2016

So it’s done. What I’ve called the most forgettable, shitty year, time and time again, is over. It’s true that last year I had more than a fair share of lows. But it’s also true that in bouncing from one low to the next, only keeping my head above water, occasionally remembering to thwack my limbs and move towards the closest object for support, I’ve often needed to remind myself that I’m still alive and breathing. Which is a convoluted way of saying, a lot happened in between the lows that really wasn’t bad at all. But I have been so occupied with just barely staying afloat that it’s felt like I’ve been mostly stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. The bad has a way of eclipsing the good, and painting a picture so dismal, you wonder why this is your life. Which is why I’m thankful for forced stops in the infinite loop of time. We put a date to the end of the year, we decide it’s a time to reflect, and I’m glad we have this opportunity to lay out all the cards, pick which ones to fold over and put away, and which ones to take ahead.

There is such a difference in looking back cursorily, because all I can see is large spans of time spent lying in bed, unable to move, just staring out the window, and looking back one day and month at a time. Broadly, I feel like I spent way too much time wondering why this is happening to me. This, being the thick and heavy fog that consumed me. But, it’s only when I combed through my archive that I realised I was diffident, cynical, exhausted from the get go. I entered the year in a terrible headspace. Maybe it set the tone for the year? Maybe I was a fool not to see how things were hurtling towards an inevitable crash right through 2015? Maybe this was all just a necessary intervention in the making? I don’t know.

What followed was a lot of indecision and confusion that really chipped away at my confidence and left me on very shaky ground. Pretty much the entire year after has been spent trying to regain that solid ground beneath my feet. Whether it was putting my confidence in myself and my work back together and resuming in a direction that made sense to me, but scared the shit out of me, or opening myself up to honesty of a different kind, running all my relationships through a sieve and keeping only the most important ones close, learning to distinguish between an inner and outer circle, basically redefining the very notion of love and friendship, or regaining some bit of pride and a sense of self and identity that I’d lost sight of — everything about 2016 was an effort towards building something in me that 2015 had broken.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to write a post a day, because looking back has helped me see that while 2016 was far from fantastic, it sure was eventful. It was shitty in many parts, challenging in ways I have not previously known but omg, you gaiiis, so much happened!

Mostly, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering honesty. Of coming to terms with many things I was either not seeing right, or turning a blind eye to. It all started with the decision to take some time off. To regroup and clear my head out. I had a breakdown at the end of 2015, that made me realise I was overworked, confused about my priorities and sorely needed some time out. My inability to be honest with myself was pushing me into a cycle of repeated losses that had left me very, very tired.

So, I planned to spend 5-6 weeks unwinding and doing the things that gave me joy, in the hope that it would make room for some clarity. I read and wrote. And that’s not counting my work. There was some drawing, some haiku, and an exercise regimen, all in the interest of building a routine that enriched rather than depleted me. With all the mind space to introspect, it wasn’t long before the truth, or rather the lack of honesty emerged strong and loud.

I don’t mean honesty in the sense of truth-telling. I mean honesty in so many different ways — the inability to break through my denial, my stubbornness in not admitting to seeing things as they were, the fact that far too many people in my life had more to take than give me, the false belief that the work-life pattern I had unconsciously fallen into was necessary for success, my misplaced conviction that it was what I liked and wanted, when the truth couldn’t have been farther from it.

I’d begun to realise a need for a deeper honesty in my friendships. As it happened several of my closest friends found themselves in a bad patch at the start of the year. It involved unravelling, together, and being there for each other and made me realise just how much I valued openness and vulnerability, even in or maybe especially in hard times, as a measure of authenticity of any relationship. I suddenly saw how I was surrounded by relationships lacking in it, even though I considered them to be the solid, long-term ones. I backed away from many that seemed to exist in a perpetual state of hiding behind convenient veils of passive aggression, demanding more from me than I could give, or they could ever give back to me.

This has meant being alone a lot more, staying with solitude and embracing this part of me wholeheartedly. This will always be the year I made peace with my introvert tendencies. After a hectic 2015 chock full of socialising, putting myself out there and pursuing things I never imagined I would have, giving the hedonistic life a shot I realised my place. It’s indoors, with myself, away from the mindless din of connections and networking. I much prefer the loud camaraderie of a few I call my tribe, even if we choose to exist in absolute silence.

This too, required honesty. In laying the tussle between the virtually-social and actually-solitary, to rest. On the one hand, I live what many call a “social” life, especially thanks to frequent and frantic social media posting. And on the other hand, I was trying to teach myself boundaries, to say no, to protect my personal space and energy. This tug-o-war between sharing my life has given many observers a sense of false camaraderie that often oversteps the virtual lines that separate me and them. I began to see through social media veneers, and was disappointed by people on more than one occasion. I found myself wanting to dig deeper and find within myself the strength to accept the differences that these are just virtual interactions, while saving my energy for the solid core of authentic interactions I have in real life. Even when it meant accepting the truth that was far from pleasant, realising that seemingly normal people sometimes display unacceptable behaviour, or that I myself had untowardly let some folks far deeper into my life than was needed.

The need for this honesty came with a price. For one, I let go of the steady promise of work that I had in hand to make room for the work I wanted to pursue. Second, I had to consciously let go of a couple of friendships that I had assumed were easy-going and probably for life.

What I gained, though, was immeasurable. Because the time and energy freed up from it, was channeled into all that I wanted to put my mind to, but had failed to in the years before. I will always remember this to be the year I moved closer to finding myself, and my voice, professionally. The decision to quit a steady, decently-paying gig with scope for growth, to dive fully into the erratic, unpredictable world of full-time freelancing was a pivotal one. A lot of it happened because I had to own up to the fact that clinging to a safety rails was only going to get me that far. Yes, I’d have a salary in the bank at the end of the month, but the hours spent earning that salary was definitely keeping me from expanding my repertoire, aiming higher and going wide and deep into the kind of writing I want dip into. If I were to be honest with myself, and I was, I needed to be brave. Or at least pretend like I was. It was not without its moments of extreme imposter syndrome, but I know I am better for it.

There were moments of immense frustration. A steep learning curve that I didn’t particularly enjoy at all times because let’s face it I wasn’t feeling positive and upbeat for a large part. The long waiting periods, systemic inefficiencies, blatant unprofessionalism made me cynical and under-confident. Incidentally, it was the year with the most number of unsavoury professional experiences. But while navigating the doubt and incertitude with heaps of scepticism, I did manage to get a whole lot of work done. It’s funny how the haze of unpleasant experiences has clouded this reality that. Ironic that the shittiest year is the year I had several work wins that I am proud of. Like this, this, this and this and this and this. I never imagined I’d write essays worthy of being tweeted by the UN Women’s handle. I didn’t think I’d see myself published in The Telegraph. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d find myself in a publication dedicated to science and technology.

I even managed to throw together a website and a portfolio that I should have done a long, long time ago. Much of this had to do with trying very, very hard to unlearn my obsession with perfection. Of quitting the terrible habit of waiting for the ducks to get in an absolutely straight line before making a move. In accepting that well begun is half done, I may have taught myself a thing or two about what is possible when you accept what works for you and hold yourself to slightly more realistic goals and ideals.

One of the best things I did was write and write and write every single day. Whether it was the for the stories I worked on, daily posts on here, scribbles, ideas for stories, half written posts — I made sure I did a little writing every single day and this is a habit I don’t want to lose. I am a little astounded at myself for seeing the daily post habit through to the end of the year, even though I fell off the wagon and frantically caught up again, sometime. Even with all that writing, I have so much more to express and share. So I started a newsletter. Admittedly, it’s taken a break so soon after it was launched but I hope to be back this year. 2016 marked the completion of 10 years since I started blogging. I wrote 318 posts this year having blogged every week, which feels like a fitting way to mark a decade of rambles.

On Day 1, I decided it was going to be a year to move more. In addition to upping the ante with training by joining, pursuing and loving kickboxing, I let the husband get me a cycle. It transformed the middle parts of this year in ways I can’t explain. Unfettered joy and immense satisfaction have been had from the hours spent pedalling through Goa. Cycling changed the way I experienced what could potentially be my last monsoon here. I even finished my first ever 100 km ride.

Part of the reason I caught the cycling bug was the undeniable urge to get out and get out. In the open. To travel. It’s something I’ve denied myself the pleasure of indulging in, for various reasons in the past few years. I travelled back home more than I ever have since I have moved out. Cleartrip sent me an email calling me a Happy Tripper today, for the 18 flights I’ve taken. There was a trip to Chettinadu, KeralaThailand and Coonoor. There were a few mini vacations right here at home too. I turned 32 in the company of these lovelies who came down to celebrate over a weekend of beach time, with me. And it reaffirmed my faith in certain inalienable truths about why some relationships endure and others don’t. It’s the one year VC and I haven’t taken a holiday or travelled anywhere together. And no, we’re not complaining.

The other big change I made this year was I kicking myself back into the reading habit by getting myself a Kindle. It has made all the difference and  finished the year with 29 books read, a high for me. While I’m looking at numbers, it seems a good time to look back at this post where I detailed the few things I want to see myself doing through 2016.

  1. Read a little everyday – check, post-August
  2. Write a little everyday – check, check, CHECK
  3. Give in to the urge to draw/doodle as much as possible, don’t put it off for “later” – check, for as long as the inspiration and urge lasted
  4. Avoid multi-tasking at all costs – yes and no
  5. Wear a saree at least once a week (any more is a bonus!), and don’t wait for the “right” occasion – ditched
  6. Call ammamma more often – check
  7. Meditate every morning, consciously remember to slow down – check for the first half of the year, then abandoned
  8. Go to the beach more often, even if it is for a stroll or to catch the sunset – check, check, check (run a search for “beach” to see how)
  9. Actively avoid clicking random links that lead to news on social media – CHECK!
  10. Whenever posting something on facebook, ask myself if the post would annoy me if I were looking at it posted by someone else – check, followed this for the most part, but slipped a lot, now correcting it by slowly deleting all fb activity from all of time
  11. Generally, avoid oversharing on fb – not every thought needs to be telecast to the world on fb, do it here instead, in longer form – check
  12. Keep phone away from bed and sleep-time – failllll!
  13. Sneak some more kisses – CHECK!
  14. Choose things, make decisions with purpose – CHECK
  15. Make the most of Goa, get out, breathe, watch, listen, do – CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK, cyclecyclecycle
  16. Reclaim stillness whenever it happens, and when it doesn’t, create it – this is WIP
  17. Fuck perfection – this is WIP

Speaking of WIP, one of the best things I did for myself in 2016, was take myself to therapy. When the cycle of breaking down, finding my footing, stabilising, coasting and only to slip again recurred three times in a span of 8 months, I knew I was in over my head. Again, it called for a kind of honesty I didn’t have, but so desperately needed to find. To accept that I cannot navigate this alone, that I need a fresh pair of eyes to see things differently and help me work my way through, rather than away from this. It has been the best, because it brought to the surface things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. It made me reclaim myself, discover and strengthen crucial aspects of my identity that were slipping away form me. Much of my newfound peace, focus and positivity is a result of this, and I know that every day I am making progress in facing up to and loving my imperfect self.

