unable to get moving. This is possibly the natural order of things, there has to be a low, so we get a chance to rebuild momentum to take things up again. So I’m hoping that this too shall pass.

I’ve started August in the same uninspired mode, finishing up some work from last month that has trickled into this week, thanks to the lethargy. At the end of this week I’m off to Bangalore, and Kerala and hope to be back mid-month, when I will hopefully take stock of things and begin again. If I were to listen to my gut, this is going to be a month of taking it slow again.

Day 187: June

It’s monsoon month! Possibly the biggest highlight of June was that summer had passed and it’s started to rain pour again. I felt the fuzzies when I realised it’s my 7th monsoon in Goa. Something about time creeping by fast, and yet slowly in a way that it can only in Goa.

Apart from that, it’s business as usual. I spent a lot of time at work. And with thoughts about work. This month, I took on help to do the cooking so I could free myself of what was becoming a pretty thankless chore for me. It paid off in that I was able to spend a lot of my extra time writing (and worrying). But I’m also feeling exhausted like I may have aimed to over-achieve with not as much success as I’d have liked. That just makes for a very stressful way of working and I probably need to look into balancing the bouts of productivity with the inevitable procrastination that hits often.

Those minor niggling keedas aside, I kept going and somehow got some fun work done. There was the Period Story. And there were these three stories – a family cookbook of Andhra cuisine, a museum of Goan costume and the future of tea in India.

I didn’t publish this anywhere, but maybe I should have considered it because so many people wrote in to tell me I took the words out of their minds when I wrote a ranty response to a piece in the Guardian that said posting pictures online is like producing our own obituaries.

I watched a lot of movies last month. Sairat sent me on a regional film spiral. And then there was Udta Punjab that I watched twice, because that’s how much I enjoyed it. And then I watched Tamasha again, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it (after disliking it the first time).

But the most exciting part of last month was my long awaited holiday to the Chettinadu region. R, S and I drove down there from Madras and had a truly memorable holiday. A girly trip after ages had me wondering why this hasn’t happened before and definitely has me wanting to do this more often.


I came back to Goa smack in the midst of a week-long storm. And it was lovely.

There are some minor travels in store across July/August, and I have a mildly ambitious pitch list that I dived into yesterday. I want to crack at least 2 new pubs this month, let’s see how that goes. Apart from that I’m focusing on trying to get back to curtailing working on weekdays so I can binge on all the things that are once again being ignored, like reading, drawing, going out, on weekends. Does this never ending balancing act ever get easy?

This astonishment is probably getting old, but HOLY FUCK IT’S JULY. 6 months down, 6 to go. 180+ posts done, 180+ more to go. Ho hum dum sigh. Get on with it now, shall we?

Day 154: May

At the start of May, I wished that the month zips by. And when I made that wish, I forgot to enunciate that while a speedy passage of time was desirable, I didn’t fancy hurtling through it at breakneck speed, unable to stand still for justonemomentplease, thanks to the wheels strapped to my heels. Be careful what you wish for, folks. Because what I got, fresh off the back of a hectic April, was an even more hectic May.

It was chockfull and it zipped by, leaving me very, very exhausted. But in classic Revati-style, I didn’t realise it at the time. I tend to forget way too often for my own good, that I am not superman, and I don’t have to do it/have it all. Time and again I have to remind myself to slow down and fuck perfection. I get so consumed and swayed with the excitement in the present that diving in, head-first, is the easiest thing to do. These extreme crests of productivity only to be hit by boughs of exhaustion seem to be the norm around here and a struggle for measured balance looks like it will be a lifelong mission.

Friends over for a long weekend? YESSS lets go all out and hit the beach three days straight, no matter that it is the peak of summer! Feeling the beginnings of a cold but there’s a plan to go to the beach again? YES, I’m in! Packing bags for a trip to Bangalore and someone makes a last minute request for booze at 9 pm the night before my flight. Don’t worry, I got this! Calendar is full and you’re about to leave for the airport at 5 am, receive an email about writing an essay due in less than a week. YES, Im going to absofuckinglutely do this, even while I am on holiday with my hands and head full of family scenes.

Restraint, even in the midst of hectic times, is what I’m wishing for now.

