New rituals

The sparkly scent of new beginnings lingers all over this picture, even when I look at it today. I took it earlier this week, after I acted on a whim, in rather impromptu fashion. And then repeated said said action two days later. And then, again today.

There is happiness in new beginnings.
Promise in the liminality of that newness.
A new habit. A new space. A new meditation.
A new cycle, routine, new way of being.

Let’s see how long this one stays going, and let’s see where it takes me.

One year ago: Things I want to say to an assortment of uncles I have known
Two years ago: Ease at home
Three years ago: I’m glad that I’m alive
Five years ago: In between mouthfuls

Showers

Just as it began to get warm, I woke up the other day thinking of how we haven’t had a typical Bangalore shower in a long time. I was away for all of December, most of January and I’m not sure if it has rained this year at all, but it certainly hasn’t since my coming back.

I should have guessed there was something odd about the way in which things warmed up suddenly, between one day and the next. It didn’t feel natural, real.

And lo and behold. It rained last evening. Came down as suddenly as the heat did. I was so  sure it was that typical Bangalore shower that comes with great gusto, makes a huge fuss and noise and passes really quickly. But it persisted and gradually turned into a massive downpour that lasted about an hour.

I am relieved that the dust might settle. The entire fucking city — this is not even a slight exaggeration — is a giant construction site at the moment, and there is dust everywhere. No amount of dusting within the home is cutting it and the situation outside is seriously killing my mojo of wanting to get out. But here I am. in that strange place that only Bangaloreans understand. Feeling glad for the rain, enjoying the petrichor  (I still strongly detest that word and how easily it gets thrown about on days like this. Chill people you’re smelling the DUST not the earth.) and also feeling massively frustrated for the almost immediate traffuckery that follows. It takes absolutely nothing for rain-induced chaos to set in. Literally just a matter of minutes.

Traffic jams, dug up roads, irationaly long drive times to get anywhere notwithstanding, I’m moving. Out and about.

One year ago: Tarot: On resilience
Two years ago: Like seeing sunlight
Three years ago: Stop this train, I want to get off and go home again

Pictures of me

The weather is fast chaning and my short-lived brush with winter is feeling too short for my liking. In the span of just one day we went from having the fan on super low to two notches higher at night. And I am beginning to sweat it out good and proper during my morning workouts again. When I returned from Goa, I was working out with a jacket on and with the doors and windows closed. Until  this morning, when I broke into a massive sweat, my body temp spiking, and stifling me. So I had to throw the balcony door open.

But until last week, the morning post-bath ritual of lying in the sun, even if just for 5 minutes before my first session for the day, was doing a fine job of keeping me warm.

On another note, VC took some splendid portrait shots of me recently. The past two weekends we’ve been experimenting with a makeshift homestudio of sorts to see what’s possible right here at home, without having to venture out.

I love them pictures so much, but must acknowledge that the veneer on those is only part of the truth. I’m rarely ever that put together. I love and enjoy being made up and dressed well. And I love a flattering photograph. Especially if VC takes it. But many, most, times I’m also the dork that lies in the spot of sun in my balcony till the sunshine has gone deep through my eyes and right into the soft centre of my fuzzy sunshine-addled brain, blinding me so I can’t see the picture I’m trying to take of myself.

Yes this is also me.

I realised today, that I’ve been posting a lot many picture of myself, of my face on my personal instagram recently. This is a huge change. And it felt nice to notice it. Oddly, in most of them, I am lying down/reclining. And that felt nice to notice too — that I have so many moments of lying down. Now that I have started to take notice, moments of softness almost always involve being horizontal. Such a small thing, and yet there’s always some discomfort, shyness, shame around doing it. Letting our bodies splay in an uncontrolled fashion feels too vulnerable, unfamiliar, unpretty. So, to have a newfound comfort and freedom to lie down whenever an opportunity presents itself or I am inclined to, is everything. To find comfort in sharing moments/memories, even more so.

Instagram is such a weird place. Pictures of one’s face, or a personal detail of one’s life, accompanied by an arbit, meaningless caption always gather so many more hungry, voyeuristic likes than an odd picture of a sunset, or a tree — of which I post PLENTY — captioned with some deep inner thoughts that I’ve felt like sharing.

Oh woe.

One year ago: Flow, flow, flow
Two years ago: In-between
Five years ago: Light and shadow

Tarot: On strength, and taking help

I was in the mood for a mid-week pull. It’s just my state of mind, from lingering thoughts that have been accumulating from readings I’ve done over the past week.