It hasn’t been an easy year to live with me. Every break down has brought with it several emotional outbursts, thoughtless spewing of anger and frustration, violent mood swings, long periods of demotivation. But through it, VC has been my constant. Constant everything. Punching bag, sounding board, friend, foe, confidant, co-homemaker, support, voice of reason, strength and solace. We celebrated our eighth anniversary. Ironically, it was a year that made me fully understand how relationships that nurture are the ones that help you growing together, separately, rather than collapse and grow into one entity, and completely turned my beliefs about marriage around, that somehow also brought us much closer.

I find myself feeling a little sheepish about how much I have bashed 2016. It had so many sore points, so many weeks and months I wanted to just wish away. So many events and incidents I wish I didn’t have to go through. It all felt so damned shitty. And yet, when it all stacks up and I look at it in retrospect, it was rather eventful. Memorable, even. But most of all, transformative. They say things sometimes need to get really bad before they can begin to get better. Maybe my bad bits were peppered right through 2016. But right there, in between the bad events, things were already beginning to get better.

This year I just want to build from here. Make some goals, shut up about them, work hard, live big, laugh loud, love hard, breathe deep and smash them to the sky.

*****

Quick guide to posts in 2016
Monthly recaps: APostADay
Bheja fry, since this year had so much of it
Work and writing
Books and reading in 2016
Travel and photographs
Cycling and exercise
Music

Same time, last year: Day 5: In-bloom

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Day 277: 109 kms done

So this happened, after all.

Vagus adventuro flags off

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After some deliberation and accumulation of a lot of blind over-confidence, I decided to go through with it.

Even the morning of the event, as my alarm woke me up at 4.30 am, I got out and looked at my bed. It was so inviting, tempting me to just get back inside and stop kidding myself about this insanity I had signed up for. As much as I have come to love cycling, I haven’t reached a point where I can say my love for cycling has overtaken my love for sleeping in. The difficulty of waking up early is strong and real.

Just 3 minutes prior t this picture being taken, it was still dark out. Don't believe these happy faces. I was NOT happy to be up that early.

Just 3 minutes prior to this picture being taken, it was still dark out. Don’t believe these happy faces. I was NOT happy to be up that early.

I went in completely devoid of any expectations of myself, fully psyching myself to give up if I needed to.

What I was lacking in confidence, I made up for in snacks. I was over-prepared in that department. Obviously. Lined my stomach with fruit and a sandwich even before the event began. Plenty of chikki, a handful of dates, two packets of ORS on the go. And I wiped it all out before end. This is not counting the large breakfast we had at checkpoint 1, and the ice cream at checkpoint 2.

I was one of two women in the event of about 25 participants. I was expecting more women. But clearly I was in the minority with that expectation because not one, but two dudes gave me the statement of utter surprise — “hey, you’re pretty good!” and I could almost feel the “…for a girl” subtext.

The ride: it was fantastic. For all the starting trouble I have, every time that I get on a bike and get going, it is rewarding. There is something mildly massively addictive once you’re on a bike, zipping through the wind and experiencing early morning like nothing else can, really. Not even walking or running. Okay, maybe doing this in Goa adds a million points in favour of the activity, so yes, I’m giving thanks for the wonderful place I’ve found myself in. The weather suddenly turned that morning, and we had grey cloudy skies. A ten minute downpour was a welcome relief, and I seemed to escape even the harsh noon sunlight which caught up with me only in the last stretch of about twenty minutes as I was struggling to the finish line.

Thankfully, the event wasn’t a race. It was about finishing, and there was a very comfortable outer time limit in which to do it. There were enough triangular shaped, testosterone pumped men who didn’t have a moment to spare to even smile or exchange pleasantries because they were dashing off to beat each other, or their own personal records, I’m not sure. I was the very very very last person to finish. I can’t say I didn’t expect it.


I’m just glad I finished. That was my focus, and I’m glad I didn’t waver there. I couldn’t have done it without VC who pepped me up with his inspirational talks, R who absolutely insisted this was going to be a cakewalk and then stuck around cycling with me for the entire second half of the ride, and a random friend we made, let’s call him A. A is a 51 year old man (possibly the oldest participant) who was also lingering around the back of the trail with me. We’re the guys who stopped to take pictures all along, got lost a couple of times, bothered to look at the map, ask for directions and generally have a bit of fun along the way. He claimed all he’d ever done in life was smoke and work, and that bicycling was a new interest. He’d so far only ridden a maximum of 30kms ever. He stuck around with us, we definitely drew off of each others’ energies and somehow stayed together until the end.

End of segment 1.

End of segment 1.

Control point #1, where a massive bhaji-pao breakfast was laid out with plenty of other essentials - cold towels, premixed ORS, carrot cake, a photo booth (!) and the route map for the next segment that ended at Baskin Robbins with the assurance of 2 free scoops of ice cream.

Control point #1, where a massive bhaji-pao breakfast was laid out with plenty of other essentials – cold towels, premixed ORS, carrot cake, a photo booth (!) and the route map for the next segment that ended at Baskin Robbins with the promise of 2 free scoops of ice cream.

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Just keep spinning, rere. <3

I couldn’t have done it without my people. And my playlist, which I heard from end to end for the very first time in my life. Twice over, in fact.

Also, training. For all the heavy duty working out I’ve been doing in the last 3 years or so, I’ve never done anything that’s tested my strength or stamina. This was quite the test, and it completely reaffirmed my faith in sticking with working out and always trying to remain fit. It always pays off.

I’ve also never felt a gush of endorphins as strong as I did at the 88km mark, when R and I, unsure of what turn to take, stopped to ask for directions. Except I wasn’t of much use because I was collapsing in a huge outflow of uncontrollable guffaws. For absolutely no reason at all. R watched helplessly, not sure what to do next. And try as I did, I couldn’t hold back the laughter. It was coming out in heavy, loud bursts that just couldn’t be contained. We had just pushed ourselves over a 8 kilometre stretch, hitting the highest speeds I did on the entire ride, and maybe the energy rush just got the better of me.

A stupid move at the very end, possibly caused by the lack of oxygen going to my brain by then, made me take a wrong turn. I was leading the trio at the point, so the other two followed suit, and we found ourselves off track, adding a whole lot of unnecessary kilometres to the finish, not to mention one major chunk of which involved backtracking across the stretch we had just covered.

Home stretch! Just across the bridge to the finish line.

Home stretch! Just across the bridge to the finish line.

So as it happens, I didn’t just complete a 100 kilometre ride. In fact, I clocked 109 kilometres to the finish line. And it was worth every minute of excitement, adventure, pain and exhilaration.

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Cold beers waited us at the finish line. Which we emptied into our water bottles to consume. Because, Gandhi Jayanti = dry day, it seems.

The next logical step is to attempt 200km. If someone had asked me last week, if I could see myself doing it, I’d have laughed loudly. But ask me now and I’ll say, hell yes, without batting an eyelid. I’d just like to be better prepared, maybe actually train for it next time around.

Honestly though, I didn’t think I could finish it this time around. I went in blind, like I said before. But maybe the endorphins kicked in, maybe being in the presence of all the other cyclists gave me a boost, maybe I just went into auto pilot, but it was hard to think about giving up. I actually didn’t feel the need to at any point. It was only somewhere around the 60km mark that I realised how far I had come and that I was actually possibly going to finish this.

So while the ride was physically taxing, as was expected, beyond a point it was entirely a mental game. Every 10 kilometres knocked down felt like a huge milestone crossed. There were moments when an unexplained energy kicked in, pushing through my lower back that had begun to ache, my quads that were tensing up, and my butt that had gone numb. I’ve never felt that kind of resilience in myself, I don’t think.

Clearly, I had underestimated my capacity to physically push myself, and overestimated the time it would take me, in the event that I did finish. I overshot my estimate by a 120 whole minutes, finishing in 6 hours. Despite coming in right at the very end, this was a win I needed to undo the collective shittiness that September was.

So that’s done and dusted.

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Moderate to severe levels of hysteria at having finished may be showing here.

Day 266: Off the saddle

I haven’t been on a bicycle ride in two weeks since my father was here and we took him to the island we like to frequent. On a bike of course. The sport that he is, joined us on a bike. One minor fall right at the start didn’t stop him. His beer belly that caused some huffing and puffing didn’t either.

There’s a 100 kilometre ride I signed up for in a moment of excitement and getting-ahead-of-myself, scheduled to happen on 2nd October. I had my mind set on “prepping” for the ride, which is to say getting out on my bike at least 3 times a week, to build endurance. And then, I haven’t been on a bike for two weeks now. The ride is now a little over a week away and I’m in a quandary about whether to go ahead and do it, or chicken out.

I’ve never been on a ride this long. The farthest I went was 78 kilometres, but I can’t use that as a benchmark because it was horrifically rainy, which is great weather to cycle in. Without the sun beating down, you don’t tire as easily, your muscles don’t get dehydrated as much or as fast, and the lack of heat and humidity is a big win. Next week is not going to be rainy. And as fit as I think I am, I know getting on a bike and staying on it for 100 kilometres across a route I will only discover 15 minutes before the ride begins (yes, it’s an exciting event!) is giving me a little bit of the jitters.

I’m looking at pictures from all our past weekend jaunts and feeling mixed emotions. Here’s another film VC made three weeks ago, when S visited.

Weekend happened. So did a broken seatpost, a fall and island hopping with team SP. #cycling #goa #shortcityrides

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Some part of me feels like I should just fuck the fear and get on with it. The worst thing to happen is I will not finish, in which case I opt out and come back home. The best thing to happen is I will finish my first 100km ride, and if past experience with cycling-related fears are anything to go by, I will really love it.

