How much?

Ouuff, so much has happened in the span of just a week, and the weekend.

Over the weekend, VC and I realised it’s officially been over 100 days since we have been indoors. Granted, we’ve been venturing out some in the last month, it’s been nowhere close to “normal” or the way that the world outside has bounced back. We’ve still been limiting our outings and getting more stuff done per outing, to avoid repeatedly stepping out.

Over the last week though, we’d finally started getting out a bit, and entertained the idea of having service staff home, to tend to some long pending tasks that we have been putting off since March. Pest control. Some carpentry. A new couch. Running shoes. Pots for my balcony garden (that is mildly out of control right now).

But, over the weekend, our building had one positive case. And since we’re a small building of just 12 homes, a majority of which have senior citizens, the building voluntarily limited movement for a bit once again.

And so we were back to being in. More in than we have been actually because we had to isolate, until the BBMP came over and sanitized the building twice over. It was just a little over two days, but gosh, the gloom that descended over VC and me was quite something. On the surface we have gotten through this entire period of isolation quite okay. Riding the highs and lows because we’ve had each other, and my sister. Over the weekend the pall of gloom was a bit much to take. I’m certainly hitting my saturation point with staying indoors and self-isolating.

The desire isn’t so much about going out to do things like eat or hit a mall, but I’ve been feeling a sense of shrinking that isn’t sitting well, and is getting hard to keep under wraps. My body feels restricted and in need of expansion. The experience is of being stuck, while internally I am feeling such a deep urge for movement. And it’s beginning to test my patience, this holding both states and waiting and watching. A major part of me wants to get going. Sigh.

The darned virus is now literally at our doorsteps. While the world is opening up, and my desire to be out there is rising. The irony of it.

How much more?

Three years ago: What coming home feels like: love and abundance
Four years ago: Watercolour eyes

In a funk

It’s just one of those weeks. Where many things I cannot digest too easily have hit me all at once. I have days like this some times. And on those days, I choose the luxury of lying low, staying in and spending my time just being in the fullness of whatever I am feeling. This week, I didn’t have that luxury. Because after three months of a very minimal, home-bound routine, I ventured out and offered my time with volunteering to collect and deliver food to the migrants leaving Bangalore by the thousands every single day.

It was meant to be something I did for a few hours every week, but it very quickly ballooned into a massive operation that consumed me mentally, emotionally and physically. The need is enormous, the situation on ground is far worse than even the most honest media reports will have you believe. And even though I was overwhelmed from the suffering from the get go, I couldn’t get myself to step back.

I didn’t make the connection initially, because the adrenalin that kicked in from the relief efforts took me through most of the week. By yesterday though, my energy was flagging and I crawled into bed at noon, unable to function. Time-wise, I have also had to de-prioritise working out and eating healthy home cooked meals, to compensate for the hours spent working outdoors. These things are my anchors in any given day, and I really felt the effects of having to run on fumes without it.

I haven’t been able to eat a single meal in peace, thinking of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people we have been trying to keep fed and hydrated with bare minimum, collected entirely from neighbourhood mobilisation activities. I could no longer think about elaborate meals, let alone get myself to plan and cook them. I couldn’t put a morsel down my throat without feeling wretched inside.

I’ve been on the phone for more time than I have in a long, long time. I haven’t been able to relax and turn my mind off. My sleep has been shot to bits again. This past week has swept me away and put me in a strange state of mind. On the one hand I am overwhelmed and filled with hope to see how much and how quickly and large-heartedly citizens are willing to give of themselves. From contributions in neighbourhoods, to people galvanising relief efforts, to the team at the sites organising migrants, processing their paperwork and giving them food and drink and setting them off. I am beyond stoked at how much of all of this is being manned and handled by regular, average citizens. With lives and work put on hold, giving so much of themselves to this effort. But on the other, there is no escaping the hopelessness of this situation. I keep thinking how did we let it get os bad? Why weren’t we looking close enough even before the pandemic hit us? Why are we like this?

On the one hand, I feel like involving myself gave me some much-needed relief and channelised all that pent up frustration from months. But on the other, it plunged me quite deeply into a funk. Today, I felt so hopeless, I had a very, very compelling sensation of just wanting to exit my body. Just leave and escape this world. Everything feels so pointless in the face of the mammoth mess we are as a country. And no, there’s nothing, no silver lining and no bright spot, right now that can outweigh the heaviness of what I have seen this past week.

