Love and belonging in politically charged times

My journey back to myself has been pockmarked with several points where I’ve questioned and examined belonging. Belonging is a theme I visit often, as I heal parts of myself and make efforts to integrate them — to really belong to myself fully again.

In recent times my focus has shifted from beyond myself to the world around me — both immediate and extensive. I have been asking What is my place in the world? Where do I fit in? What is my purpose? Where and how can I belong? And I find myself deeply disillusioned and let down by the ideas of belonging that crop up around me. Wishy washy, idealistic notions that sound pretty in words but are very difficult to put to life. Lip-service by the rich and privileged who cleave to feel-good ideas of connectedness and togetherness but think nothing of putting their support behind acts and bills that scream disharmony and throw entire sects of our people under the bus. Religious ideas of love and togetherness that they otherwise hold close are rendered null and void when the same mouths and brains that do things to tell me they’re backing the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.

I’m sick of the hypocrisy.

This makes it very hard for me to belong to groups that I ought to belong to by default. My family, my neighbourhood, my state, my country.

Today, I question where I belong. And I’m constantly looking for a spark of some signs of belonging in people around me. But it’s getting harder and harder to find.

I am the great granddaughter of staunch Gandhians. My great grandmother spun khadi at home, and she and my great grandfather marched with Gandhi in many acts of civil disobedience. My grandmothers older sister even went to jail for it. And yet, those same Gandhian values that I’ve grown up being dinned into my head, are altogether washed out today. My family is mostly unrecognisable when it comes to politics. They’re supporters of the fascist forces that celebrate Gandhi’s assassinator. I simply don’t understand it.

How then, can I say I belong to this? When I have nobody to converse and dialogue this with? When ideas of respect and politeness are conflated with dishonesty.

I can no longer be dishonest so I’ve chosen silence for too long now. That silence is slowly snapping.

My building is filled with upper-caste, patriarchal Brahmins who have displayed their displeasure of our unbrahminical ways more than a handful of times. I definitely don’t belong here. But I shut the door of my home and I make do.

I have for very long now questioned how I feel about belonging to India. The truth is, I don’t feel it at all. I have resented being Indian since 2014.

But something interesting happened this week. Over this week at all the protests I went to, though, I felt a surge of belonging. Like I had found my people. Like all is not lost and we may have just not sold the country to a majority of hate-mongers.

There is something incredibly softening and nourishing about finding this kind of connection. In receiving it, I realised it s something I have been missing it for way too long now. I have walked around feeling like an alien in my surroundings, around my family and everywhere else for just too long

So what I felt this week, I’d like to think is a start of something new, a new wave of healing yet another part of myself that has been deeply hurt and excluded.

Registered my protest today by beginning to read BR Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. Woefully late in life, and just a quarter of the way through this is essential reading for every Indian (every human really), in a country that’s being fast made to forget the very idea of India that birthed our constitution and our identity as a nation. Essential reading for people being lulled to sleep slowly in a hateful frenzy. Essential reading for a staggering number of people in my immediate circle who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

I can’t do much to change people around me, I think. As always, I realised today again that I can only work on myself. If what’s going on in the country today means anything to me, I can only inform myself and solidify my politics. I can only show up more often. I can only do everything it takes to put my entire being behind knowing exactly what I am talking about when I say,

I refuse to buy this hatred that insists on making me believe that I don’t belong in my own country.

I can keep speaking my truth. And I can keep consistently choosing love.

Because without truth and love, I’m going nowhere in this search for belonging.

One year ago: Find my direction magnetically
Three years ago: Too much nature ho gaya

Can you hear the roar?

I have talked NONSTOP today. Too many words just to keep the incessant churn of emotions at bay.

I have talked nonstop today, when I wasn’t crying because today was emotions from the get go. I woke up amto messages that sec 144 had been imposed and that the protest I planned to go to would proceed with full preparedness to be arrested or detained.

I wasn’t sure what this meant or if I still should go. Clearly this time around we’ve scared them enough to take “pre-emptive”, unconstitutional action.

I wept as I watched the news online and saw things as they were unfolding on twitter.

This seemed like exactly what they want. Confusion and chaos. Mixed up locations. Misinformation. Detention of hoardes of people as a possible warning of things to come. Anything to keep people from showing up.