I don’t feel ready. But it may also be one of those things that doesn’t really require much readiness in the end. Decisions, decisions.

Day 257: Down and up again

August saw a force-stop as far as work is concerned. But I didn’t realise how incredibly hectic it was with people visiting, until the last of my guests left on Saturday. I’ve pretty much been in the company of someone or the other since the end of July. And just the thought makes me feel so claustrophobic and peopled-out. To be surrounded by this kind of camaraderie is  immensely enjoyable while it lasts, and I push through into a sort of overdrive in the moment. I was making plans, always raring to go out exploring or for a meal or drink and the like. But in true introvert-style, it’s only when the last guest has left, the chairs have been put back in their place, the linen washed and put away, the glasses wiped clean and stored, and the the silence comes crashing in, does the fatigue kick in.

I slept for 15 out of 24 hours on Sunday.

Susan Cain talks about this in her book, Quiet, and if I hadn’t read it early this year I’d have thought I was ill and popped a pill or something. Engaging with people, no matter how enjoyable or stimulating, is far more taxing and demanding on intrverts/ambiverts than it is on extroverts. Obviously, it demands a lot more expulsion of energy and leaves us a lot more fatigued at the end of it. So it wasn’t just the alcohol, heavy food and late nights talking. I was really, literally people-d out.

Reading the book definitely helped accept this as a natural by-product of needing a fixed amount of down time to recharge batteries every now and then. So instead of fighting it and forcing myself to push on and get going with life, I allowed myself to relax. I spent the waking hours of Sunday reading, we ate leftovers for lunch and went out to eat a greasy dinner of Indian Chinese.

It was so needed. One day of sloth was all it took. Who’d have thought? Because after spending a good part of last week dragging my feet to slip out of that “holiday” mode, even though I promised myself I would resume work at the start of September, I snapped right into it yesterday. And I surprised myself.

Catching up on emails, and my work feeds on facebook, my brain was on fire. Ideas snapped out faster than I could keep up with them and I had to reign it in, breathe, put pen to paper and jot things down before they escaped me.

I pitched a total of 11 publications in 2 days. The most productive I have been in a long time. Some of those pitches had multiple ideas. This is not to brag because it’s entirely possible that absolutely none of them will convert and be commissioned in the form I imagine. But I’m just happy to get going for now. Of course there’s the part where every Indian editor I’ve pitched has seen my emails multiple times but hasn’t responded, all my American editors were likely asleep when I emailed them so those emails remain unopened. And I’m stuck here refreshing my inbox every 45 seconds. Oh, the joys of the freelancer life!

Since I’m starting with a clean slate, there’s going to be some waiting, I know. But, if I hear back from even a third of the number of people I pitch this week (there will be more emails sent out tomorrow and day after!), I will be okay.

I spent a significant time updating my collections sheet that I haven’t looked at all month, today. For the first time this year, I have zero outstandings. I can’t explain how good that feels.

I then sorted out my saved links, compiled all the bits and bobs of ideas floating in various places into my pitch list. colour coded the rejections and planned out my next wave of pitches too.

I’m inexplicably pumped today. You know how you feel it in your bones somedays? Even with a full day of work, and a long night ahead, you feel like you will get through it feeling okay?

That.

In other news, I’m mildly in shock that I received a surprising 34 subscriptions to my newsletter. I’ve got a ton of new music I am waiting to dig into. I’m reading a super fun book that I’m looking to finish tonight, and already have my next book lined up. I changed things around with my workout routine, once again, and it seems to have kicked my metabolism back in shape slightly. I almost couldn’t believe it when I closed this mornings kickboxing class with 5000+ steps and 1000+ calories clocked.

And all that done, I felt like I could sneak in a run in the evening. But I decided against it. I have a double whammy workout tomorrow – morning and evening sessions – and I must conserve energy.

That said, I’m feeling extra energetic, overall.

If this is the high that I can be sure to get every time I hit rock bottom, and then take time out to recuperate, I’m going to do this more often.

If committing to a holiday, with the unwritten promise to myself to work my ass off retrospectively, can somehow turn the switch and spark this level of earnest productivity, I may be on to something.

If this is the amount of energy sleeping for 15/24 hours can generate, I might consider calling Sunday, Sleepday.

Here, share some of my energy? I have enough to go around a couple of times.

And then some.

Day 244: 10 reasons why I’ve taken to cycling

After a very long time, it’s been an opportunity to get into and be excited about something VC loves and is enthusiastic about. Given our very divergent interests, we suddenly have something to share again!

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It takes us far, it takes us deep.

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It has forced us into the kind of groups I wouldn’t have otherwise willingly put myself in to. And that has been a very revelatory experience. I’ve mostly turned into a one-on-one and small-groups kind of person, happily avoiding social occasions and gatherings of anything more than 3 people at a time. Cycling is the only activity I don’t grudge doing in large groups.

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I’m finally exploring nooks and corners in Goa I’d only heard about, and hadn’t bothered venturing out to even in a car. The irony!

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Forts! Islands! Forests! Short city rides! It has really turned venturing around and exploring my home state on it’s head for me.

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Because of how exposed and vulnerable it makes you, cycling forces you to look around and really take your surroundings in. It makes you look down, not something I do very often. It forces you to notice the littlest things. An earthworm you do your best to avoid, a delicately fuzzy mongoose run over by a speeding car, a just-shed piece of snakeskin.

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It’s rekindled lost and found friendships.

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Despite being around folks, having them with you to share every gruelling climb, every exhilarating downslope, and the rest, it is such a beautifully individualistic activity — just you, in your saddle, pedalling away, refusing to stop till you reach where you need to. You have to try it to know what I mean.

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It’s putting all my fitness focus to the test. I’m able to see how much my stamina has improved and it puts my endurance and muscle power to the test. Clearly. Or else I wouldn’t look so happy lugging my bike up a flight of mossy rough stairs overgrown with weeds.

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It’s making me a calmer, happier person for all the endorphins, and exposure to clean air and eye-hurting green locales.

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Was that ten things already? Okay, here’s an eleventh.
Because, going out on a bike makes you extra observant and watchful. It makes you  notice things. And because, yellow flowers.

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Day 214: Cycling in the rain

It’s hard to think that the same monsoon that’s wreaking havoc in the North East of India has been an essential source, of solace in the west and down south, and closer home, complete and utter joy. If it isn’t already abundantly clear, I’m revelling in the monsoon this year. More than usual. It’s been one of the nicest I have experienced in all my years here. — perpetually damp laundry notwithstanding.

When I began cycling this year, I thought I’d hit upon this absolutely magical thing because it somehow altered the very way in which I experienced my surroundings, my neighbourhood, the streets I’ve been driving around for only the last 6.5 years, and my immediate surroundings in general. Being out in the open like that, using your own physical effort to push yourself forward up climbs, down slopes, speeding down straights, feeling the wind, the sun, the heat, the rain on your body, taking in the smells, observing the sights closer to the ground — millipedes calmly meandering on, dead frogs, just-finished bottled of alcohol from a late-night road-side drinking binge —  mountains of trash in the vicinity that you somehow never noticed before, the quirks of lazy passersby, all of this really changes how you take in what you see and feel around you, how you engage with it, and what it comes to mean to you.

When I began cycling this year, I knew it was easily one of the best things I have done in a while, but I had no idea what was to come. Cycling is all well and awesome, but cycling in the Goan monsoon, now that is really something worth writing home about. It’s taken me father and deeper into parts of Goa I haven’t experiences up close. And it’s rekindled a deep my love for Goa that has been somewhat going through a flux the past 8-10 months now.

We cycled to the jetty at Ribandar and took the boat to visit two islands close to Panjim this past weekend, Diwar on Saturday and Chorao yesterday. I’ve been to these islands many, many times before. And yet doing it on a bike, going far, going beyond and being exposed in a way that only a bike can, really made it feel like a unique, first time experience.

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There’s something immensely simple and beautiful about how life just doesn’t stop in Goa, no matter how heavy the rain is. Dogs take the ferry up and down, people get their rain pants on, get on their scooters, take the ferry and get to work on time, going about their routines like oh, it’s just some rain, nbd, as the feathery drizzle turns to a storm that lashes down on us all in no time at all.

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We’re closing in on 7 years in Goa, and with every ride I realise just how much is still left to see and experience. It’s the kind of unbridled beauty that leaves you not wanting to take any pictures because you would just do no justice.

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American Beauty moments abound, echoing the emotion laden in every word of that monologue at the end of the movie where Kevin Spacey is lying in a pool of his own blood, thinking, “…it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

Except, I’m not dying. And it’s me, I take a lot of pictures at all time. And I did this past weekend too. Not too many, but just enough, before it all got too overwhelmingly beautiful and I couldn’t do it anymore. So this picture-heavy post borrows heavily from VC and R.

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The average weekend ride lasts about 4 hours. There is always a breakfast stop, sometimes a second chai stop, and lots of halts to stop and take the sights in. But, I swear, the happiness from every ride lasts far longer. It remains for days, long after we’ve returned, washed the gunk off our bikes and settled into a lazy weekend mode, and even slipped back into a regular work week.

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There is chit-chat and conversations. VC always gets his ass taken for being the studious, serious cyclist that he is, with pressing, pertinent advice for us. But there is also peace and quiet. And once the giggles and banter dies down, we just sit in silence, until someone suggests that it’s time to head back.

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As I mull over the restlessness about what I’m doing and where my life is headed, thoughts of what-next and where-to-from-here gnaw at me from time to time. And let’s be honest, sometimes the answers and options that look exciting do point outside of Goa. I nurse these thoughts from time to time. And then I go cycling, sometimes it is on a rainy as hell Sunday morning, and I find my heart quietly brimming with an overwhelming joy that makes me believe I’m crazy to think I ever want to leave.

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Day 207: Gym rant

At the gym every morning, I’m the equivalent of the annoying student who we’d call a chomu in school. For those not in the know, a chomu is that overeager beaver, always aiming to over-achieve and please everyone by doing everything right, all the time. I’m that person at the gym. Which is to say I’m always asking for more. More reps, higher weights, more rounds of the circuit, more kickboxing, more time. And I very rarely slack off (if I do, then my trainer knows its time to be worried), or whine and complain loudly, or try and get out of finishing something I’ve started. I’m always striving for perfection, it’s a serious disease and I’m a self confessed endorphin junkie. Three times over, in fact. I rarely miss a class, bunking without reason is unheard of, so you understand why I’m comparing myself to that special breed of enthu cutlet we all love to hate.