I have not been present to VC at all through all of this. I have had no mental or emotional energy to spare. I have been weepy, crabby, clingy, unreasonable for the most part. But he’s let me be all of it. And I am so grateful to have a home in him to come back to, where I can be as I am. Ugly, messy, imperfect and letting it all fall apart.

On a day like today, with clearly so much going on emotionally, internally, I don’t know what I’d do without this support. Where I can just be, not spoken to, no advice or solace needed (because there is none for a situation like this), just silence and presence. Presence.

One year ago: On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship
Two years ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Four years ago: How blue?

Notice the rage, notice the silence

I listened to the frightfully articulate Resmaa Manakem on his On Being podcast yesterday. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Many threads of my personal journey are beginning to be woven into the landscape of the larger political canvas of our very existence. It’s becoming loud and clear to me that the person is deeply political, seeing as how it is a journey of clarifying my person values. I cannot shy away from this anymore. And that truth gets a little more cemented every day.

This past week, being up close helping with the movement of migrants — sourcing and delivering food and other essentials — realising in how many ways we have actually failed our society, I have really had to look at economic and caste Inequality and Inequity, the very fragmented shards of our broken, broken system right in the eyes.

What’s hit me the hardest is that these are lives (thousands and thousands of them everyday, just wanting to get home) and yet everything about the process, every step of the way forgets and negates that basic fact. The scenes at one of the many hubs around the city where migrants are being registered and organised to get on to the Shramik trains leaving the city, are nothing short of refugee camps. And seeing it all has made my heart heavy. Really heavy.

This is just Bangalore. I think of other cities, other hubs, other states, and the scale of our collective failure as a country is too much to digest. Everyday is excruciating, and the only thing giving me energy and hope in the mind-blowing coming together of communities in Bangalore that I have witnessed. This is something I am quick to forget. It’s easy, when all we see and consume is a steady diet of bad news, high on shock and horror.

I’ve had to come to terms with just how deeply systemic, cultural and utterly entwined divisiveness, subjugation and heartlessness is. Because of the work I do, cognitively I can pin this to trauma. My brain knows this, but my mind and my heart just won’t have it. I want and expect better of human beings. And yet, the reality is something else.

The podcast is a fantastic listen. For anyone interested in a shockingly accurate perspective of what’s going on in the world — and really this lies at the heart if every kind of inequality. Resmaa’s words speak right to this truth.

Trauma decontextualized in a person looks like personality.
Trauma decontextualized in a family looks like family traits.
Trauma in a people looks like culture.

When you begin to look at healing a “thousand-year-old” trauma of a people, you’ll see how it is mirrored right down to the traumas faced by individuals, at the level of the personality. And there’s hope when I see it that way.

He is fantastically clear, speaks powerful words without mincing them. He speaks of Race, but he could very well be speaking of Caste, our very own thousand-year-old collective trauma. And that’s what touched me the most. The universality of What Hurts, What’s Broken. And I hesitate to write this because there is so much talk about taking away space from Black Lives right now. I don’t mean to take away space at all. I know absolutely nothing about that fight, to even try. But I also see commonality, and in that way, what’s going on across the planet also hurts me.

It’s been an emotionally heavy couple of weeks and I see how it has reflected in my writing here. I used to feel a bit apologetic about that, and even express it here from time to time. But one thing that’s become very clear for me very, very recently is that healing involves leaning in more into what hurts. And this blog is a space where I will be doing that.

Like Resmaa says;

Notice the rage. Notice the silence.

The podcast too, reiterated that for me. There is no looking away form the discomfort and hurt of where we are as a race. We can begin to heal by looking at ourselves. The personal, is political. We are a traumatized lot, and because we don’t want to stop to heal, we continue to pass it on. And because we are a delicately balanced lot, existing in a precarious system of inequalities, we’re always retraumatizing the most disenfranchised amongst us, making them relive the worst atrocities, every single day.

Closer home, we really can’t talk about Development without talking about healing, without doing the work to own up to and re-contextualizing this trauma. And I realise how bloody far away we are from that. These are truly dark ages. This past week I certainly felt like we have regressed, slipped further below, dragged ourselves backwards as a nation.

Give the podcast a listen. It’s essential for every human being, I’d say.