But guess what?

It didn’t work.

People continued to show up. Long after warnings were issues. Long after the stations assigned as detention centres got full. All through the day. Until they were granted permission to protest peacefully.

So I dropped everything and reached Town Hall.

And I wept some more.

For someone who spoke all day I have a lack of words to describe what I’m actually feeling. A full body surge of pride. I’ve been to protests before. But this felt different. This felt like it was backed by the spontaneous outpouring of unity not directed at any one religion or party or politician. This was people saying enough! People saying fuck you and your fascism.

We stood up and collectively flipped a massive middle finger at the powers that be today. I don’t know where or how far this will go but I have a hunch that this is just the start. Of a long and arduous but important fight. The revolution everyone says we need but didn’t see coming. I don’t know if we’ll win or we’ll lose but it makes me damn proud to know that I can look back on this week and think of not just Bangalore but the scores of places and the thousands of people and know that when it mattered, we showed the fuck up. FINALLY.

Today felt like a massive cumulative jack pot of fury and unity, pride and belonging, resistance and assertion all at once.

They tried every trick in the book to stop us today. And we didn’t relent. Of course I got there and wept some more. Not just at the people and the protestors but the placcards and slogans too and most of all at the incredible togetherness and connectedness of People going around passing on satchets of water, bananas, snacks, reminding each other to sit down and catch a breath, people offering each other banners and standing by each other shoulder to shoulder.

They tried every trick in the book to silence this. These fascists, they’re powerful. But they’ve got nothing in this massive outpouring of love I witnessed today.

In the end politics of hate can only be met and challenged by love. And today reaffirmed that for me. This love, it’s going to kill them one day.

One year ago: We got soul food in the house
Three years ago: Old and mighty

Little tricks

Somewhere in the utter landslide of grief and sadness from everything that came up this week, I forgot what it takes to ground me. I was so caught in the undertow and flailing from trying to stay afloat that I completely forgot that I know there are a few practices and things I can do for myself. To help myself. To bring myself back to my body, to the here and now, from the far distances of despair that I felt.

Exercise. Everyday.

Salt in my bath water.

Gardening and tending to my plants.

Cooking a meal from scratch.

Walking barefoot.

The 5-4-3-2-1 method.

These have all worked for me in the past. And a couple of them like the salt baths, cooking and exercise are my usual go to that I turn to quite frequently. Something about a mundane, monotonous rhythm of chopping vegetables or running on the treadmill one step in front of another does the trick.

And yet, so heavy was the despair that I just clean forgot.

I’ve exercised and cooked everyday this week but it’s been two days of doing all the rest and it has made all the difference. I feel alive again.

Today I stepped out to catch coffee with D this evening and I ended up telling him how it’s been for me since class ended. What a relief it was to hear someone say;

I get it.

There were cheesy garlic toasts and French fries to boot but my god there’s nothing like connection from a shared moment of vulnerability with someone who can hold it — without either brushing it aside to tell me to feel better or rushing to panic/worry on my behalf — that can do the trick.

One year ago: Now I’m free falling
Three years ago: Grasp

Life goes easy

Somehow, spontaneous Monday lunch has become an unplanned thing. Yesterday, when VC and I realised that Vidyarthi Bhavan is just a 17 minute direct metro ride away from us we decided to go there for lunch. Spontaneously. They have such odd timings, so this was also a great tactic to beat the crowds — reaching there at 2 pm which is opening time.

It’s supposedly the Mecca of doseys in Bangalore and I was going back after over a decade. The place looks exactly like I remember it from my last visit which was so far back I don’t know when it was. It’s just spruced up and cleaner, I think. The doseys, on the other hand, were a bit underwhelming. I know I could spark off a potential South versus North Bangalore war, but really, I think CTR wins this round for me. And it will probably stay at the top of my dosey list as a clear winner for a very long time to come, by the looks of it. I was happy for the outing though. For the metro ride. For the spontaneity.

***

I’m revelling in my home again, like I said yesterday. However today, I realised I need to also get out and find a space of my own from where to get work done. It’s becoming exceedingly difficult to do it from home. Especially since VCs return, the new adjustment and excitement of having him home all day long, and the added element of having to now adjust my space around his. He did something in one week that I hadn’t done in the two years since we moved here — turned the extra bedroom into an office/work space. I’m glad he did because finally that room is being used, and not feeling like that ghosty isolated, pointless room that it used to. The house feels filled out and lived in. And yet it’s left me feeling a bit displaced. Sitting at the dining table is not working for me. Lying in bed, impossible.

