Renewed relationships

It’s easy to get that comfortable in a relationship that we feel we have each other all figured out. And maybe we do, to a large extent.

If there’s one thing spending these past 6 weeks in Goa with VC has shown me, it is how refreshing it to also allow for growth, evolution and surprises from your significant other. I’ve been so consumed in my own growth, so much so that I had to physically remove myself from our partnered life and live separately, that I may have forgotten that the space and time apart could have done him wonders too.

In our eleventh year of being married, and almost thirteenth of being together, I’m surprised, humbled and so grateful that there is room for freshness, still. For surprises, for new developments, for renewed excitement, and the possibility of uncharted territory opening up once again.

I did not see this coming. But somehow, here we are.

There’s a lot of surprises that came from this trip. All totally unexpected, some very wild, but I think this has been my favourite surprise of them all.

One year ago: April

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New ground

It’s going to be six months since VC moved to Goa and I decided to stay on in Bangalore. I have travelled here a lot, and we have actually not been apart for very long periods during this time. But even so, I feel it has impacted us in many positive ways.

Sometimes I feel I cannot get enough of this solitary life and I lose myself in thoughts about the future, the worry that this blissful new-found joy will come to a premature end eating me up. But there are also moments when I miss the everyday togetherness of our life, the comfort and intimacy of a life together, the familiarity in a rhythm that renders words redundant, makes mere movements suffice, and I long to be with VC enough to want to impulsively buy an overpriced ticket to fly off immediately.

I suppose those are the two most obvious, yet opposing feelings. They both exist, and accepting that two equally has been a journey in itself. Nonetheless, this time away and apart has been transformative for me. I have had the luxury of a support system, a city that I have grown to love and that really works for me just now, three homes to choose from, and abundant company and bodies around me whether or not loneliness strikes. VC on the other hand, has lived the truly solitary life, shuttling between work and his home-for-one, and pretty much staying afloat all on his own in the way he knows how. The experiences and effects of each have been drastically different for the both of us.

Our lives now look entirely different. Not just from the way they used to be when we lived together, but also from the way each others lives as individuals are. And one of the things I have enjoyed observing is how far apart our disparate lives can and have moved. Conversely, thoughts about whether they might meet again, and when and how that might be, follow close after.

Back in 2016 when we first contemplated the idea of living apart to see what a little space could do for us, VC was the first to suggest it. I wanted to move to another country and VC was undecided. I wasn’t entirely ready for the distance. I was open, but apprehensive. I’ve ended potential relationships in the past because long distance relationships frightened the hell out of me. So to actively choose this of our own volition, when it would be the easiest thing for us to just be together has been interesting.

As I work on myself, I’m slowly discovering the many, many misconceptions I have about the idea of space. In life, in relationships, in my physical world. What it is to give and take emotional space? How can I make space for love change and growth and all the many things I want in my life, even as I give of myself to people and things around me? As I navigate my way, finding new sense and context to the aspect of space, I realise the work is in finding what works for the person I am today.

I’ve watched in fascination as the changes have slowly crept in. Into my life, into some key relationships in my life, into my marriage, and certainly into my physical world too. Whether it’s the little act of taking up two cupboards instead of one, or going out all on my own, how I carry myself, how I feel within the space my body occupies, or feeling unabashedly, righteously upset to have the flow of my routine upset by this unexpected travel — I’m seeing surprising shifts all the time.

***

The predominant reason for the muddle of anxiety and fear that I have unconsciously harboured over the last few weeks has been the sinking feeling (almost a premonition) that sooner or later something will happen to make me move to Goa. And it’s something I am not ready to do, yet. I’m not done soaking up all the space I’ve made for myself. Whether physically — enjoying living alone, exploring my city and my interests on my own, travelling, or even emotionally and spiritually — experiencing what it is to be alone sometimes, lonely sometimes, how it is to be tethered to relationships even as I hold my space and play with re-making  boundaries in this new reality.

In essence, this time apart has given me the space to be me again. The me I’d blended away and mushed up into marital roles, gender stereotypes, stuffed into the only kind of life I knew to live in Goa (where my adult and partnered lives both really began). The time apart has given me the space to dig out old facets of me that lay in hibernation, and it has given life to new facets to emerge, alike. Sometimes, on an idle moment when I catch myself saying or doing something I would deem so “uncharacteristic” of me, I take myself by surprise. Quickly, I remind myself that perhaps this is in fact not our of character at all. It is characteristic of the me I am now.

The claiming of space, cultivating it and nurturing it slowly over the last many months has been precious. Through therapy, writing and constant witnessing of my life, I have built this step by step. And I’m only getting started,

So the fear is real. The fear 0f having to lose this new, hard-won space, freedom and being, so quickly. I’ve only just dipped my toes in, and I want to deep dive in this, still. So the question arises again — when and how will our disparate lives meet again? And can they meet without either of us blending away into each other once again? What impact could a life bound by a certain geography (Goa) have on me? Will it bring back the inherent compromises to my life that it did back then? Or will this new me navigate these same spaces differently this time around?

***

Just two days ago when I was experiencing heightened anxiety, I felt hollowed out and like I was melting away, at the mere thought of what this sudden trip to Goa means, and if maybe it’s the beginning of the inevitable move that looms large. As I fought it hard and even as I found myself digging my heels in, I had vivid images of having to jump back into a life and an existence that feels so small and constricted, that I wanted to do nothing but dissolve and disappear through the gaps and cracks.

But the new me has surprised me yet again. Just two days of being here already, there has surprisingly been no talk of moving back (in a hurry or otherwise). I find myself at peace. Where I felt hollow and like I was dissolving, I now feel full and alive. The shaky ground beneath my feet now feels solid and sturdy. I’m here now. I don’t have to run.

In the smallest ways, I can feel my body adapting to what it is to really be with someone, to share space, without having to dissolve myself or melt away to make space. I’m discovering what it is to be a support for another, without destabilising myself, how it’s possible to relate but not at the expense of myself. I can be whole, even as I am with the other. I can be myself, even as I am being there for the other. And what a frighteningly refreshing way to be this is.

For now, I’m taking small sips at it, rather than rushing to gulp this experience down greedily. I’m taking tender, gentle steps, my body slowly taking shape and space, yet again. I feel like this is a whole new opportunity to grow, yet again.

One year ago: March
Three years ago: Because everything is never as it seems

Day 251: It’s just the nearness of you (Ten)

For several reasons of late, VC, I’ve been feeling a sense of perspective about the passage of time, about my age, about how far I’ve come. The trouble is I don’t normally register these things on a regular basis. Who does? 18 years since I finished school, 13 years since my first job and since I first met you, 10 years since we’ve been married.

10. TEN!

Let that sink in a little. Like it did for me. Because the thing is, when time zips by like it does but the more things seem to change, the more the stay the same. And so, I don’t register how long it has been. So many things about us are just the way they were 10, 11, 12 years ago. And I’ve said that many, many times before. That it just doesn’t feel all that long.

It doesn’t. But this isn’t about what it doesn’t feel like. It’s about all that does feel like. All that is has felt like this past year. Selfishly, this year has been the year I singlemindedly focused on me. On myself alone, more than us. From being the reason for uprooting us and moving from Goa to Bangalore, to ditching nearly all my “responsibilities” about the house,  just going about doing everything that I wanted to for myself, this is the year I didn’t pay too much attention to us.

It’s entirely the headspace I’ve been in for nearly two years now, and our marriage has really experienced the ripple effects of it all. But here’s what I do know for sure. I couldn’t have done any of this — embarked on this completely self-serving, self-centred journey — if it weren’t for us and how comfortable I feel to be me, in this marriage first.

If my own journey has been about coming into my own, oddly being with you has given me the best space to live it. Our marriage will always be the first space where I learnt to be myself this year, wholly, completely and imperfectly.

