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

Lightness

Thinking of this Sunday morning spent at Cubbon Park at an Art for Adults session with Drawing Room, in the company of four women whose company I enjoyed immensely. Listening to a playlist I titled “Mellow” while we roamed the park foraging for natural objects, studied their textures and shapes, and made art from seeming nothingness. We ate oranges, drank super sweet tea, watched happy dogs frolic and decided to try and do this at least once a month. If you’d like to join us, follow Drawing Room for updates about the next session.

This wasn’t art as a pursuit of beauty, rather an effort to use my hands, connect my mind to my body, and ground myself. So it doesn’t matter if one is “good” at art or has even done it before. Doing things like this, like my Sunday morning walks, or the occasional coffee I take myself to all by myself has come to be important ways to bring myself back to me.

Everyday life and all the many things that are going on — in my immediate world as well as the horrors that are unfolding around — have totally consumed me lately and I have felt many times like I am drifting quite far away from myself. Disconnection, sometimes. Deviation, sometimes. Distractions, sometimes.

It as also a morning of much-needed lightness in a routine that has begun to feel all kinds of heavy lately. I realised this morning that between mobilising this new kind of work, thinking and doing all that is required around it, managing the spike in the number of readings I have been doing, pushing my Instagram, while also keeping things afloat on the home front, tending to my own emotional needs has meant a full-time mentally exhausting few weeks since the start of the year. Added to this, I’ve felt the latent impact of the political shit-fest quite intensely, inwardly. My body seems to be picking up and carrying a lot of fear of late. I have felt hyper-vigilant, and almost a constant state of terror and worry looming over me. This has certainly taken a toll, and I have felt a lot of heaviness.

I have had some pockets of lightness. Like this impromptu lunch we did some weeks ago that really set me up for the day and week. And yet, they have felt few and far between. Reminding me that I need to amp up my self care and other sources of rejuvenation, much more than before in light of being able to do this kind of emotionally-demanding work.

Today, I had a hard look at the days gone by and reminded myself to create more moments of lightness for myself. Some fun, some high energy, some nurturance, some peace and quiet. More often. More deliberately.

One year ago: Not my country
Two years ago: Pretend like there’s no world outside
and Ribbon in the sky
Four years ago: February

Cry freedom

Sabke labon ki tu
fariyad rahega,

Tu azaad hai, azaad rahega.

One year ago: Open
Two years ago: The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself

Things I want to say to an assortment of uncles I have known

Woke up with thoughts of a particularly heated evening from 2017, soon after I had just moved back to Bangalore. A living room conversation I found myself having, with a bunch of uncles — some relatives and friends of my parents who until then, I was until then doing my best to try and tolerate anew. The conversation was responsible for not just a crash right back into reality about the new society I now inhabit, after years in the Goa bubble, but also the reality about having to once again be in close proximity with uncles and their views, many of which I simply cannot digest and take lying down anymore.

It was not long after Kuldeep Singh Sengar got away in the Unnao rape case. My emotions were volatile, tempers were high, and I somehow got into a conversation with said uncles about how I just do not trust the current government in power because they’re crooked and vile and will leave no stone unturned in perpetrating the most heinous crimes on the people of this nation. I had already enumerated enough instances to explain why. But when the unnecessarily pressing questions persisted, I simply said “Modi is a terrorist and I refuse to accept him as my PM. I have massive problems with what he is and what he stands for.

I will never forget, and it came back to me swiftly in a cloud of rage this morning, the response I got. The most blind, sanghi, blindly servile, sanskaari-drivel-fed response of them all. “The Supreme Court has cleared him of all charges. The Supreme Court is like the mother of this nation. Questioning her word is like questioning your mother about who your father is.

VOMIT. UUUAAACKKK.

I had to leave my parents home that evening, abruptly. To keep from either barfing or breaking something. Or both. It’s been a while since I have been that triggered. And I decided then that I’d do my best to avoid discussing politics with uncles and their ilk, thereafter. It has meant blocking many on whatsapp, choosing to be quiet in the interest of my sanity when views are aired in person, walking away from political discussions with uncles who will not listen to reason, distancing myself from some family members, and unfortunately quietly cultivating a lot of loathing for some of them (which I know doesn’t serve me at all, but until I figure out a better way or achieve higher levels of Zen, I’ll deal with it).

Today is day 3 of helplessly watching things escalate while nothing is being done to abate the violence, and I have a few things to say to Uncles At Large. That mass of grown ups, every single one of them, who in 2014 told me not to worry because “Modi cannot afford to play those same politics now that he is PM“.

I want to thank them, with folded hands, for their faith and blind servitude.

For their sycophancy and commitment to turning a blind eye to the lies.

For their refusal to open their eyes and look beyond the empty promises of development and economic progress.

For their ignorance and obstinance, even now, that he is somehow the messiah who will lead this country to deliverance.

For their impudence that they knew it all, and their insistance that as younger (angrier) people we could learn a thing by being servile.