How easy is it for you to be in a state of needing help? How does it feel to be unable, incapable, unsuccessful sometimes? What happens when you are not able to “make it on your own”?

My work lately has made me see that often our ideas of strength are rooted in deep wounds, early traumatic events that define what and how we must survive in the world. Our ideas of strength come from locking away all experiences of “weakness” in the hope of overcoming them. Many times the absolute refusal to ask for help is encoded in that idea of strength.

We grow up and live our lives through strife and difficulty, believing that it is the only way to be. And our sense of self and worth gets entwined in that struggle.

But this is unsustainable. We often outwardly wish for less struggle, but we feel completely at a loss about how to make it happen. Especially when we’ve built an entire identity around that idea of “independence” and “strength”.

Learning to ask for and receive help begins with understanding what made it difficult for us to begin with. To sit with the pain of those events, or that time in our lives. To revisit and put back together the parts of us that came undone when we were hurt. So we can understand who/what our external resources are. To make new definitions of strength from understanding that sometimes our pain is our strength too.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: On doing too much, as a way to find love
Five years ago: Our very first carnival in Goa

On play

At one of the lowest low points during the lockdown last year (jeez, it still feels so weird saying lockdown last year —  how has it been a year already?!) when loneliness was me, I noticed that what I was really lonely for, so desperate for was actually, tacticle, tangible togetherness and intimacy with people, other bodies, activities, experiences. It struck me how much I missed play.

I use the word a lot lately.

I want to play. I miss play. I want more play in my life.

I know now that what I mean is levity. And that’s a much more rounded, wholesome word for what I mean and want. Because it’s not so much about the doing, or the actual activity at hand, but a feeling I have been missing.

Lightness. Silliness. Fun.

And so I began to wonder about the feeling around fun. How does it feel to have spontenity? What does that make me feel? How does my body respond? What memories come up when I think about lightness, play, frivolity, intimacy, joy.

One thing came up strongly: a need to note the moments, in the moment they occur. To witness exactly what I feel when I’m having fun.

I don’t know if I’ve ever made fun a focus in my life. It always was a byproduct, a happy happenstance of everything else I did — whether work, life, travel or any other pursuit. I have had plenty of fun in my life, just never made an effort to cultivate it. To make a dedicated space for it, go at it with intention and method.

It sounds a bit counterproductive, I know. To want spontenity and fun, but to talk about going about it with method. But what it means to me is, after years spent looking inwards and dealing with the loss of people and experiences that come with that choice, I am ready to step out some. To embrace people and experiences again. This time, from a place of intention and knowing what I want.

It’s a big difference for someone like me.

In all this thinking about fun, I recollected (unsurprisingly) my childhood — possibly the only time in anyone’s life where making fun happen is a focused chase, with near zero distractions. I remembered weekends from my years before age 13, where I would spend all day at play mostly by myself in imaginary worlds that were amalgamations of select fragments of my real life mixed with fantasies from a world I inhabited in my head. Having playmates or company wasn’t a prerequisite. I think I was pretty self-sufficient, and I used pillows and toys as alternative characters and playmates hahaha. Later in my adolescent years, I know fun turned into spending time being lazy, soaking in a book to such a degree that I’d forget to shower and other basic everyday things. I know fun took on a different colour when I was later on in my teens, when buddies, going out, socialising was a whole new world. It was also when I realised, quite gleefully, that I also thoroughly found fun in doing things like cleaning my room, redecorating it, building a space that reflected who I was then, where I’d spend a lot of my time.

If there is one element that was consistent through all the memories that came up it was this: an endlessly dawdly space of time that lingers with no end in sight. That feeling of ease that comes when there is nowhere to be, nothing really to do. When there body relaxes and literally occupies the hours that lie stretched out ahead of me. A full body feeling of enjoyment from being unhurried.

It hit me then. That is what I want to cultivate. Spaces where I can be unhurried. Where time may slow down in my head enough so I can relax within, even if my day is busy.

It is of course a very rare indulgence in an adults life these days. It is certainly an indulgence in mine. But truth be told, I have a life that affords the privilege of making some time for it. Cultivating it, if need be. I remembered osmething N has said to me years ago that I haven’t ever acted on: pencil fun into my schedule. Tread that thin line between organised, yet spontaneous fun. There is a space in there — where I can slot out time for this meandering exploration of nothingness, but also allow for it to organically open up.

I have been shedding the “should do’s” of my life for the last many years. I am so much better today than I was in the past when I would compulsively fill every hour with things to do, and even the fun I had felt hurried, limited and like I had to grab at it before it ran out. I don’t want fun to feel like I’m cheating, or like I’m eating into a limited resource. And I am finally in a space where there is enough empty time in my life to do as I please.

