More feels

Oh how far we’ve come. How low we’ve fallen. How depraved and deranged a time we now live in. How despicable and desperate everything seems.

In contrast to a time like this.

Watch Bismillah Khan sing praises to the spirit of Benaras, reliving his days and life there, where the duality of Islam and Hinduism found peaceful coexistence in one of the holiest cities in the country.

A reality that seems unbelievable and impossible to retrieve today.

SHAME.

One year ago: Winter joys
Two years ago: You’ve been on my mind

Things that have punched me right in the gut

Right up in the feels. Full blown emotional reactions. Some tears. Some swelling pride. Some solace. And still some despair.

Will this go down in history books as the Revolution of 2020? I sure hope that at least from the digital documentation and all the spontaneous, raw and brutal art coming out from it, it does. Because the news channels aren’t getting the full force off the ugliness off it all. Not even a little bit.

And with the way things are going, I don’t think we can depend on the history books to provide any degree of accuracy to the actual goings-on of this country and the dark times we are traversing.

Sab kucch yaad rakha jayega. By Aamir Aziz, of Acche Din Blues fame from some years ago. If you haven’t heard it, you need to. Now.

Mere paas bechne ko kuchh nahi so bech raha hun ghaflat,
Daal bohot mehengi hai so log khareed rahe hain nafrat.

And then there was this: Vaastvik Kanoon, by Naveen Chourey.

And then this grooooovy sample from a Cubbon Park anti-CAA/NCR Cypher. (We have cyphers now?!? Woooot.)

Ah. I have never witnessed joy and pain sit in companionable silence together like this before.

One year ago: The morning after
Two years ago: Video killed the radio star

Better than yesterday, ready for tomorrow

I went to the protest yesterday and I was immensely moved. It was a relatively small gathering, unfortunately. But large in spirit, in voice and in intention. And it happened: I felt something welling up inside of me. In no time at all, my efforts to push back tears were futile. So I stood with the not-so-large crowd of women and men gathered at Town Hall on a Sunday morning, wiping away tears, looking and feeling quite foolish, really. But also feeling my body billowing with a mixture of helpless rage and frustration, mixed with a wild, unbridled wave of inspiration from some of the amazing women who had organised the protest and came forward to speak and share stories of their work with women, with children, and with disadvantaged sections of our society, on ground.

I was particularly enraged not to see a single social media influencer/celebrity with any reach or influence present on the day. That post Manu Chandra post about Bangalore mourning for Monkey Bar, that I spoke about the other day? That enraged me just as much. None of the many, many thousands in this city who are otherwise so quick to take to woke catch-phrases and news pieces, to carefully curate their words and build an image that plays nice and is sufficiently activist-ish and sufficiently pleasant, somehow didn’t find it in them to make it and show solidarity. Many, many regular city women showed up though. In their regular clothes and no photo opportunities. With placards, slogans and heartfelt intention and presence. And once again, the tears welled up.

I am feeling sick to the stomach and peoples duplicity in a world where a woke social media image is becoming everything. This has been a long time coming. Waking up to my own privilege has been a difficult, slow and often painful process. And for many years, I have had the luxury of turning away. While I figured out where I stand, while I allowed my politics to shift and grow, while I took care of my sanity. I had the privilege to turn away. Slowly, but surely though, now I have been feeling compelled to push through. Push through my fence-sitting, my incomplete opinions, my sometimes dilute politics, my apathy, my helplessness, my privilege to just turn a blind eye when things get uncomfortable. And I have been questioning my place in the larger landscape of our society, this country and what is happening around me. And in this context, I have been looking at people around me with new eyes. People whose minds I once admired, some of whom I called friends, people whose politics I aspired to. Many of them are unbearable today. I cannot bear the armchair activism anymore. It began with a disgust at my own, and a kick up my own backside about time running out.