It was birthday month! And I celebrated it with two cuties on the beach. Which then triggered major beach longing. So I followed it up with frequent visits, which will continue right until it rains. Which honestly at this point is looking more like, if it rains. Yeah, it’s that time of year when there are constant laments about a seeming endless summer torture and loud complains about how the monsoon cannot get here fast enough.

All the pain, irritation and annoyance was compounded this month thanks to the mega retrograde that was upon us. I was angsty and full of ranty opinions about everything. In the midst of it all, VC and I had a massive scrap over what is turning out to be a big deal-breaker in our lives — domestic chores. This has been a repeated topic of debate and discussion of late and matters constantly come to a head, but get diffused before we can sort things out. One day last month, however, I exploded. And not in a way that I am proud of. But the great thing about VC, and I am so grateful for it, is his proactive, action-oriented approach to any dispute. No matter how much we disagree or we fight it out, he usually doesn’t rest until we have worked out a way forward that positively impacts our relationship in some way. I’m seeing changes in the way we are, he is and I am, and the way things will pan out for us in the months to come, and I have my massive explosive outburst to thank for it. Heh.

I got through most of the retrograde pain-free, making do with quietly writing a post about everything that pissed me off. Just when I thought I dodged it, because it could have been much worse, I was hit. By a massive flu bug, 12 hours before I was scheduled to leave for Bangalore. I’d been fighting it for about four days, and was almost feeling better, when it struck and went from 0-90, in terms of severity, in about 3 hours. I woke up that morning bright and lucid, planning my packing, when by lunch time I was curled up in bed, delirious with a massive fever, a heavily clogged throat and a painful chest. I briefly contemplated cancelling the trip, but instead dragged my butt to the closest Chinese restaurant, loaded myself up on hot soup, doubled up on the antibiotics and paracetamol, packed my bags and hi the sack.

I made it to Bangalore and had an excellent trip after all. But before I left, I managed to pass on a little dose of the bug to VC, who fell ill right after I left. Nice and snot-filled, very eventful few days we had there.

As for the writing, it’s been a month of taking stock, reining in many pending payments and planning for the weeks to come. I had some moments of an audacious confidence I didn’t know I had. And I dug deeper to a level of perseverance I haven’t allowed myself to experience before. After pitching a publication four times, to no response, since the start of the year, I finally broke in with an essay I wrote for World Menstrual Hygiene Day. Whadya know? Fifth time’s a charm sometimes!

I completed ten whole years since I started writing this blog. I realised suddenly that it is absolutely the only pursuit that has held my attention. As a space to channel my writing, a journal in which to scribble every day, it’s really played a vital role in shaping my interest in writing. So I hope it continues to manifest more wonderful opportunities than my limited imagination allows me to perceive right now.

I’m at the brink of some exciting changes and witnessing a coming together of unlikely varied parts. There’s a bit of waiting involved, and as usual that part is the hardest. I have to constantly remind myself to slow down, stay calm and most importantly breathe. All I want in this time of navigating the possibilities is some restraint and a little bit of grace to make sure I don’t get ahead of myself as is known to happen when I am excited.

Day 130: April

In a little under 60 days we’ll have crossed the halfway mark of 2016. It shouldn’t come as a surprise since I’m literally numbering the days right here (also can’t believe I made it to 130 days, zomg). But it is getting a bit tiring to repeat the omg-this-year-is-zipping-by spiel, but really. I mean, reallyThis year has zipped by like no other. The busier months amplify that feeling, I suppose. And April was one such month, giving me no time to transition from the lean, easy months at the start of the year to the madness that April brought. It was like being strapped in a rollercoaster and having someone press go when I wasn’t looking.

It’s that odd feeling, quite like I imagine the shifting of time from being a solid dot suspended in mid air, on days trapped in a kind of ennui that ensures nothing moves, to suddenly liquefying in an instant and thrashing around, swiftly sploshing about like the contents of a bottle lying sideways in the backseat of a speeding vehicle.

April was hectic. It was good, though. Mainly it was about a lot of hard work, and I should I have known this when the month began with this insanely busy day that set the tone for things to come.