I feel the need to not only separate my workspace from his, but also my own workspace from life-space. Nothing confirmed it more than what happened earlier today. After procrastinating on an important task all week, simply because I haven’t had the mind-space to work from feeling so displaced, I sat at Koshys for half an hour today and banged it out like it was waiting to come out of me. A cup of hot tea, music in my ears and a desk of my own is all it took.

I realised I need a space of my own. A space that’s not at home. Even if it’s not a fixed space, I need to take myself out of what is essentially a domestic area now, and get going with all these things I’ve been brewing up inside of me.

***

Meanwhile, the waves of grief continue to come. I’ve almost got it down pat now. The cues, the coming of the wave, I ride it and it and it ebbs and flows, and leaves. I wonder how much more there is to feel so much about. I know everything I changing and I feel so deeply unsettled already. In addition I can also already see how my reactions to so many things are changing. So now, in addition to lamenting the changes itself, I also feel a pang for the fact that my stock responses are changing too. It’s like letting go of parts that I have held close to me, parts that I have known to be me. And in their place there is, once again, emptiness. A new emptiness waiting to take life again. But that is a slow process of its own making. I cannot rush it.

I feel naked like a baby. And it’s a very vulnerable and exposed state to be in. I feel sensitive and touchy and just a lot of wanting to be on my own. It’s not going down well with folks around me hahaha. Oh well, c’est la vie.

One year ago: Anyway, I should be doing alright

Spiritual seeking versus spiritual bypassing

I’ve been OD-ing on reading about healing trauma and the psychology of spiritual seeking all weekend. Partly as a last minute dash as I gear up for exam week starting today! and partly also for my own curiosity and intellectual stimulation.

So, some (half-baked, spontaneous, very, very prone-to-change) thoughts (that I am sure I’ll return to with V2, in the future).

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the deeper my relationship with myself gets, the more spiritual the journey has become. Because it recently occurred to me that this is not what I was aiming for when I set off. I didn’t set out seeking spirituality. But I was looking to understand the root of my constant dissatisfaction, restlessness and confusion. And today I realise they’re kind of the same thing.

I’ve also been wondering about why I didn’t make this discovery earlier, and why I didn’t just turn to the kind of spirituality I have been fed and have have grown up seeing for all my life. The truth is I have always remained somewhat unconvinced about it and of late it has become even less and less appealing to me. It always felt a bit lofty to the point of being unrealistic and unattainable for regular human beings with real, powerful emotions. I think I’m beginning to understand what my discomfort really was about. Because, today I watch the pontificating kind of spiritually inclined adults in my surroundings, fascinated, as I see them so rapt in a spiritual realm and yet so disconnected from themselves, their emotions and their surroundings. I didn’t understand it for many, many years until recently, I learned recently that there’s a term for this. Spiritual Bypassing. A term that was coined in the 1980s to refer to the human tendency to turn to spiritual (often mainstream religion) practices or teachings as a way to avoid looking at the festering pain and discomfort of unresolved trauma and incomplete psychological development. These conditions often manifest in life as stuckness, ill-health, disconnection, disinterest and dissatisfaction with life and serious mental health issues. And the I get now, why the idea that all of this can be somewhat placated with feel-good spiritual practices and teachings that are peddled as quick fixes, appeal like a wonderful short cut to avoid all that discomfort entirely.

Let me also clarify here that I have nothing against the kind of mainstream, religious brand of spirituality that I have grown up with. I believe in it as a legitimate means for seeking spiritual growth. But of late, I have been questioning the need to also examine closely the purpose of any path one may choose. Any path is a means to an end, whether you choose journaling, therapy, meditation, tai-chi, chant the Gayatri Mantra, Vipassana, any other yogic kriya, or combinations of these; but having a purpose, even if a vaguely defined end-point, in mind matters.

I see the need for this because it makes all the difference in whether one chooses a path that takes one closer to reality or away from it. If one sets off on a spiritual path to understand the truth, as most “religion” ostensibly claims to do, it sometimes means traversing difficult and very uncomfortable truths. But if the motivation is to escape those difficult truths, then it is quite futile.