One year ago: The written word 
Two years ago: Only happy when it rains

Authenticity is expensive

It’s been a confusing day. A day that has shown me very intensely that many times the price to pay for absolutely honesty and authenticity is loneliness.

Because people show me time and time again how they cannot value and hold it.

How they cannot handle it.

How they absolutely will compensate by bringing in their projections.

How easy it is for me to feel like the problematic one.

How quickly I feel responsible.

And how all of this can drag me back to my old narratives in a jiffy.

I’m fuckenn sick of people’s projections.

One year ago: Meeting myself   
Two years ago: Serendipity, do you believe that this makes sense?

Wondering

Wondering about the balance of giving and taking and how it applies to the planet. If all we have done is take, and show no signs of remorse or slowing down, how much more can we expect the planet to keep giving, in return?

Wondering about how aggravating the destruction of public property is for governments in power. How fragile is our appetite for destruction that we deem that violent but think nothing of the violence that is hunger, tiredness, exploitation and generational persecution of minorities amongst us?

Wondering about the quality of democracy we so blindly believe in, and are so quick to uphold, when voices speaking up against the destruction of that very democracy are systematically and continually being snuffed out. How deep is our blindness? What do we make of freedom then?

One year ago: These days
Four years ago: Sairat

On anger. Again.

I have been deep in anger territory with my self work and at therapy. Really touching the red-hot scalding spaces of previously untouched anger, and staying there long enough to see what it can show me that I have been unwilling to see this far. And so it is no surprise that the way the world is spinning out of control for many months now, just escalating and unravelling every single day, has been feeling very personal and triggering some deep emotions in me.

I hold these emotions close. Not very many people are privy to it. I’ve also learned late, to choose who to share my vulnerabilities with. And even so, when I find expression for this angry, red-hot, scalding anger that I have never experienced before, it isn’t pretty. It isn’t well-presented, or articulate or easy to digest. And so the response is often one of two things 1) whataboutery 2) suggestions to do something constructive with my anger.

Both valid. Maybe. Maybe. But more often than not these days, I am leaning fully into expression of previously unexpressed emotion, just for the fuck of expression. Fuck the action. For now, if I am tapping into generations of unexpressed anger, I am going to take my time befriending it. And I am not sorry that sometimes the expression of it is not pretty or put together.

I am not always sorry that I unravel, let my mouth run loose, and break down, the way that I have been the last few months. It has been building slowly since December, and some days I really get to the point of wondering how much more I can take.

Today, I saw these words by Maya Angelou and they spoke straight to my heart.

You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.

I think I may be making the distinction between pure anger and jaded bitterness — a space I have occupied for too long, mistaking it for anger. I know for a fact that isn’t obvious on the outside. Especially not to people deeply discomfited by this development within me. But in my bones I feel it. There is energy in this anger. It is slowly and steadily building, and I feel okay in not knowing what the way forward holds or what I am being called to do next.

I am okay because I know deadly solid within my core, that it is only through doing and experiencing authentically, that a way ahead will emerge.

Two years ago: Life has a funny way of helping you out
Four years ago: May

Crickets

I’ve been at the receiving end of this odd sort of silence. Where, if something I have said is too much or mistimed, it is just wholly ignored. The silence leaves me wondering, really what I’ve done to bring it on. I’ve been picking up on it happening here and there, but yesterday it occurred to me that it’s consistently happening across the board with a range of people. Just fucking crickets.

I’m not talking just of full-fledged conversation, but even just basic acknowledgement. An “okay” or a “yes” or a “no” has been scarce these days.

I think it’s bothering me a touch because despite being in a quiet and wordless space myself, I go that extra step to respond to everyone because I think they shouldn’t go away feeling ignored.

I wonder what I am not seeing about me that is inviting this response all across. And because I know this, I wonder what in myself I’m not seeing or hearing fully.

One year ago: Onwards and upwards
Two years ago: I’ll take a quiet life

Shame, yet again

The news of the mother dying from starvation and thirst aboard a 36 hour journey that ended in Muzzafarpur has tested my threshold for heartbreak yet again. Lately, this threshold is being tested every single day. And I don’t know where to go with all the heartbreak and anger that comes from it.

It’s another grim, shameful day, and I’m at a loss for words. And this too has been happening, every single day, lately.