I can have fun. I can drop my ideas of duty for some hours in the week to just indulge myself. And the fun and play can look different every time. I don’t need to plan it out.

I want to play, not plan. I want to operate from instinct, not obligation. I want to follow delight over duty. I want to be surprised more often.

And so this year, I am consciously going to invite, make space for, honour and receive fully, opportunities for spontaneity. To use my very flexible schedule and lifestyle to make space for as much unscheduled fun as I do for scheduled productivity, work and duties. And I’m going to try my darndest best to chase the opportunities, grab them when they come, as they come. Whether I am in the company of those who will participate with me, or I am alone.

I don’t want to sit around waiting and watch fun pass me by because I was playing too safe, or being too busy, or feeling too lazy.

Like the drive out to my parents last week. When I knew in my bones I could and had to do it all on my own, and not wait for the perfect alignment (and safety) of a co-passenger. Like the hours spent lying down on a mat in the sun in Cubbon Park, with no plan.

***

I cannot ignore that there is a voice in my head judging me even as I write this. Look at me writing about pursuing fun when the country is blowing up in flames every hour of every day. Personal joy feels so unimportant. It is something I sit with a lot these days — the vast chasm between the personal, the political, the context I exist and breathe in. The guilt has been thawing though, and I see that moments of lightness are probably what I need more than ever before. To recharge and align within, to feel able and willing again. To constantly remake the kind person I want to be in the world — someone who can hold the two spaces lightly, together. And gently flow between them as necessary.

Some questions that alsoc ame up along the way:

  1. Who gets to decide how much fun is appropriate or necessary?
  2. Why is fun always equated with a frivolity not extended to more “serious” things?
  3. At what point in the ageing process does fun lose the novelty that makes it unworthy of being pursued as we did as children?

One year ago: Regular programming ensues
Two years ago: Waking thoughts
Five years ago: Orange is the new black

Seige

One year since my first big protest. This whole week I’ve been revisiting memories of that insane week, same time last year, when everything tipped over. I remember so clearly a conversation I had at home with my in-laws on 14 December, post which I rushed off to a protest. Partly because I intended to, but also very much fueled by the need to counter what I had endured in that conversation.

It set off a daily protest attendance habit in me for the week, for what felt like there was no end dat. I’d go off, spontyaneously as and when life allowed, making space, shuffling my schedule around to make my way to Townhall nearly every day. And then Jamia happened. 19 December was the unstoppable, big protest at Townhall. One that I remember viscerally. My body remembers the heady buss from shouting AZADI! rhythmically, the containment and safety of being ensconsed in a sea of citizens all on the same side of this fight, agitating calmly, doing the good work of sitting in protest, silently peacefully surrounded by cops in riot gear, chanting slogans with gusto, passing around bananas, drinking water, buttermilk. It’s all so fresh. I felt alive, like charged by a live wire.

This went on for nearly three times a week for me, every week till March when Covid shut us down and sent us home. Conveniently. And I remember feeling a heart-crushing disappointment in March this year. Sadness at seeing Shaheen Bagh being packed up and razed to the ground. This happened in the same week that I had tickets booked to visit, all on my own, all on a whim, a roundtrip single day trip to just witness the phenomenon.

It’s been a whole year since that day. A whole year since my politics erupted and stopped being something to hold in silence, politely in private. One full year of feeling every single day like events in our coutnry are bubbling and bubbling and leading up to a crescendo. One full year of a slow implosion. One full year of the full reveal on all the forces we are up against — a fascist government that thrives on hate and divisiveness, capitalism that has not had it’s fill, and a broken democracy that is still to be shattered some more. One full year of feeling like I don’t belong here at all. One full year of feeling like experiencing every.single.day (without the slightlest exaggeration) that this country is at seige with itsself, with forces that be, with it’s own fuckups.

And we fight on.

One year ago: Can you hear the roar?
Two years ago: We got soul food in the house
Four years ago: Old and mighty

Chasing sunsets

What is it that makes me place myself (even if just my feet or toes) in snapshots of spaces I’ve been, clicked leisurely, yet deliberately as if to preserve the memory of that time, and my being in it, forever?

What did we do before phone cameras became so mundane. Before documenting every moment became unbearably easy?

I won’t deny, I have an unquenchable need to wrap beauty in moments stored in snapshots. I want to preserve and keep them intact somewhere. In byte-loads of memory in a cloud. And this need is at direct odds with my constant urge to stay in the moment without wanting to elongate it or make it remains for anymore than it is meant to.