Predictably, everyone around me hates this. Because it means they have to suffer the elf-inflicted pain of keeping up. It’s either that, or they have to feel inadequate. Neither is a favourable state to be in, so they take the easy way out and mock me for being the enthu cutlet that I am. Silent sniggers behind my back to loud giggles in my face, to snide comments about how everyone is made to suffer because of me – I’ve seen it all. None of it affects me. I don’t feel bad, mostly because I am unapologetic about how I want to spend my time at the gym. However, when it goes so far as to take the focus off form what I am there to do, and it eats into my productive time, then I get a little peeved.

Tough luck, I just happen to be someone who is serious about the time I spend at the gym. Sure I may be a little extreme with my enthusiasm, but at least I only inflict that on myself. I have a single-minded focus on making that one hour count, completely for myself.

The truth is, I don’t fully understand why people would want it any other way. It’s just that one hour in the day. And it’s one hour that I’m inclined to believe they’ve chosen to spend at the gym. Out of their conscious volition. I can’t think of too many people who find themselves at a gym because someone forced them into it and dragged them out there at 8 am everyday. So I don’t understand why some of the folks I work out with feel the need to come to the gym day after day and then complain about having to 1) work out 2) challenge their bodies 3) sweat it out.

It’s like they weren’t expecting it. And I can’t understand it at all! As a result I don’t have any sympathy either. So there’s only so much I can react to or participate in the inane comments and conversation that invariably occurs. Coupled with my general lack of interest and deliberate attempts to stay aloof, I’m hyper aware that I come of looking like a complete snob. I may have got the act of physically zoning this stuff out down to an art, because there are days when I just plain refuse to react even when I’m being spoken to.

Part of me feels I’d rather be thought of as a snob, than try and be polite and compromise on the 60 minutes that I get at the gym. But mostly I just don’t know how to react to some of the things I hear. Sample this, it’s just a selection from today alone.

“Oh god, I’m sweating so much!”

“This is really hard haan? Especially on a Monday” (at which point my trainer helpfully offered, “It’s hard everyday”)

“You mean I have to lift this?”

“How many more rounds? Can I skip this one?”

“Put your butt out” *giggle giggle giggle*

When asked to stay with the time and not stop before – “I’m not good at staying”  *giggle giggle giggle*

“Only my butt is getting bigger, I want other things to get bigger” (at this point my eyes rolled into the parallel universe and back)

“Why do we have to do this stretch?”

“Please have mercy, don’t you love us?”

I’m very curious why they even bother dragging themselves to the gym at all. The extra hour of sleep might actually do them more good than the half-assed attempt at working out can. What’s even funnier is the slightly backhanded appreciation I sometimes get. Semi-fake, mildly phoney admiration for the fact that I can lift more, stretch more, punch more.

I suppose the part where I work hard at it is lost on them. That might be an opportune time to suggest that the energy and effort expended in trying so hard to dodge their way out of every damned exercise could actually maybe, used to like, work out, you know? Lift those weights, sweat it out, get better at it, feel fitter. Maybe? 

No? Okay, no. Maybe not.

Rant over.

Day 194: Pedalling again

No, this isn’t the cycling post I promised I’d write to explain why I started cycling in addition to everything else. But it is a post about how I got off the bandwagon and may have just been kicked back on it again.

My initial gust of enthusiasm melted away in the unforgiving summer we had this year. I hadn’t (still haven’t) stopped kickboxing and cycling 3-4 mornings a week before I hit the gym was becoming hard to sustain. The sun would be out by 7 and dehydration is a real fear. So I decided to resume when the weather turned for the better.

There was also the minor detail about being chased by a pack of street dogs one day, that had me so panic-stricken I managed to get a good mind-block about venturing out too far, too fast and on my own.

Then the weather changed early last month, and VC resumed cycling with gusto. Relentlessly waking up, trying everyday to wake me up and get me to go with him too. But rainy, grey mornings are for snuggling under the covers, not for getting out in the rain, pedalling against the wind.

But VC carried on, and sometime last week he did this.

And it has sufficiently kicked me back on track (mostly from envy) because I realised suddenly that there is still so much of Goa left to see. This is easily the best time of year to do it. And to do it on a cycle is pretty damned special.

Day 193: Like Nike, but better

You’ve probably seen the video launching the new Indian nike campaign, because it’s literally all over social media today. In case you haven’t, here, see.

For convenience, it’s being called an ad, but if I were to really nitpick I’d have to say it’s not an ad. Just branded content that’s the order of the day given our increasingly digital lives – fleeting, stopping only for media that jogs your senses. It’s only supposed to leave an impression and register the brand name. I think it does that job pretty well. It’s downright pump-your-fist-in-the-air-get-off-your-butt-and-move material. I watched it right after I returned form my workout this morning and even then I felt like I immediately going for a run. Or clobbering a punching bag. Or dancing wildly. So mission accomplished, I suppose.

I only had two complains. I wish it had more non-skinny girls. And I wish it wasn’t so overly glamorised and airbrushed to perfection. Sure, I get the difference between an ad with a message, and branded content that’s meant to just make you sit up and look and not really dig deeper. But this was a chance, this was an opportunity to use real Indian sportswomen and Deepika Padukone to make a solid statement with depth and substance. To take a stand and be fierce about it. To get viewers to think a little before just grooving to the song (as I did) and moving on.

And for that reason, here are some kickass ads that do the job slightly better than Nike’s new video.

Remember the This Girl Can campaign film? With copy that still gives me goosebumps.

This punchy Under Armour ad, that I think was definitely the inspiration Nike was going with.

And this one that gives me all the right feels. Because, kickboxing.

Finally someone decided that blood needs to be red. And real. And non icky.

And this, for how well it’s made. It still fills me with a burst of inspiration today, as it did the first time I watched it. Any ad that does that is doing its job well.

Day 172: Things about VC that I never want to forget #17

Things about VC that I never want to forget #17
He knows me better than I think he does

VC is constantly complaining that I know him a little too well for my own good. Complaining because he only realises this truism at moments where he is clearly at a disadvantage. When I have sniffed out his “surprise” plan even before it unfolded. When I predict his (very predictable) behaviour and caution him about a potential outcome and it, um, surprises him that I could guess. When he’s narrating a story about something that happened to him, and I finish the story off with what I think may be a possible ending, that turns out to be 100% accurate, and proceeds to steal his moment. And thunder. So yeah, he doesn’t like being that predictable. Always tells me I know him better than he knows me. But the truth is, it works both ways. he hasn’t registered it, but he knows me better than he is willing to realise.

Sunday morning, 10:30 am
Me to VC: It’s just 10:30, man are you drinking beer already?!
VC: Yeah, what’s time for to go with it?
Me: I’ll also drink, but later. Closer to lunch.
VC: Okay
Me: Such superb weather, perfect for a drink, no?
VC: …
Me: Gin is such a perfect drink for hot and cool weather.
VC:…
Me: I think I will…*interrupted by VC*
VC: Here *hands me a glass of G&T*

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-fifteen mins and one drink later-

Me: I LOVE gin VC, like really, really.
VC: Gym, aa? Ya I know.
Me: Gin, da! But gym, also. Yes.
VC: Yeah, that’s what I thought. You want a refill?

Day 110: Go far, they said.

Sunday mornings are usually my time to sleep in. It’s the one day in the week I am undisturbed by the doorbell ringing – first the milkman, then the gardner, then the help. I have nothing to wake up to on Sundays, considering I’m rushing off to the gym on every other day of the week.

Everyone gets a day off on Sunday. Including me.

Except the weekend that went by, when I dragged myself out of bed at 5.45 am. I’m quite the morning person, but only once the sun is up. It’s called feeling bright and chirpy for a reason. I don’t feel bright and chirpy when the sun is not out, when you need a headlamp on your bicycle to make your way out.

But we do these things. In the name of trying new things. And whatdya know? Sometimes doing that thing you hate so much enough times can make you love it enough to do it over and and over and over again. In this case, waking up when it’s still dark, dragging my feet to the door, bicycle in tow.

I’m always on the brink of giving up and crawling right back into bed, right until the last minute I’m actually out the door.

But once I’m out there’s no turning back. And the father I go, the more I fall in love.

Last Sunday we clocked 45 kilometres on the morning ride. It included silky smooth roads, winding through woody, shaded avenues that ran through villages. While people ambled around going about their morning business, a sight I don’t get to see very often. Then train tracks were crossed, a spectacular lake visited, some idlis and vadas consumed. And a super zippy ride back, despite the fact that the sun was already beating down hard by then.

I got home with a black, dust streaked face, tan lines on my thighs and arms, exactly where my shorts and tee ended. But I was blissed.

Sometimes it’s about taking that once step outside your comfort zone. And sometimes it takes a little repetition, practice and pushing yourself. Sometimes it takes doing it over and over again. And sometimes it’s about doing it over, and going the distance.

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Day 84: Fitter and stronger than before

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Something strange has been going on. I complained about starting trouble and you now know how procrastination tussles are a major part of my daily life. But this is one of those cases where I can’t believe I’m the same person. Where I often struggle to finish a piece of work, or get that long pending email sent, or finish that dratted interview, my efforts to get back into a serious and regular fitness regimen have remained frighteningly regular and undeterred by everything else that has come my way.

No, I don’t mean in terms of results, because I’m learning (the hard way) that the older you get, the longer and more effort it takes to really see change. So I won’t say I’ve reached the goal I wanted to, but the effort I’ve put into it staying regular, the tenacity in giving every workout my all, and sometimes completely taking myself by surprise when I manage to squeeze in a double workout on somedays has come as a pleasant shock.

First, the energy levels. A combination of paying a little more attention to what I’m eating, and staying off alcohol and dessert for the most part has its very obvious benefits. I am less lethargic, manage to make even the littlest dregs of energy count for a lot and feel a lot more motivated to push myself. I have had fewer urges to skip gym, and even the two times the thought occurred, I dismissed it pretty easily. I had intended to go an entire month without skipping class, and I’m happy to say I came close to achieving it, missing only one day, that too because my folks were visiting and I didn’t want to be sitting at the gym while they had fun!