One year ago: Bangalore showers   
Two years ago: For you will still be here, but your dreams may not   
Four years ago: Odd days like today

Shit-show

Like I said the other day, I don’t understand anything that’s happening in this country anymore. While the COVID situation is continuing to erupt every singe day in new and horrific ways, our Health Minister was elected Exec. Chairman of the WHO. That Bill Gates conspiracy theory is beginning to sound very real to me. It fits right in. And the brazenness of it all is frankly really, really frightening.

As life slips back to normal, as it has this week, I have been tentative about whether I want to jump in with the wave, or take my time. Erring on the side of taking my time, I have been confronted with the difficult task of searching out meaning in the midst of this trail of devastation and injustice that is being left behind. I find the need to stay with it, to examine and really look at the dirt, to face the full force of the disgust it churns up in me. Because I know the only way a meaningful way to continue will emerge, is from facing the depth of the ills we have brought to this country. Even us, the silent minority that pushed ourselves to the corners, enabling this filthy, greedy, evil majority to power. So powerful that they now owe nobody any explanations for the horrors they perpetrate on a daily basis.

And we just have to watch, paralysed.

I fear the muck and the filth that has been uncovered runs the risk of being relegated to the back burner once again. If we turn away now, there will be no looking back again.

I feel this so keenly.

One year ago: On compassion, connection and belonging
Two years ago: Ground control to Major Tom

Inside is alright

It’s been impossibly hot the last week or so. Like so, so hot, I felt like I was in Goa in the end of May, when the oppressive summer heat would drive me to tears. The last few days of that punishing heat that would really peak and take things to a crescendo before the first rains at the end of May or beginning June. It was like that, except high on the punishing side and absolutely nil on the relief-of-rain side. Our AC desperately needs servicing but since we’re in a red zone, that’s not happening any time soon. So the nights have been uncomfortable. The days have also been borderline miserable, and I have been complaining a fair bit.

Even so, I think indoors has been better than outdoors. One trip out into the wild outdoors, beyond the restrictions we’ve been living within, to buy some booze, and to buy some fancy groceries we don’t get in my neighbourhood proved it. It’s probably also the way that our bodies are now habituated to the energy requirement of a life enclosed within the four walls at home, but I was wiped clean from just that outing and needed a long afternoon nap. The heat was sapping and I was so glad to be back home.

I am turning into quite the homebody, even more than before, even more than I thought possible. I am slightly grumpy about life resuming the way it is. Also appalled at the staggering stupidity of lifting this whole lockdown in the haphazard and cruel manner that it is. When we are nowhere near the peak, or flattening the curve. It would also be accurate to say I am a bit scared too, and will not be venturing out for the next week or ten days, even though we are now allowed to.

Strange, no?

I don’t understand anything that’s going on with this country anymore. And when I try to it just brings up extreme grief, helplessness, frustration and anger. I have not hated being here ever, as much as I do now.

***

It did rain briefly last night though. One of those classic Bangalore downpours that shows promise and comes with a clap and a bang, but disappears with just as much gusto. It cooled things down a touch, but not enough, and nearly not for long enough. Today was overcast and tantalisingly grey, all day long.

It was a slow day and I just decided it wasn’t a day for productivity. And I spent the day cleaning, taking my time, listening to Advaita in the hope that it will induce some rain. It certainly induces a rainy state of mind for me.

For two reasons:

It takes me back to this late monsoon-y sunset beach visit (its the set of washed out sepia toned pictures) S, Niyu and I took back in 2012 or so. Back when we did that kind of thing every weekend. We’d grab a beer each from the supermarket, drive to the nearest secluded beach (and we had scoped a good number of those, away from shacks and restaurants and people in general), plug in our ears with our respective music and just chill. Either walk about, or just sit and stare, wonder, drift away.

And then in December last year, when we were in Coorg, S brought Advaita back. It had been years since I heard them and we listened to it some on the drive there and back, particularly when it rained a little. It’s now in a monsoon playlist on my phone.

***

Apparently the promise of rain is thanks to a cyclone thats brewing. In addition to everything else, we’re now prepping to evacuate a million people to safety. I don’t understand anything anymore.

And so I’ll take solace in my music and the mundane machinations of my everyday life. Pulp those mangoes, get that workout done, reheat leftovers for lunch, finish that assignment due today, take that call for a reading this evening, read a little. Inside is alright.

Life is so strange.