It’s just one of my current contradictions. The need to exist in moments of time, suspended and floating as is, without the urge to tether any part of the experience. With the need to do exactly that. Hold down, preserve, document, make endure. All the moments I experience. The beauty, the wonder, the joy, the contentment, the humour, the sadness, the mirth, the bitterness. I got to witness.

What is this need to make it time-proof? Memorable and eternal?

Maybe some day I’ll understand this need. And maybe some day I won’t feel the urge to do this. But today was not that day.

One year ago: Up and about
Two years ago: Abiding faith and peace of mind

Looking up

I am so ready for some sunshine, fewer clothes, sand in my feet, lightness and laughter already. I’m ready to look up again.

One year ago: Moving on and letting go
Four years ago: November

Pink

The world is still large. And beautiful. And there is still much to be done.

One year ago: Rant
Two years ago: I can buy this sunshine

On the could-haves and would-haves

A constant theme in the last few years, but one that I have been reliving very intensely lately: past loss and thinking about the good old grief of all the could-haves and would-haves of my life. The seemingly eternal sadness piled upon sadness of all that I have left behind. The liberation of choosing one thing, moving ahead with a sense of purpose, enjoying and cherishing it comes with the grief of the choice unmade.

Right?

This story always brings a hint of feeling like I wasn’t fast enough, good enough, smart enough. Hazy day-dreaming of a life I could have had, if I had stuck to a particular path. Feeling FOMO when I see my friends from certain phases in life that I have moved on from.

It’s hard to remember that nothing good gets away.

If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

John Steinbeck wrote this in a letter to his 14-year-old son, talking about heartbreak. While this here, is about love here, this current bout of grief has me wondering if it is worth experimenting with this with everything else that I value, want or am working towards.

How can I cultivate a deep belief in divine timing. In the fact that there is a lot to go around — a lot of love, a lot of luck, a lot of prosperity. And that the inherent timing of a happening is something to lean into.

What if I questioned the notion of “running out of time” or accepted it for simply what it is, a construct that makes the people of this planet tick in “timely” fashion so we can be productive and “useful” in only a certain way.

What if I surrendered my judgement around the words “too slow” or “too fast” and in the end allowed whatever pace I want or have, to work for me.

What if I chose to believe in the non-linear way of life working out just as it is meant to, not a moment off-key?

Then if I put my head down and do the work, maybe I’ll be more likely to align my desires with my actions and reach places I want to be? And maybe the grief that I know won’t ever abate, will be sweet and liberating rather than bitter and constricting?

One year ago: To new Mondays like these
Four years ago: That’s how the light gets in

Chill

Notes to myself that serve as reminders in this very strange period within this absolutely bizarre time. Reminders I still need, every so often.

  1. Take your time
  2. Find your rhythm
  3. Make space for play
  4. Get out more often
  5. B R E A T H E. And H Y D R A T E.

Most times in a crisis, until I figure out the big thing that is needed of me, it is the small thing that has taken me through from one moment to the next. Small things like taking a moment. Stepping back. Taking a long breath. Getting out if I have the space and opportunity. Drinking a tall glass of water. Lying down. Speaking softly, unhurriedly.

And yet, I forget the simplicity of it all. So very, very often.

Four years ago: Slow down clown

Humanness

This time away, being still, quiet and uncomfortable has resulted in many a brain fart. I will be pouring it all out here. Just giving you fair warning.

If there is no light without the dark, no moving up without going down, no joy without sorrow, no rainbow without the rain, no good without some bad, no journeying within without knowing what’s around — then maybe there is no knowing wholeness without knowing what it is to be a bit broken?

I have reminded myself over and over of this one fact that I now know to be true, but forget so, so easily: the goal is not to feel good or relaxed or peaceful all the time. It is to be able to move through all experiences and emotions with relative ease, moving in and out of the entire spectrum of my humanness.

Sometimes it takes getting your heart broken, over and over, to understand this in a healthy way. To find a sense of self in the truth of what it means to be human. To find the capacity to love this innate humanness that makes me. To use grief and hurt and pain as goalposts to move through. To find a way to expand, rather than contract through it all.

I don’t know, I’m beginning to feel like 2020 has been a series of opportunities in meeting my own brokenness. And 10 months in I’m finally feeling the brunt of what a heavy year it has been. This past few weeks have felt endless, the last month has felt like a year, and this year has felt like a lifetime. This whole entire year has been a lesson in realllllly getting to know my humanness.