Second, its the season to sweat it out. The temperatures are slowly rising and the change is really apparent, but the real discomfort is the humidity levels that re through the roof. It really sucks to be sweating it out for no reason at all. Sometimes I’m even sweating just sitting in one place. So while I complain about it for 90% of the day, it’s during the couple of hours of working out that I really feel like the humidity is a boon. First, you don’t feel as dehydrated because you’re practically surrounded in a pool of moisture. I know it doesn’t work the same way for everybody but working out in this weather makes me feel really energised. I end up drinking a lot more fluids to compensate, and it helps me work harder, and feel more energetic overall.

Third, I think the time/frequency-based goal worked well for me. Instead of making an ideal fat% or waist size my goal, I decided to just start by ensuring I go in to the gym everyday, as many days as I could. Much easier to manage, much easier to achieve.

Fourth, I was trying to find a good combination of activities that would suit my fancy when I realised I should just go with the flow and not try and mix things up too much. I’m currently really enjoying my kickboxing class, so I signed up for the class 5 days a week and it has been the right balance of challenging and rewarding. I bought myself a cycle early in March and have been also cycling with the hugsband every chance I get (Yes I need to write about this!) and it has been UH.MAYY.ZING!

So I don’t know which of these changes has brought on the extra energy and added determination or motivation because God knows it’s been flagging in the other parts of my life. Perhaps its a combination of all, but it’s been such a good few weeks, I sometimes wish I could design my life around just training for something. Coincidentally, I wrote about getting back on the fitness bandwagon, specifically overcoming starting trouble or breaking the laziness rut over at ZenParent. I don’t know why I didn’t write that post  in first person because it is entirely a personal story, about the way I was feeling at the start of the year, and what I did then (and in the past) to overcome it.

If you’re feeling lethargic and like your energy is flagging, just start. Make a beginning, a small one. And start by trying to get from one day to the next. Make it a habit, and soon enough you’ll find yourself at the end of the month feeling so much better than where you began.

Day 71: Pretending to be brave

At the start of March I ambitiously paid for a whole month of kickboxing classes. I used to go in only 3 times a week, and was nearly dead by Friday. Just three times a week and yet, for the last few months, I’d been seriously slacking off, taking too many shortcuts and giving into every slight desire to bunk a class and sleep in. The only way to break out of it was to up the ante, so I went ahead and paid up for a 5-days-a-week set up. Two weeks done. I’ve survived it. Aching and tired, but I made it.

I started the month with a promise to cut back on the daily dessert binging and the alcohol intake. I started off by saying I’d go off it completely, but realised pretty soon that that approach has never worked for me, never will. So I’ve altered it to cutting back, and allowing myself the odd indulgence. No more sugar/chocolate/dessert fixes after every meal. No more drinking 2-3 times a week.

Two weeks in and I’ve eaten a piece of chocolate on two occasions. One rasmalai last weekend, when I also consumed half a bottle of wine. And a few glasses two days ago* but I’ve survived it without going too insane. There was that one day when I had a very, very only too real struggle with demolishing the image of a gooey warm cake fudge from Corner House that suddenly manifested in my mind and just refused to go away. Eventually, it did.

For months now I’ve been pitching a range of international publications to get new story ideas out there and broaden my perspective. I want to go wide as far as publications are concerned, and go deep with the themes I write about. I’ve had varying luck, but it has been an excruciatingly slow and painful learning curve. A couple of days ago, I was nearly done with the day’s work. I was about to shut my laptop down when I saw the little postit I’d stuck at the corner of my desk to remind me that I wasn’t going to end work for the day without pitching that story. I’d been dillydallying over that one for a while because it’s a format of writing I have never done before, I’d have to pitch it to a bigish “popular” publication that I’ve never done before, and writing the story itself will require me to glean form my personal experience. SCARY.

But enough procrastination, I said. Sat down, wrote a brief recalling valuable inputs that S gave me a few days ago, ran it past VC who helped me chisel away at it further and essentially turn it into a sales pitch. This is something I’ve never done before. The most crucial mistake I’ve been making is to make every pitch a little snippet or a preview of the story I have in mind. That day however, I made the pitch sellable, it had a clear hook. And it took a lot of putting myself out there, getting out of the comfort zone I am so used to, and finally after some hemming and hawing, I hit send.

*I plied myself with a couple of glasses of wine before I got to the point of doing it. It has to be said.

But. It paid off, because I received a positive response in under ten minutes.

I was gobsmacked and did a happy (mildly-drunk) dance around the room.

So, I’ve been trying slowly but surely to be brave in areas I didn’t think I was. Push myself a little, get out of the comfort zone, live a little. And scary as it has been, it hasn’t backfired entirely. No post-facto shaky feet either.

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On to new challenges, then? The first of which is the very real one of having to write said piece.

Given the no-alcohol promise I’m going to have to find some other poison (or narcotic) to actually get down to writing the story. And try and make a kickass job of it. No pressure, really.

Hmm.

Day 27: Finally moving

I have starting trouble with most things. Even with the things I love, it takes me abnormally long to get going. But once I do begin, I’m a creature of habit. And in the event that I get addicted and/or really enjoy the activity at hand, I can get pretty obsessive and anal about being regular. The trouble with habits, for someone with starting trouble, is that when they suddenly get broken, it can put you right back where you started. Struggling to get going. And that’s what happened with working out last year.

It began with the ten day break in April last year when we took off on holiday. All that eating and lying around definitely made me lazy, lethargic and getting going was a harder task than I was willing to show. With some travel pretty much every month of the year, I was faced with many such breaks. The routine of working out everyday itself suffered. Add to it the bad eating when travelling, the irregular sleep and the trouble resuming exercise every time there was a break, and I ended the year not feeling physically as good as I wanted to.

In April I was at my fittest I’ve been in the last 3 years. I felt lean and ripped, energetic, light and it was lovely to wear almost anything I wanted to, without feeling like some part of me was squished into a piece of clothing it didn’t want to be in. April onwards, things went downhill, and every month that I travelled out saw me coming back to a struggle to get started again. With work really ramping up and taking up so much of my mental bandwidth, I’ve been a lazy, lazy cook – resorting to rice more often than is healthy. I’ve also slacked off on trying to cook healthy all the time, which meant lots of take out, and lots of comfort in unhealthy food. I became super disinterested in stocking up the kitchen with good stuff, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d actively bought and consumed fruit like I used to. Also, I developed unnatural (for me) love for desi sweets and found myself having them way more often (and often without occasion or reason!) than I am known to. I did a lot more deep-frying than I usually do, and took great case to ensure that my dessert-after-every-meal cravings were always satisfied.

All of this has really taken a toll. A body-fat analysis test yesterday confirmed my gut feeling. While it doesn’t really show in an alarming way on my frame on the outside, I have felt bulky and unfit for a while now, despite trying to be regular with exercise. But, what I wasn’t anticipating was just how far back these irregularities in routine have put me.

I’m almost right back to where I was in 2012. And that hit me like a hard blow to my gut. Because of the way I was already feeling, I hit the gym with a renewed promise to move more and get back on the bandwagon not just with regular exercise, but with trying to eat moderately again early this month. My friend (and fitness guide!) N always says 70% of the hard work in getting fit is done in the kitchen, and this is going to be the harder nut for me to crack — making healthy eating a regular feature and not the occasional indulgence.

It’s been three weeks of being regular again, I’m slowly beginning to feel like I’m back on the right track. I’ve moved back to hard weights after 8 months of doing a lot more cardio, body-weight training and kick-aerobics. I’m supplementing the weights with a kickboxing class that really kicks my butt three times a week. The other big change I’ve made is brought all my workouts forward to the start of day. There’s really nothing like beginning the day with some violence, or heavy weights. It really just sets the tone for my energy levels and everything else builds up from there.

Every other day, I still have a minor struggle getting myself to the gym, but I try and remind myself that once I’m there I’m in my zone and when I am done I feel like I can conquer the world. That feeling keeps me going and I have been able to brush aside thoughts of bunking with a lot more confidence. I love what the endorphins do for me, and I know that with all the crap I’ve been dealing with mentally, its the exercise that is definitely helping me stay afloat.

It’s always a little crushing to realise how easy it is to roll back to an unhealthy, unfit state of mind and being. Two years of hard work can be reversed in no time at all, and it makes me realise how precious every hour spent at the gym is. After standing on that machine yesterday, I’m determined to make every session count.

I’m feeling a lot better today, than I was on 1st January. And I’m putting it all down to the fact that I’m finally moving again.

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Day 11: This and that

 

I had a lot of feels and thoughts about this article about Indian women dealing with living alone. But it’s taking the life out of me to try and articulate them. So I’m going to save it for another day. Just wanted to share it for now.

Same with this piece about a distinct change in the way in which people are changing, work is evolving and the planet is going to move. I’ve read versions of this in half a dozen places in the recent past, and many of my conversations with friends have revolved around some concepts discussed in this. All closely linked to the latent restlessness I am harbouring.

Many questions going through my mind as I try and re-evaluate how the last one year played out work-wise and what I want to do to ensure I have better balance over things. Also look at this piece on the relevance of the 8-hour work day in today’s context. I’ve found myself wondering what use it is to replace a home-work-style far worse than the one I had in the office and honestly, I don’t have the answers. For many months last year, I worked longer hours than the hugsband did, and that is saying quite something. I would begin my day at my laptop as early as 6 am some days, and work late into the night on several occasions. It was the only way to fit everything in. Again, many feels. No words. Yet. I will have to come back to these.

***

This full power Advaita track came back to me on Saturday, when I watched Wazir.

It’s the only part of the film that stood out and stayed with me. Probably because I have loved this track forever. The movie? It was banal and predictable. Engaging in bits, but not really a compulsory multiplex watch. Farhan Akhtar needs to stop being so angry all the time.

***

The weekend went by in a daze this time around. I’m trying to set the tone for the year by sticking to my no-laptop rule as far as I can help it. But I think I might have to amend it to no-work, since I can now Netflix and chill. Which is what I did for most of the weekend. When I wasn’t sketching or reading.

Dosas and chutney were had for three meals out of 6 and I realise I could go on like that as long there is an unending supply of dosa batter. I whipped up a different chutney each time, and aloo-palya to go with it one time. I could keep that up without repeating a chutney for a decent span of time, and I would be a very happy girl to eat meals of that kind.