It has been an immensely satisfying month, as far as work goes. I broke into more than one new publication, pushed things a notch up by cracking an essay that meant a lot to me personally. Got a leading Indian newspaper to ask me to write a first person account and lend a piece my voice. I also bagged a new big and what could potentially be a steady monthly gig which turned out to be really fun. Fingers crossed I am able to keep the momentum going.

April had its fair share of specially memorable moments because of all the newness. There was this experience like never before, working with an editor who, based on my experience, seems like a figment of my imagination of all the best things one hopes for in an editor put together in one person.

There was the week where I had not one, not two, but three new pieces come out in quick succession.

There was the writing of the essay that was a bit of a personal victory for me. But even more bizarre was what happened once it was published and out there. Shortly after I wrote that post about the aftermath, this happened and blew my mind a little. Just a little. Enough for me to shut down the internet for the day and go nap for a very, very long time.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 12.41.18 PM

Nostalgia-tinged happiness ran right through April. I realised I’m closing in on 10 years of blogging this month. The day I realised it, I fished through the archives and looked at posts from that same day, going back five years and it made for a fun throwback. I also recollected our trip to Sri Lanka by reliving it through VC’s holiday video from our vacation exactly a year ago. There was a significant amount of cycling time achieved.

Yeah, it was a high action, high contentment month. Despite work being hectic and full, things balanced out a bit, because April was also a month of being surrounded by friends. N came to spend a weekend that was mostly spend talking and eating. Non stop and in that order. And it was awesome, awesome, awesome. I realised after she had left that she is probably the only friend from all the way back in school, who I am still in touch with. That we could meet, hang out, share so much and discover so many things in common again, despite the years and distance that stood between us for so long, was immensely gratifying. I have always said the people who are in my life for a reason, who matter and with whom I choose to nurture ongoing relationships can be counted on one hand, and this is certainly one of those friendships for me.

There was some local wandering and the one day I chose to shut shop and relax when things felt like they were going to overflow.

And then there was the birthday weekend shenanigans that ended with me turning a year older, and definitely happier and more content.

There is a lot to be said for friendships that allow for incessant chatter, as much as they do for a comfortable peace and quiet, perfectly exemplified by the fact that every night of the weekend ended with us fading away into quietness but still lingering around in a comfortable quietude. Only until the sleepiest of us three would unabashedly excuse herself and put herself to bed (yes, you know who you are!), while the other two chatted away into the night in hushed whispers.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 10.11.50 PM

It’s a kind of comfort I have so far only had with family. And that was one of the biggest reinforcements for me. April reaffirmed a lot of my thoughts about friendship and sisterhood. A very specific relation pattern that I often find myself in, became very apparent. I may have even understood why I choose the kind of friends I do and in many ways it also explains why I fall out with as many people as I do, with such an alarming frequency. Most of all, I may have finally, really understood the place of friendship in my life, and hence no longer feel too upset when some relationships end.

I got a good glimpse of what it really sets enduring friendships apart from the fleeting ones that come and go, or the ones that exist in the periphery and sometimes serve a very perfunctory, short-lived purpose. I really must complete the post I have started writing before the thoughts swim so deep into my brain where they get really comfortable and it gets hard to pull them back out again.

I woke up on Monday after the birthday chaos, ready to take on a new week, new month, only to collapse into a complete fatigue-induced lethargy that made everything slow down so bad. Try as I might, the retrograde and the fatigue caused by the heat and the lack of sleep from last week kept me from functioning as I would have liked to. And before I knew it the weekend had rolled on again. Zippity, zip, zip.

I want May to zip by too. There is a trip to Bangalore I am looking forward to, after which I should be back in Goa hopefully in time for the first rains. April, thank you for the highs, the memories, the love and the incredibly memorable birthday, but I’m so ready to say goodbye and move on from this godawful summer.

Day 95: March

The first few months of every year always have that crunchy freshness of wrapping paper stretched over a new present. You can either delicately tear away along the cello-tape neatly, slowly unwrapping the contents that lie beneath it, or you can rummage at it with the frenzy of a young child newly in possession of a shiny gift.