Whatever be the practice one chooses towards spiritual seeking, the former approach leads one to develop a deeper relationship with emotional reality and oneself, while the latter will definitely lead one away from reality, causing further disconnection and confusion.

I see this a lot in spiritual seeking adults of the generation just before me and in my immediate environment, perhaps because I have started to observe the differences between them and us quite keenly of late, in trying to understand what I’m doing differently and why it feels so wholesome and good for me. Even while the tools and practices they’ve often offered promised the same results, but weren’t nearly as convincing. And the few I’ve tried felt alien to me.

I’m kind of baffled at how many of them who have cleaved to spiritual practices early on in life, and have continued to dedicatedly make all the right motions and actions, but currently face an array of debilitating difficulties ranging from disconnection with themselves, confusion and directionlessness, minor to serious physical and mental ill-health. They’re all the same people who I have heard speaking about concepts like finding flow, surrender, acceptance and the like. They’re the ones with the zen demeanour, happy faces and the serene outward beings, while just beneath the surface it’s quite a different story altogether. I have really begun to wonder how much this is spirituality and how much is spiritual bypassing. And how much of this is over-intellectualisation of what is otherwise just a very basic, human approach.

I’m fairly convinced now that wholesome spiritual growth that brings about fullness rather than fragmentation (which pretty much all of us battle at some point in our lives) is impossible without acknowledging and owning up to every aspect of one’s whole being. And that often includes the parts that are difficult to face. Parts that lie in the shadow. Parts that are shrouded in guilt, shame, fear. And this should be the role of any spiritual practice — whether yoga, meditation, therapy or an ayahuasca trip — to gently help us navigate these extremely scary spaces of our psyche. If a spiritual practice is taking one away from this, and promising a direct route to a zen state of mind, I’m not sure how sustainable it is, and how long it will last before the same old demons crop up again.

One year ago: Some we want to stay, but we can’t find peace while sitting

Movie misgivings

S and I decided to meet today. But rather than hangout, like we probably should have, I decided we should watch The Sky Is Pink. Between travels to Manali and Goa I missed it entirely and it’s now down to just one show, which should probably have been a sign. When I suggested it to S, she was so quick to agree, it seemed she wanted to watch the movie too.

Today though as I was making my way to the multiplex, S got there before me and sent me a panicked, “macha are you taking me to a Priyanka Chopra movie?!!

That should have also been by cue to change the plan spontaneously to go sit somewhere and gab, because we had oh so much to catch up on too. But we decided to waste three hours in a movie bass instead. And I’m saying waste because that’s what the movie was. A waste.

I came away not knowing if this was a movie about the spirit of life and survival with a brave front in the face of death, or a film about a mother whose entire life is consumed by caring for a terminally ill child, or if it was about all of the things that a family goes through in the peculiar situation they find themselves in — rallying around a child whose life comes with a quick end date. I have no idea. PC gets so much screen time, and I find her to be such an unnatural and forced actor, while Farhan Akhtar and Zaira Wasim were clearly the bright lights that saved the movie. It had its moments — of humour, some sparse good writing, poignant dialogues — but overall the story just didn’t come together for me. In narrating the story from the afterlife, so to speak, one knows right off the bat that Aisha dies. And it just left me wondering from time to time, where is this going? Of course there is also my other usual complain with pretty much every Hindi film: it was unnecessarily long. I don’t know why we consistently get our writing so wrong, why we get so caught up in spelling everything out rather than leaving things to be seen and not told, why every story ends up being so mashed up like baby food and spoonfed to audiences. Movie makers must really take their audiences to be fools?

I know this is an unpopular view because the movie seems to have touched and tugged at heartstrings across the board. But I came away dissatisfied. Perhaps more so because I could have spent that time with S instead of being forced into silence in a dark movie hall trying to figure out what was going on with this film.

To make up for it though, we had a solid Mallu mess meal, complete with boiled rice, chamandi and aila fry. And an Iyengar Bakert butter biscuit each to finish it all off.

Sigh.