Suddenly ten years begins to feel like a lot when I measure it in the comfort that I feel.

I went through a phase where I believed relationships shouldn’t take work. That if they’re demanding hard-work and more effort than joy, there must be something wrong that needs inspection. This year really made me eat those very words. Because this year, our marriage really made us work.

Ten years begins to feel like a lot when I think about how much work it’s taken to get here.

Relationships take work. Doing the work doesn’t have to be at the cost of joy, is all. Something I’ve also learned from you this year. Sure, the exact instances of painfully etching out our individual spaces in this relationship might have be full of pain, rage, loud arguments and cold silences, and maybe we both have awful memories from those times, but it has been such a joy working this out with you. Because it’s given our relationship a sense of life and agility. An always moving, ever-changing quality that defies settling.

It feels solid and safe to do this with you. And ten years begins to feel like a lot when I measure it in this safety.

This year, more than every before, as I made my own journey of self-discovery and realisations. It means I told you umpteen times that we married too soon. That in hindsight, I should have waited a while. That maybe we didn’t give ourselves time and space to bloom as individuals.

I’ve even gone so far as to say I lost some very significant parts of my self to my marriage, and the early years of being together. That I’ve forgotten what it was to be me, or who I really am outside of the roles that marriage brought to my personality. And finally, we’ve even discussed how some part of putting those pieces back together means I want to live alone, away from you for a while.

None of this has been easy of course. It’s all very well for me to sum it up in a paragraph or post, but that is a collapsed, neatly-packed version of many, many months of conversations, of learning on the go, of fiddling around with the mechanics of us. The constant work.

Even the space and silences we have learnt to give each other, has taken work. This year more than ever, I took the liberty to occupy all the emotional space in our equation. I needed it and I greedily went in and grabbed it. Sometimes walking all over you, in the bargain.

I know for sure how I’d react and how I have in fact reacted, when roles have been reversed, and it is not pretty. I have not extended nearly half the grace and understanding that you have to me, and that makes me feel extremely lucky.

Ten years feels like a lot when I think about how relaxed I have become. How many of my peeves I’ve overcome. How easy it is with you.

And then there is the bedrock of honesty and vulnerability that we both treasure and hold so valuable. It’s allowed me, and you, to bring our worst versions of ourselves to the table, not a luxury one has with too many people. And somehow, it’s the worst, hardest moments of the last 18 odd months that stand out as moments of strength. We may have been broken, but I’ve been held by an inner solidity and quiet confidence that we’ve got this, every single one of those times.

This was the year I’ve experienced the most flux in terms of people. Almost as many people have left my life, as new ones have come in. It’s been high-energy and high-activity in this regard. I have had more than my fair share of moments of abject loneliness and disconnection, and even at the worst of it, I have always had you. Because of what we share within, and what we have shared and cultivated this year. Together. The clarity about what is important, that openness to accept that everything changes, that it is not worth settling, and the permission to absolutely change our minds no matter how frequent or unsettling that may be.

Ten years feels like so much, when I realise it’s a almost a third of my entire life. The years I’ve spent figuring myself out, I’ve spent with you. And I really couldn’t have done it if we didn’t see eye to eye.

With so much going on with me, and so much of it reflected on our marriage, I sometimes balk when I think about how much I have changed as a person, from the person I was in 2008. I’m literally a whole new person in every sense possible.

The other day, I wondered, if I am a whole new person, how is it that you still love me?

As I’ve reworked so many of my own beliefs about me, myself, my body, gender and sexuality, the institute of marriage itself, it took tearing down and rebuilding what I feel about our marriage too, it’s take a hell of a lot of effort to walk the talk and bring all that I was feeling, into my life with you.

I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t believe you had my back. That you’d stay. That you’d be on board with me. In fact you’ve been so instrumental in encouraging me to be free to change my mind, to reimagine my reality and to give every little whim a chance to fly.

This year, I’ve learned what it is to uncouple. The importance of letting go, even as we remain together. That we don’t have to constantly agree, do the same things, want the same things and always be together in more ways than one, to feel like a unit.

Ten years feels like a lot when I try and measure the togetherness I feel so deep within.

As we begin this 11th year, I have a hunch that it features a lot of time apart. Somehow, that makes me feel immensely close to you. Yet free. And what an absolutely lucky place to be, that is.

Thank you for ten years of joy, VC.

Every time that I have had to take a leap, make a go for it, jump. I know I have you, no matter what the outcome. It’s what keeps me afloat.

It’s ironic, but it took a year spent so fiercely being just me, to realise how much I love and cherish what I have with you. And that’s really it.

I love you.

One year ago: Nine
Two years ago: Day 251: August

Past anniversaries: nine, eightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Nine

Nine. NINE! VC, it’s been nine years. I remember writing this post, overwhelmed that we’d hit the half-decade mark, like it was just yesterday. And this morning, I pointed out that today we’ve officially entered the double-digits. Next year it will be a decade since we got married.

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. It’s a old and overused cliche, but I can’t think of a better way to describe what it’s like being married to you. The change bit holds only too true for the past year. 2016-17 will go down as the year everything changed. Our professional paths, the painful changes in the run up to accepting that we’d have to leave Goa, moving back to Bangalore, figuring stuff out in the city once again, all the teething issues – physically and emotionally, setting up your new business — never before have we experienced such a huge quantum of change in such a short span of time.

You know what else changed this year? Our communication. I’ve always taken solace and quiet comfort in the knowing that we’ve always had a healthy level of honesty and good communication, but with everything that happened last year, I feel like we were thrust into a whole new level of brutal honesty that we didn’t know existed. I’ll admit it gets very tiring sometimes being the one to initiate us on this path, and constantly be the one digging deeper to find out what lies beneath the surface — our feelings, our opinions, our desires, our dreams — but I’ve realised there is no other way I’d rather have it.

I’ve seen far too many examples of marriages falling apart of late, where the fundamental reason boiled down to the inability to either face and voice the truth, or to accept and embrace it. So I’m extremely grateful for the space we share between us, where pretty much nothing is taboo. I can’t think of too many other relationships that give me this sense of safety. This space for extreme honesty is so, so, very cherished, and you have to know how much you (unconsciously, perhaps) have done to encourage me to speak nothing but the truth. Even when it was to finally realise and admit to myself, and you, that given the way my life has traversed this past year, I do feel that maybe we married too soon.

I broke down momentarily in therapy when I came to this realisation, because I expected to feel the predictable sense of regret. But to my surprise tears made way for relief. I felt so oddly free to be able to see what I had just articulated for what it is, and immediately I knew I was absolutely going to be able to share it with you. I know and believe and feel so thankful to have the kind of relationship with you that enables me to speak this, right to your face, no words minced. And to have us look at the fact with enough distance that is needed to learn the lessons in here, but enough keenness to know what to do with this awareness, and where to go with it. And that’s just what we did, it’s how we embarked on this most unexpected turn of events that has landed us in Bangalore. I do believe this is just the beginning, though, and that a change in cities has so little to do with the city itself, but that we have been presented an opportunity t dig even deeper.

This year, I feel stronger, more whole and at peace than I have ever before in my entire life. Therapy (with all the upheaval it brings in its aftermath), through which you have stood by me like an absolute rock, turned me into an absolute blithering mess at times. I talked nine to a dozen, rambling, losing the plot many a time, voicing and airing a lot of rubbish on the way to finding my clarity. Even as I was going through many of those sessions of verbal diarrhoea, I remember wondering if it might be painful to be at the receiving end of this all the time. It didn’t stop me, though. And it didn’t make you stop me either.

I’m where I am largely because you supported me entirely in getting here. I said last year that much of this exploration began because I was able to give myself the permission to do so. I allowed myself to let go of so much, because you constantly reminded me how important it was to put a premium on myself and do whatever I needed to, to feel whole again.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hope you never muddle your sense of responsibility towards me and this marriage, to lose sight of your personal goals and dreams. Which is why I want you to know that my wish for us this year, and going forward, is that you remember all those things you keep telling me. And I wish and hope that I can be there for you, like you have for me.

