No rain, no rainbow

It’s hard some days, to get in here and casually, almost without an extra moment’s thought, type out a few hundred words about the latest discovery in my inward-focused, self-serving rambly-rambling journey.

It’s hard because I’ve just read the news, and the world doesn’t feel so sunshiney, positive and full of hope, like it did in my head just yesterday. Deep inside, I’m devastated by the accounts of what’s going on in Kashmir. Outwardly, I can’t seem to talk about it to anyone around me, save a couple of friends who know and feel the same way.

Every time I read a piece of news about Kashmir, I feel waves of guilt for how good I have it, how untouched my life is by the literal strife they’re going through. How good we have it, down south. How good do I have it simply because of the privilege I am born into — Hindu, “upper caste”, economically well off, looked after, safe, secure. None of these descriptors will ever let me know what it is to be a minority, and how easy it is for me to then be further and further cut away from the experiences and truths that minorities are living through everyday.

It’s hard to go on and just be happy, like everything is peachy, as it truly is in my world. I can’t seem to juxtapose the two and it is a struggle I sit with at least a few times a week.

It’s hard to go on and be normal, when I think about how massive floods and an acute shortage of water are somehow happening at the very same time, in places so, so, so close to home. It’s hard when I think of my MIL who is kicking cancer’s ass like a pro every single day. It’s hard when I see S struggle to give her children the life she wants and that they so deserve.

It’s hard because there are blips in my own journey. Every now and then, what felt like an upward movement suddenly comes to a grinding halt, where everything feels meaningless and almost futile.

It’s hard because, for every layer I peel back, I find myself right back at the “what-is-the-point-of-any-of-this” pitstop, that I am now thinking is a mandatory stop-and-go milestone that I will get to over and over again.

It’s especially hard when somehow the two — my personal monologue and the world that spins on — sometimes collide. When I think about the future, my future, and instead of brimming with hope and optimism, it is filled with a kind of dread. I wonder what use is it working on myself, on creating a healthy, agile, emotionally-stable future self, when the world around seems goddamned insistent on going out of control and self-destructing. I wonder what world we’re creating and leaving behind for future generations — a world that’s being destroyed by fascists, greedy capitalists and self-serving, manipulative politics across the globe.

What use is any of this then?

As I have watched my own politics (of everything!) slowly morph and find a new mould that fits for where I am right now, I find myself at this juncture more often.

But every now and then, the sun comes out again. Like it did today, after several rainy (but beautiful, nonetheless), grey days. And I realise this is the way of the world. Hard as it may be, all of it has a place — the struggles, the injustices, the deep failures, as much as the wins, the victories and the justice.

One year ago: It’s been a hard days night
Three years ago: What my Sunday morning was like

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Unhappy Independence Day

I woke up and realised it’s Independence Day because the gym was empty and I had an easy-breezy drive to the airport. I wondered why, and realised, long weekend, Independence Day, etc. And then I was inexplicably sad.

It’s day 11 of an entire state under lockdown, with all lines of communication cut off. Several of their elected politicians are still detained. It’s what the global media is now calling a form of colonisation. Closer home, we don’t have it in us to call it what it is — undemocratic. Few official updates to explain what is going on. Plenty of hysteria making it all look “normal” and “under control” on TV. But read the real news and it’s horrific.

All this, while we’re staring one of the biggest economic slowdowns of our time, straight in the face, with no signs of recovery.

All this while the prime minister who never makes himself available to the press, solidly avoiding answering solid questions about real issues, appears on a PR driven episode of Man vs Wild, as some wildly twisted way to show he is a champion of environmental causes.

Maybe if he actually did better we wouldn’t be the fourth worst country of 180 countries on the Environmental Performance Index. Maybe he could show us he cares by stopping the unlawful, brazen sanctioning of licenses to clear forests and ecologically sensitive areas for questionable infrastructural projects, and not exempting powerful industrialists and godmen from getting necessary licenses before putting up their next coal mines or industries or whatever else.

Maybe speak up against the gross spread of violence and hate being spewed by emboldened communally-charged elements? Maybe support the powers that be in giving justice to victims and survivors of this violence? Maybe stop the constant stream of aquittal of murderers responsible for some of the worst hate crimes. Maybe do something and lend his goddamned voice across any of the multiple channels of communication he has, to actually speak about the horrific atrocities being committed by self-styled cow-vigilantes in the name of religion and patriotism?

Maybe do something to show that the fast dismantling of minority rights that’s underway is not what we stand for as a country? Maybe show us that we needn’t be afraid. Because I am. The more I read the news, the more afraid I am. The sadder I get. The more hopeless and silenced I feel.

I’m not sure this is the country our ancestors fought tooth and nail, long and hard for, in the name of freedom and independence.

One year ago: New way, new life
Three years ago: Sunday

Mush

It’s been an insanely stormy day, that’s been pretty and fascinating to watch from the inside, but downright chaotic on the outside.