I think I did a bit of both with the first three months of the year. It feels squeaky new still, and some of my friends and I are *still* wishing each other happy new year and giggling every time we do it, like a bunch of teenagers. But there were days in between when time rushed by hungrily consuming me in it’s hectic flow. After a deliberately slow January and an easy February of dragging my feet back to some form of productivity and routine, March has surged ahead and filled itself out like a hungry piggie on a mission to get fat.

My work calendar got chalked out so full, so quick. I only realised it when I revamped this spreadsheet that I use to tally my invoices and accounts, such that it now also tells me the quantum of work I pitch, finish and bill for, in any given month. I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier because goddamn I have worked a lot this month and it wasn’t even one of my busiest months.

I got a lot of invites to food events. It’s completely, ridiculously ironic, the sheer volume of PR invites that now reach me, because it’s a time when I feel like I’ve been there, done it too much and I no longer actively want to cover events, unless it’s something ridiculously compelling or can be a part of a larger food story than just a restaurant review or listicle. Part of it is because I’m oh so blooming bored of what is expected of a “food writer,” and part of it is also because I’ve been feeling seriously anti-social. My new challenge is to up the ante for myself and I’ve made baby steps by pitching new publications, and pitching wider than Goa-based stories.

As for feeling anti-social, it’s not so much a new feeling as a re-surfacing of an old and familiar one. I pondered a lot about peace and quiet and despite all that was happening, I managed to surround myself in the quietude. I barely got out, haven’t socialised, except until my folks arrived. It worked well because it was perfectly timed with my attempts to cut excess alcohol and sugar from my life, which meant we didn’t go out to eat that much anyway.

I’m also working out like a maniac. But even with all of that squished into it, March had balance. It’s been a peacefully busy month. There was some contemplation about life and about work, there was some clarity in slowly overcoming my inability to say no, and there were confessions and realisations.

And then, there was the bicycle. OH, the bicycle. And the newfound love to be out there, bicycling. Fitness aside, it feels like a step up in unlearning the fear I’ve harboured about being out in the open, reclaiming space, a new activity, a different kind of freedom. VC bought me the cycle in March, but I’m taking it as an early birthday present and I can already tell it will be one of the best gifts of the year. And I don’t mean just the gift of the cycle itself, I gift that is the sense of liberation, the adrenalin rush, the newness and the geekery surrounding it, being able to enjoy something with VC again – all of it.

I have continued to write a lot more. Cannot believe I reached the 80 post, pretty much without too many breaks. I wrote a lot more haikus, and not just to fill in the posts. What I didn’t do too much of in March however, was doodle. S sent me a gorgeous calligraphy set that I was so touched by. I opened it very enthusiastically, but got so intimidated by the paraphernalia that I packed it away all too soon. I need to get down to experimenting a little. I also didn’t read all that much, but here’s what I did read and manage to finish:

How To Sell Yourself, by Joe Girard based on VC’s recommendation, and all our conversations about my general struggles in owning up to what I am good at and selling my skills shamelessly and effortlessly. It was an easy read, perhaps all too easy, but didn’t do much for me because it’s a brand of self-help I cannot warm up to. Too much hard-sell, too much simplistic you-can-do-anything-you-put-your-mind-to kind of mumbo-jumbo which ultimately feels like common sense being peddled attractively. Also so hugely rooted in The American Dream, I couldn’t relate to the theme at the heart of it.

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Adichie which I finished in an hour, only to realise it is also a TED talk I could have just watched. But no harm done, because it puts into succinct essay-form, the definition of feminism and what it means for us personally, on a daily level. It lists out real situations of inequality and discrimination faced by women like you and me, in our families, at work, in the cities we live in, while travelling. Very relatable situations, completely honest examples that make you feel like the women in the essay could very well be you, and a very, easy conversational style make this a good essay to read and digest.

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain that I wrote about here, which was so revelatory. It was like unwrapping and understanding a side of me I have never quite made complete peace with. By making introversion just another state of normal, it has made it okay and desirable for me. It helped me understand many difficult situations I have been in, caused by my introversion that is often dismissed or misinterpreted as timidity, snobbery or shyness. For a long time I have felt that I need to embrace my quiet side, accepting it as the way I am, with love and grace. But the general expectation is to fight it and replace it with an extra gregarious personality, and therein has always been my tussle. Reading this book turned that switch off for good. I now not only understand the ambivert that I am that much better, but I love and appreciate wholly, the introvert that VC is. This book has definitely made me look at his personality with a little more kindness than I have extended to him. And for that, it has strengthened the equation between us.