Four years ago: Beach vibes 

Fed up

I’m really tired, fully fed up and hopelessly done with being Indian. I have no way to undo this part of my status and identity — this Indianness — and I realise that this past week with the real news just escalating silently and the atrocities now playing out in broad daylight for all of us to just watch silently, locked up in the safety of my home, I have never felt more disconnected and like an outsider in this country.

Even to understand this crisis as a wake up call from the deep slumber that we have been in, allowing all manners of inequality to fester and foster, is a privilege right now. And that feels so darned pathetic. Around me I see people, like you and me, just not getting it. Just not angry enough. Just not worried enough. Just not thinking enough. There are fewer and fewer people who I can share my true feelings in all honesty. There are a paltry few who would get it without telling me to stop complaining or surrender to the situation and be happy/grateful with what I have.

I’ve had enough of the powers that be that are so brazen now in their single-minded focused pursuit of image-making and public relations. They don’t even remotely care about inclusivity, duty or service. I have been asking myself, what use was all of this unnecessary effort to make us feel unified and patriotic (by banging pots and flashing torches) is we don’t have a sense of inclusivity in the ethos of that patriotism? Even I don’t feel included, what about the people out on the streets with no homes, no food, nowhere to go?

Clearly when those requests were made, the PM was only talking to people who have homes, preferably with balconies and yards and porches, where they could go out and perform these absurd tasks dutifully. Like the rats dancing to the Pied Piper’s tunes, only to go and land in the giant sewers of doom.

We make such a huge noise about development and smart cities and what not, and we don’t even care a dot about the blood, sweat, tears and hands and feet that make those monstrous dreams a reality. We throw them under the bus the first chance we get. We treat them like pestilence, like dirt that flew into our territories when we are questioned about the efficiency of our policy. We blame them for the gaps. And when it’s time for them to go home because we could not provide the basics in the time of a crisis, we want to keep them stranded, because we need their “labour”.

The hypocrisy has never been more blatant. The lies has never been more glaring. I’m a hundred percent sure now that the government is okay with all this collateral damage. The Centre has washed it’s hands off, the States are scrambling. Some states are luckier than others with able and relatively more honest and focused leadership who swung into action early. Others are clamouring and suffering. And it’s all sliding into a place of doom and no return, in slow motion. While we just watch, grateful for what we have.

What about dignity? What about respect? What about humanity? Washed away, with that stark white paint we love to smear all over anything even slightly difficult that begins to show up. Nothing must ruin that sparkling image we’re trying to create.

I drove out today beyond the two streets we have been restricted to for the past 50 days. Some of the little things I observed have left me gutted. We talk of “migrant labour” mostly imagining construction workers. Because that’s what we have a view into. But what about sanitation workers? Street side vendors? Homeless folks who get by from one day to the next doing odd jobs or simply begging? What about sex workers? What about domestic help? What about plumbers and wood polishers and carpenters and tailors? What about them?

I feel personally cheated and duped as a citizen, when I glance at the newspaper everyday. To have to honestly pay the taxes we do, feel constantly at loggerheads with age-old traditional governance, face sectarian politics, witness utterly bigoted communal violence, disagree with every form of development that is being sought, to do all of this in silence, and then have to also feel the fury and helplessness of more than 60% of this country at the time of a crisis like this, donate to the Prime Minister’s fraud fund, and wherever else possible, witnessing citizens eventually taking on the massive task of rescuing other citizens — it’s just too much beyond a point. I told S when I was sharing my shock and distress with him, that I’m so heartbroken and angry today.

And it was only when I said the words that I realised just what I have been feeling all day.

Heartbroken.

And with it this brokenness, every day, a part of the Indianness of my identity seems to be crumbling away. I find myself moving further and further away. I don’t relate to the majority, I don’t feel like anyone advocates for the interests or concerns of people like me, and when I see pockets of people do-gooders getting out and taking things in their own hands it only reinforces the aloneness. That we cannot depend on our systems. We have to take things on, alone.

I miss December. When I was at a protest every week. Because at least it gave me a sense of solidarity in others like me. And it gave me somewhere to channel my fury and hopelessness.

When will the government of India be good for ANYTHING?

One year ago: Engineering bigness
Two years ago: Another day, just breathe
Four years ago: Retrograde rant

Irrfan

Part of the reason I skipped posting on two days last week was just feeling overcome with emotion, my mind heavy and unable to unclog itself and be coherent. It’s not like I tried and couldn’t get it together. I honestly didn’t even attempt writing in here.