Much like my brain this week.

Still struggling with coherence. The words are stuck. My limbs feel frozen. Everything feels a bit pointless.

None of this bodes well right now, because I have an assignment submission to make tomorrow.

I’ll just have to keep at it and keep trying.

One year ago: Slowly drifting, wave after wave
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: Sunday lunch edition

Three years ago: Like Nike, but better

Grey

It’s been a terrible day, right from the get go. It started off with minor niggles but with every progressive niggle (and they were flying thick and fast) it began to feel like the world was conspiring to make me have this shitty day in every way possible. It started with an all-morning power cut that threatened to ruin my agenda for the day, and ended with a full on battle with a lizard the size of a mini dinosaur, and resulted in my having a full blown melt down at sundown.

Physical niggles aside, there’s been a lot of heaviness in our lives this past week. I realised I hadn’t given myself enough time to process everything that happened and came up in class — a lot of which has been heavy and overwhelming for me — and went straight into flying to Goa, landed in the midst of news a medical emergency in our family. We have been riding that wave all week, waiting on endless hospital tests and doctors opinions before we figure out which way to proceed. All this has meant that as a family too, we haven’t had the luxury to really come together or even process the fear and grief that has surfaced in the face of a life threatening disease.

I’ve had a vague sense of being disoriented all week but I just put that down to my inability to run on autopilot like I was in the week before I landed in Goa, and thought I just needed time to switch down from that tempo. However I realised today, when it all bubbled over, over a full-on war with a harmless (albeit menacingly large) lizard, that there was something else at play. I have held all of my emotions in this past week, in an attempt to just get on and get by, not fully in touch with what I am feeling and how it is showing up in my body. It only showed up and became clear like looking through a freshly minted sheet of glass, in therapy today when everything — all the varied, disparate, disconnected open ends of my life at the moment — spiller over in full force.

I haven’t had a day this heavy in, possibly, years. In fact my last real memory of a day like this is from 2016 — a year when I had several of them. Since then, even with the small ups and downs, I have felt a steady forward, upward movement and real changes in being able to manage the heavier days without breaking down completely or being thrown totally off kilter.

Of course the real goal of any inner work is not to eliminate such days entirely, but to get to a place where they are managed in a more mindful way, by being present rather than absent to the difficulties that are coming up.

Last week, I felt largely absent. I have not been in my body and certainly not been present to the full impact of the real emotions I have been having. This has disoriented and fazed me a fair bit, also something I wasn’t aware of. And so today has been a reminder of how much more work there is to be done. And how important it is for me to look after myself, in order to be present and fully available, for myself as well as for others who look to me for support. Especially in times like this.

One year ago: Did you fall from a shooting star?
Three years ago: On solitude

These days

I’ve only been back in Bangalore a week, but the settledness that comes with returning home makes it feel like it’s been a while. Longer. Only thoughts of my plants give me a pang for the wonderful summer I had this year, not so long ago. But for the most part, life here has resumed in full swing. The weather has turned here with thunderstorm-y nights and grey, overcast days. Summer feels long gone.

There is the new development of not having work at all, something that otherwise grounds my days, giving me tangible milestones to work towards. I’m also mostly still eating all meals at amma’s, because ammama is visiting, so my kitchen hasn’t found a burst of activity as it usually does when I return. The only thing I’m doing (and by doing I mean expending physical energy) with utmost dedication an enthusiasm, is hitting the gym every single day. As much as this is a luxury that I love and appreciate, it has meant my days are rather floaty, like an extended holiday of sorts. Except I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t a holiday, this is now life itself. A phase of life without work, a life with abundant help and generosity from my mother. It is here for the taking — with freewheeling days to do as I please — and I must step up and take it for what it is, without diminishing its (or my) value with my sometimes problematic notions of what is “okay” to receive, and what is an unnecessary indulgence.

This seriously still disorients me — the floaty days, and the internal tussle I go through before I can enjoy them — but the uncanny and deliberate way in which events aligned to land me in this place this time around feels like a fresh call to just stay with it for a change. Do not rush to fill it with busyness, Re.

Even though I am getting better at it, it still takes a lot of effort to put myself in the headspace to go with it and enjoy it, to believe I am not “slacking off” for not being “productive”, to quit equating my usefulness to professional work alone. There is a sense of urgency I feel in getting to work, that I haven’t had in a while. The comfort of a steady gig, a steady income had kept that at bay, I suppose. The emptiness left by it now has brought old demons I’d somewhat put to rest, back up again. I’ve done my share of overthinking it silently in my head. And I keep coming back to asking myself this — what is your rush? What are you in looking to fill, ignore, move your eyes away from? Are you looking for work to numb the discomfiting silence that comes from extreme stillness? What is so scary about emptiness that you are trying avert it so urgently?