I know, I am not a foot-soldier out there doing the work. Just listening to the women speaking yesterday reaffirmed that. I am not even a person of influence. And yet, there are little things I can do. I am feeling more and more that the time for aimless despair is done. It is time to walk the talk or forever hold ones peace. I do know that my heart and my body are pushing me to be different, to be better — that’s what this welling up and bubbling over of tears, time and time again, is. And I can no longer turn away.

My personal politics have been shifting for a while. I am not the person I was even one year ago, let alone 4-5-6 years ago. I don’t ascribe to many of the views I held then. I look back on posts I’ve written and feel a deep sense of what has changed, and what has remained. Lately, I’ve been feeling immensely disappointed in some of the severely liberal talk online, at the hands of folks who seem to only talk and not do much more than that. In them, I see where I once was. In them, I see an absolute stubbornness and a dangerous change-averse stand. In them I see the terrifying arrogance of believing their politics are all figured out, superior to everyone else’s and somehow an immovable, unchangeable thing. In them I see the dangerous idea that personal politics are cast in stone, need no examination, growth and evolution. I’m ashamed to say, I see this in some of my friends too, and I watch and listen quite confused many times, about which way to go, and what this means for our personal relationship, sometimes. It’s something I discuss a lot with S, seeing as how again, it is not something I can bring up with just about anybody. And so waking up this morning to see S on absolute fire (instagram stories, if you’re interested) it hit me: I am slowly moving away from safety in numbers, for the sake of safety in numbers. I want lesser and lesser to do with people who cling to echo chambers and folks who play niceties so hard they want nothing else but to be surrounded by people who only prop them up and never call out their inherent hypocrisies. This is essentially saying they are opposed to growth.

I find that exceedingly frightening. And I can no longer relate to it even for politeness sake.

***

Later last night, before I shut down my laptop for the day, I happened to check the news and picked up on Delhi burning. Once again I felt the tears rise up, and so I cried to myself, a mixture of confusion and anger, and just a heavy sense of hopelessness weighing down on me.

So is this what it’s come down to? Is this what those who voted this government in wanted in the name of Acche Din? Blood, hate, violence? The brazenness of it all, so blinding. The news continued to come in today, even though I haven’t looked it up and my laptop has stayed shut until now, when I reached out to begin writing this.

For over five years we’ve patiently, silently watched this government perpetuate atrocity after atrocity. One fuck up after another. We’ve stood by watching dodge criticism, silence dissent and opposition and continuously shift the goalposts. We’ve witnessed a slow brewing fascism take shape right in front of our eyes, and last night things may have gone just a bit too far. I have a deep gut feeling what has erupted is just the beginning. I am filled with pain and pride somehow.

This evening, S came over to talk shop and work, and of course we talked about the news. Once again the tears came up. It’s like on-tap these days. And I am a bit flummoxed at how much and how easily it is coming up. In certain spaces, with safe people, I am feeling pushed to a degree of deep vulnerability, it hurts. I feel thankful for friends like S, with whom I now have the language and the means to process nebulous, unnamed feelings like this. And so we did.

It was no coincidence that everything we talked about work and plans and what is to come, after that, was centred around giving this new for of work that I have stepped into, a place in the world.

And so we mind-mapped and vision-boarded the heck out of it, until I felt uplifted and like I could breathe again. It is time to walk the talk.

In the face of a country’s shared trauma, with violent atrocities being committed day in and out, with questions of who belongs and who doesn’t, what is justice and how can it be met, I feel more and more certain deep in my heart that I want to go beyond “doing the work” and making money. Beyond making this yet another professional choice. I want the work I now do to have context and depth, meaning and purpose and it has to shape the way that I bring this work to my world around me. And that thought gives me some much needed solace.

One year ago: Wait, can you turn around?
Two years ago: Clarity
Three years ago: Misty mountain hop

All I want for Christmas

Is a new prime minister.

Ughhh.

Have you read the New Yorker article yet? If not, stop everything youre doing and read it now.

***

Precious little that Bangalore auto rickshaw art really does and means, finding unexpected resonance for my inner rage this past week, this auto in Indiranagar made me smile.