This year, I see you at the start of your journey of self-exploration, similar to the spot I was in a couple of years ago. I hope you’ll remember that I’ve always got your back. I may not bring home the bacon, but I’ve really, really, got your back. You can lean on me. I’m here for the talk as much as I am for when you need the silence of comfortable companionship. I’m here for the ride as much as I am for when we need to stay still. I’m here for the plateaus as much as I am change.

I want to go back to one little thing I said on our anniversary last year. It was a liberating, life-changing realisation then. And it holds true even today.

I feel like today, more than ever, is a good day for a reminder.

This year, more than every before, I realised that being together has little to do with being together. Not to take for granted how wonderful it is to have a roomie to come back to, someone to hold at night when the fear of the dark envelops me, someone to lean on when I’m scared or lonely, someone to share a laugh with in a way that only we can understand. But I realised that growing old together involves taking routes that aren’t always going to run in parallel, or end up in the same place. It is possible to be together and yet give each other the space to be apart – in what we do, in where we go, and in how we blossom. And for the first time in all our years together, and my vehement stand on long-distance relationships, I have opened myself up to the idea of living apart. It will mean spreading our wings in different directions, and I don’t mean that just literally. I hope we explore it someday, because I think it will only take us a step up from here.

Happy anniversary my superstar. I haven’t done a very good job of being around the last few weeks and months since we moved to Bangalore. But I want you to know you’re a champ, my absolute trooper and I can’t wait to see what the months ahead hold for you.

As for the ride taking you there, I’m all in.

You’ve got me. I’ve got your back.

I love you so very much.

***

Same time, last year: Day 252: Eight

Past anniversaries: sevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Day 252: Eight

VC, it’s that time of year again. This day wouldn’t be complete without me saying it feels like we only just got together yesterday. Like I’ve done so many times before. But we know the truth. It’s been a decade of knowing you, and in fact the enormity of that truth only sank in only a few days ago. Suddenly I realised we’ve been doing this for an absolute age. A whole damned decade, eight years of which have been spent trying to perfect this marriage thingamajig.

But you know what?

perfection
PC: StarvingArtistFilms

It’s been a far from perfect year, since our last anniversary when I waxed eloquent about how comfortably predictable things had become. This year there was many an oddball. It was anything but predictable. There have been so many heavy discussions about where to next, which came with a huge set of pros cons and our respective opinions, desires and dreams to juggle. There was a home loan in the mix this year, which has put a fair deal of pressure on us both. Not that you ever showed it, but I always know when you’ve been worried about it. There was a lot of angst about what to do next — for you and for me, as individuals and as a unit — and which way to go from here. It seems like this semi-charmed life has maxed out on it’s levels of near-perfection (when you discount the shitty roads and spotty internet, I mean) and that has time and again pushed us into a corner, begging us to ask ourselves some hard questions and consider some difficult options.

And so we did. It’s been a year of tremendous opinion-sharing between us. I can’t help but feel that the more rounded and formed our personalities get, the more we dig our heels in and stand up for what we believe in. Many times, we don’t believe in the same things. This year, more than ever before, we’ve sparred over things, small and big. From your smoking habit that I truly wish you’d kick, to a potential move beyond Goa, we’ve battled it out with loud exchanges of words, lots of confusion, plenty of tentative guessing and jumping to conclusions, a fair amount tears and the two instances when I left home and drove off into the night. Old me from about two years ago would say I’m not proud for what I did, or what pushed me to it. But I’ve learned this year, more than ever before, that it’s not important to agree and always see eye to eye. In fact it’s important not to agree, and it’s important to always have the room for that. I’m so glad that even when we’re in the throes of a belligerent rage, one of us has the sense to calm the other down and remind ourselves to make space for one another’s opinions.

I love that we have this healthy battle ground. Where we can spar, constantly remind ourselves to keep it civil, but not polite; honest but not rude; real, but not sharp. This year more than ever before, I have enjoyed fighting with you. Until last year, I always wondered if there was something the matter with us – our fights and disagreements were few and so far between. This year, I proved myself wrong and we’ve more than made up for the lack of disagreements in our lives so far.

I believe everything happens for a reason, and that this transformation came with a reason too. Because, I no longer fear fighting with you (and anyone else I hold close, for that matter). I’ve learned that every healthy relationship must have space for healthy disagreement. It’s become a marker for the authentic relationships in my life, across the board. It’s taught me that learned that sometimes one has to squash one’s ego, agree to disagree, and just hug it out. I’ve also learned that no matter what the outcome, it’s always a good idea to say sorry.

This year, you’ve taught me the value of saying sorry, even when it is the hardest thing to do and my mountain-sized ego will not allow it. In the number of instances that you plainly and easily said sorry, at the end of an argument, or when you thought you’d disappointed me, or when the truth about the numerous patterns of oppression women face in a typical Indian family suddenly dawned on you in its immensity, and you suddenly woke up to it’s existence in your own family, you apologised for it. You took responsibility, even though you’ve never behaved in a way that was oppressive or discriminatory. You apologised on the behalf of everyone else who never will. You have no idea how immensely liberating that has been.

This year, I’ve learned empathy from you. I’ve learned to tone down my judgement. To live and let live, in the truest sense of the term. Together we’ve turned many of our perceptions about a lot many things and people around. It;s reminded me that there is always have scope to grow, and I feel glad every time that we are able to acknowledge where we were wrong, and we try and correct our thoughts. I like to think we’ve turned into more self-assured individuals with firmness where it counts. I find you perfectly straddle being strong-willed, but soft-hearted where it matters. You’ve displayed conviction, with a rare kind of softness that I find immensely attractive. It’s a balance I still have to learn.

But most of all, this year will always be remembered as the year you helped me rediscover myself yet again. I don’t know if you realise the influence you have had on me. As the only person privy to all my thoughts, feelings, ups and downs of every aspect of my life, you share in my angsts and joys equally. And this year your only steady advice has always been to put a premium on myself. To always raise the bar, demand more, settle for nothing less than the best. Whether it has been at work — when demanding a higher fee, not settling for shoddy work relationships, or in my relationships with people — cutting off toxic friendships, prioritising my time, being uncompromising with the quality of friendships and focusing on myself and my self development.

You’ve been the sound voice, constantly dinning into my head the need to put myself first. It’s how I’ve bettered my work style and engagements. I wouldn’t have re-learned discipline if it weren’t for our many discussions about how to get better at this game. I wouldn’t have cracked so many pitches if we hadn’t worked on my emails together. I wouldn’t have come to believe in myself if you hadn’t backed me up every step of the way.

This year, we’ve completely soaked in the spirit of being quiet. You were always the quiet one, but this year I realised I have some quiet in me too. In learning to be still, I’ve understood myself better, sharpened my focus, fine-tuned my ability to be by with myself. As individually-focused as that sounds, it has changed my relationship with you. For the better. I understand you better. I respect you more. I honour you for the individual that you are, completely, with fewer expectations than before. As much as there’s been hectic chatter and loud disagreements, we’ve had our fair share of silence too. It’s one of the things I love the most about us. The way in which we can exist in a companionable silence, for hours on end, without having to engage. This year, I’ve learned there’s more than one kind of quiet, and I cannot wait to discover the rest. With you. Even though this was also the year we took off on our own respective tangents.

It’s the first time I saw in us, the patterns I see with my parents. In being starkly individualistic people, with completely different goals, diverging in entirely opposite directions, yet somehow making ends meet, and finding a way to let go, live and love, all at once.