One year ago: But if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: The sweet, sweet taste of acceptance

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

Alone time

I’m learning what it means to take time. To make time for myself. These are things I’ve been slowly easing into. And I’ve watched my comfort levels with doing this go up and down, observing where I am comfortable doing it and when I am not. It’s all so telling.

Beyond the obvious lessons in putting myself first and boundaries, I’m suddenly seeing how this goes right back to a deeper process of individuation and growing closer to the needs of an inner self that doesn’t always have a loud, expressive voice to say what she wants.

This is the first time that despite having VC visiting, a rather full weekend and the usualy overriding temptation to abandon everything and be with him, I got out willingly, easily, and made it to the workshop I’d signed up for weeks ago. Instead of rushing home, I went over to Koshy’s and had lunch by myself, after.

I’ve been doing this solo thing for literally years now. Long before solitude and activities for one were cool hashtaggable millennial concepts, I’d watched movies and had meals alone in Bangalore and really enjoyed it, when I was merely 22-23 years old. In Goa, being self-employed and largely deprived of my kind of friends, doing things by myself really became a way of life without much thought or choice even. But this feels different. Of a deliberate choosing, not coming from rebellion, minus any guilt, not as a fall out of some rejection or another. But from a place of a deep and simple need that has shown up, asking to be seen.

The gifts of solitude, whether in an indulgent, luxurious getaway of some kind or simply enjoyed eating rasam-rice out if a bowl in bed — you do you and choose what you will — are seriously underrated. And somewhat lost, and just diluted in what has become the predominant narrative around self-care these days. It isn’t about buying stuff and experiences and consuming more to feed the capitalist machine that’s profiting from our angst and collective efforts to discover ourselves.

Ultimately it isn’t about the meals and drinks consumed alone, or the spa dates or tubs of ice cream. Even as I started there, unknowingly, it has only now become about feeling enough in my own company. Of feeling safe, held and sufficient. Of feeling steady, still and solid in and of myself.

As someone who lamented the lure of loneliness that always lurks in my life, this feels different. This feels new.

On my way to Koshy’s, zipping through traffic on MG Road, thinking these thoughts, I was gobsmacked my a bright blue butterfly that flew right through the auto I was riding! In through one side, fluttered around attacking my face, and out through the other, all while we were scramming through moving traffic in the middle of the city!

If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. This feels like all new growth. And this too is new.

***

Happy and grateful to be in a good streak, physically. Waking up early, feeling energetic, feeling the urge to use my body for more than just getting around, challenging and stretching myself outside the limits I am comfortable with. I said to D this morning, that something has clicked into place for me as far as understanding exercise and what it does for my body goes. And he put it perfectly by saying maybe I have pivoted. Haha.

I think it’s true, though. And it’s what I am grateful for that shift in understanding, because this time around it seems to have come from deep within. Not motivated by only fitness performance alone, or only aesthetics alone. There has been minimal deprivation, plenty nourishment in a mind-body kind of way.

This time around it feels like the outcome of a deeper connection with myself. I’m grateful for this.

Three years ago: Too many words, so here’s a copy out

Raw

Last week when three days of class ended, I sat with a pure and simple thrill and joy at having completed a full piece of work by myself. By itself, it wasn’t a spectacular piece of work, but to have been able to intuitively and organically stay with it, and see it through to its logical conclusion was a big, big step up for me.

It was a huge win. And yet, underneath all the joy from the learning side of things, I was also carrying some grief about a certain dynamic that’s playing out for me. It’s bringing up a lot and is showing me in no uncertain terms how my journeys of personal development and learning this work will sometimes intertwine ever so subtly.

As I journey on with this learning, the more drawn in and absorbed I get, I have also been feeling a sense of an ending. Of this phase. A separation from things as they stand today. And I’ve been feeling the ripe and bubbling feeling of an impending new beginning — perhaps the next phase.

Endings, especially of good things, have never been easy for me. Letting go of things as they are, opening myself to change isn’t much easier.

So last week, even as I was overjoyed, waves of grief and impending loss came in recurring motions. I watched myself ride each wave, find my balance again and dig my feet deep and open my heart wide to the happiness that I was also experiencing. I’m beginning to see this duality as such a central axis of my life: joy is the antidote to grief and grief sometimes arrives to make that point loud and clear.

Like I said some days ago, what is a new dawn without a full knowing of the darkness that always precedes it? Would I value the true beauty of the light just the same if it weren’t for the daunting walk through the dark?