 

***

Have I mentioned I experimented a bit with intermittent fasting right before I fell ill and had to start eating breakfast again, in order to take my morning dose or anti biotics? I felt a different in just 10 days, and its definitely something I want to look into properly. All the research I did points to the fact that we’re an over fed race and for our acutely diminished activity levels, we’re eating way more than we need to. I always feel like I wake up early and cannot function without breakfast. But a few days into going without eating breakfast and I realised I was fine. The body makes do, and you end up eating lunch sooner than usual. Then you’re hungry by tea time, so you nibble on something with you chai. Dinner too is consecutively, early. All very healthy and left me feeling light, energetic and regulated my sleep to a certain extent too. Combined with a renewed weights and kick boxing routine, I think I should be set for a while.

However, this past weekend was not a time for fasting or skipping breakfast.

waffles

VC loves waffles and is constantly begging for them. We have a defunt waffle iron that needs a decent adaptor that converts wattage from American standards to Indian ones, but somehow we havent figured out a solution that will not make it burn out. It’s been lying in my loft, unattended for years now. So on his birthday last week, I bought him a waffle iron. Smaller, more versatile and very easy to use. Also, a trusty Morphy Richards piece. I threw in a set of Pilsner glasses, and he was SO happy.

Now I get to eat waffles on weekends. Two birds, one stone. Teach a man to fish and all that. We just need to crack a recipe that makes them crispy. Ideas?

***

When Iw asn’t stuffing face, I also went to the beach for a walk. Decided to ease myself back into physical exercise, but I ended up getting lost. Pahahaha, yeah, on my own neighbourhood beach. All because winter trickery is still in force and it goes from dusk to dark in 3 minutes flat. It wasn’t one of my best moments, and I resorted to stuffing my key between my fingers, ready to jab any creepy stranger who tried to take advantage of the lack of lights on the beach.

When it was still light out though, I saw a host things.

kite

I love how lively the beach is, with a wide variety of people doing various things there. In the 1.5 hours that I was there, I saw boys playing football barefoot (some, topless) and oblivious to the world, kids building sandcastles that anchored rainbow coloured kites, one particularly lanky fellow doing cartwheels – a whole row of them, fishermen using their body weight to fight the tide and weigh down the anchors of their nets, happy cockerspaniels excitedly getting their ears wet in the waves, a smiley auntie in a saree getting her evening walk in the sand, uncle in pink track pants, one very brave lady doing a perfect downward dog smack in the middle of one of the most crowded parts of the beach. I looked at her from a distance and thought she was very brave. I’m not sure what to make of it. And I think I saw what could be a crossfit class, and made a mental note to sneak up and scope it.

An unintended month’s break from working out ended today. It started as a week off because I went off to Madras for a break, but I came back to holiday scene kicking in and class being cancelled for a bit. When it reopened, the excesses of Christmas and New Year’s Eve had caught up with me. Just when I thought I had gotten through all of 2015 with just one major bout of the flu, I was down again with a viral fever, sore throat and cold so bad, I was knocked out for an entire week. Long after the fever had subsided, my energy levels are still flagging and I feel wiped out so very easily. I went to the gym today, feeling excessively skinny. All the months of hard work building muscle, undone in no time at all. All lost to a frikking virus. It just feels so unfair. I was wiped out in no time today, and I shudder to think how long its going to take to regain the strength and stamina back to where I was.

***

Meanwhile, the restless continues, unabated. Mild relief from distractions, daily habits and some amount of work that keeps me engrossed, helps. But for the most part I’m carrying around this knot in my stomach, which makes me feel very vulnerable and like I’ve gone astray.

nets

Day 1: Move more

Mira

Man, woman, dog. Everyone’s out to kickstart the year with all the right resolutions to move more.

Sometime last year, I bought myself a fitbit. It seemed like the perfect gizmo for a fitness-junkie obsessed with neat little packets of data. I bought it when we were on holiday in Singapore, walking our way around town and I promptly clocked between 10k-15k steps a day.

Until I retuned to Goa. To my home-office, domestic existence, and all illusions of being an active person were shattered. And how! On non workout days I don’t even cross 2k steps! Despite working out 6 times a week, almost every week, I realised I am horribly inactive in my daily life. Save the bursts of activity during the couple of hours I dedicate to exercise, most movement is restricted to walking between my bedroom and the study, the kitchen at best. The moment I step out of my home to go anywhere at all, and I get into my car. I have realised how, despite working out so much, I need to move a lot more. So, walks on the beach are my way to make that happen.

It was a spectacularly dull, cloudless sky today. But the moment the sun began to set, the haze lit up and changed into a spectrum of splendid colours. It was a deep tomato red at one point, and my phone just doesn’t do justice.

Ending today feeling energised, and I hope this is a sign of things to come.

Weighing in on the weights thing

One of the biggest pluses of 2014 has been that it was the year I discovered and enjoyed weight training. The obvious benefits of higher strength and increased muscle mass aside, it has totally changed my body. And possibly changed me considerably too. Outside and inside.

For a hardcore lover of all things cardio, my previous experience with weight training has been in the weights room of a gym, where the routine was interspersed with cardio on any given day, dividing the upper and lower body, and frankly that was insufferable. The sheer drudgery of lifting weights all alone, while my beefed up trainer would painfully spot me, dragging the suffering along, didn’t get me very far. It did help me tone up (which was the goal back then) but with it I also lost interest in weights itself. I was never made to see the benefits of it, anatomically.

It is only last year that I discovered the biological working of how fat turns to muscle mass and what it does for my body, learned to appreciate strength over thinness, and have completely stopped getting on the weighing scale. I used to be the sort that would jump around and get my heart racing for 35-40 minutes, lift a few weights for 15-20 minutes and call it a day. And that probably works for some people. But the thing about fitness is to find your sweep spot, what works for you, and I found mine in a combination of high intensity cardio three times a week, supplemented by two hours a week spent just lifting weights, focusing on muscle groups across the entire body.

What it’s done for me on the outside is this:
Shred flab faster than I ever have. The results are visible, and they came quicker than I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Toned those areas that I’ve always thought were prone to fat deposits that refuse to budge. For me, its been my arms, hips and thighs and the remarkable changes I’ve seen have been accelerated only due to the weight training.
Boosted my metabolism back to where it used to be. I wake up hungry, yet energetic and my hunger cycles are regulated with my stomach ringing like an alarm clock every 4-5 hours.
Upped my resistance by leaps and bounds, to the point where I can proudly say I only fell prey to the flu twice this year (as opposed to at least once every 2-3 months), and I sailed through 2014 without a single tummy issue.

But those are the obvious things to look out for. If you’re weight training and you don’t feel like your metabolism is soaring, your immunity isn’t as solid as it used to be and you’re not feeling toned even after 6 months to a year of pumping iron, you’re probably not doing it right.

The beauty of weight training, and why I got so addicted to it though, is what it has done for me on the inside.

1) I feel super strong. Sometimes even stronger than I actually am. And that feels really fabulous. When you stop fearing the possibility of turning into a bodybuilder with disproportionately bulky muscles popping up in unwieldy places (because that won’t happen even if you try! Here’s why.), you realise what weight training actually does is make you stronger. For real.

You’ll suddenly realise it when you have silently gone up from lifting 20 pounds to 25 pounds one day, without feeling a thing.

I realised it one fine day when I no longer called the hugsband down to help me carry my month’s worth of groceries up the stairs.

I realised it when my gas cylinder needed to be carried home and I happily and very easily lifted the heavier side.

I realised it when VC comes home after a cycle ride, calls for help to assist carrying the cycle up the staircase and after weeks of sharing the load, I pulled it off all alone.

I realised it when I take down boxes from the loft, when I open impossible-to-open jars, when I lift suitcases that others rush to help me with.

I realised I stopped asking for help, because in most situations you realise you’re damn well capable of taking care of yourself.

(and you read stuff like this and actually relate to it and chuckle like someone in-the-know)

2) When you feel stronger, you begin to believe you are stronger. And it shows on the outside. Lifting weights has boosted my confidence as much as it has my metabolism. That in turn has made me more positive, to an extent more social and outgoing too. I feel that extra puff of confidence in carrying myself of in situations I’d previously have been awkward about.

3) Weight training has turned my idea of fitness up on its head, pulled it out of the box where most of us aspire to be a perfect size, dedicated by a number. The number of times I’ve looked at my hips and wished they were narrower, or at my tummy and wished it was flatter have been far fewer this year. And yet, I’ve voluntarily pulled out clothes I had tucked away inside my cupboard, pretty sure I’d never wear them again. Sure, I feel fabulous when I find that a forgotten, old skirt now fits me, or when a much-loved pair of pants is suddenly slipping off my hips; but those moments are pleasant surprises that I come upon rather than go after and seek obsessively. The number on the scale no longer dictates my work outs. I’m more motivated by doing an extra set of push ups or upping the weight on my dumbells every few weeks. And when I go in to check my body fat percentage, to see that it has plummeted, I go out and eat an extra cupcake.

4) Weight training has given me small bursts of winning every so often. It’s a win when I lift a higher weight. It’s a win every time I do an extra set. It’s a win when I can do the tricep hover. It’s a win when I can do spider-man-push-ups. I’ve also realised that winning in the gym so often has a tremendous effect on the intensity of the endorphin release. It gives me the surge of energy that I can harness and slowly release through the day. It’s given me happier times, the courage to take on challenges and basically not say no to almost anything.

5) This has put the focus of fitness back where it should be — on building endurance and strength, rather than getting slim. This has had an enormous consequence on my food habits. Whether it is unconsciously cutting down eating out, barely reaching out for packaged/processed foods in the supermarket, or eating freely knowing that there is going to be a workout in 24 hours that will bust a lot of those calories out of my system — I’ve come a long, long way from where I was last year.

6) Every time I look in the mirror and the beginnings of the thought “oh, still some way to go” begin to creep into my head, I’m quicker to remind myself that I can do many things in the gym today, that I absolutely couldn’t even imagine doing 12 months ago. I’ve learned to see the things about my body that make me, me and I have accepted that that no matter how lean and toned I get, they will remain.