I travelled by myself this year, more than I have ever before. And it was because conversations I had with you rekindled the hidden desire that I have let remain forgotten for all the years we have been together. You bought me the bestest gift of all times – a bike – that has triggered something deeper than a quest to cycle, in me. You’ve reminded and taught me how important it is to chase those things that are fundamental to our happiness, outside of amassing money in the bank and buying things. And you’ve done this by example. By taking off on your own path of self-discovery, traversing cycling, film and new areas of work – areas I am completely removed from. That has been your journey to take, and I’ve watched from a distance, with such pride.

This year, more than every before, I realised that being together has little to do with being together. Not to take for granted how wonderful it is to have a roomie to come back to, someone to hold at night when the fear of the dark envelops me, someone to lean on when I’m scared or lonely, someone to share a laugh with in a way that only we can understand. But I realised that growing old together involves taking routes that aren’t always going to run in parallel, or end up in the same place. It is possible to be together and yet give each other the space to be apart – in what we do, in where we go, and in how we blossom. And for the first time in all our years together, and my vehement stand on long-distance relationships, I have opened myself up to the idea of living apart. It will mean spreading our wings in different directions, and I don’t mean that just literally. I hope we explore it someday, because I think it will only take us a step up from here.

I look back at this year and it looks so pock-marked, dented and imperfect, riddled with the weight of learning. It’s been a heavy year in that respect. But we’ve towed the line rather well, picking up when the other left off, holding each other up, and being the stoic, steady person when the other needed to waver for a bit. In you I’ve had the best friend and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner on this ride.

We’re still often met with this picture perfect notion of marriage, complete with the kids and the car and the giant home. We’re still asked when we plan to have children, and shocked reactions that prod deeper and wants to know why that’s not on our agenda. I understand now, where it’s coming from. It’s because that’s what it works for many people. But there is room for us. And for us, it has always been about doing it our way. Keeping our eyes and minds open, bucking the rules, bending with time and circumstances, flowing the way we choose to, changing as per the need of the hour and playing by our own rules. And you know what? That’s never going to be a pretty, picture perfect journey.

I’m ready for more.

Just to change this up, here’s a picture that represents us pretty perfectly.

fullsizerender-2

Happy 8th.
I love you.

*****

Past anniversaries
Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

Protected: Day 134: Things about VC that I never want to forget #16

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Protected: Day 133: Distressed, but thankful

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Day 67: Flying solo

I’ve emerged fresh, sunshiny and very rejuvenated after a weekend of beautiful, wonderful sloth. The kind of sloth that comes from cutting back from my routine and having absolutely no demands on my time. I got to actually catch up on all the things I have put off for The Weekend. Yes, not any weekend, but this weekend because VC was away on a 3-day biking trip, and it’s only when he travels that I let myself off the hook. It sounds terrible when I say it like that, because it implies that  he cracks the whip around here, making me work to a routine, when the truth is he couldn’t care less. In fact he’d love it if I relaxed a little and let go of the tyranny of a tedious routine. Honestly, the ties of a routine that bind me down are completely self-made. The doing of my Type A personality that sometimes worries when I have too much free time on hand. So I have a routine, and I chalk out my time, so I can function in some kind of sanity that makes sense to me. But, off and on an opportunity like this presents itself, and I’m always surprised at how much I enjoy it.

Lying in bed lats night, having turned in extra early, thinking about the weekend reminded me of how much I love flying solo. Considering I have never lived completely alone (a phenomenon very common amongst women in India, apparently), and I quite like the regimented life otherwise, it made me ponder about why I turn to routine, and who decides what this unattainable ideal of a perfectly flowing, full and bustling life is the way to go. So I wrote half a post about it. I pondered some more about how blissful a simple three-day weekend of no extraordinary activity had been, and wondered if maybe I unnecessarily chase after “something more.” I  am increasingly realising once again (or rather I’m being made to remember what I seem to have forgotten) that I am just an ordinary 99%-er perfectly happy with a mediocre but fulfilling life. And so I wrote half a post about that too.

Several changes at VC’s work have ensured that he no longer travels as frequently as he used to 1-2 years ago. Back then I often joked that the outward displays of love were short-lived. That once I was done whining about hating being alone, whispering sweet nothings about missing him, and kissing him good bye as I sent him out the door, I would walk back in to whoop with joy. Because the time apart guaranteed a chance to just be, unfettered by the machinations of my self-made trap — the routine I claim I love so much. So when he goes away for more than a day at a stretch, I really get to cut those ties and just do my thing. Which usually involves cooking a large pot of dal and eating it four meals in a row, so I don’t have to interrupt my reading or movie-marathoning to get up and fix myself a meal. In that sense, I do nothing else. No chores, no work, no cooking, no cleaning. No alarms, no gym, no hectic socialising.

And that’s precisely what happened, a whole lot of nothing and everything of a different kind. It seems like it is just what I needed. Because after weeks of wandering around feeling not quite fully rested, not quite completely fulfilled, not quite really at peace, not, today I woke up feeling just. so. pumped.

A complete break from the usual, meant that I got to do things I keep putting off for when I am free. Read a decent bit, catch up on about four weeks of episodes of my TV show guilty-fix. I also watched Spotlight The Big Short, and finished watching Cooked too.

Friday was spent at home. I had some work to finish up, post which I read myself to sleep, a good long nap, and spent the rest of the day at home just chilling. On the weekend, I caught up on solo time with friends, which is something I haven’t done in a very long time. P and I had actually planned to spend Saturday on a beach in the South, but I had a touch of UTI and as excited as I was to be outdoors and by the sea, I didn’t fancy having to use a public loo, getting sand in places sand shouldn’t be (when you have a UTI) and risking being away form home in case my symptoms worsened. So I called it off, and we decided to catch up for a light lunch instead. But even before that happened, I was woken up by messages from the gang at kickboxing, because they’d planned to go get breakfast together. The thought of crispy, warm Goan buns really wakes me up, so I drgged myself out of bed and to breakfast quickly. I spent the rest of the day back in bed, reading and watching something or the other, until about 7 pm, when I realised I’d actually made dinner plans with D a few days ago. Since we were catching up at her home, I decided not to go empty-handed. I bought us some rasmalai for dessert and trudged over. We finished an entire bottle of Sula Seco between the two of us, and talked so much about so many different things, while her dogs enviously eyed our plate of fried prawns and prawn biryani, that I lost track of time. I drove myself back home at almost 1 am, and was too buzzed to sleep. So, I watched some more TV.

On Sunday morning, my gardner didn’t show up. It wasn’t planned that way, but I was glad because it meant I didn’t have to get out of bed. At all. I woke up only at 11, and after much contemplation and willing myself to rise, I fixed myself an fully-loaded omelette for brunch. I had it with two toasts slathered with Amul garlic and herb butter. It does the trick of making a meal of breakfast. Topped it up with a large mug of sweet chai and I was set. For another day of lying in bed, that is. More sloth continued. Reading, watching TV, I even doodled a little and napped too.

VC came home in the evening after his three-day bike ride trip. He was so exhausted that he got into bed too. Perfect. I didn’t plan to cook dinner and we could have ordered in, but I’d brought home leftover biryani from Saturday night, so all I had to do was microwave it in time to eat. Which meant that I had no reason to leave bed right until dinner time. Which happened earlier than usual and we found ourselves back in bed by 9.30. I realised I’d clocked just a little over 1000 steps. Ordinarily, I’d have balked. But yesterday, I. Just. Didn’t. Care.

I opened my book and began to read.

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.

Seven

Dear VC,

I could get really repetitive (and predictable), say that it seriously feels like we only just started dating yesterday. But I’d be lying. Because the truth is, I feel like I’ve known you for every single day of the 10 years that I have indeed known you for a lifetime. For the most part, it feels like we have this figured. There is a natural rhythm to the way we function and the various separate moving parts of our lives dance around pretty seamlessly to make this work for us.