It’s the last few weeks before my birthday arrives, just around the corner. And that is inevitably what marks the turn around the halfway mark of the year for me, in my head of course. This is the general and brief course of every new year: NYE, January panic, February laziness, March frenzy, April anticipation, May birthday, four months of monsoon, an all too short “winter”, Christmas, NYE. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So yeah, the year is whizzing by on cue. Predictably.

Day 60: February

The beginning of any new year always brings with it the renewed excitement that with every month that I countdown, I am inching closer to another birthday. So February 1st saw me do a happy dance. Also because the sister came to visit that week. She has been my most ardent and oft-returning houseguest yet. In all the years we have lived in Goa, she has visited a minimum of three times every year, if not more, and usually stayed for leisurely, long periods of time. Having family over is wonderfully different from entertaining guests and having a sibling (if your siblings are anything like mine is) over takes that to another level. Ask VC – he bears the brunt of it.

This time though, she visited after an unbelievable (and shameful, if you ask me!) gap of a whole year, thanks to being employed, which also meant she was on a tighter schedule a had a return date that was too close for comfort. So in that sense, this trip was different from most others, where we relax and go about our days without much planning. Instead, this time around we had the trip chockfull of things to do, places to go and things to eat, almost every day. We visited our favourites – The Black Sheep Bistro, Ritz Classic, Bodega and Thai n Wok. But we also visited Ruta’s Roadhouse, following the trail all the way to Assagaon where the newest outlet is now housed. I’m a diehard fan of not just Ruta’s idea of bistro-style food with the chunky, filling portions, exciting and unexpected combinations of local produce cleverly used in a continental/bistro style, but just the palpable passion that goes into each of her eateries. I love a cafe that has feel, and for me walking into one that encourages you to sit a while longer, stay and chat, drink cup after cup of brilliantly brewed black coffee, is a serious deal-breaker.

So we had a lovely day of food and drink, which extended into lounging around while I got some writing done and Niyu worked on some drawing. It was interspersed with some chitter chatter with Ruta, over black coffee, which is always such a pleasure.

We experienced the Carnival in all its colourful splendour with music, dance, cocktails and Goan grub. Ever since the opening of MOG (Museum Of Goa), I was keen to take Niyu there, so we made a day trip of it, topping it off with some wandering up north – checking out the People Tree store too.  And then we took off for the last weekend before she went back to Bombay to hit the beach. Headed Mandrem-wards, we stayed at Vaayu Ocean Adventures but spent the day at Pink Orange a beach-shack/restaurant in Morjim. Delicious vegetarian menu for a change, but it did not disappoint. I had a veggie thali (!) and it was loaded with a hearty dal, rice, salad, palak paneer and a semi-saucy, spicy brinjal and potato sabji. After lounging in the sun drinking as much beer as we did, it hit the spot. Dinner was at the newly opened cafe/restaurant at Vaayu, called Prana – and the meal deserves a post of its own.

Unbelievably exciting flavours, creative combinations and just delicious food that really looks and tastes like its been put together with utmost thought and care. I love meals that come together like that. They also made me the most insane Gin-based cocktail with freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, lemon juice and lots of ice. It. Hit. The. Spot.

Actually the deets about Vaayu require a post, or a full-length feature too if someone will let me write it for them. We stayed in a rustic, but very clean stilted hit that overlooked the river as it meets the sea. Vaayu is a fabulous surf-school that offers a seriously formidably large bouquet of water-sport options including surfing, kayaking, and so many things I didn’t even know were possible in Goa. Lessons from professionals, equipment, super funky inviting vibe it also doubles up as a space for artists in residence, and has a gorgeous, expansive gallery area where they have regular events like movie screenings, art shows and music/theatre events. I loved the sense of community – super cheerful and helpful staff with a deliberate effort to go out of their way to make your stay not just comfortable, but memorable. If you’re the adventurous water-sport types, definitely check them out. And even if you’re not, like me, it’s a great place to camp out for the weekend with an agenda to do nothing. Like I did. We did nothing adventurous or oceanic, apart from lie on the beach, watch the sea, feel the sand and chill.

draw

I read my book, watched a lot of incredibly cute babies, made some observations about the crowd that now hits the beaches of the far North, drank a lot of Bira and ate some spectacular food.