One year ago: The sun. The sea.
Two years ago: The wild unknown

Brain noodles (the beach edition)

Some thoughts I’ve got running about my mind and body today:

  1. is it possible that staying is sometimes a necessary act in moving “forward”?
  2. can I move on without necessarily running down/shitting all over/devaluing where I currently am
  3. does moving on always require some dissatisfaction to be the fire that fuels action
  4. is shame/anger about some aspect of the present a necessary ingredient in choosing something in the future
  5. sometimes moving on means coming back too
  6. perhaps there will be some golden opportunities in life where I won’t have to choose at all, and I can have two/multiple options available to switch between

Three years ago: More Goa postcards: yellow
Four years ago: Notes to self

Bheja noodles

The last straw in the camels back of recent challenges in the shitfest that has been the last few weeks of my life, was my laptop dying on me a week ago. Second time in two months, at what is probably the worst time ever to put me in a space where I need to consider another expensive purchase.

I was distraught and annoyed of course. But mostly, after being wrung thru the grinder in similar fashion for weeks now, I found myself oddly calm and numb when it happened. It was like I’d forgotten what to feel. A switch inside my brain went off. And I decided to just give it up, stop trying to fix anything anymore and just give in to what’s being asked of me.

My work and my workout are pretty much the only two essential things I need my laptop for, both of which can be serviced on my phone. And so I just packed my laptop away and decided I’ll be without one. (hence the lack of posts)

Until a viable solution makes itself known, I decided I wasn’t not going to break my head or throw any more money at this. And I told VC to do the same. In the interim we’ve been to the beach three evenings (so far, I’m making good on this intention) in the last week. So of course I have had ample time to sit back and ponder. To churn up a cocktail of thoughts about this strange strange few weeks in what is anyway one of the strangest years of all time.

2020 is really giving 2016 (the last truly shitty year I had) some time stiff competition.

***

How is it that we want to succeed and reach great milestones, but we’re also afraid we’ll fail?

How is it that we crave intimacy and long for deeper connection, but we’re also afraid of being let down by people?

How is it that we seek heartful vulnerability and honesty, but we’re also guarding ourselves against shame and heartbreak?

Maybe the goal shouldn’t be to want to move from one to the other, in a way that casts away the old, but navigate the in-betweens and know that experiencing both (sometimes simultaneously) is 100% true for all of our lives.

***

A thing I’ve had to contend with lately, through the thick of these challenges: the notion that I have to “make it” on my own. The hardest part of it has been understanding that sometimes I need things that I can’t give myself, and I have the option to articulate my needs so that the people I depend on can show up and help me.

It begins with understanding the need. Beyond the physical, and digging a couple of layers below to see what situation from my past I am recreating, and how I can serve that in the present.

I have much work to do in this regard.

***

It does not strike me as a coincidence at all that in this most challenging month, I have had to in my my work with clients, keep reiterating the fact that growth involves coming apart, falling down, feeling undone, very often. Again and again.

It was clearly a message I needed to reopen force within must. It’s not an easy truth for anyone to embrace. And in the frequency with which I revisit this with clients, I found reaffirmation of the very nature of this process for myself. Timely reminders to handle myself with a little more allowance and kindness.

Over the years I’ve come to understand how much personal growth is non-linear, and I’m looking for a new word to replace Growth. One that doesn’t inherently imply upward/forward movement as a marker of success. One that doesn’t even infact look for a “marker” of “success”. One that is gentler and allows for flow in any direction. Because that is what the process has asked of me: gentleness, fluidity, and grace in picking myself up every time that I have fallen. All these years on, I am only just about learning this.

One year ago: Rainy Goa
Four years ago: In with the new

Brave

Every healing journey of self exploration will bring you to the ironic realisation that growing and moving towards a life most aligned with your inner calling actually requires you to do the exact opposite of all that you did to stay safe thus far.

The work isn’t so much in the outcome, but the processes that create an alternative safe space. One within, removed from external sources of validation, reassurance, love and acceptance.

A lot of this, and my work around and towards building it, has been brought to question this past week and I’m sitting with a slew of thoughts. Contradictions, conflict, an inner tussle between the enigmatic philosophies that (ironically) help me make sense of real life, and the hard realities of life itself that need culling, like picking wheat (the stuff of life) from the chaff (said enigmatic philosophies). I’m again trying to find middle ground. The space between being and doing. Between resting and moving. Between out and in. Between stillness and chaos. Between solitude and loneliness.

One year ago: Cold but happy
Two years ago: Wandering through life will love come home to you
Four years ago: Escape