There is comfort in that predictability. In how I can predict your every move. And this is the part that sometimes makes me sit up and wonder if I have indeed known you for a lifetime. I can predict the way your trousers will always lie in that exact same pile on the sideboard. I can tell by the happy noises you make while eating a meal, just how much you’ve enjoyed it. I can gauge your level of worry in the way you always tell me to watch out, be careful when I go out dancing, like it’s the very first time. The way you plan every clandestine purchase, and yet pass it off with the most nonchalant shrug, like I hadn’t just seen you research the bejeezus out of it for only like the last 9256 days, Yeah, you’d rather believe you surprised me. Worse, you believe you had me. Every time.

I like the way your eyes light up when I decode the expression on your face and tell you you’ve had a shitty day even before you begin to slowly tell me about it on your own time. I love how you try so hard to do little things to surprise me, but I’m usually two steps ahead and know about it anyway. It’s also funny how I can almost predict the way events will pan out, circumstances transpire and things will happen, and I advise you on what your actions should be. You’re sometimes defiant, sometimes completely understanding, sometimes thoughtful. But you’re always sure of yourself and go on to do what you believe is best, with or without incorporating what I have suggested. But you’re also gracious in admitting that I am right 9 out of 10 times. I love the irony and the exasperation in your voice when you exclaim “You’re not allowed to know me that well!”

I rarely feel like I wish there was room for surprises. Because I take comfort in this predictability. I like that we have this down pat, for the most part. It’s endearing to know that being with you takes little effort. Because that’s what 10 years of being with someone so easy does, I guess. You flow, there is rhythm and it becomes just…easy. Comfortable. And if predictable is a byproduct of it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You’ve always told me your motto in life has been to cut the fat. I’ve imbibed it at various points in my life, when I’ve dealt with painful issues, hiccups and situations that caught me off guard. But I think I have only realised the full depth of it, the true way in which you live by it, in the last year. Whether it is work, your relationships, dealing with people, assessing potential difficulties or even dealing with emotions, your ability to give everything just that appropriate amount of attention and nothing more is alarming. I realise it is just that ability that makes being with you such a joy.

There is rarely a problem so huge it needs working on. Or a talk that’s been put off so long it becomes a confrontation. If there’s a problem, fix it comes so naturally to you, we rarely get to the stage where we have to sit down and have a talk or decide to take steps together to make this right again. You make it flow, like life. And this is why knowing you and being with you feels like wearing that one utterly comfortable night shirt we all have. We prefer to call it well-worn rather than old, even though that’s the truth – so many years down, its the one that’s old, riddled with holes, stretched out of shape, but that fits like nothing else does, feels perfect against your skin and nothing and nobody can ever convince you to get rid of it. Knowing you and being with you is comfortable. And comforting. Despite the years gone by, the holes that may have appeared, the shapeless way in which the age shows, the predictable and unpredictable ways in which we amble along, this feels like that best possible way to do this. Because you make it effortless. You make is just so damn easy.

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You’ve spoiled relationships for me, for good. Because now I expect that all of them must be as effortless, as easy, as simple, uncomplicated. You’ve set the benchmark so damn high. Effortless (not to be mistaken for the flipside of lazy or shirking hard work) has become quite the norm, in my life. Because there are enough things that demand hard work — work, for example. Getting better at what we do. Learning new skills, figuring adult stuff out. Or exercise. Or managing funds. Or sometimes just being an adult.  There are enough things that make us work hard, sometimes going against the grain. And sure we sometimes emerge a better versions of ourselves at the end of it. But you’ve taught me that marriage shouldn’t be about hard work. It should really be the most effortless thing in the world. Because if you can’t have that ease with your spouse, what’s the point?

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So yes, while most days I have a hard time realising we’ve known each other ten years now, and been married for seven, I slip back into the comfort of feeling like I’ve known you forever. Because you make it that comfortable. With your kindness, your sense of humour, the freshness of your spirit, your willingness to try everything once, your encouragement and unfailing support. Your ever-ready hugs.

And your Sunday breakfast eggs.

I don’t think I could have so seamlessly fallen into marriage, being a wife and growing up, as effortlessly with anyone else, as I did with you.

You make it wonderful. For the both of us.

<3

Six, five, four, three, two, one.

On traditions old and new

The Diwali spirit kicked-in at the very last minute. As usual. Almost like an after-thought, after getting a mild attack of FOMO. As usual. I go through the same cycle of emotions and actions, year on year. Supposed indifference, a lot of nostalgia, a little homesickness, wildly swings into full blown meh-ness, and then suddenly I pick myself out of the inertia and go into overdrive. Lights get put up haphazardly. The house is tidied up. Something sweet gets made. We eat some good food. And every year as we take down the lights and I put away the diyas, I tell myself I should do better the following year.

I would like to think I have it in me to plan ahead, check my lights beforehand and not put them and realise two out of four strings are not working. I’d like to have the house stocked with the typical savoury and sweet stuff, and not resort to a last minute quick-fix dessert that somehow always comes to the rescue of slackers like me. I’d love to have the house done up the way my own home used to be when we were growing up — LOTS of diyas, soaked in water overnight, filled with oil, graced with a wick and lit for three days, strings of orange marigold decking corners of the house — and doing everything we’ve associated with the traditions of Diwali like waking up really early to have an oil massage and a hot bath, wearing freshly bought clothes and getting together to celebrate with neighbours, friends and family — which was mostly an experiment in organised and legitimate indulgence.

Every year around this time, I become acutely aware of how my life is so devoid of these little traditions. Yes, I invariably do string up the fairy lights, light the customary diyas and make something sweet, but it is never with the sort of organised pomp and panache that my parents would manage to bring into our homes at Diwali. Weeks in advance we’d begin talking about Diwali. My mother would make laddoos, tukde (namak paare), and we’d buy boxes of Kaju Katli along with a few boxes of fireworks (while I was still young enough to still want to light them). Diwali clothes were a treat we looked forward to. Trudging off to Commercial Street, which would get its Diwali on days before the actual festival. The big stores of then would turn up the festivities, bring on the sales and we’d buy a new set each, to be worn on day 1 post that traditional massage and hot water bath!

I have distinct memories of wearing those new clothes and invariably getting oil on them, from the enthusiasm and excitement to participate in lighting the many diyas. Eventually by the end of the night I’d also have a few holes on them from misguided sparks flying around. Most years I also had a blistered finger or two, as a painful reminder of firework excitement gone wrong. There would invariably be a family Diwali get-together somewhere, and we’d go over with sweets and savoury stuff and do the exchange. Something about giving from your plate and taking back goodies from another home is so Diwali!

And then there was a whole bunch of new traditions when I got married. VC’s family has a Diwali lunch the weekend before, where extended family gets together, we potluck and a few rounds of cards and other games got played. Of course there would be much drinking and stuffing of face and a merry time to be had by all.

When we moved to Goa, I didn’t give any of this much thought. Something about doing things your own way makes certain traditions pale in comparison to others. I took the house, the kitchen and the daily rituals like chai time far more seriously than I did putting in an altar or saying a prayer every day. Festivals came and went, and brought with them a twinge of nostalgia and remorse for not “keeping up” the traditions my folks and family have worked so hard to bring to life, so enthusiastically, year after year.

This year too, I was largely uninterested. I also have lost track of the days whizzing by and didn’t realise till last weekend that Diwali was literally right around the corner. Two days ago, I pulled the lights out and considered doing the house up but gave up before I had even started. The hugsband and I went out to dinner last night, our first meal out together in a long time. Heck we don’t even eat together at home so much anymore — with his crazy schedules and my extreme dedication to not missing an episode of That Show Which Must Not Be Named, I tend to come back form the gym ravenous, eat dinner, and watch TV in peace while he ambles home closer to 9.30-10 pm. This has been the story of our lives the past few weeks.