Is it ever really possible to know one without the other?

Joy is rarely ever conditional to the absence of pain. Same for the love and rage, war and peace, light and dark. The more I find myself accepting this inherent duality, the more I find peace and settlement. I feel more whole, integrated and complete.

I feel in love with my life and my place in the world. I feel eager to understand my reality and the world around me, with the unfettered keenness and curiosity of a child.

Is this what it is to say yes to life in all its glory?

Is this what true surrender feels like?

Is this what it is like to feel raw, and somewhat more tender?

Is this what remains to be gained when I understand the importance of laying down all that isn’t mine to carry?

Is this what I was making space for all this time?

One year ago: I wanna see you be brave
Two years ago: Brain noodles

Three years ago: Finding my people

Move

I’ll say this much today.

I’m not done.

I want to go farther.

And I will get there.

One year ago: Whatever you believe, could be real
Three years ago: Internet things

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

Up and about

Last week, starting with the weekend, was so great. Much happened, and yet much of my time was spent at home, all by myself, and in silence. Many epiphanies, a slow churn, and some big shifts. And yet, I just didn’t feel like talking about any of it.

I am wondering if maybe it’s just time to talk less, because I do feel another round of going inward has ensued. I’m trying to go with it. And maybe that’s why I’ve been quiet around here. But I also realised that in some measure I felt shut down from all the news around me. It’s just been a lot to process and make sense of.

I don’t usually stay very clued in on what’s going on in this godawful world and country of ours. I am informed, but I don’t really go into anything at length, or in depth. But with the news about Kashmir flaring up like it did, with the lies in mainstream media, and the possibility of staring more violence in the face, I got drawn in.

The trouble with getting drawn in and having literally nowhere no talk about how I feel — real and present fear at the pseudo-democracy we’re becoming — I have totally withdrawn. I am surrounded by chest-thumping ardent supporters of the current fascist regime, and it is getting increasingly hard to see this happen, as well as air even the slightest word of dissent in my surroundings. In addition to the facts about the horrific turn of events in the news everyday, I am also experiencing mild trauma and feeling let down and abandoned by people around me that I thought have better brains, people I thought to be thinking, rational, humane human beings.

It is a lonely place to be. And this kind of fear and hopelessness makes me shut down, which is what happened to some degree last week, and maybe explains my excessive silence.

***

On Sunday last week, D and I went for walk again. We beat our time from just one week ago, for no apparent reason except I feel like it was just such a good morning. The air was crisp, the clouds grey, with just a hint of the sun shining through. It was followed by a breakfast of idli-vada and a strong hit of coffee, as usual, with the requisite giggles — at ourselves and people around us. I realise these are little habits and rituals that have made some parts of living in Bangalore really come alive and mean something more to me.

I managed to catch the live taping of Kanan Gill’s upcoming Netflix Special called Teetar, that happened in Bangalore last weekend. I am thrilled to be finally witnessing so much live stand up comedy — it’s something I wanted to do for years now, but simply couldn’t access the good stuff in Goa.

The show was funny in parts, but didn’t really come together for me as a whole. I eft feeling only mildly entertained, and also a little old. The average age in the audience being much lower, and seeing as how they were hugely entertained with constant rollicking laughter, I think maybe I’m just too old for some of this shit?

I’ll give credit where it’s due though — Kanan Gill was funny in parts and I think it takes some skill to put an hour long special together and make it to Netflix. It also happened that the entire bro-gang of comedians from Kenny to Abish and Biswa showed up and were seated in the row right behind me, making me thoroughly star-struck for a bit.

***

I’ve been feeling an overwhelming love for this city again. I find it hard to explain. Even as things are visibly falling apart, I find myself enjoying being here, I am so much more at ease and something seems to have just clicked into place.

Maybe it is the idea that this life here will somewhat be complete with VC’s return. And maybe the anticipation of it has helped me settle in just a bit. The living between worlds, great as it was, had left me feeling a bit suspended and ungrounded. I feel roots again, tender baby roots that may go any way they please, but for now are happy to be flirting with the idea of being here. Fully. I simply cannot wait for October.

