On honesty

An ongoing effort has been to be more, utterly and completey honest with myself. I say this a lot, and practice to a great degree. But lately I am trying to get deeper with it. To lay the smallest truth threadbare. Even if just to myself. Perhaps, especially to myself. To not say even the slightest thing on a whim, without an element of conscious honesty.

I feel like doing this for many reasons, but I think what has spurred it the most is the deep realisation that I have been most hurt by people who aren’t honest with themselves. It has always manifested as a dishonesty with/at me. But my own experiences with understanding myself has shown that at the heart of this is a great degree of unconscious dishonesty with the self. What I now call a state of living like we’re sleep-walking. When assumptions and aspirations become truth before they are actually lived and embodied.

And so I think now, if I can’t be honest with myself, I definitely don’t have a good shot at being honest with anyone, in any kind of relationship. So, I want to get better at this.

One year ago: Mid-week note to self
Two years ago: Home
Five years ago: On being average

Moving through

Thoughts about continued injustice, unfairness, inequity, divisiveness, endless suffering across the board really gets to me from time to time. Some days I come up for a breath of air, and manage to stay afloat, aware and happy for many weeks. But there are phases where I’m just cowering under the effects of all this Bad News.

I’ve had to eke out space and time for feeling hopeful, to nurture a sense of optimism even when it’s all but missing. Those parts exist in all of us. Parts that can trust, without reason. Parts that can find joy in the midst of sorrow. Parts that can hope, stay alive and focused on optimism. Strangely, contrary to what I believed, these parts showed up not from trying to “stay positive” but by allowing myself to feel broken, hurt, hopeless and touched, and a bit altered by the pain.

I have a strange feeling a time of intense suffering may be the pathway to worlds where there is softness, more listening, and where gentle togetherness and kindness can lead the way. But we may just have to sit with the pain for a while longer before we move through to another world.

If the neighbourhood, the country, continent, the world at large are all macrocosms of each of us as individual units, then surely they do are made up of all the parts. The good and the bad. The glorious and the grotesque. The rich and the meagre. And if understanding myself, really knowing who I am authentically has meant including my rage, my fury, my ignorance and my shadow into the fold, then surely the monstrous proportion of evil that the world is displaying at large needs to be seen, sat with and honoured, so we can heal and find our higher selves as a collective too?

I don’t know. These are just thoughts I’m having on a random Friday afternoon, with a brain addled by muscle relaxant.

A question I ask myself almost on the daily: What do I need, to stay grounded in hope even as I feel pain and suffering all around me?

Some days I have the answer, everything fits in and I am at peace. Many other days the answer eludes me, guilt and rage bubble to the top, and I have no choice but to sit with it.

One year ago: Pictures for words
Two years ago: Finding flow again
Three years ago: This is the story of my body

Summer heart

Currently circling back (again and again) to:

  1. Softness, lightness, easy-breezyness and how good and new it feels
  2. Love, self-love and self-compassion
  3. Pleasure

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: On shame, hiding and relationships
Three years ago: Everything is going to the beat
Five years ago: Flight

Tarot: More thoughts on safety

Because, Safety (physical, emotional, political, and more) has been on my mind a lot lately.

For so many of us, early life experiences that caused trauma, betrayal, abandonment may have resulted in an unconscious hyper-focus on safety as our default. This means organising an external life that is regimented, tightly bound, and allowing for little to slip through the gaps. A substantial focus on discipline, rigorous schedules/routines, overwhelming commitment to duty, rigidity around pleasure and enjoyment, and a high need to meet the exacting standards we hold on to tightly.

I’m reminded of what Peter Levine says, “Trauma occurs when we are intensely frightened and are either physically restrained or perceive that we are trapped. We freeze in paralysis and/or collapse in overwhelming helplessness.” If the energies we put into living life come from a place of fear and hyper vigilance, it could contribute to stifling our capacity to experience life in a joyful and free way.

“We die so we can live,” he says. Survival makes it hard to seek new experiences, make friends, lean into desires or respond to calls for pleasure, because our system may label them as unsafe, abnormal, or “bad”.

Additionally, much of our conditioning around seeking pleasure carries the weight of morality and promiscuity, causing us to self-censor, abstain and repress the force of life itself.

To then learn to approach life with an open heart will require understanding what experiences made us feel unsafe, how they shaped our need for safety. In holding those painful experiences tenderly, we may be able to rekindle a spark that can counter hyper-vigilance, deadness and stuckness.

One year ago: On balance
Two years ago: Out there
Five years ago: Abandon

Confessions

Confession: I’m finding it hard to bitch, gossip or rant about people these days.

Which is not to say I don’t do it. I do, because I’m human, with full capacity to get petty, jealous, excited at someone else’s fuckups, etc and give in to the urge to share those moments with someone via nice thick bitch. But, lately, it’s become hard to do it without feeling pretty immediately like this path is not one I can walk very far on. Without simultaneously pulling my gaze within to notice why the gossip has been delightful, by looking at what part of myself and my worth it is fulfilling. Without checking which part of that judgement that I am placing outwards, is also being directed inwards within.