It’s hard to make and keep traditions in a house of two, with one person being an absentee house-body for the most part. Actually scratch that, its easy to make a mindless tradition. But to keep to it, in a meaningful way is hard. And I realise that’s probably what made it fun for my folks. Having a larger family to do things with, setting benchmarks for us, and having an extended social circle to share the festivities with. The truth is, VC and I are isolated form family to begin with. The family we’ve built here is dwindling. I can count on one hand, the number of people I’d choose to celebrate Diwali with, and even they have their own families and things to tend to.

I realised last night that traditions need to mean something to you, in order to keep them going. Maybe I don’t have an affinity to the rituals and maybe I wont be lighting a lamp in an altar any time soon, but I do have fond memories of the togetherness that Diwali brought. The hobnobbing of a larger circle of people we belonged to. And in ever-changing times, I’d like to retain some memory of it at least. Nothing’s quite the same back home to, I don’t imagine my parents still celebrate with as much gusto as they did when we we’re around, but we try and keep up with the time don’t we?

We don’t have traditional traditions, and maybe that’s what puts me in a funk around this time of year. But I realised that maybe this reluctance that makes way for last-minute excitement is my tradition. After all, it has unfolded the exact same way every year for the last five Diwalis.

So maybe I should stop fighting it. Maybe I should stop feeling a little bad like I usually do. And maybe I should focus on doing it our way.

We turn the lights on, we spark the diyas, we get a good meal together — either home cooked, or some place nice like we did last night. And if we’re experiencing particularly busy times like VC currently is, we make time for it, mark it on our calendars and we call it a date.

After all Goa does it’s own style of Diwali with such aplomb. It has introduced me to some of its traditions, like the building of the Narkasuras that sprout every few metres. With frightning scale, accuracy and creativity, painstakingly built over weeks only to be burned to a crisp on the night of Narakachaturdasi.

Naraka

It’s hard to stay sad when there is cheer around you. So yesterday I went out and bought me some flowers.

Flowers

I came home and made a batch of super addictive, super yummy, and most importantly — super quick, laddoos from N’s blog.

Laddoos

And then I strung up the lights and we went out to dinner.

Light

On our way back home, the Narakasura parties were in full swing. People were parading the streets, loud music and dance everywhere. We inched through the rare sight that is a traffic jam in this part of town, and I watched the effigies in all their splendour.

I realise we might not always succeed in keep up old traditions. Some times just a flickering memory that throbs to life once every year is nicer. It makes me cherish the times gone by, savour the lingering memories and think of what lies ahead. And most of all, it eventually makes us make our own traditions. Even if I get my act together just 24 hours beforehand.

Nothing makes me realise how far away from home I am, like Diwali does. And yet it is Diwali that also draws me closer to home. The one I left behind, and the one I piece together day after day.

Weekends around here

I’ve started to cling to weekends like children who get all sprightly some Friday, and begin to sulk as Sunday evening draws near. Its not that I don’t like school days, I mean weekdays, for they hold a different kind of pleasure. But the weekends have become the only time VC and I get to spend some time together. And by spend, I mean really spend some time together. Because what do you know, just eating dinner together doesn’t really cut it, in the long run. And that is how life has been for him. And therefore us. He has been woefully overworked in the last few months (and I feel like I’ve been saying this for the larger part of this year!) and even conversation is taxing at the end of the day, and I sense the increasing need for “quiet time” around here. But when the weekend comes around, he turns into this enthusiastic person quite nothing like the person I am used to seeing Monday thru Friday. Funnily, the weekend is when I wind down. I choose not to get online too much, stay away form the computer and don’t cook anything too elaborate. I sleep in, nap sometimes, but mostly spend the weekend relaxing. But he? He always has a plan. Even if it is organised relaxation, which is to say we do nothing, but veg out. Him doing his research on the latest fetish at hand (it used to be cycles, now its film-making) and me reading or pottering about. Weekends are when I usually revel in doing nothing.

We didn’t have cable connected for months on end, but had that fixed recently since a certain annual guilty pleasure, trash fix kind of reality show involving 12 strangers being locked up to cohabit in a house for over 100 days, came on yesterday. So, these days we have the additional option of watching some TV too.

We used to be pretty outdoorsy on the weekends. At a time when we had like-minded friends in town. It was not uncommon to go on long evening drives ending with dinner far far away, or go in search of a secluded beach, watch the sunset/sunrise from one of the islands close by, just take off for the weekend. It was easy and never required too much intensive planning. Just the company of a couple of people was enough, we never waited for a large brood to gather, and we’d be off. But that has diminished for many reasons. The right company has mostly moved out of Goa, and those that remain no longer hold my interest. We’re not as enthusiastic ourselves, because with VC tiring weekday schedules he prefers to unwind indoors. So most often we end up cooking, shooting a foodeo, or he goes cycling, at the most. Making a plan to go far out seems to take more energy than we are willing to expend, just by ourselves.

However, last weekend A and A with their 5 year old N asked us to join them and we took off without thinking about it too much. Quite spontaneously we found ourselves at an old and forgotten spot we once frequented. “The church on top of the hill” as we have gotten used to calling it, used to be the place we’d take visiting friends when they’d ask about Old Goa. Because its the place not too many people know of, its where you wont find thronging tourists, and offers splendid views of the river below and Panjim in the far distance.

Views

I took along this yellow cake (on which I slapped on some makeshift chocolate sauce) I had incidentally baked just that afternoon, and turned out A had baked this yummy gulkand (would you believe?! I’m not even a fan of anything-rose but this was seriously good!) cake too. An unplanned picnic of sorts happened, followed by playing catch-n-cook with an 5-year-old who puts the fun back in running around for no apparent reason.

Picnic

Some tumbling down green slopes ensued, while I watched in amazement. A couple of lovey-dovey couples were intruded upon, in our wild running, and I realised what I thought was a not-so-popular spot was suddenly more filled with people than I had ever seen it.

Tumble

This is what happens when you hang around an inquisitive and mildly fearless child. You go into nooks and crannies your adult self couldn’t be bothered about snooping around, and you’re forced to see things you otherwise wouldn’t really see. Like bugs, termites and grasshoppers, unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Bugs

A and I chatted, while the other A enlightened me about geocaching. You gaiizz!! Its a real-life treasure freaking hunt! I am totally enamoured by it, especially after I saw the cache he checked in on. Those in the know exchange notes and little tidbits and the whole thing is too fascinating for me to explain in words. All my childhood fantasies of having Famous Five styled treasure hunts, or randomly stumbling on someone else’s treasure came to life. I’m now plotting a few good spots to go drop a cache of my own.

Sufficiently sweaty from running around, we waited on VC whose sole mission of the trip was to test a new found time-lapse technique. His latest keeda project at hand is to teach himself the ins and outs of as much film-making as he can. So there he sat patiently shooting frame after frame, at 3 minute intervals, while we had tarted getting bitten by mosquitoes.

Stop

After an hour of hitting click, click, clicking later, when the sun had gone down we decided to call it a day. Dropped by at the closest drinking hole where we stuffed our faces on beer and pizza. Good way to end the week, I thought.

When we came home, VC sat and stitched this together. Turns out, while I was busy running around chasing grasshoppers, stuffing my face and yakking away about geocaching, the sky had put up quite a show. Goa can be achingly beautiful, sometimes and it felt so good to be outdoors again.

Immediately, this song came to mind.

Week-end.