I think I’ve put some of of the healthy in my body image. And this has extended out to my attitude to women around me too. I’ve consciously cut down commenting on the way people look and how they carry themselves off physically. I’m trying everyday to respect my body for what it does for me on a daily basis.

It’s ironic that women often fear that lifting weights will make them look less feminine and probably turn them bulky and manly, because personally, lifting weights has in many ways shaped the very idea of femininity for me.  Whether its a new found confidence, the ability to slowly wear clothes I was afraid to, made me talk freely, to do more, grab opportunities, stretch myself.

Loved

I don’t see “problems areas” or “flaws” anymore, just reasons to push out another set of squats or perfect that chest-press. More importantly, I’ve begun to look at my body lovingly, rather than constantly being harsh and criticising it.

I’ve learned to love myself the way I am, because my body has cooperated with me, stood by me and done so much more than I imagined was possible. Isn’t that a gorgeous discovery to make?

I’ve learned that weights don’t make you bulky. They make you beautiful.

Confessions of an endorphin junkie, part 3

I’ve been attacked by starting trouble for the most part of this week. I know it’s just Wednesday, but dragging my feet to the gym is not something have dealt with too often. I don’t like it, it’s very unlike me and I don’t know how to shake it off.

This week I have felt super lazy to get going. This is why I am almost afraid to take a holiday from training. Even though my body really needed the rest in August, deep-down I worried I’d face the sloth-attack when it was time to return. Maybe its the weather, or limbo-like situation I’m in, but every morning, I am overcome with this intense need to just stay home, sit around and wait for things to happen. All the while, I know at the back of my head that once I begin I will come out feeling really good. But try telling that to my heart that’s longing to just lounge around and not jump around for a change. Perfect spirit-is-willing-but-the-flesh-is-weak kind of situation.

But here’s the thing, I still managed to drag myself to the gym. Everyday. Because the promise of feeling fabulous and energetic an hour later is too good an opportunity to pass up. I’m thoroughly addicted. I wasn’t kidding when I said I am an endorphin junkie. Twice over. It’s no wonder really, because endorphins work pretty much like drugs and narcotics do. Wonderful chemical reactions in your brain and other parts of the body, where endorphins make masti with neural receptors to inhibit all signs of pain, dullness, lethargy. Tricking you into feeling so goddamn good, you want some more. And more. Until you basically just can’t get enough. So much so that even when your body is saying no!, some part of your mind is going yes! yes! yes!

So, like the quintessential junkie who needs just the slightest impetus to give in, I took myself to the gym. Unwilling flesh and all.

up

Because the only way forward, is up.

All it really takes is a few rounds of lifting some big-girl weights, or a couple of spunky dance numbers, some good music and  eventually, pretty soon, I’m bopping around like a happy trooper. Like one hit of a newly passed joint, or that swig of vodka, neat. And all is well with the world again.

I don’t know when I got so addicted to it. But working out has quickly replaced most other addictions in my life. Friends constantly crib that I am no longer as willing to catch a drink, and invariably stop after a few — unlike before. I’ve nearly given up most other ways to get high, and I’m that wretched person in most circles that can be described as annoyingly high-on-life. Sometimes just thinking about what it feels like at the end of a workout is enough to get me going. Starting trouble diminishes by half right there. Mid way through an ass-busting circuit, the mention of hurdles that are going to make an appearance in the gym, makes me go yay! and makes the aunty next to me roll her eyes.

Endorphins make me feel alive. The energy I expend over the one hour at the gym, oddly enough, sets me up to keep going through the day. It’s funny how it even makes me eat and sleep better. And to go through the day feeling elated, satisfied and like all is well, is the biggest bonus. They say an endorphin high actually heightens the sense of satisfaction you feel from working out, and makes you come back for moaarrr. Which is what takes me back, dragging fee in tow.

So I’ve been battling this starting trouble this week, but all it takes is pushing through that hint of a beginning of that nagging thought that says to-go-or-not-to-go. Because once I’m over that hurdle, and I do go in to the gym, the feeling evaporates in no time at all.

Today, it was this new cracking salsa number. I’m no great dancer, but by the end of this song I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.

The trick is to just push through, begin, and let that energy rush do the rest for you. That’s just the beauty of endorphins at work. And I’m hopelessly addicted.

Finding happy

It’s been one of those disappointing FB days. I happened to eavesdrop (on the FB sense of the word anyway — the conversation popped up on my feed because a friend was actively commenting on the thread) on a conversation thread that linked up to an absolutely twisted article about an utterly ridiculous stand on the Deepika Padukone-TOI issue. The article talks about how people’s right to lech at a woman’s breasts is as valid as a woman’s right to wear a low-cut dress. It went on to say as people we are “selectively liberal” and do not consider a man’s right to stare at a woman’s breasts if she chooses to bare them. Somewhere in that twisted logic, the small matter of voyeurism and invasion of privacy (which is actually the issue with this particular TOI) seemed to have gone missing completely.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, 76 people liked the article, and the thread went on to get over 120 comments, the bulk of which consisted of men defending their right to lech, some likening a hot woman wearing skimpy clothes to a sexy car parked on the side of the road. Nobody can stop us from looking and admiring the car, some said.

Halfway through the thread I realised a lot of the asinine arguments, examples being raked up and parallels being drawn while plain horrifying, but were being drawn up just for the sake of an argument. My friend was pretty much one of three people in the conversation defending her stand as a woman who has the right to defend her privacy and call out any behaviour that makes her feel uncomfortable. I was rooting for her, but since the conversation wasn’t on my TL, I couldn’t participate.

With every point made by her or the other women on the thread, there was an active rebuttal with a longer comment containing an even more ludicrous example and argument. Made me wonder just how this will go on, and if much of the banter on the part of the men was just intellectual banter — argument for the same of argument alone. I see this happen a lot on fb and it makes me wonder how much time people have. I’m one to talk because I was having one of those decidedly slow days, and I stayed on, masochistically subjecting myself to the conversation that I didn’t even belong to, to begin with! I relentlessly hit refresh and watched the comments grow as the debate unfurled.

I could feel myself seething with anger at one point and shut down the damn page. But only long enough to eat my lunch, after which I was back. R, S and I had a parallel email exchange about the preposterous proportions the conversation was taking. A lot of the hypotheses — a woman ought to retain her “power” in any potentially-confrontational situation, thereby not assuming every lecher will turn out to be a rapist; leching is not a crime, raping is; some of us know how to lech discretely without making women uncomfortable — were increasingly laughable. But not just that, they were all being made by men. Educated, well-read men, I was told later. Men who have probably never been leched at, faced eve-teasing or come close to being molested, in the way that all of us have been at some point in our life.

And this is just the thing that annoys me about these intellectual debates on fb. It is SO easy for us to pontificate, sitting in our little bubbles of privilege. To hypothesize about what things should and could be like, if only women learned to distinguish between a “good stare” and a “bad stare”. Heck, it seems I need to now learn that from a man!

The TOI-DP debate was never about leching vs rape, that’s a separate and an important argument. It wasn’t even about what’s legal and what can be deemed a crime. But that thread made me realise to what extent people can go to defend their stupid notions, ignoring something as pure and basic as the idea of privacy, of civility and of fine lines between looking at a beautiful person and making them feel uncomfortable.

The number of times and the lengths to which some arguments went to make it seem like it was perfectly acceptable to look at a woman (especially if she was dressed provocatively) as long as you didn’t touch, eventually made me sick to my stomach. It was appalling to see the twists in the discussion, the things that were done in the name of defending mere hypotheses, even when there were enough women ON the thread who had experienced the entire range from invasion of privacy to molestation, and were sharing their experiences right there in the comments section. I was shocked at the levels of intellectual masturbation a forum like that allows. At how we can be so alienated from the truth (in this case the men arguing over something they will probably never experience to the extent women continue to, every single day) and convince ourselves that airing our beliefs like this is a sign of being progressive. No matter that entire basis of the argument is regressive beyond belief.

I’m too aghast to even begin to explain the multiple things on that thread that caused me worry. So I finally shut down fb for the day and decided to share some of nicer things I have seen on the Internet this week. Consider this my attempt to find some happy for the day.

I have been an active followed of Humans Of New York since it began, and I took a little personal joy in reading about Brandon Stanton’s visit to India as part of the United Nations World Tour, for the Millennium Development Project. Many of his photographs are just average, and not stunning in a way that I am drawn to the work of say Raghu Rai or McCurry, but the stories he uncovers are most often priceless. Most often I read the captions before I take a closer look at his pictures. To be able to befriend a stranger in just minutes, to converse with them enough to share some of their deepest innermost stories, and to capture it in a frame that brings some part of that story alive — I think that’s definitely a skill worth having.

Perhaps it is something about hitting 30, or turning the corner of finally owning up to adulthood and accepting it. I may still plenty immature and have so many things to figure out, but in many, many little ways I see my parents in myself. And mommygolightlee shares that discovery so beautifully in this piece.

After seeing everybody’s top 10 most loved books of all time, all over my fb, I was very happy to see this list by TinRoofPress. Im usually turned off by this need to hate, diss or push down something just because everybody’s loving it (yes, why do we do it?!), and even though some of my favourites are on this list, TRPs post made me laugh out loud. Maybe you’ll see the humor in it too?

I was never very good at depriving myself of good food, especially food that I love. Only recently I considered going on a healthy diet, not so much to curtail the good stuff, but to cut out the rubbish and curb eating out a bit. Just to see if it makes any difference to the way I feel, my energy levels and if it makes a dent on my training — and yet, I haven’t been able to dive into it. This piece seems to be written by a girl after my own heart and after reading this, I think I’m going to be abandoning the idea to control what I eat entirely. Just eat that brownie. Or in my case, that extra helping of rice. (God, how I love rice.)

This morning, I woke up with bread on my mind. And promptly, food52 threw this collection in my face. Thanks, Internet for giving me yet another downward spiral to jump into. I’m eying the cinnamon kringel bread and the whole wheat pita. Good lord.

And the last thing I want to show you is this video of the place that brought us to Goa, the place that gave me the longest professional stint in my life. I am never quite able to explain to people what made us move to Goa, to work. I usually just sum it up with “we found a really good place to work”. It’s never enough, but some things cannot be perfectly explained, I suppose. Even now, I don’t miss the work I did (because I’ve diversified and moved on from the kind of work I did then), but I do miss the work place, the atmosphere, the people an the sense of community and camaraderie I had there. Now every time someone asks me how I landed up in Goa, I point them to this video. *goes off to watch the video to make the happy come back again*

And in case that’s not happy enough for you, take this.