One year ago: I got this feeling inside my bones
Three years ago: Indian women speak out about choosing not to have children

Some light

Assam is in flames. Kashmir is still largely under a communication lockdown, even though we’ve heard of it being lifted in parts. Between Article 370, the Ayodhya verdict, the passing of the Trans Bill and the amendments to the Personal Data Privacy Bill, and the devastating Citizenship Amendment Bill, we’re fast, fast, fast sinking to new lows as a country thats normalizing politics of fear and hate with shrinking space for dissent and alternative opinions.

And yet, I had the privilege of going to a talk yesterday, between Ram Guha and Rajdeep Sardesai, about the latters new book chillingly titled How Modi Won India. It was an astute and frank conversation that plain and simply and matter of factly painted a picture of things as they stand and what has brought us here, covering a surprisingly wide ground to include everything from the political strategy of hate that we see today which is actually over 50 years in the making, the complicity of media and other institutions that are slowly being hyponitised and put to sleep, and what we as citizens can do to organise ourselves and push back.

The mood was grim and bleak, no doubt. But I came out oddly uplifted and feeling a an unexpected air of optimism, simply from being in a room full of people with shared opinions. In a time where I am a minority even in my own family in this regard, I have physically felt the shrinking of space to voice my opinions. I am mostly mum, and the little I share is met by stony silence. It’s easy to slip into glass-is-half-empty mode, and yesterday made me feel like it might be half-full.

Last week, someone shared with me a post about a “silent protest” complete with candles, wreaths, black bands and over 2000 (!!!) people who congregated to “mourn” the shutting down of Monkey Bar — a hip Bangalore eatery and pub. Food bloggers and general whos-who of Bangalore have been up in arms tweeting from the rooftops about what a tragic loss this is to the restaurant landscape of the city. BOOHOO, that’s one less restaurant on a street that has some 500 restaurants anyway, creating a noise and trash debacle night after night that nobody seems to want to address.

The climate strike in Bangalore in September on the other hand only saw about 1000 participants. Lately I’ve been feeling quite fed up with my own sense of despair and helplessness, and asking of myself what I can do to get past it. In the new year, I’m going to try in my own limited way, to get out and do a tiny little bit.

I’m going to begin by trying to show up as often as I can. If you’re in Bangalore, join us at Town Hall to table actionable demands for ways in which the police and judiciary can stop failing women.

I’m going to be there.

And if you’re in Bhubaneshwar, Chennai or Delhi, here are details for simultaneous protests in your city.

This tunnel is grim and dark most days, these days, but there is a light at the end of it, I think.

One year ago: Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
Three years ago: 6 am essentials

Rant

As a city dweller who routinely braves the crowds and gets out and about to function, I am also routinely faced with dismal truths and realities about human nature. The fact that it’s a dog-eat-dog world has never been so apparent and in my face, as it has when navigating life in Bangalore.

Sometimes, many times, I feel we don’t deserve good things. Like public transport, infrastructure, organised means to get places. Because we always find ways to ruin whatever little steps we make towards these improvements. And so the system is constantly stuck in a loop to level up the system to make amends for the fuck ups we cause by simply not behaving like humans.

It’s very disappointing, and I often feel despair at where we can even begin to make amends, and overwhelmed at what it will take to even take that first meaningful impactful step, helpless when I’m standing in queue ready to get on to the Metro fully in firm faith that I must do what’s right by me even though the crowds don’t get what queues are, what these arrow markings on the floor are, and are generally clueless about how to exist in a peaceful and non competitive way.

One year ago: I can buy the sunshine

Up

It took a yellow saree, that I’ve been dying to bring out of hibernation, and new juttis to get me to get up and going today. I’m suddenly feeling very spent and in need of some space and time away. Some distance to regurgitate and reorganise all the learning that I am feeling just so full and welled up from. And I am so looking forward to doing that in the coming month, once tomorrow is done.

That’s all.

One year ago: Oh god I feel like I’m in for it now

Drive

Our car will be ten in the new year. And while she’s begun to look her age, thanks to nine years and nine monsoons in Goa, she still runs like a very young girl off to chase a dream at the slightest opportunity.