Six

Dear VC

Today marks 6 whole years since that deliriously exciting day (well, for me at least!) in 2008 when we finally got married. Do you remember the madness of the wedding? I bet you don’t. I do, it’s fresh in my mind, like it was only just the other day. There were way too many people for my liking, I was upset I didn’t get to taste all the food, I didn’t like changing my clothes so many times, and I really just wanted to fast forward to the bit where we partied. Discounting small glitches like extended family threatening to call the cops on us, and imperfections like the godawful off-season storm that raged outside, I’d say it was pretty darn perfect. I want to say its beginning to feel like the age is creeping up on us slowly, but it’d be a lie. The truth is I have to some times remind myself that it’s been six years. I’ve said it before, but at times it feels a little unreal, and I wonder if we’re not doing something right, and why we don’t feel it when we really ought to. It’s only when I count back the years and think about everything that’s gone by that I realise the enormity of 365 x 6 days. I still feel like quite the baby who only just got married.

If I were to compare the last few years with the one just gone by, I realise its been the most peaceful, and in that sense, uneventful one. A placid year that zipped by without too much upheaval. Work has gathered enough momentum to just go on without us rushing after it, life has settled into a happy routine. We didn’t travel together at all, did no really big life-changing things and mostly just stayed put bumbling along with our heads down. It’s given us the time and repose to think talk about the next 5-6 years and what we want from it. The floundering of the first few years of getting to know each other, ironing out the unreal expectations has made way for a pleasant calm and comfort in our relationship. We’ve found our feet in some sense. We have never had as many conversations as we did about the way want to steer our lives, about how much we’re willing to let go of, to continue to choose the life we do. And we have never been so clear about our openness to want to change things around every time they get too comfortable.

This year, we’ve each grown remarkably as individuals, more than we have as a couple. And I see it in the amount of time we have comfortably spent apart, whether it was in the many trips we made separately or the amount you worked, or in the lives we have made for ourselves outside of each other. We’ve inculcated personal hobbies, nurtured friendships separately and we’ve been happy to let go, give each other that much needed space, miss each other just enough and even spend time together, in silence.

A quiet year has unintentionally helped in steadying us in so many ways. And I know this because, as we fine-tune our individual personalities, this has been the year with the most confrontation, questions and disagreements — and yet somehow it has been the year with the fewest fights. I can only think of one occasion this (and it happened only just last week) when I wanted to walk out in a storm and get a breather by myself because we were driving each other stark raving mad. Sure, we don’t get it right all of the time, but this past year, you have reminded me time and again why I chose you, and why this works.

It works because it’s effortless. And it works because we’re constantly keeping it real. I realise that all we ever want as people is to be understood, to be understood by that one person with whom things are effortless, and things make sense. Even in all their maddening glory. You remind me, without mincing words — to cut it out. That I don’t have to try so hard. That I don’t have to fight, prove a point, or pretend to be someone I am not. You take me, as I am. And I know you wouldn’t have it any other way. And somehow I think I have learned a thing or two from it all. To live and let live. To choose well. To communicate freely. To apologise when I must. To laugh when the moment asks for it. To cry if I must. To just be me, effortlessly, because things are really only as complicated as we want to make them.

We don’t get it right all of the time. And this life we have, it isn’t perfect. But what is it, is real. I’ve learned that we can be so hopelessly, irrevocably in love with each other, and yet have the ability to be unimaginably pissed off at each other. That’s a very real possibility. And when that happens, like it did last week, you are most likely to drive me insanely angry with your asinine logic, your steadfast stubbornness and your incredibly stupid argument — and I am most likely to push you away when you’re trying to ease the heat of the moment, with an ill-timed hug. I can tell you off and know you will take it. I love that you’re the only person who really tells me when something I did was wrong, without sugarcoating it. I can always count on you to remind me never to settle for something that’s not worth it, and that it is never too late to be the person I want to be.

In conversation last week, I got wondering about what keeps the happy couples I know, the ones that have been married for aeons, make it look so young and fresh. And I have to be honest, I can’t pin point it. I don’t know how they make it work. But I know how we make it work. We’re still poles apart. We don’t always agree, and we don’t always want the same things — but we’ve been horribly honest about it and I know I speak for us both when I say this happened because, it is this year, more than ever before, that we have been incredibly comfortable in our own skins.

It’s been a year of consistently, quietly choosing life over stuff. Of constantly choosing well and fighting the Tyranny of Trend. Of being the best partners we could have, for each other. Of unabashed, young love. Of finding this inexplicable comfort that I feel with you now. Of filling-out and growing as individuals, and seeing how it translates quietly into our lives as a couple. Your confidence compensates when I feel a lack of it. Your stability adds weight when I feel like I’m going to float away. Your brevity gives me the peace I need, when I am done chattering away as I always do. Your quiet contemplation has taught me too, to slow down and be still. Some more.

Happy Anniversary, VC.
I love you so, so very much.

Why I’ve been MIA

Goa was gloriously hot when I came back from Bangalore. Dull skies with these tantalisingly grey heavy clouds looming large, but no rain to speak of. Several sessions of catching up with friends over chai and cake managed to rub it in some more, just how wonderfully rainy it was for exactly those same days I was away. I had missed all the monsoon action and was experiencing severe FOMO. 06

Its always lovely to be back in the safe, snuggly arms of my home after a trip away. Even if the trip is back to the original home — the mothership — the feeling of walking back into my own home is kind of special. I came back from Bangalore determined to slow down and pick up life where I had left off. Yes life, because it was only when I came home and looked around did I notice just how far back I had let everything “normal” slip. Eating out at an alarming frequency, my kitchen was so badly stocked. A look around the house would have given you a clue that neither I nor the hugsband had had the energy to worry about dusty corners and cobwebs. My desk was scattered with remnants of “important things” but that I had no memory of and no recollection of why they might even be important. My balcony plants were, err how do I put it, dead. The yard was (still is. I haven’t managed to get it cleaned out) overgrown, two bulbs in the staircase had fused eons ago but we just hadn’t bothered getting them fixed. So every time I entered the house post sunset, I had to scramble up in the dark. And somehow we preferred that to getting them fixed. So you get the idea.

It didn’t help that I cam back from holiday with the most violent flu and throat infection I’ve had in a long long time. Its been so long since I fell sick, I forgot what my basic anti-histamine used to be. As soon as I landed in Goa, I was home bound, with a raging fever, exhaustion, blocked nose, severe cough and the works with everything in between. I gave it a few days of plain old Crocin,  self-medication and home remedies, before I decided this was a mean bug and needed antibiotics. So overall it took a good long while to go away, and I wanted to be up and about before my folks landed.

07

But I quickly learned, that the slow-down time I was fantasising about, was not to be. It was a busy month, I felt like I was on overdrive for the most part, even when I was home doing perfectly mundane things. So much happened, I tried several times to come and post here, because I had so much to say. But most of it just ended up in half written posts that fizzled out the minute it was time to get up and go shopping for groceries. Or rush to the gym. Or go away for the weekend with my folks. Or drive my sister to Siolim. Or some such.

We had a fun week planned, of mostly chilling at home. Cooking out bums off, gallivanting around Panjim because they’re not into the touristy things, and mostly come here to decompress from their regular routine and spend time with us. Hot meals, shared at the dining table, with extra stools dragged in to seat us all, lingering around with laughter and chatter, long after the meal is done and our fingers had gone dry is usually the hallmark of a good holiday with the parents.

We have a few stock places to go to, and I indulge my parents by letting them do the little things around my house that they like to. My mother always wants to stock up my kitchen with essentials she thinks I must have. My father wants to potter about, haul me some new plants, or get my car cleaned, or put up some more painting. My sister, stuck in the middle just goes with the flow and hangs out. It’s a different kind of family time when you host your parents, instead of the other way round. And I really love it.

09

This time though, we took off and went away to Divar Island to spend the Independence day long weekend at a beautiful homestay, with the most wonderful family hosting us. It deserves a separate post, but it always makes my heart skip a few beats to know that I can drive out just 20 minutes, take a boat across the river and be transported to an island that is stuck in time. So close to home, and yet so far out.

The boys (the hugsband and the father) rode their bikes to the island and back. It was awfully hot to be out cycling, but one can never really get between boys and their plans that involve their toys. So while my mother, sister and I reached the island refreshed and relaxed, the hugsband and my father reached there sweaty, pink and exhausted.