The news of Irrfan Khan passing hit me hard. It was a dull, rainy day in Bangalore — the kind that usually makes me feel very upbeat and good. But it didn’t last week. Waking up to rainy weather and the news that he was no more, just plain old punched me in the gut. The otherwise welcome gray day in the midst of summer just felt hazy that day. Like the lights turned off early.

Irrfan Khan’s work has of course entertained me. So many performances pockmark not just my movie-watching experience, but also phases of my life where I have obsessed over certain films and characters with people who geek out about it equally. I have laughed, been stunned, thrilled and cried over his movies alike. So many times over. But more than that I’ve been touched by his life and the stories he tells of where he has come from. His energy has been inspiring on more than one occasion. There is a relatable humanness in him that just made him so accessible and I’ve listened to and been moved by his views, his perspectives, his mind too.

I struggled to digest the fact that all of is is just…gone.

I don’t usually get like this. The last this a loss like this felt so personal was when Anthony Bourdain died. Like then, even now, I’m still having at least one moment a day where I suddenly stop and a tiny bubble in my head bursts with the reminder — He’s no more.

I had to remind myself: it’s okay to not feel okay. Bad news about death, difficulty, poverty, starvation during what is already an emotionally heavy time is bound to feel heavier than usual, and that it’s okay to let it. It’s okay to feel bad. Terrible, even.

It’s okay to not feel okay.

I went through three days of just too many emotions and I think it only really lifted on the evening of my birthday. Even now though, I’m still in a bit of disbelief. In the last few days I’ve watched Angrezi Medium which was a good one time watch. I caught Qissa that churned me up from the insides and haunted me for days after. And last night I re-watched Paan Singh Tomar and gotten hit in the face with the force that Irrfan is in the film. So understated, subtle, speaking through his eyes, and pulling off that character nearly flawlessly. Next up is Haider. The one other film I really want to watch is The Namesake, but I’ve searched high and low and it’s just nowhere. Which is just such a shame, because it’s right up there in the top three best Irrfan films of all time.

I can’t believe that’s now a finite truth — “of all time” in context to Irrfan’s life. Because it’s done, and we’ve seen the best and worst of all that he had to give. I still can’t believe there won’t be anymore.

One year ago: Flow
Two years ago: Stuck in the sunshine riptide
Four years ago: That urban poverty piece that’s got errrrybody’s panties in a bunch

Poof

These days, my phone is filled with pictures of only what we cook/eat, my plants, the same view from my window/balcony.

Finally, today, I just want to go out.

It’s day 40 and like everyone else, I’ve only been as far as the neighbourhood vegetable vendor and supermarket a handful of times. I haven’t missed the outdoors this desperately, until now.

I’d like to do something other than cook, clean, watch TV, practice solitude.

I’d like to see some human beings other than VC, Niyu and my vegetable vendor. Much as I am so thankful for not being all alone, I’m ready for some life.

I’d like to see some views other than the one outside my window.

Today, I’m really feeling constricted. There’s low hanging, horribly muggy summer rain clouds that are doing nothing more than hanging around. The air is hot and thick, impenetrable, sultry. Some rain would give respite, but the clouds just won’t part.

It’s making staying indoors really stuffy today. But I know that’s just the external. Internally too, I’m longing for a change of scene. Even if just for a bit. A drive? A walk?

While I’ve had good days and bad that have flowed from one to the next, I have mostly been able to get by and get on. Today, I’m finally feeling the suffocation of it all. And I’m feeling all kinds of gloomy will-this-ever-lift thoughts. The lack of information around whatever the fuck is going on, where we stand, is not helping me.

I’m longing for a nice long run in the park.
I’d love a beach day, from last summer.
My dreams alternate between meeting S to consume cold, stiff cocktails in restaurants I currently cannot go to, and my loved solitary escape to consume brownies slowly, greedily at Third Wave.
I long to get a haircut.

I miss it all so, so, so very much. And it’s all a bit surreal to be dreaming about such “basic” things. I know, to dream is also a privilege at this point.

Feeling defeated and deflated today, to think that I’m living in a time when all of this is currently a question of “if and when” and not “sometime soon”.

Who knows how long it’ll be?

Sigh.