While I figure this out, I’m casting the net out again. Feebly. I’ve been out of the game for so long that I feel inept and a bit at sea about where to begin. So I must remember to take it slow, telling myself as many times as it takes to remember, I didn’t get to this stage of funemployment overnight, that sheer providence has sent a steady flow of work my way even in phases when I wasn’t really looking for it, that I am probably not going to go back to a state of steady work overnight. This is the natural order of things now. That it is okay. That there are gifts in here, even in the sometimes uncomfortably empty days, in the laziness that forces itself on me, in the wealth of time that is opening up for me. Is work really the only thing I want to fill it with?

At this point, I don’t know.

One year ago: Life has a funny way of helping you out
Three years ago: Period story and writing lessons

Loud

Today, I had what I thought was a perfectly normal, if slightly loud, conversation that one has with a client. It started off as a clarification of miscommunication from both sides, but very quickly turned into a shouting match that took an unnecessarily emotional turn. I used to be someone who would get very worked up by confrontation of this sort, but I now much prefer having things out in the interest of a better outcome (even if that outcome is that I lose a client). But today, somewhere in the midst of decibel levels rising and emotions flaring, I realised that what was playing out was a story, a script. Something I have been a part of before — conversations with clients/colleagues where there is an unmistakeable undertone of a power equation threatening to be toppled simple because one party decided to come clean and ask the tough questions.

I used to be afraid of this kind of confrontation, no matter which side of the argument I have been in. I am not a fan of ruffling feathers (and losing a good thing) nor have I been a fan of being at the receiving end of a confrontation. But today, I initiated it. I didn’t even realise how naturally this had come to me today, even as I was doing it. And suddenly, in that moment when I realised what was actually at play, I had the blinding clarity that I refuse to play a part in this repetitive script in my life again.

It was suddenly no longer about missed deadlines, miscommunication, ironing out wrinkles so we can work it out going forward. It was about reclaiming my power from a person who was hell bent on irrationally taking it away. I have never been surer of how right I am in an engagement with a client. And today, I really had it out.

The conversation was difficult. It touched a very raw nerve, gave me a headache and tested me emotionally so much, I burst into tears when I hung up, even as I was so relived to have ended that contract. Now that I think of it, I think they were also tears of relief. But when the call was done, my temples were pounding, I needed a tall drink of water and immediately took myself to my air conditioned bedroom to cool off.

There’s suddenly so much happening with me, in this area of power, space and boundaries. It comes in waves with such intensity and is revealing itself in little and big situations, inspiring a host of different actions and reactions on an everyday basis. It is making me do things every single day that surprise me, push me, elate me, exhaust me.

This situation, this conversation and this outcome (ending a contract on a telephone call) would be so very unlike me. Except it doesn’t feel unlike me anymore. The more these situations present themselves, the more I am pushed to see this side of me that also exists, that has been lying locked up, that needs to be seen, the more I am forced to see what I really am. I’m a mix of it all. I am as aggressive and can fight loud and aggressively for what’s right, as much as I can be compassionate and let you have your way on a day when I feel kinder.

Today I may have shaken myself up a bit. This probably the first time I really stood up to a client who was being a bully. It’s the first time I really made myself heard, without relenting in the moment and saving up all my pent up aggression for a politely worded email sent much later when enough deep breaths were taken.

This new side, I find aggressive, loud, shrill, even hostile sometimes. But, I realise how much of this is conditioning. Conditioning that makes me believe these qualities must be hushed up. That I must be coy and cooperative as far as possible. That I must sometimes relent in the interest of work, and money. But I am so much more than that.

I am sometimes angry. Fierce. Unreasonable. I am all of this too.

When did anger get such a bad rap? Why is it looked down upon so much? I see now that anger and rage, when expressed, are clues to dig deeper. And invariably, when I do, I am compelled to change something towards a better outcome. Anger maybe a trigger emotion, but it’s certainly a catalyst for change. So when and why have we become so comfortable with pushing it away?

I feel loud and large today. It is like stepping into a side of me that has been a long time coming. But on the flip side, I feel emotionally very vulnerable and fragile. And yet, kind of empowered. I feel new.

One year ago: All the small things
Three years ago: Essay aftermath

Blank

I’ve had a strange day with high highs and lows lows and wild swinging between the two. I’ve had to streamline all the things I had planned for two weeks to now be done in two days before I jet off unexpectedly. Top on my list was getting a haircut and my phone fixed. And somehow I’m in less of a tizzy now that those “crucial” things are done.

Right now though, my mind’s just blank.

Three years ago: Fullness

Not my country

It’s been a while since I have aired a political view on this blog. I think the last time I did was on the grim day in 2014 when the dark forces that be, came to power. But yesterday, I felt broken. I spent a large part of the day keeping up with the updates following the airstrikes that began day before yesterday, and I just can’t fight the feeling of overwhelming disappointment and disgust at just how despicably low the greed for power can make this government stoop. I had been simmering all day, but watching the video of Wing Commander Abhinandan in captivity, making a statement with stoic and brave composure, just completely broke me.