08

We spent the weekend swimming in the pool, drinking cocktails, eating home cooked food, chatting with the hosts and amongst ourselves, finding out own quiet corners to escape into, hired bikes in the evening cycled around in the evening and crashed early.

03

It was just what I needed. Home food, conversation, some reading, a pool, lots of homemade cocktails, a khau-suey meal and best of all, no cell phone coverage. Is this what a staycation is like? I could do it more often.

A little rain might have made the weekend even more perfect, but I’m not complaining. The first half of August had come and gone without so much as a moment to stop and catch my breath. Every day had a plan, a new activity and I’m not sorry I was busy. I loved having my family over. The folks stayed with us for a week, and the sister was here for an extended trip until the end of the month — and as always, it makes me realise how different normal life is, as opposed to how it is when you have people staying with you.

The feeling of an extended holiday showed no signs of ending. Mentally, I was in limbo. In between all of this, there was a sudden spike in H&E orders. I cracked an idea and perfected what might be the next addition on the menu — an orange and almond cake. And I baked 15 cakes in 15 days.

10

That seems to be the way with the orders. I only every have spikes, with dull lulls in between. But the spikes always remind me how much I like to bake, just how exciting the process still feels even thought I’ve baked over a hundred cakes by now. I love figuring out new things, doing a little something differently each time, packing up the cake and sending off a happy client.

My hands were full with baking, juggling a couple of skype sessions to line up some work for the next few months, and also wrapping up some IFBM commitments. So I had little time to entertain the sister as much as I usually would. She spent most of her time working on a mural in my balcony. It features, you guessed it, a haathi. But the hugsband only let it pass if it had some element of him in it too. So the haathi? He’s riding a unicycle, if you please. It fits the space in my balcony perfectly and I’m rather pleased with how it turned out.

01

We ate out a fair bit, sampling the new Thai place, catching cocktails at a new joint in town, where I was also invited for a wine tasting the previous night. Its been a very full month as far as eating and drinking goes. I took a bit of a break form the fitness because it was just too much to keep it all going, and by the end of it, I was raring to get back and lift some weights.

13

It was just as well that most of our day time was spent indoors (and accompanied by cool beverages :)) because the heat spiked some time last week and I was convinced the monsoon is over. It felt like summer all over again. Blue skies, patchy fluffy clouds, bright hot sun, not a rain cloud in sight.

05

We were back to sweating our backsides off, and it might as well have been May all over again. If the skies hadn’t been so pretty, I might have been way pissed, but some part of me believed the rain wasn’t done.

02

One look at the sky and you wouldn’t think its possible to expect more rain. October-skies were in full bloom. In August! Shiny streaks of white clouds floating by. I even sent out an exasperated prayer, asking for a light drizzle, just to feel some relief. I have this theory that when the heat spikes unnaturally high, and it reaches the unbelievable and impossible to bear point, the only way ahead is a cloudburst.

And just as I had predicted, against everybody’s hopes, burst it did.

00

And of course, it hasn’t stopped since. It went on and on for 7 days straight, I kid you not. No rest. The last 3 days of it were relentless, without even slowing down to a drizzle. Pounding rain, so bad you would have laughed if I told you it was bright, hot and sunhiney just a week ago.

11

This isn’t normal for this time of year. The monsoon has been so scant, its worrisome. We’re not used to the late start followed by the patchy heavy spells with bright summery weather in between. This is not the Goan monsoon I know. But there’s good news, finally. Our water-table has been replenished, we’ve hit the healthy, safe mark. The paddy fields look lush and I think things are not going to be as bad as I imagined at the end of summer when the monsoon showed almost no signs of coming at all. But this pattern is scary, and I don’t know how we can begin as a community, but we need to fix this. I wonder where we can begin to make a u-turn.

I had my eyes on a relaxed, slow August at the end of the crazy run-up and the event that was IFBM, but it has been anything but that. I am relaxed and at peace, but its been a full month in so many other ways. I’m looking at picking up some work, a few exciting prospects brewing, I have my eyes on finishing up a personal project before the end of the year, and I want to ramp up the H&E menu too. Almost as if by magic, this busy-ness, it suddenly feels so good.

Sunday swing

Sunday

The news has depressed the daylights out of me this past week. Wherever I look, there’s a new atrocity. This week we’ve seen it all from violence against women, crimes against children, a plane crash, war, idiotic Indian politicians who never seem to take a break from doing asinine things, a natural calamity and its all over facebook and twitter. I try to get online, finish my work and get offline, but inevitably I let myself get into a discussion, evesdrop over a raging debate, or just keep reading — before I know it the day is done and I’m to my gills in bad news.

I shut the laptop, grumbling about another day gone by without working as much as I planned to. I take myself to the gym, the only place that has become a non-negotiable in my daily routine. I work my buns off, sweat out the sadness. It’s usually past 8.30 pm, and I tread slowly, dragging my feet back to my car and that familiar feeling returns — the fear that I cradle inside of me, the fear that is always bubbling beneath the surface, but I push away time and again. I’m out, alone, in the dark — what if something happens? The irony is I have just walked out of a kick boxing class — I come out feeling stronger physically, but wonder if something were to happen, would I be able to handle it mentally?

It doesn’t help that I have been homealone for the most of the week gone by. The husbands work trips are getting longer every time. Indoors too, I’m alone. But I brush the fears aside, just as long as I rush home and find myself indoors again. Safe. From everything outside of it. The rain, the dark, the people.

It seems like no place is safe anymore. Not this country, not the places we frequent, not even the schools we send our children to. Where is one to go if the only place I really feel safe is my own home?

*****

It’s a good kind of Sunday when the husband is home from a business trip. Its like temporarily putting a blanket over the fears that linger around. I have some music playing loud, as we rustle up idlies, sambar, chutney and mini vadas for brunch. Outside, it’s coming down in buckets, and it feels just so wet you want to stay indoors. Its safer indoors.

There’s nothing like a coastal monsoon to experience what wetness sounds like. Squelchy, pouring rain has a sound. And that sound, it feels wet. The grey skies hold back as long as they can — dark, looming large and heavy. And then when you’re least expecting it, tears apart, making way for a downpour. You’re indoors, and yet you feel just how wet it is outside.

Suddenly I feel glad to be indoors. In a neighbourhood that rarely has a crime reported. In a city that has so far been very, very kind to me. Where I can walk around after dark, in my gym clothes and not be leered at. Where wearing shorts doesn’t mean putting myself on display. Where I have never been groped. As yet. Where I can mostly be myself without having to cover up, think twice or need a chaperone. I’m glad I’m in a country that’s not at war. Yes, there are a lot of stupid people in influential positions making a lot of questionable decisions, but really, I feel safer here right now. And my heart goes out to those that have been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week.

Yes, it’s a good kind of Sunday. And I feel grateful. I feel glad. Even if just for a bit.

Incidentally, I just realised the playlist is a woman-strong one. So I’m sharing some favourites.

An old favourite, I suddenly caught it on the radio the other day. Amy’s voice is like mulled wine. Warm, spicy, dark and comforting. And this is one of my most loved Amy tracks. Perfect for a rainy day.

What is it about this woman! She’s so unusually appealing. I cannot quite put a finger on it. The music is pleasantly different, her hair, clothes, make up — just so unusual. The words, the unravel slowly and you realise what shes really talking about. I jumped on this train a little late, but I’m in love with Lorde.

Nina Simone is something I associate with the movies. Not the music I grew up listening to. The occasional track I remember is usually because it played in a movie, is all I know. But this track came to me in an 800 mb collection that was we-transferred to me across cities (yeah some of us do that for music). It’s grown on me. And how.

So listen, just stay happy, yeah? Stay safe and have a good Sunday, folks.