I hit a serious funk when Niyu left and it took me a good few days to crawl out of it. Clearly the highlight of the month, and thankfully I had no work and commitments to distract me from all the bonding and fun time. Apart from that, here’s what I did:

Watched: Niyu and I watched some Chef’s Table, and while I can never tire of it, I think it can be a little intense and in-part academic for others who might not be as inclined. I also finished watching Orange Is The New Black, which had its ups and downs. I raced through seasons 1 and 2 wondering why I hadn’t watched the show earlier. Just when I was hooked good and proper, season 3 began with a serious slump. Why do all good shoes have that inevitable, almost predictable dip? Till about episode 6 I plodded along and wondered where it was going and if it will ever pick up. At episode 7 I was about to throw in the towel, when suddenly things looked up again. And how. I loved the way the season shaped up and the finale was wonderfully hopeful, making me smile.

Piper, the protagonist, continues to piss the daylights out of me with her obnoxious, selfish, and utterly dimwitted personality. I find her character so dull and uninteresting and can almost feel how much effort goes into keeping her alive and active at the centre of things. She is so easily overshadowed though, not just by more powerful characters with far more compelling sub-plots than her own, but by some brilliant performances by some of the other actors that just gobble her insipid, pale acting.

The excessive white-ness of the overall plot-line still doesn’t sit well with me, and I find myself getting worked up at the blatant racism at several points, but I realise that is the point of those specific developments. Perhaps if Piper wasn’t such a cliched blonde, White American yuppie, I would be able to get over it faster.

Now I have to wait until June to see season 4. Ugh.

I was all set to watch Parks and Recreation and Arrested Development next, based on reccos from friends who know whatkind of show I enjoy. But Netflix in India is controlled, and only showcases about 1/4th the entire library. So yeah, us desis have to wait. On the upside, Michael Pollan’s Cooked began here too, so I’m watching that.

I watched Neerja, which quite unexpectedly reduced me to a puddle of tears. I cannot stomach Sonam Kapoor’s acting on a good day, but she was pleasantly surprising – not her usual, nasal and annoying avatar, with a compelling performance. I went because I have always been curious about the events of the Pan Am crash, and I’m a sucker for people stories, especially those centred around strong women characters. I liked the way it was filmed, the plot was measured and not over-done on any account. It had the deadly combination of a woman playing a brave heart, national pride, motherly love and a love lost – that should explain the tears. A post coming up on this, perhaps because some rumination made me realise I’d rank Neerja along with Queen and NH10.

Read: I picked up A Handbook For My Lover, by Rosalyn D’Mello at the start of the month. The book has enough going for it – it’s raw, honest, seduces you with the language and some beautifully crafted lines that instantly evoke images in your mind – but I was a little bored with the format. Either there wasn’t enough meat in it to hold my attention or the pattern it uses to unwrap the memoir didn’t work for me, I’m not quite sure. It started off very engaging, and petered into a lull about 70 pages in, only to pick up in the last 3-4 chapters again. In between, it falls into a predictable loop and I guess for an erotic memoir – I was expecting a build up, a plot that very definitely leads somewhere, progressively growing for one of the characters – chronicling their time together from point a to b. But that movement was missing and the content just felt repetitive. I put it away briefly, almost giving up on it, but eventually picked it up one slow afternoon, spent in bed listening to my Grandpa’s music. About 3/4ths of the way in there is a mention of the protagonist and her lover being together for 6 years, and that’s when it hit me. The patterns in the writing are so repetitive that I hadn’t even got a sense of progression of time, let alone anything else. At the end D’Mello also says she herself had withdrawn from the book while writing it and came back to write the last few chapters after a short break of sorts. I think the energy dipping and picking up at the end again, reflects that.

Eventually, I finished it. While it didn’t leave me wowed or amazed, I think it is a commendable debut, for it’s choice of genre, and it is undeniably erotic and raw, with more than a few parts that will linger on in your mind. For that, I’d recommend it. It is a breezy read, so if you do pick it up, I’d be keen to know what you think of it.