It’s been a veritable shit-fest from the word go. And my disgust began yesterday with news of raucous celebrations across the country at our brave show of retaliation. Since then there has been a deafening silence from the government. This is a time to be available, accountable and respond with alacrity. But the silence and the absolute lack of urgency in making available the right responses available is appalling. Delayed updates, delayed confirmation, lack of clarity and no urgency to respond to the news of the captured pilot or where we will go from here. With this heavy air of being at the brink of war looms large, all I’ve felt again and again is crushing defeat.

I’m not even the slightest fan of the current government in power. But if there was even a glimmer of optimism in me, a silent, small possibility to “give them a chance, change takes time” like people keep asking of me, it has all but vanished today.

It’s 2019 for fucks sake. All this progress, development, evolution has got to count for something. As if the religious fundamental rhetoric and the Hindutva hard-lining weren’t enough, theres is now this new catastrophe in the making, guaranteed to drag us down. I didn’t think I’d live to witness a time where my country, the largest democracy in the world, a super power in the making, would be at the brink of war. A war we cannot afford, a war we have no business bringing on ourselves. I’m just so angry at the thought.

I don’t own a TV, but the clips of the blatant war-mongering going on on prime time news in the wake of the 14 Feb attacks has churned my stomach every time that I have encountered one. They’ve been shrill, hyping the government, fighting the cause of revenge, using the heavy word so brazenly. No amount of muting the card carrying right wingers in my phonebook and on whatsapp seems to help, they’re crawling out of the woodworks with their boxes of laddoos and what not, to celebrate would you believe? The unbridled hate I’ve seen online, on my whatsapp stories and in the news has been heartbreaking. And for what? It’s not like we’ve fought the war and emerged victorious. Premature celebrations, much?

I hope some day they’ll come out of their saffron coloured castles in the air and see the truth. This is bad timing. This shouldn’t have happened. It simply shouldn’t have.

One wonders about the timing of it all, the urgency to retaliate and to seek revenge. One wonders about the classified nature of such surgical strikes and how quickly publicised these were. One wonders about when we turned aggressive, rather than defensive, and which is the more powerful position to take. One wonders about the inflating 56″ chest and that mad glint in those eyes. One wonders about the futility of it all, just for another inevitable election win, but the impetus to win it while soaring even higher on the frenzied sentiments of a nation baying for blood.

I’m just so helpless and enraged by my helplessness.

I had a moment of severe dissonance while I was at the supermarket today, buying vegetables and chicken, while imagining forces getting ready for combat. How can the two realities coexist?

War shouldn’t be this easy.

A war at a time like this? What of the farmers whose hunger remains to be addressed even after the budget? What about our cities that are crying for thought and attention, where little really reaches? What about the the 87% slash in teacher training that’s bound to impact education in India? What about the exodus of workers marching to Delhi to protest the plan to weaken labour laws?

Meanwhile the prime minister in the last 24 hours has experienced the Delhi metro, launched a Bhagwad Gita app along with some fitness or something or the other app and is busy promoting and prepping for his Guinness world record breaking largest video conference ever to be held soon. And this, when we’ve had absolutely no confirmed legit updates, except for three very disturbing videos of the captured wing commander. Again and again his brazen display of blind power and greed with no fucks to give cuts too close to the bone.

How do more people not see this? How do they not feel this?

I’M JUST SO MAD.

Surely we have bigger priorities to throw our money at. And no, I don’t mean another statue. I know this isn’t the most nuanced opinion, but right now I’m just mad, so filled with rage and bitterness that one mans greed for another electoral win, to emerge the hero, to make a damn point, can drag an entire nation to these lows.

As I have been wondering about karmic cycles, at a personal and a national level (yes I’ve wondered about the karma of my nation), and in my own life I see the benefit in healing the present as the only means to break cycles of hurt, I wonder about retaliation and what good it holds. I wonder about the futility of war. I wonder what hope this leaves for tomorrow.

Today, all I feel is hopeless.

This is not the country I want to call mine.

One year ago: Pretend like there’s no world outside

Waking thoughts

At yoga this morning, my teacher said something really simple, but that rang true with the resounding sound of ten bells in my head.

To bring awareness to a part of your body, is to breathe into it. To bring prana into it. To bring life itself to it.

And suddenly I realised, that’s exactly what the journey of awareness has been for me. Like in yoga, bringing awareness has brought life to my life. Without it would be to merely exist.

***

I’ve caught myself saying “I feel so used!” to myself so, so, so many times these past few weeks. So far it’s mostly been in response to things friends have said or done, which has had me sit up and look at the equation between us. But it peaked when my neighbour, who I barely know, just asked me if she could use my home to serve lunch to a bunch of wedding guests they cannot accommodate in their home. It’s been a testing time for my boundaries and the idea of my personal space and how I allow it to be encroached has been coming up a lot, lately. If this is not a sign to wake up and address it, I don’t know what is.