It’s a bit annoying that I’ve become self-aware about this, because it gets in the way of sharing a good gossip session with friends. And I don’t get have the words to express this to them. So in the past few weeks, I have come across as rather brusque when I:

  • questioned a friends judgement at a social media post (in my mind, to myself), but resorted to ignoring it entirely because I don’t know what an alternative response could be
  • had to really think long and hard before habitually, casually aligning with a certain judgemental line of thinking about someone just because said friend shared it lightheartedly
  • realised the ways in which finding sameness in loathing someone has been fundamental to some of my relationships
  • felt the reaction that came from me now pulling back on this way of connecting in those same relationships
  • had a major reaction of revulsion to a message someone sent, blatantly calling someone we apparently know in common (that I can’t for the life of me remember now) “breathtakingly ugly” — I just can’t deal with this language and turn unresponsive instantly

***

Confession: I validate myself and my journey by often going back to read posts from  the same day in past years. It is revelatory, fascinating and almost always a sweet ride to see my words and state of mind from the past. Because it is almost always a testament to how far I have come. We all move, slightly, subtly and gently sometimes; rushing ahead in big strides and gallops sometimes. It’s a thrill to look back on that some days, and feel good.

Yesterday, Instagram threw up a post from exactly one year ago. “My search for myself and a search for a way to belong have merged,” I wrote. It felt surreal to read those words from just 365 days. Because I know now, where I am, my current headspace and how much more belonging I feel within myself today than I have ever before. And how and what it has impacted in the outer world around me.

Looking back brought up so many emotions. Softness for the innocence of a younger me. Compassion for where I was. Happiness for how much I have moved since then. Gratitude for all the resources I have had that encouraged me to keep going, keep looking, and supported me through the past year.

If I could go back, I would tell old/past me that growth looks different all the time. From one phase to another, it’s different. One day to another, it’s different. Don’t look too hard for markers you’ve come to expect, keep going and let yourself be surprised. Growth is doubly satisfying in hindsight.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Find your tribe
Three years ago: But if you try sometime, you’ll get what you need
Four years ago: What I’ve been reading
Five years ago: Telepathy

Threads coming into the light

Vignettes of my life these days are beginning to look very similar. Not just in content, but shades and elements, there is a theme or a thread that unconsciously emerges. I’m having a fun time picking up on it in retrospect. And noticing when and how the threads change ever so slightly.

I’ve been drawn to the play of light, shadows and hidden shapes and lines lately. And it’s brought up a host of thoughts around my shadow, and given strength to the efforts to live in the light.

One year ago: Of love and longing
Two years ago: Baffling Benaras
Three years ago: Everyday is blue Monday

Just when the time is right

Sometimes you have to go away. Indoors, inwards, in the shade.
To slow down, germinate, conserve.
To hide away from the light.

And when it’s time, you have to also get out
into the sun.
To thrive. To feel flush with life.
To own your true colours.
To feel alive.

But only in time.

***

I haven’t had my plants back home since October when I went away to Goa and I took them to my parents’ place where they’d be watered and cared for. I came back in November but since I was returning to Goa in just three weeks for over a month, I didn’t bother carting all 50+ pots back to mine again.

I returned in January, but made two trips to Wayanad, and took my time to fall back into my rhythm at home. And I have had an insane eight weeks since, filled with work that didn’t give me the peace and pause I had all through last year to tend to and focus on my plants.

The feels are slowly creeping up on me again. I began sorting the few pots I have at home, this weekend. In anticipation and preparation for bringing the rest of the fam back home.

Went over to my parents and noticed my fiddle leaf fig is beyond thriving. More than it ever did at my home. She barely ever sprouted out new growth. I tried everything — different watering routines, moving her back and forth from the light and shade. But she mostly just hung out in. a corner of my living room, by the window, soaking in the sunlight and listening to the motivating things I’d whisper to her every morning, in the hope that she found the encouragement to put out a new leaf now and then. But she really took her time. Don’t get me wrong, she looked good and she was alive and kicking. Just reluctant to grow.

She’s been over at my mum’s for over three months now, along with the rest of my balcony garden. When I returned, I noticed not one, but two new sprouting leaves. I really couldn’t believe my eyes because I hadn’t seen even a hint of I in all the months I’ve had her.

I whopped with joy, but also inwardly chuckled to myself. She’s a bit like me, this fiddle leaf fig. Needs all the goodness of sunshine, adequate water and good food, I guess. But sometimes even all the nourishment, encouraging words and perfect conditions are not enough. And what is actually necessary is a simple change of scene. To get out and go hangout elsewhere. Play. Breathe a different air. And most importantly, a break from all the fussing and waiting for change, for something to happen.

Things happen, when they need to. When the time is just right. I’ll learn and re-learn this lesson a 100 times, but nothing drives it home like plants do.

One year ago: Monday Tarot Message: Everyday grief
Two years ago: Slow row
Three years ago: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say
Five years ago: Small joys

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