Many little niggling things have been acting up. The AC has been on its last legs for about a year now. The headlamps were horribly foggy until I scrubbed them with baking soda yesterday. The speakers have been in various stages of disconnection for a long while now but kat year the music system itself came unhinged and stopped working. All it’s good for is charging a phone. So this drive hasn’t been easy. The heat is a lot more intense than I expected, the air is dry as hell. There’s no music to be had so I’m using a portable speaker because I’m all alone (with two suitcases riding shotgun in the front seat) and I could do with some entertainment.

Also, this blasted curse of development just won’t let things be. Forget setting dysfunctional things right, they’re hell bent on fixing things that ain’t broke. So the perfectly decent highway between Goa and Bangalore that made for a comfortable 10 hour journey just one year ago has shot up to a painful 14 hours. The road is pretty flawless, silky smooth, but the endless diversions every few hundred metres has made it painful. Getting on and off the rough service roads, throwing up clouds of dust and dry air as we bump down terrible stretched of dangerous half-built roads, means one can’t even enjoy and maximize the good bits for what they’re worth.

As such, we as a country deserve nothing good. No amount of “development” will ever be good enough and worth it because you can’t get on a “world-class” highway long enough before a tractor lazily ambles across without warning, or a two wheeler shoots at you on the wrong side of the wrong side of the road just to avoid going the long route to make a U-turn. We’re the pits.

So it hasn’t been a fun drive. And yet, I’ve enjoyed driving. If that makes any sense at all. Because my car, my gosh, she is still so fine. And perhaps the only advantage of having a choc full car loaded up to the brim is that the weight in the tail of the car means I can take all the bumps easily. I accelerate and the car complies, no fear of people or things flying around in the back of the car. There’s grip and grounding.

Anyhow, leg one of this arduous journey is done.

***

Today and glad and super grateful for my parents who absolutely insisted (not that I needed any coaxing and convincing at all, but still) I learn to drive as soon as I turned 18. It has made making movement in my life so much more significant.

One year ago: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?
Three years ago: Holiday mornings

I’ve had enough

It’s day for of incessant rain and I didn’t think I’d ever complain about it, but here we are. I’ve frikking had enough.

I haven’t seen the sun since we got in on Monday. We haven’t started on any of the errands we need to. In fact our departure hangs in mid air because VC plans to ride his bike back to Bangalore and we can’t even plan to leave until the rain subsides. I haven’t resumed running like I wanted to. I haven’t been able to take this opportunity to get back to my food plan in earnest, and my smoothie lunches. Because, power cuts. Many, many power cuts.

It seems like yet another intervention making my best laid plans go to waste. Literally washing away all my good intentions. But my grip on it is much looser than before so going with the flow has been easier. It’s a wonder, for example, that it’s taken four days before I got to the point of having had absolutely enough of this rain.

I have spent a major part of my time relaxing here. But the lack of sun light and fresh air (because the rain has been so unimaginably heavy all our windows are shut all the time) is finally, finally getting to me. I woke up this morning feeling borderline depressive. Gloomy, down in the dumps, imagining plates of the best food that absolutely nobody will bring to me, with just bread and eggs in the fridge.

This morning we have had no power since 8 am. And finally when it got too much to bear we left the house. Unshowered, just rolled out of bed, changed and left to find the nearest place that will give us beers.

And so here we are. Staying indoors was really beginning to mess with my mind.

I’m taking this as an intervention and trying to accept with grace how little control over my plans, I have. I’m happy to be outdoors. It’s green as fuck, and the temperatures are low, borderline cold, thankfully. I’m going to try and make the most of it while I can.

Incidentally, today is exactly one year since VC and I packed up one person’s worth of living stuff and drove across to Goa separately. Full circle, today. Gratitude for this journey and all that is has unwittingly brought to us.