Three years ago: Orange is the new black

Day 331: I need to free my mind and see what I’m feeling

Throwing it back to this day last week by the beach, when my mind was empty and the sunset sea-breeze buoyed me up.

Because, I’m feeling a little fried today. And I am only connecting the dots going backwards right now

The HDFC net banking site drove me up the wall today. And it happened to be a day where I had to do two airline bookings, place a Big Basket order and check up on two payments waiting to be reversed. None of this happened easily. Even now, only the air bookings have been successful, but not without strife.

But it all started last night. I went to bed later than usual, tossed and turned before I drifted off well past midnight. I didn’t sleep too well and it resulted in me oversleeping this morning, which sets my entire day off.

I didn’t know it then but I do now. I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about a current situation VC and I are in. It’s mundane and boringly usual where his family comes from, but it has bent my mind in so many ways these past ten days, that I m unable to wrap my head around it.

I’m trying to just let the feelings come up to the surface and flow, and sometimes it works, and helps. There has been some fear of judgement, fear of being stuck and stifled, and a difficulty in accepting the uncertainty of which way this can go. I also find myself torn between jumping in, to rescue mode and having VC’s back, even though my heart knows this is my chance to back off completely because this isn’t entirely my circus or my monkeys right now, and in fact an opportunity for VC to set his emotional boundaries right with his family. And who knows, even invite a little new goodness into our lives.

In all of this I am also afraid that my anxiety about this (that I cannot help at this point) may jinx it.

I wanted to go catch Bohemian Rhapsody tonight, but its less than 30 minutes to show time and I still trying to get through the failed net banking shit of the day. 

I’m ready to go to bed tonight, thinking of the sea and the coming and going of the waves, in the hope that tomorrow will be lighter and flowy-er.

Day 317: But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need

Today I had thoughts on going with the flow, the weird thing that social media does where the simplest everyday things are treated like massive achievements, how acceptance and surrender are probably two sides of the same coin, and how the I manage to be weighed down by the sheer lightness and transience of friendship. But I’m cheating with a picture again today. My brain has just been all over the place these last few days and I’m not up to really articulating much.

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

Day 295: They say you were always enough

I’m exhausted. After days of fighting that itchy throat, my body gave in today. It felt like there were rocks embedded in there every time I swallowed. And so for the first time this year, I have caved and decided to have antibiotics. I know what has brought this on — exhaustion. This is my body saying, enough, get some rest. It was also probably tipped over the edge by the three chilled beers I had at lunch yesterday. Oh well.

It’s been non-stop this entire month, and I felt my energy really flagging on the weekend. Unfortunately I can’t fully stop just yet. We’re int he midst of packing before we set off to Goa in a few days. Once there too, a whole lot of things need to be done to get our home where VC will stay, up and going in time before I return.

So today, I took comfort in a big fat pill, an afternoon nap, a cancelled evening appointment and some forced downtime, before I made a batch of Asian summer rolls and headed over to my aunts for dinner. There’s quite nothing like a hot meal someone cooks for you, to hit the spot on an ill day like today, when my body has wanted to just stay curled up and asleep. We had fried fish, a hearty chicken curry, and topped it with a small Jagermeister shot that fixed my throat good and proper.

Tomorrow will be a better day, I know. And that R in the image, it stands for REST.

One year ago: When one door shuts, open it again
Two years ago: Day 295: In with the new

Day 282: Try to remember the good times

Since the day we got back from holiday, there’s been a heaviness hanging over me. It’s not as if things are down out and dreary, but I cannot ignore this achy, heavy heart that’s feeling trapped inside my ribs. It started with Niyu’s illness that even though we caught in time, really pulled the rug out from beneath my feet. Physically there were many sleepless nights, which though one pulls through high on an adrenaline-addled response, begin to show one way or another. But even otherwise, this is the most stress I have known in a while. If it weren’t for my father, and all the support and help we got from unexpected quarters, I don’t know how we’d have managed. It didn’t help that I had to be away from home for four days, finishing my course, leaving them and my mind at home, trying hard to stay focused. The work in class itself, deeply emotional always takes a toll on me. All in all it was a cocktail of things that sucked the juice out of me last week.

There was also the undeniable sadness and almost grief of ending this incredible journey I’ve been on thanks to the learning. It was an emotional four days, and the cherry on top was the very moving, very inspired and sweet closing ceremony we had. I got some very encouraging feedback on my essays, a very powerful module to close the course with, and all in all it feels like I’ve refuelled for the next many months to come. It was all too bittersweet, high on the sense of accomplishment, of having done something entirely for myself after so many years, of having finished it so well, of having gained oh so much from the entire experience, and yet having it end so fast. It seems like I only just began, just the other day.