I struggled with fitness this month. I thought I’d finally found my rhythm but I realise I’m still looking for that good fit of activities that will break my plateau. I tried to be as regular as I could and felt deflated when I realised I’ve reached a point where I give in to the temptation to skip a workout so easily. This has been a sign for a need for change and so I’m switching things around again. Fingers crossed.

I didn’t draw too much this month, because it was a busy time with very little time spent at my desk or at leisure. I did however manage to stick to blogging every single weekday, and I am frankly a little amazed at myself for sticking it out to day 60! I also wrote a lot of haikus, found myself suddenly feeling very inspired and unable to keep up with the lines that blossomed in my mind. I took to noting them down in my phone, and slowly putting them down here.

February was a lot more settled compared to the upheaval that January brought. Emotionally, I’m still a bit knackered and I have my off days, but overall I feel a lot more in control. I’ve started picking up work again and I’m going to work the pace up from here. Like I said earlier this year, onwards and upwards, it is.

Day 33: January

I blinked, and January has passed. In a flash seems about right, when I think about how to describe it. Odd, because it was a stagnant month, and not much happened on the outside. I was mostly disinterested, but restless. I was eager, but felt crippled. I slowed down on work, choosing not to actively didn’t seek new assignments, because I was just about managing to keep my head up enough to see the commitments on hand to the end. Even the projects that were otherwise fun and engaging were beginning to get to me. A head full of questions and no answers in sight can only be pushed aside so much. And this was a long time coming, so by the end of the month, when everything related to work really began to weigh me down, I realised I could push it no more.

In another classic me move, I swung from one extreme of working madly to the other – giving it all up to start from scratch. So that’s where I am at now. Making measured baby steps.

But what else did I do in January? (Apart from feeling restless, hating the waiting and feeling like I have having a shit, shit month.)

Watched: Netflix came to India and opened up a whole new world for us, given that we live without cable TV for the most part. I watched Aziz Ansari’s Master Of None which came highly recommended by S. I loved it for its simplicity, warm fuzzies-inducing take on everyday stuff like work struggles, food, dating, co-habiting and many things that people in their 30s can relate to. It’s straight-forward, funny, relatable and just the kind of consumption I like – 10-episode season, 30 minutes each, and nicely made too.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is a Netflix documentary about the Indian culture of arranged marriage. Again, it came recommended by N, so I got around to watching it. I was equal parts amused and angry by the end of it. Amused because it’s always enlightening to get a peek into the minds and lives of your fellow Indians, with whom you feel like you share so much in common, but you also realise how you couldn’t be more different. Angry because the film left me furious not so much at the meaninglessness of the system and the marriage “market” (which I will admit, I can try and see the advantages of) but the reactions and thought processes of some of the men. And consequently, the women they marry. Obvious debates about arranged marriage aside, the movie left me questioning the institution of marriage itself. In recent times, I’ve seen relationships crumble for a variety of reasons and increasingly I’m beginning to question the importance we attach to finding a lifelong mate and binding ourselves to it. Instead my take has been more aligned to the the belief that it is not for everybody. That it works excellently well for some, is no sign that it must be the universal aspiration for us as a race.

Begin Again  is a rom-com with Keira Knightly and HUBBAHUBBA Mark Ruffalo and I was interested in watching it  because of the setting and plot – budding singer, song writer in search of herself, meets failed producer and they Begin Again. It was a lovely light hearted film, and I enjoyed it even more because it didn’t go the conventional rom-com route, had an open ending, and they’re both such lovely, real actors. At the end, I realised it was co-written (I think) by Judd Apatow, and that explained a lot of things. And why I liked it too. Also, lots of Mark Ruffalo being an angst-written passionate musician to see. And he’s topless in the very first scene. So. Yeah. Mark Ruffalo.

Read: After last year’s abysmal reading habit, I’m slowly getting myself back on track by making sure to read a little everyday, even if it is for 10 minutes before bedtime. On the upside, I found I chose reading over work, TV and going out more often than not. But it was slowly unfolding effort, and most attempts ended very quickly with sleep taking over.