One year ago: Plant babies
Two years ago: You know it used to be mad love

Despair

It was a reasonably good week — mentally, speaking. Until 9 am this morning. I didn’t even tune in to catch the speech, but the idiocy of it reached me anyway. And almost immediately the despair I’ve been keeping at bay descended on me again.

I busied myself with things that need to be done, and pretty soon half the day was done. The despair? Intact. Just moving along with me, like a dark cloud looming large and heavy, directly above me.

Tell me, are any of you feeling this too?

Turned to one of my favourite David Whyte writings. On despair. And he says, shockingly accurately;

Despair takes us in when we have nowhere else to go; when we feel the heart cannot break anymore, when our world or our loved ones disappear, when we feel we cannot be loved or do not deserve to be loved, when our God disappoints, or when our body is carrying profound pain in a way that does not seem to go away.

Despair is a haven with its own temporary form of beauty and of self compassion, it is the invitation we accept when we want to remove ourselves from hurt. Despair, is a last protection.

It does feel like the last attempts at protection. From fear and not knowing what lunacy will be unleashed on us next.

Like I said yesterday about anger, the despair seems necessary. The next logical stage in whatever it is that we’re collectively grieving. It feels essential to acknowledge it, but I have struggled to do this in real life. Today, especially I feel like I am zipped up close and have to keep my despair to myself.

For fear of being judged. For overreacting. For being pessimistic. For being “biased”. My mind knows this is balderdash, and yet I have carried this like a rock on my chest all day long.

Despair is a necessary and seasonal state of repair, a temporary healing absence, an internal physiological and psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon, it is the place we go when we do not want to be found in the same way anymore. We give up hope when certain particular wishes are no longer able to come true and despair is the time in which we both endure and heal, even when we have not yet found the new form of hope.

In order to move ahead from here, I know I have to fully know this despair. It feels deep, old and almost too big to understand. And so I cannot rush through it. Maybe I will despair everyday for the rest of this crazy time we are in. Maybe it will ebb and flow. Maybe it will linger around beneath the surface. Whatever it is, I have to allow for it. And right now, by keeping it all to myself, I know I am not. I can feel it in how much I want to, even as I am writing this, apologise for how sad and angsty my posts have been lately.

Somehow, I cannot perform at this. Not now. I assume that those who don’t want to read this will have already checked out of the blog. But my stats tell me otherwise. Day after day, my own judgement about how I am feeling is proven wrong.

This also makes me acutely aware that much of the judgement I am witnessing, is possibly a projection of my own internal critic.

The antidote to despair is not to be found in the brave attempt to cheer ourselves up with happy abstracts, but in paying a profound and courageous attention to the body and the breath, independent of our imprisoning thoughts and stories, even strangely, in paying attention to despair itself, and the way we hold it, and which we realise, was never ours to own and to hold in the first place. To see and experience despair fully in our body is to begin to see it as a necessary, seasonal visitation, and the first step in letting it have its own life, neither holding it nor moving it on before its time.

I feel like new definitions of compassion, service and kindness — which I see are being called up on every single minute of every single day — cannot be found without feeling despair first. It’s almost like the heaviness of this situation needs to break us, before we return to normal. So we can be different. So we can be better.

One year ago: Same lessons, new me   
Two years ago: Out here without a shield

Feel good? Or feel really fucking shitty first?

In today’s edition of excessive-but-necessary domesticity, we made a batch of homemade peanut-butter.

But on to less sweet, feel-good things to talk about:

I’ve avoided ranting about the shit-show that this lockdown has been for millions in our country all of last week. Because 1) there is so much of it online anyway and I have been trying to curb how much I consume of it, while also not ignoring the truth 2) what else is there to say that isn’t already being said by so many angry people like me?

I’m currently conflicted about this. In trying to find a mid point between staying hopeful that this will pass, while honouring the fear and shame and guilt that rises to the surface when I see news of farmers committing suicide, wholesalers dumping thousands of kilos of produce and migrant labour walking unimaginable distances to get home (and sometimes dying before they do), and being grateful for what I have; and staying firmly grounded in acknolwedging the truth about our government being absolutely filthy, greedy and inhuman. I’ve been wondering how to do both. Because neither pole negates the other.