Just when that finished, and I was looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday, the #MeToo shitstorm broke out. With S braving the eye of it, I’ve been getting frequent, gut-wrenching, enraging updates, even though I am not on social media where one can follow closely. Every story, every update brings up the bilious rage. But that is not all. This time around, the wave of stories has left me very helpless, hopeless. With a fast and quick-changing idea of feminism brewing in my head, I am very conflicted this time around. My support lies fair and centre on the side of victims, but I am so undecided about many other things. Mostly I am also very troubled by what this means for us as a culture, as a people and a race. What have we lost that has brought us to this point? Where are we letting out boys and girls down? What does it say for us as a culture where so many, many men it seems have just no clue how to deal with desire in a healthy manner, and just don’t know what to do with their feelings when met with a no? I was at the WeTheWomen even here on Sunday, very briefly. I went in just to listen to Raghu Karnad and Rohini Nilekani talk about “Working with boys and men” and though the session left me quite dissatisfied and wanting more, one thing she said really stood out: what have we done for aggression to be the default response to all unaddressed feelings?

I am deeply ashamed at where we stand today, having done a giant disservice to generations of men and women by shrouding all conversation around sex, consent and healthy relationships in shame and fear. For building a culture that normalises violence, aggression and harassment in the name of desire and love. For how we have done little to question and topple power structures present in various facets of society, even as we make advances and have women increasingly make inroads into the ranks. It’s deeply distressing to hear stories from 30 years ago that are coming out today, echoing exactly what is still going on. What has our evolution come to mean? What use is all that performative wokeness?

It felt like a never-ending weekend of the sads. Monday couldn’t come soon enough. My sister got a clean chit on Monday morning at the hospital, and as I heaved a sigh of relief it felt like the first time I exhaled a heavy bout of air I’d trapped inside of me all week long. I returned home, thinking about resuming work again and finding some semblance of routine and normalcy. But then I got a message from D that Leo had passed on and I felt like my world had fallen apart all over again.

I’m due to puppy sit at theirs next month and there’s an ache and a puppy shaped gaping hole in my heart just imagining what it will be like to have 2, not 3 of them begging for a taste of my dinner. I’m still broken, and I have no idea why this has hit so close home and why this loss feels so personal.

Over the course of the last almost-two years, I have grown terribly attached to and fond of D’s puppies. There is something to be said about getting to know your friends dogs. Slowly, over time. It’s a lot like meeting your friend’s children. At first there’s tentativeness on both sides. They’ll look at your curiously, almost as if to say “Why are you here to hog my mommy’s attention again?” But you visit often enough, and the familiarity grows. Eventually guards will drop, and if you’re anything like Leo, you might even offer me your bum from a safe distance of about 2 feet, demanding a good scratch on the rump. You keep the visits frequent enough and slowly you’ll build a relationship with the puppy, outside of your relationship with your friend. You’ll take gifts along sometimes. You’ll take pictures of them. You’ll surprise yourself by feelings of longing when you actually miss the cute little runts. So you’ll fish out your phone and look at pictures lovingly, send them hugs and kisses in your mind. Eventually, you’ll be accepted as family and every arrival will be met with happy wagging tails, wet noses at your feet and gentle demands for petting. All pretence of good behaviour for “guests” too will fade away and you’ll love them anyway. All this and more happened with Leo. He was a special, special puppy who crept into my heart in a way no puppy has. I had mad respect for his underwhelmed-by-everything, too-cool-for-everything-unless-it’s-food demeanour. I loved his focus on all things food and I will truly miss his gentle giant presence every time we visit D and UT going forward. All I know is that special place in puppy heaven with an unending supply of pork sausages just found it’s most ardent occupant. And the loss is entirely ours.

The entire week, weekend and beyond has carried this heavy energy. The bittersweetness of it is inescapable. Wonderful things have happened, but not without a tinge of that heavy price being/to be paid. I’ve crossed paths with difficult times, and through the crises found the immeasurable gift of support, help and boundless love. I’ve ended journeys and felt the palpable beginning of new ones. I’m mad proud and excited for the way in which the universal energies of women are syncing up, but I feel drained and heavy with the pain it is making us all revisit. As much as life endures, it is not without death, surrender and difficult lessons in moving on. All of this is heavy, all of these are life-changing experiences.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: Revisiting old haunts II

Day 254: Not yet lost all our graces

For a bunch of reasons, some self-made some circumstantial, I’ve been so busy since the start of the month. Work has picked up suddenly, and I’m trying to get it done before I take off on holiday again for the last ten days of this month.

On the home front too, things have caught up with me. Rather, I’ve caught up with the home by sheer dint of being around. Since my mum and dad left, and with no sister in close proximity to go to (boohoo!) I’ve been having a regular life again. Waking up in my home, cooking myself proper, full meals, planning my work around things that need to be done, having a routine that includes some chores and some delegation and overseeing too.