I chose a simple, but by no means light, read and managed to finish it very quickly. This restlessness I’ve been going on and on about started to really rise to the surface around November last year, and when none of the small external changes I was making seemed to make a difference, I began to look inward quite spontaneously. This is something I haven’t actively done in a very long time so I was a) a little taken aback at myself b) pleased that maybe this was a natural sign of what I need to focus on more. When things come spontaneously, I tend to take them a lot more seriously than when enforced by an external force. Some events occurred around that time too, for VC and I, which made me sit up and accept that perhaps the answers I am seeking aren’t really obvious and won’t be found in places I was looking for them. I re-started a meditation practice I had near abandoned about 7 years and have been consciously looking inwards and trying to get to the root of everything I am feeling, my reactions to situations and relationships and my attitude to every day things that happen to me.

As I usually do, I shared all these experiences with N, who recommended reading this book she’s mentioned to me before. But something about the way she said I think this is the perfect time for you to read this made me want to pick it up immediately. It helps that it is a short, simple read, so great for someone restlessly seeking answers, and/or getting back to the reading habit.

Then she wrote a lovely post here that only reaffirmed my feelings. So I started and finished The Untethered Soul, by Michael A. Singer, and it couldn’t have come to me at a better time. I’ve always found modern spirituality book titles so fluffy and hard to relate to. Nebulous concepts, wrapped up in ambiguous, loaded words that actually mean very little when it comes to our daily lives. But I was pleasantly surprised with this book. A lot of it was good timing, because I’m increasingly learning the immense power of how everything has a time and a place. That I have been dealing with a lot of the questions the book deals with, in my own mind, is probably why N recommended it to me.

The book talks about spiritual growth, understanding things that we all deal with: fear, insecurity, disappointment, rejection, anger, frustration, inexplicable highs, satisfaction, joy and so much more. It has helped me understand a lot of what I have felt in recent time. It’s provided solace at a time when I was questioning every decision, second guessing my relationships, feeling fearful and unable to let things go and move forward.

It ultimately is a book about trying to slow down, listen carefully to what your mind is actually trying to tell you. It emphasises the power of every little thought and feeling we experience and the capacity of our heart and brain (the spirit) to give us some of the most important clues about who we are as individuals. The book has guided me to watch my emotions, my reactions to situations, understand my innermost feelings in dead simple, almost too simplistic at times, language, devoid of the usual mumbo-jumbo I was expecting. The process is continuous, of course, but I couldn’t have arrived at it on my own, unless I read something or spoke to someone who spelt it out like this book does.

If you’re seeking spiritual growth, trying to understand what’s going on in your mind, want a little peace and clarity and have come to believe that it can only be achieved by realigning your mind, this is a good book to read.

Did: I resumed exercise with a renewed commitment in January. It came back with a bang when I realised I was feeling unhealthy despite everything I was doing. I realised I hadn’t consumed a single fruit in about 4 months, simply because I have been too busy to notice. I immediately fixed those little things this month – easily done. Started stocking fruit again, getting my help to chop them up so I have absolutely no excuses to keep myself form eating them! And I have started pushing myself to be regular with exercise again.

Another big improvement is I started enjoying cooking my everyday meals again. An activity I loved and sought like solace, had been relegated to a 20-minute chore that was done with the intention to just get it done quickly rather than with a focus on the outcome. I’ve ignored this for a whole year now, and I know it has shown on the quality of the meals we’ve been eating at home. When my mind is restless it invariably shows in my actions and it’s reflected in my kitchen too. Haphazard shopping trips, badly planned menus, distasteful meals and close to no socialising that involved having people over and cooking for them. I’m starting with cooking well for ourselves again, before I try and get folks to come home again!

I’ve doodled a mad, crazy amount in January and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected it to. An activity that was meant to just empty my mind out has become something more, and that’s the stuff of an entirely different post that I will get to soon.

Apart from that I managed to write a little something everyday and go to the beach a lot more this month, and since they’re things I want to do more this year, that’s two more big ticks for me.

January was pretty shit, but I’m in a better headspace, and a better place overall than at the start of the month. So I’m going to count on that. Leaving you with a song I’ve had on loop a lot this month. Something about the monkeys in the video makes me really, really happy.