To have a ray of hope doesn’t mean I am blind to the atrocities being unleashed upon our poor by the hour, and yet being angry about the injustice and inhumanity of it all doesn’t mean I’m being pessimistic. I’ve had trouble accepting the advice I get to find reasons to hope, to choose the positive stories over the shitty ones. Because I feel, now more than ever, when the truth is finally out, in plain sight for all to see, to look away in search of comforting positivity is a disgrace and a grave injustice. Now is not the time for being neutral either. Let’s please try and look at the atrocity we have brought upon our people by bringing this group of demons to power. Let’s sit with the discomfort it causes us. Let’s feel the rage and anger and guilt and shame bubble up. Let’s take responsibility. Let’s feel it all fully, because we, the privileged lot can afford to. Nothing in our lives will change when this peaks, and when it blows over. So let’s stick our necks out and feel whatever we’re feeling right now. Let’s not turn to faux positivity to avoid the discomfort of this shitshow. Let’s do it so we can be driven to act differently when the time to choose leaders comes around again. Let’s feel this fully so we never forget.

I’m all for positivity and hope. And I feel it in glimmers now and then. When I see updates from Kerala. Sometimes from Maharashtra these days (who knew!). I feel it when I hear what an aunt of mine has done for a camp of construction labour in her neighbourhood who were left stranded. I feel it when I read some impeccable writing online. I feel it, and I am happy to hold it. But I am watchful about floating off into a bubble that removes me from the reality that this is far form over. That this government will. just. not. stop. before they make this somehow worse every passing day.

I mean, right now they’ve managed to paint a global pandemic in communal hues. It really doesn’t get lower than that. And no, don’t point fingers at Trump and America. Because at least he takes a daily presser, he stupidly bumbles and faces the hard questions he is asked for which he has no answers. Unlike our own who only believes in televised monologues at prime time for max eyeballs and great janata value.

The whole thing just makes me so goddamned angry. As a young, tax-paying citizen, it infuriates me that on the day the PM started a highly sketchy, dubious fund to support his debacle from sinking all the way, he also signed an 880 crore defence deal with Israel, and sent 90 tonnes of medical equipment overseas, while our own doctors go to battle without the right (or any gear at all) gear.

So it’s really fucking hard to stay hopeful against all odds during this time. Try as I might, this government rains all over my hope parade by giving me ample reason to be mistrustful, hopeless and angry, literally every single day. Sometimes more than once a day. So no, I’m not just being aimlessly pessimistic.

I have also come to understand that anger and rage are crucial (and valid) reactions to be having right now. I don’t want to, I cannot, slip into a faux positivity just because the discomfort of the overwhelming truth about what we have done, all that we have enabled by our silence and by backing away into the dark, is too unpleasant. I cannot turn away anymore. I’m big into feeling anger when it comes up lately. Into feeling it fully before I “get over it” or “choose something positive” or “let go and move on”.

I don’t want to rush into doing anything about it just yet. I just want to feel it. And being stuck at home feels like the perfect invitation.

It has been a lonely and isolating sort of anger too. Because I don’t have very many places I can express this. And I’ve been looking for validation for this anger. Anyone else who gets it and feels this way. And understands this thought process. So I can feel firmly again that anger is a catalyst for renewed hope and action. And I found it in Women Who Run With The Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

She says;

Rage corrodes our trust that anything good can occur. Something has happened to hope. And behind the loss of hope is usually anger; behind anger, pain; behind pain, usually torture of one sort or another, sometimes recent, but more often from long time ago.

It’s not unnatural to feel filled with rage, when you’ve lost all hope, apparently. And if you’ve been feeling helpless, hopeless and rage-y too, know that it is probably something very old, maybe even an experience of injustice from several generations ago, that is being triggered. If we allow it, and are tuned into it, every single woman will carry this in some measure.

So if you’re amongst those who are feeling it, and can hold it without wanting to immediately douse the pain in feel good things, or feel overwhelmed by it, allow for it. Make room. Feel the rage. Don’t stew in it, but find ways to express it. Find channels to let it move through you. I’ve turned to writing, painting and free-form movement post my daily workout, this past week and have seen surprising effects.

I’m not ashamed of my anger around the current state of politics of this country anymore. I’m not in a rush to feel better. I’m open to saying yes to it all for now. The rage and the hope. The hopelessness and the joy. Because I know so deeply that positivity without processing the anger will not make it go away. It will certainly not make a better tomorrow.

One year ago: Going the distance
Two years ago: March