And I’m trying to stay on top of it without losing out on having a life too. So in between all of this there have been outings to catch up with friends, working at coffeeshops, an anniversary dinner and watching Hamlet The Clown Prince.

Things have peaked, and despite the overwhelming busyness of it all, it has been such a good time. But, it’s been six days since I picked up my kindle, I realised. Instead, the pockets of time I’d otherwise dedicate to reading have been spent staying on my phone for inordinately longer than usual, and watching a lot of Netflix*. I have genuinely not had much time for TV this year, sticking to only my absolute must watches, like OITNB and waiting for This Is Us. I did watch the odd thing like Wild Wild Country, She’s Gotta Have It and Nanette, when the hype around it made it impossible to miss. But for the most part I’ve missed out on a lot of TV.

My whatsapp DND time has also gone out of whack with all the travelling, when I go easy on the self-imposed time out. I haven’t been strict enough with myself to enforce it again once we returned. More recently though, with my mum in the states, I find it easier to just stay available during the hours she’s awake.

This has meant a lot more screen time than I’ve been used to these past 10 months. So, it was natural and only a matter of time before I noticed that it was not a mere coincidence that a natural spike in my busyness saw a spike in screen time.

This is probably my pattern. When my brain is over-stretched, few things help me numb it out than mindless screen time. And no matter what the nature of what I am watching, or how scintillating the conversation on whatsapp is, I know that I turn to screens mostly to shut my brain out.

Here’s the thing though, it feels like a numbing mechanism, but it is anything but. If anything, it activates my already spread-too-thin brain some more. And instead of stripping down the number of thoughts, adds to them, thereby contributing to an overall restless feeling. Which is all very well for a weekend or a few days here and there, I suppose. I like a good mindless binge-watch every now and then, but last weekend, I suddenly realised I was missing the quiet in my head. The silence that that made it possible to put my phone down and actually forget all about it for hours on end because the book I was reading had me rapt. The silence that encourages me to read, even when I am tired because it soothes. I realised this when even though I had finished my tasks for the day, sent out my work, met my deadlines, my mind wouldn’t stop racing. I didn’t have anything else left to do, I could have picked up my kindle, but instead time after time, I turned to my phone. Or laptop.

Shit hit the fan when VC took this picture of me on our anniversary. I’m not one for big, outlandish celebrations, but I would certainly have liked to keep my face our a screen. And I’d have liked to spend the entire day, and not just the evening, really together, minus laptops and phones.

In a flash, it reminded me so much of my years spent in long hours at work. TV was mostly the only thing I could manage to do to unwind then. The idea that my brain had been occupied for 10 hours a day at work, almost warranted the binge-watch before bed, to just stop my brain from thinking thoughts.

I’ve come a long, long, long way from there, so to slip back momentarily and have those same feelings of restlessness and chatter in the brain surface was a bit unsettling.

The other non-coincidence was that the week of extreme phone usage happened to be the week I re-entered Instagram after nine whole months. I went in to retrieve some images and writing from last year that are locked away on the app. But the cheeky little thing that Instagram is, it wont let you deactivate immediately anymore. One needs to now wait a week between deactivations. It’s a tactic to make you stay and lure you in, I’m sure. And let me tell you, it works, for the most part. I didn’t get lured back in, but in the knowledge that I had a weeks worth of access, and once the literal anxiety and breathlessness I felt to see the feed (and how much it has changed, in form and content) had passed on day 1, I was back watching and watching and watching and watching. Till I could watch no more.

I’ll say it again, it’s not the app. It is entire me. Us. And the way we allow the apps to draw us in, but there is an undeniable link between the quality of the way I spend my time, the state of peace and calm in my head, and being on or off social media (Instagram and Whatsapp, in my case).

It was eye-opening to notice the difference. But it also makes it easier to acknowledge a pattern and reconcile with slowly slipping back to normalcy. I’m trying to wrap up my work at a sane hour rather than let it slip into the evening and night, just because I have the luxury to do that. This is another interesting space to test boundaries and reclaim space for myself, and so I’m trying it out.

Reflecting on the whole experience the other day, wondering about what drew me in, even though I know and have lived a whole, full life and realised that I’m absolutely not missing even the good stuff I thought was keeping on Instagram, outside of it. It’s the very nature of the application. And in some way, maybe it is  in fact a reflection of the nature of the world itself. Aptly described in this quote from Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive that I read earlier this year.

THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind. To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business.