One year ago: Getaway, you know it’s now or never
Two years ago: Postcards from Pondicherry
Three years ago: Book quandary

On ordinariness

S posts a spontaneously clicked picture of us on her Instagram yesterday and the strangest thing happened. A couple of people I used to know from Instagram days, people who stopped engaging with me for no apparent reason one fine day, reached out to her in response.

It’s nice to see Revati, they said.

*insert Revati’s confused face*

I’d dismiss it as pointless pleasantries. But it gets curiouser. S being polite S informs them that I’m doing good. And pat comes the reply, Good to know.

Eh?

Why? How? What good could it possibly be for people who didn’t want to know how I was when we could have been in touch, to know I’m good? This, from someone who blatantly ghosted me when I reached out to them upon moving to Bangalore. All because I pulled a story they sat on for months without explanation, to run it with another more willing publication.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. It tends to happen when VC puts up the occasional picture of me too. Random people — who either ghosted me like above,  or people who were never too warm to begin with, or people I was useful for back in the day — I am absolutely no longer in touch with extend extra warm, over familiar pleasantries.

I’ve always brushed it off as what people like to do online. Show each other just how much they know each other. It’s the oddest thing and I do think it’s peaked.

Does it have to do with social media visibility alone, I wonder? I mean I’m not even around there, so there can’t be too much currency in knowing me anymore. But I can’t be sure. More disconcerting though, is the extreme curiosity about why I got offline. And the conviction that it must have been compelled by something terrible. A life crisis, some colossal fuck up, something to hide from the world since everything is online and documented now.

***

So yesterday I wondered if the pleasantries and the Good to know I’m doing alright is probably a response to the default understanding that something terrible must have happened for me to get offline.

I don’t know when we get to this point where getting offline has come to signal something catastrophic.

This is just a single example of S posting a picture online. I cannot count the number of times I have either bumped into someone I used to know online, or I’ve heard from someone tangentially inquiring if everything is alright with me since I am no longer on social media.

All this conjecture might have made some tiny bit of sense if I were someone of importance or consequence. I’m not, because most people didn’t realised when I disappeared off social media until much long after. And why should anyone care, I always wondered. There was no explicit, single, large reason that compelled my departure. It was many things I really couldn’t explain. I also always assume I am completely inconsequential and ordinary being just like a million other people out there, so nobody would really notice, or wonder.

But, clearly I am mistaken?

Yesterday I got to thinking what must they think could have happened in the time I’ve been away? And then I realised this curiosity has absolutely nothing to do with what I think is my ordinary existence, or any of my measures of ordinariness. It’s the sheer idea that I am offline that’s extraordinary.

Which is meta level amusing and interesting for me, because offline, it has become my sole purpose and business to try and be ordinary. To just be good enough, even if I fail most of the time. To be alright on my own. TO do nothing exemplary. And whatever it is I choose to do or not do, to be okay bumbling on on my own, without showing it off or needing a universe of voyeurs to tell me how good I am. That I’m quite alright. Or great even. To the point where everything basic, every little mundane accomplishment warps and begins to seem unnecessarily larger than life and extraordinary.

Yesterday, thinking about the irony of how social media was the basis of so many of the connections I held and kept some years ago, I felt a pang of sadness about this person who clearly doesn’t want to have anything to do with me in real life, but felt the need to feign familiarity with me anyway. It’s a level of fake I have worked hard to slowly peel away from my life.

As usual, and once again, I received affirmation that something I did two years ago was only laying the path for where I am at now, and important work I am only getting to the crux of now. I didn’t know it then, but getting off social media two years ago was only laying the foundation for learning to be imperfect and all kinds of ordinary. Of allowing myself to be alright, even on my own. And two years on, I feel like I am only just getting started.

***

Writing this from my hotel room in Chandigarh where we arrived early this evening. We’re driving out to the hills early tomorrow morning, so I should finish posting this and turn in.

I am grateful for travel, for the expansive length and breadth of this country that is anything but ordinary, and that I have barely scratched the surface of. And for the ability to take off, pick up and go, largely unencumbered.

Two years ago: A good life is a life of goodness
Three years ago: A picture

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

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