***

I’m still feeling pretty tentative — there’s a lot going on within me that seems to be taking it’s own sweet time to settle. I am in no rush, and I am also aware of how much I am not trying to figure it out this time. Instead, just letting it be and do its thing.

I just have a hunch that big things are in store, changes are afoot. I feel the stir of that subtle movement that is slowly gathering pace. Like a small gentle lapping patch of water that travels miles before it turns into a gigantic wave.

One year ago: I request another dream
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: finding new comfort in old places

Three years ago: Ele day

Breaking the silence

Today is better, only marginally so, but entirely because I stepped out of the house and came over to spend the day with D. And that always puts me in a good mood. I don’t mean just the laughs and the good times, but just the space and comfort it affords, even outside of the acts of friendship. I’m seeing this as a blessing, the universe looking out for me today, a day that began with me responding to a long-pending call for honesty, a breaking of silence, with a relationship in my life that I have been struggling to make sense of.

There is an imminent sense of relief, the kind of relief I didn’t know I was missing, that I only fully realise when the burden is suddenly lifted, but there has been an undercurrent of deep grief too, all through today. Strangely, not just grief for yet another friendship irrevocably altered (perhaps ended?) but for myself, and the way in which I have unconsciously allowed myself to be taken for granted, in this and other relationships, for how misunderstood I have been by people I have counted as my closest friends, for how some of these friends I held close to thought it was better to read my blog and make wild assumptions about me and what I needed than straight up ask me if there was a way they could be available for me, for how imbalanced the nature of giving and receiving has been between us, for how used I have felt and still sometimes feel when I think about specific instances, for how angry it all makes me, for how my vulnerability was so often met by a complete unavailability.

There is grief, and a sense of feeling sorry for the person that I was, that I have been so many times in friendships past, who felt the need to connect in a certain way, that so obviously came at a cost to the person I am underneath it all. There is grief, for how simply innocent I was in the way that I so quickly went all in, blindly trusting of words of loyalty accompanied by the sweetest smiles. There is grief for how much I have allowed myself to be hurt. There is grief for how mistaken I was in thinking I was understood by people who clearly did not, and did not even care to try.

So on a day like today, when I am feeling forced to revisit all this hurt in my head, it’s a true boon to have the safe haven of a friendship like this one with D, where I can exercise and put into practice the very things — the silence, the honesty, the empathy — I know friendships past lacked. On a day like today, S has been an absolute rock listening to my unending rambles, re-hashing and revisiting it all with her. Careful to reaffirm what I know to be true, but also gently, kindly flagging off potential for more hurt, where I may be unconsciously slipping into my old ways. Despite her own current crisis, S been there for me in ways that I find hard to put words to, but that make me choke up because it shows me how we’ve grown and how far we’ve come from the fearful, insecure nature in which we once were friends, to being the open, heartfelt, unafraid women we are towards each other today.

The heartening part about today for me, is that I was able to dig deep and find the courage (that frankly, I didn’t know I had) to be as honest as I was; that I resisted the urge to get into a circular you-said-i-said conversation and stuck to just me, what I have done, and what I can do to be better in future; that I resisted the even bigger urge to place some part of the blame where it perhaps belong, and instead accepted blame for my side of things leaving the consequences of the rest to the other; that I truly suspended hope and expectations of any kind of response, appropriate or not; and that I was able to choose integrity, truth and my own vulnerability, over the moral high ground and silence, time and time again today.

This, is especially heartening because I have been disturbed by the palpable silence that I was met with this past week. Silence that is perhaps a place of moral high ground, a coping mechanism to deal with the hurt, for some. But a silence that only screams cowardice to me. It is that very same silence, that I chose to break with my truth today.

One year ago: Follow me down, to the valley below

Decompress

A spot of alone time and unwinding before I head out to dinner. I really needed this to decompress all that has been held within me for the last 24 hours.

There was a death in VCs family and being around the family in these circumstances always triggers something very deep within me, bringing up differences and making me realise the full impact of the way in which I feel like a misfit.

I carried all the stirrings of this to therapy last evening. A mad dash after a day that was spent in a tizzy on the run. And what emerged attherapt crushed me like a ton of bricks and took me to a very deep, dark place.

I’m tempted to say I was not ready for it. That it came out of the blue. But if I were to be really honest, the signs have been there, the writings been on the wall, this has been coming a while. I had only to see it and have the right trigger unleash it all.