I’m angry today.

I want to go to every one of these uncles and tell them this, today, is on them. The blood of all these innocents is on them.

They voted a terror accused to power, knowing fully well that they’re backed by literal admirers of Hitler. And yet, they believed we’d never see pogrom of the scale of Godhra again. So, here we are. Exactly the same place we’ve been many times over.

I’ve watched that video of the goons dressed as cops thrashing the near-dead men, commanding that they sing the national anthem (and they comply), in absolute terror. I can’t get over the images of the thugs climbing atop the minaret on the mosque in Ashok Nagar, destroying it and placing an orange, RSS flag in it’s place.

Wake the fuck up, uncles. Wake up, own up and say you’ve fucked up and we’re here today because of you.

This blood is on you. 

So much for fucking progress. So much for development. So much for economic growth and prosperity. So much for forward thinking leaders and visionaries.

I wonder if they’re happy now, watching the news. I wonder if this gives their bloodthirsty guts a riotous fill, or if there’s even an iota of shame and guilt for what they have contributed to. And if there is, this is a good time to take it and shove it deep where the sun don’t shine. Sit now, with your Hindu Rashtra (read: Taliban), and take shelter in your Ram Mandirs, hang on to your sacred threads and do everything to revive the most backward, regressive aspects of our culture (and none of the hope-filled, progressive ones) and hope like hell that it’ll all give us the many, many, many jobs that can keep these mindless mobs out of trouble. Because this is what this is. A long-drawn, very complex plan to destroy democracy, to destroy our very humanity.

Let’s make no mistake in not seeing it now. Miscalculated errors like demonetization and GST weren’t isolated. They were done to bring this countrys growth and employment to its knees. So frustrated empty youth can fester and form a fertile bed in which to sow seeds of hate. Then, fan them. With Pulwama and Balakot. With the Ayodhya Verdict. With 370. And finally CAA and NRC.

If after all this, you still support this government, you could do well to introspect deeply on what humanity means to you. On what the Hinduism you’re so insecure about really teaches you.

Make no mistake in calling this a series of unfortunate events. This is calculated. This is the work of monsters. Monsters YOU voted. Monsters you brought to power, twice over.

One year ago: At ease, at home
Two years ago: I’m glad that I’m alive
Four years ago: In between mouthfuls

Cancelling today

I don’t know if it is naïveté or just hopeless optimism but I didn’t think I’d live to see things escalate as much as they have in Delhi yesterday. What’s worse, and has been physically impossible for me to digest, is the blatant, brazen way in which the violence has been orchestrated. In full view and with the full support of those in whose hands law, order and peace is usually kept for safekeeping. It is impossible to look back at over two months of protests — almost entirely peaceful — and not see the “chronology” of what played out yesterday, following the threatening speech Kapil Mishra made. What’s in the news doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what is going on on ground. I am completely shaken by the visuals I have seen on twitter and Instagram this morning. Even though the constant thought in my head as I try and go about my very mundane, normal day that will be completely untouched by what’s happening in the country, is “How did we get here???” I know the answer. The writing has been on the wall. Not just since 2019, not since 2014, but long before. In 2002. In 1992. In 1984. The model is the same. The prototypes the same. The methods the same. I want to go back to every time that someone has said “But what about 1984?” to me in the last two months, when I have expressed concern about the CAA, and shown solidarity at protests. Yes, what about 1984? Is this how we’ll right that wrong? With another wrong horrifically worse? The truth is as long as we cling to what makes us different — caste, religion, creed, economics — we’ll be this bloodthirsty. Willing to throw it all away, and entire groups of disadvantaged minorities under the bus, to get what we can grab, and to do what we need to, to stay on top. We’re a horrific people. Now is not the time to call Amit Shah “incompetent”. Now is when we wake up, fully, and smell the shit. You can’t call it incompetence when there is this degree of evil and malice attached to systematically flexing your untouchable muscles to show people who is boss. These events will go down as achievements in the history books of the groups Shah belongs to. They’re nothing to be ashamed of, where people like him come from. Let’s not be stupid and dismiss this as incompetence. This is planned, sanctioned, state-sponsored violence. No different from 2002. This is what they call the Gujarat Model. This is no longer an attempt to quell dissent around the NPR/NRC and CAA. This is plain and simple violence at the hands of an anti-democracy, anti-liberty power. I am angry and helpless at the completely empty handwringing and platitudes being thrown around. Which brings me back to where I began, and the thought that just won’t leave me today: How much more will this escalate before questions are answered. Before someone steps up. Before something changes. Before I can feel hopeful again.