*What I watched:

  1. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix): it was so sweet and light and lovely. Perfect for a Friday night.
  2. Bareilly ki Barfi (Netflix): was really, surprisingly good. I’m a blind supporter and fan of all of Rajkumar Rao’s work, and even though he isn’t the central protagonist here, he steals the show. Ably supported by excellent work by Ayushmann Khurana and Kirti Sanon who I had hitherto dismissed as just a pretty face.
  3. PadMan (Netflix): was terrible. Lazy, convenient, disastrous way to tell an important story about a real man, and turn it into an outrageous story that doesn’t even so much as acknowledge the man whose life inspired the movie. Again, maybe I’m not the audience, but the way in which everything was dumbed down I wonder if it even did the trick for the audience it was aimed at. Also made me wonder when Sonam Kapoor will figure she cant act and that she should probably try production or something.
  4. Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (Netflix): light, simple kiddie rom-com, worth a watch even though it was problematic in parts and gave me a lot of thoughtssss.

Day 176: Take a minute, I’ve been sitting here and wondering

Sunday evening blues are a real bane on my weekends in Bangalore. This is something that was largely missing in Goa. I had only begun to feel a hint of it towards the end, during the last few months before I left Goa. But for the most part, even my years working full time, I was largely unaffected by Sunday evening blues.

Here though, I feel physically trapped. And with every passing weekend, the feeling seems to be growing. On the one hand there is the palpable discomfort with having myself at a loose end on a Sunday evening. And then there is the added discomfort of wondering why I’m suddenly hating Sunday evenings. I don’t know what to do with this feeling except let it pass, which it eventually does, but not without making me sulk a whole lot first.

I don’t know what to do with it because that’s how unfamiliar the feeling is. In Goa, I’d just drive out, or go for a run or take myself to a coffee shop with a book, or do something to up my spirits on a Sunday evening. Most often I didn’t need company. In fact it was my Sunday evening rituals that convinced me I was a 100% introvert. That has changed now, but more so on Sundays in Bangalore where I find keeping myself upbeat depends on so many variables. I really resent that high dependence — on navigating traffic if I choose to get out, on that slim sliver of time that is the sweet spot of getting out on a Sunday evening, on the handful of places that aren’t going to be infested with noisy crowds on a Sunday evening, on finding apt company (because most places aren’t conducive to sitting by myself for long hours). It’s just all too much decision-making, and the thought of putting in so much effort just to feel a little upbeat, makes me feel like it’s just too much of a song and dance for something so basic.

So I sat home yesterday, in protest. Of what, I’m not entirely sure. I think I was protesting the state of my weekends and how far I’ve fallen. Or some such.

Sundays are the day when the reality of how much life overall in Bangalore, does not sit right for me. On a day to day basis, I get by because all the little things I do feel okay, they’re deliberate and I make efforts to look on the bright side and make my peace. But on Sundays, everything falls apart. Sitting at home, counting down the many ways in which I feel trapped, incapable and just so stuck, it’s enough to make me want to really question my life here.

This past weekend was largely meh. I vegetated for the most part. On Saturday evening, my sister came over and we baked a banana cake and some pesto-garlic rolls, which significantly cheered me up. I slept rather late because I stayed up watched Dear Zindagi, which I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed a second time over.

On Sunday, I stayed in bed way longer than I am known to, maybe because of how late it was by the time I crashed. We went out to lunch with VC’s family, which while fun while it lasts, always leaves me feeling a bit…empty. By the time we were back home, it was too late to do anything to salvage the fast nose-diving evening. VC was glued to the race which lasted all evening. And I curled up in bed again, ostensibly to read, but my mind was just overcome with This-Cant-Be-My-Life thoughts. More specifically, I can’t get over why Sunday evenings have suddenly become such a deal-breaker for me. It’s taken up unnecessarily large proportions that I am not comfortable with.

Serendipitously, P texted me all the way from Finland. Most uncharacteristically, we had a long, long, long chat about friendship, loneliness and the difficulties of moving on. Uncharacteristic because we only ever text each other when we need recommendations for books, or we have a book to recommend, and because I have been religiously turning my Whatsapp off by 8 pm every evening but given how I was feeling, I let myself stay and chat. And it was all kinds of affirming to suddenly have a conversation about the guilt and grief of changing friendships that feel like they’re slowly loosening their grip and fading away, so out of the blue, with someone who knew exactly what that feels like.

I am really enjoying this strange space where I am simultaneously craving the company of likeminded women, also struggling to find it, and yet also somehow finding it in the most unlikely spaces. (As an aside, it’s a sign of just how much has changed in just one year, considering on this day exactly a year ago I wrote about seeking solitude.) Chatting with P was the sliver lining on my otherwise very lacklustre Sunday.

***

Weather-wise, Bangalore has been a dream. Feathery rain that feels like a caress more than a shower, perfect to stay in, actually. And yet, that feels like such a trap in Bangalore.

It’s been reminding me of my Goa monsoon playlist, non-stop. And it’s also where the title of this post is from.

Re-live it a little with me, won’t ya?

One year ago: What coming home feels like: Seeking solitude
Two years ago: Day 176: Begin