I realised yesterday what a sense of safety and guidance I feel with N. Something just clicks into place for me when we begin a session, giving me the unexpected confidence to bring out the things I do — the things that stay deep in dark places in my real life. But I’d be untrue to myself if I didn’t give myself credit where it’s due. If I didn’t acknowledge the work and focus it has taken in getting myself to where I am with my personal journey. The process of integrating, becoming hole, including all that has been separated, looking at the ways in which I am bound by my consciences — all of this has contributed to making me just that little bit more solid and whole from within. And it is only because of this newfound solidity that I am even able to tap into the depths of my shadow self, brave enough to go there and wrench out the more deeply held fears and anxieties like I did yesterday.

I have never felt so simultaneously fearful and brave. Afraid, yet ready. Empowered, and up for a challenge.

The difference now is just how much I feel like I am on my own side. How much I have my own back. And how much I feel committed to not abandoning myself.

So I sit here today, finally decompressing, and I realise since therapy yesterday I have subconsciously waited and anticipated a mild falling apart that I thought would follow.

The flux, it’s there. The distress and unsettlement, it’s there. The angst and butterflies in my stomach about what will be, it’s there. And yet I feel together.

The “breakdown” — it hasn’t come. And I’m wondering if it may have left the building entirely.

One year ago: Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Three years ago: Back to base. Almost.

Engineering bigness

Mulling over yesterday’s post still, which came from a game I played on Sunday with a group of complete strangers, and I’m sitting with a lot of stillness and a very real, almost tangible understanding of the absurd duality that comes from seeking vulnerability of and from myself.

It’s taken me on a path that’s unearthed my deepest fears and insecurities, things I’ve hidden from myself and the world for so long, things that when they surface would otherwise make me shrink and hide, but now come with a sudden comfort and power, of wanting to show up as I am (fear, insecurities and all), seeking connection, seeking the warmth of people, desperately wanting conversation and camaraderie.

It’s a path that has hurled me into the depths of a kind of loneliness I have not experienced until now, but also brought the strangest, most unexpected and delightful connections my way. Connections that have redefined my understanding of friendship, of relationship and of empathy.

It is a path that has made abundantly clear how important, joy, love and intimacy actually are to me, and how little of it I have been settling for so far. It’s a path that has also made me see that the path to joy, love and intimacy does not side step fear, insecurity, self-loathing and judgement.

I recently watched and enjoyed Brene Brown’s Netflix special The Call to Courage which was all about embracing the most human desire — belonging — and how it is impossible to experience that without facing how much we are held back by shame, fear (of criticism) amongst other things. What she said particularly about how fear and shame makes us compromise our authentic selves so much, making us believe we need to change who we truly are in order to belong, really hit me. She gave it a lovely phrase — engineering smallness — that really hit me like a ton of bricks.

As the idea of taking up (more) space has been the centre of much of my explorations through therapy and in life, I’ve had a series of realisations about how much I have been used to playing small. Whether under the garb of adjusting to something or someone, making my emotions and myself more palatable to the other, in believing this will allow more of everything in my life — there has been a thread of be small, be quiet, be less that has held my life together so far.

Part of working through this and re-engineering bigness, allowing myself to step into the power of my authentic adult self, has been in accepting and understanding that the work doesn’t lie so much in fixing anything about myself, but merely accepting all the duality that I hold within. The loneliness alongside the desire for companionship. The old, old fears alongside the newfound confidence. The loud joy alongside the sombre stillness. The new, voracious appetite for a new tribe and community alongside the familiar comfort of solitude.

I have spent so much of my life forcing myself to choose one or the other, shrinking myself down, limiting myself to horribly polarised labels, and ultimately dimming my light. Owning my power, realising my potency, has been an enriching and revelatory process of realising that I am so much more than I have hitherto believed I am or can be. And when I embrace, own and hold it all in a good way, in a deliberate and true way, I feel big. I feel like an adult. And absurd as it sounds to be admitting this on the back of my 35th birthday, this is the first time in my adult life that I have witnessed what being an adult is like. And the more I find myself operating from this space, the more satisfying my engagements, relationships and intimacy with people I love are becoming.

One year ago: Another day, just breathe
Three years ago: Retrograde rant