One year ago: Notes on an island
Four years ago: Travel

Shit on toast kind of day

It’s been a strange day. I could blame on having got my period, but the truth is it’s been building all week and I have done many of the things I mentioned here, in distracting myself and keeping it at bay. I’ve spent a major part of the week fighting the constant urge to just veg-out and binge-watch Netflix. The only thing I’ve been very pumped and motivated to do is the readings I had booked thru this time, and sorting some things out for Instagram. It’s been a challenge waking up early. It’s taken a LOT of effort to go for a run and I only managed three days. I’ve dragged myself into the kitchen to have meals cooked in time. If it were just VC and me I’d have taken the liberty to eat eggs and toast or order in, but it’s not just us and I just don’t have that luxury right now.

I’ve kind of floated through in this strange twilight zone between getting by, staying just on top, but also knowing that there is something bubbling beneath the surface that I am avoiding getting in touch with.

My absolute telltale sign is the need for sloth. When I want to do nothing else but sleep, stay in bed, that’s usually my being shutting down and telling me to shut up and go with it. But this week, I have not listened. I have guilt-tripped myself, beaten myself up over it and cumulatively felt shittier still, by trying to stay active as one “should”.

Avoidance rarely gets me very far anymore. It only works for this long and this morning it bubbled over. I was inexplicably sad, that sinking feeling of not knowing what’s come over me, but feeling distinctly like something has. The cluelessness is because I have done everything in my power to avoid it up till now — boo. There is also that old familiar loneliness whenever I hit a phase like this. It’s what N and I call the “Empty Elevator Phase” whenever we talk about it. It’s like the elevator emptying out naturally, when you level up, emotionally. Leaving you either alone in the elevator, or finding yourself at a new level looking at an empty space when the elevator arrives and the doors open. There is always a sense of going through this alone. I am not feeling particularly social, and yet I do wish for some company to share this with. Company that is not VC alone. But the usual suspects I can share this with are travelling or live in a different country.

Anyhow, I don’t know what I am processing. I’ve passed off the lingering blues as everything else but what it is. I keep thinking it’s this or that — maybe I’m recovering from the weekend of animal flow, maybe I need to ground more after all the readings, maybe I need to push through and get that exercise, maybe it’s PMS, maybe I need to watch less TV before bed and sleep early.

Maybe it’s a little bit of all of that, but it is also some overwhelm (from a lot happening all at once), some loneliness (from not having anyone to really share this with), some anger (at some of the events that have transpired), some grief (at the change and inevitable moving on and loss that comes with it), some disappointment (at some specific events), some abandonment (from a combination of the disappointment and loneliness). From various things that have happened in the short span of just five days, but also from some things that happened a couple months ago that I have just been waiting and watching from a distance.

***

This morning, the exact feeling was of doom. Impending doom. Like things are poised to go downhill and like I am wholly responsible for it.

The only thing that got me through this morning was exchanging some laughs over whatsapp with amma and Niyu, who are both in Bombay at the moment, and the spontaneous decision to ditch my self-made responsibilities in favour of just being by myself. I went to Koshy’s and sat at my favourite table by the window. Originally, I planned to take my work along, but later decided against it, and instead just sat there for an hour journalling what I was feeling. No coherence, just freewheeling words. Not even full sentences, sometimes.

Then I had a masala omelette, buttered toast, two cups of tea. Slowly. Listening to a playlist I love. After over an hour, suddenly the penny dropped. I realised what was festering — a combination of many disconnected things that at can all be summarised as having demands/pressures on me and my time, when all I want right now is to just be left alone, to do my thing, in my time, as I will.

Allowing — actually even just articulating this need — myself has brought up a LOT of guilt and shame today. I’ve been better with this guilt and shame in recent times, but this is an old part of my brain that kicks in if I am not watching closely, and with kindness.

When the penny dropped, it came with a gush of tears. And I surprised myself by just sitting there, looking out of the window, wiping the continuous stream away. I dialled VC and did what I can only do with him, word-vomit of everything I was feeling. Said okay thanks, I feel better, I’ll see you at home and hung up.

I felt lighter. A little.

***

I often forget that feelings don’t always come up as an indication of something that needs to be fixed. Feelings are just feelings. They just need to be felt.

I don’t give myself that option all the time. I think I need to be able to catch myself more often, that I should understand, that I ought to have the answers.

Why? (Because I think I’m a goddamned knowitall hahaha.)

Jokes apart, it’s just too much pressure on myself. Again, an old, old trait. Of having to ace things, be good, stay on top of it.

I’ve been feeling like there’s a lot of demands on my time lately, time that I really just want to spend on myself. I’m doing things I don’t want to do and it is really gnawing away at my time and my space and that sense of ease I had so carefully cultivated. And because I have been “selfishly” spending so much time and attention on myself for so long now, my old brain tries to guilt me about it from time to time, bringing back old notions of what is selfish, what isn’t, what my “responsibility” should be, etc etc.

I forget that there is no need to make sense of feelings. Not immediately at least. That feeling them is usually all that is needed. Sometimes the feeling asking to be felt is shitty, or overwhelm, or loneliness.

I forget that I am allowed to feel those things too.

One year ago: Like coming home
Two years ago: I hope you’re not lonely without me

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