#thingsIneverimaginedIwoulddo

I have this hashtag going on Instagram, and I realised today that it has a fair number of pictures stacked up. Small packages of surprising things things I really never even imagined would come my way. Or that I’d jump in and do them willingly. And better still, enjoy myself. Little doses, small reminders that almost everything changes at some point or the other and sooner or later you end up doing many things you never imagined you’d do.

Good timing, because this morning it suddenly dawned on me that itsJulyalreadyfuckwhendidthishappen? and of course round 1 of OMGhowcanitbeJulyalready and has happened a couple of times over. Nothing like a hashtag to level things out and delude you into feeling better again, no? I mean, it was just the thing I needed.

So while the eternal cynic in me started counting down all the things I thought I’d do, things I wanted to do but obviously not bad enough because, well I haven’t. (You know that thing about life, and plans and lists — yeah, that) Little usually goes to plan and I realise I’ve done a fair bit of unplanned, unexpected things. Things I never imagined I would do. Yet somehow made me incredibly happy this year.

1) I’m an endorphin junkie to the core, the worst kind of cardio addict around. I used to pooh-pooh the idea of weights and strength training as boring, monotonous and only for those who wanted to bulk up.

1Strong

I knew I wanted to be fit, and for some reason that didn’t include lifting weights. But this year I embraced weights and have just not been able to look back. I never imagined a day would come when I’d value being strong, more than sweating it out after an hour of jumping around. This is an addiction I’m going to have a very hard time ridding myself of.

2) The process of getting leaner and fitter has really opened up my eyes to what my body can do. I didn’t think I was the dance-till-I-drop kinds. I had been to a Zumba class a few years ago and walked out rolling my eyes, telling myself I could never be seen jigging to J-lo and Sheela ki Jawaani. All such besharam type of dancing was saved for the dark corners of discos or a room with the curtains drawn.

 

2Dance

Now I crave my morning music fix and Zumba sessions. Heck I even voluntarily attended a couple of theme dance parties at the Studio, complete with costumes and custom-playlists and a couple of hours of non stop frenzied dancing. At the end of the most recent one — a Back-To-School party that was a complete blast btw — I drove home telling myself over and over “I never imagined I’d do this. EVER!”

3) I spent way more time with myself than I planned to. VC has had an uber-busy year, many professional changes that have kept him hard at work a lot more than we anticipated. A couple of my good friends moved away and I’ve drifted away from a couple of others.

4Myself

Just as well, because I got to spend a lot more time with myself. Doing things in the peace and quiet of my home. Cooking, reading, writing, thinking, planning. Even a bulk of the outings I’ve had, restaurants, drives, trips I’ve made, have been by myself. I never imagined I’d turn into a creature of solitude so soon. And I really didn’t think it would be my chosen mode of existence on any given day.

4) Speaking of friends, I’ve always been the kind to stick to my comfort zone. A handful of people I know and who know me, and pretty soon its a clique. This year that was shattered. Partly by circumstance, and partly by choice. Even though I have cribbed and complained about how those I once called friends are no longer around, I realise I have more friends than I ever imagined. They’re many in number and they’re varied like I never imagined — from blog friends who turn real-life friends, gym buddies, to older friends with children, to people in professions from dentistry to scuba diving. I’ve befriended new people more willingly this year and it has been fabulous.

3Happy

The days of only having one set of friends and doing the same things in and out are done. I’ve hung out with people over the weirdest things this year — making the Happy video, meeting a blog friend with spouse and dog in tow and having a fabulous time, having cook outs and barbecues, going cycling — and I’m sure I’m forgetting many other things. This year has been just so full. I never imagined that I would be in a place where I am never without more than a couple of options of people to hang out with or things to do, if I so wish. This is very new to me, especially for my life in Goa. Its been a year of doing many different things with many different people. I wish I had a picture for every different little group of people but just words will have to do for this one.

5) Thanks to the new-found and suddenly expanded circle of friends, I’ve found myself in situations I wouldn’t otherwise have willingly put myself. First of all, most of my friends are ladies. This is entirely new ground for me. I was too used to being the only girl surrounded by a gang of boisterous boys for too long. I never imagined that would change, but now I’m doing more girls nights out than I am willing to admit. Movie dates, dinners for two, potlucks when the boys are away, drinks with many noisy giggly women — yes, guilty of them all.And where there’s women, and when you’re hitting 30, there’s babies. So I sometimes find myself in situations like this.

6Ladies

A beach party for toddlers, which was entertaining, to say the least. I was the official photographer, and pitched in with a few games. It also helped that the party had a start and end time, after which I went home and decompressed with a glass of wine, hah.It is now pretty normal to hang out with friends and a baby or two, and I have to admit, it doesn’t feel so strange anymore. Even though I am still the odd one out in this respect. My reservations about being around babies seems to have faded a wee bit. Either that, or I’m just lucky to have friends with adorable and entertaining babies.

The test of my patience in this respect was the four days of volunteering my time with a children’s theatre production, which came out of the blue. And it was oddly satisfying.

10Play

The things you do for friends! Some times its stuff you don’t imagine will actually be fun, but you go ahead in the spirit of friendship. And then it turns out to be not half as bad! My responsibilities began with helping set up the set and scenes in this little amphitheatre, ushering the 20-pdd kids in on cue and making sure everything was in order behind-the-scenes. By the time it was show-time, I was filling in for a 12 yr old who didn’t make it to the play. And so I read a couplet, with much gusto, from Vikram Seth’s Beastly Tales from Here and There.

And I never act.

11Theatre

6) I’ve started doing outdoorsy stuff like I once used to. Whether its joining the hugsband on the odd ride when he goes cycling, or playing a sport.

5Friends Play

But Lagori with the neighbours? I totally never saw that coming.

Its mutated from a daily game of lagori into kho-kho, badminton and all sorts of obscure village games we fished out from the deep recesses of our humble colony upbringing.

7) I spent a fair bit of time writing letters this year. I was a bit obsessed at one point. Frantically writing them out every single day. Extremely satisfying to lick the stamps and post them off.

12Letters

But receiving letters in response, beats it all.

8) And then at some point, this happened!

8Love

For just 10 days this year, we turned into accidental parents of these fur babies. And briefly, I warmed up to the idea of keeping pets. Much as I like the idea of keeping dogs, the commitment to care for them for life, and turn my whole life upside down to accommodate their needs has kept me from doing it. I’m a commitment-phobe in this respect. I love my life way too much to have to make a change and put myself in the position where I will not be able to take off for an extended outing because I have to rush home to feed a dog, or to not be able to go on a weekend drive out of town because I have nowhere to leave the dogs, or to have to walk them three times a day in the rain (of which we have plentyyyyy here).

9-9Critters

But we woke up one morning in February and found these critters at our doorstep. They were barely 20 days old and some mean woman had picked the girls out of the fresh littler, put them in a box, driven all the way to my lane and dumped them in a gutter. Yeah we don’t like girl-doggies in this country, is it a wonder what happens to girls of the human kind?

It was heartbreaking, but I held my ground and fed them in a little bowl outside the gate, hoping their mother could come find them. No such luck. VC fell headlong in love, took them inside our yard and we named the black one Hash and the brown one Brownie (hash-brownie, get it?).

9VC Love

Life changed dramatically. We’d begin and end our days outside, at the doorstep. Feeding, petting, cuddling and generally being entertained by these fur balls. They had made themselves very much at home in a carton I had lined and put out for them. I wasn’t ready to take them into the house yet.But I was hopelessly in love, in no time at all. I was their primary caregiver, peeking my head out the balcony on the hour to ensure they weren’t wandering on the streets, or being too adventurous in my yard. I’d feed them three times a day and they’d recognise me when I came, run up to my feet and beg for food. I got no work done that week because I was downstairs playing with them, or just watching them, more than I was upstairs at my desk.

7Pets Love

I wrote a post about how we had decided to keep them. But I never ended up posting it because in 10 days, Hash developed Parvo — a fatal gastro infection that attacks dogs that haven’t had enough mother’s milk to build a strong immune system. There is little that can be done to fight the disease, even lesser if the puppies are not with their mother. We took them to the local animal rescue where they would be better cared for than in our home and our inexperienced hands.

Leaving them behind was the most gut wrenching thing I’ve done in a while. I bawled like a baby as I walked back to my car and couldn’t drive because I couldn’t see through the tears. I went back every day for a week to check on them, but Hash got progressively worse and pretty soon Brownie caught the infection too. The plan was to hope against hope that they recover and adopt them when they were healthy and fit to be taken home again. Unfortunately neither made it. Now I think I can handle pets, sometime in the future. I’m willing to try, and I never imagined the day would come.

9) I’ve jumped into a lot of fun projects this year, on account of having more free time and less serious commitments. There was the Happy video that was creatively, super satisfying. And then there was the Dare video which we made right before the World Cup began. I am by no means a great dancer. Not even a good one. I used to be shy and inhibited about doing things like this in public — I never participated in college fests and the like. But somehow I care less these days (some might say I ought to care just a little bit ;)) and when Princy asked if I’d be in her Zumba video, I jumped right in.

The husgand and I have been taking our foodeos rather seriously, and it has given birth to many a video-keeda in our brains. I have fallen in love with the medium and plans to make several food and non food related videos over what’s left of this year, are afoot.

Over the course of a week in June, I helped my neighbour paint, distress and re-paint her dining set. I have never thought I had the patience or the creativity with fine hand work, and yet when she asked, I committed to it.

13Projects

Afternoons in the sun were spent scraping paint and polish off 6 chairs and a table, until we had blisters, distempering and patiently waiting for them to dry and then scraping it all off again with that decidedly distressed look. In the bargain, I learned that distressing furniture (something that I have lusted over at Chor Bazaar and several expensive boutique stores) is deadly simple. It’s basically the organised way of taking something brand new, painting it, and scraping it all downto look old. It’s tiring and time consuming because it’s all physical work, but now I know that if the itch ever strikes again, I can do it myself, without having to spend a fortune on buying fakely distressed furniture!

10) And speaking of projects, I think I’ve turned into a pretty decent Project Manager. In February, when Arundati visited Goa, Aparna, she and I met and casually talked about having a Food Bloggers Meet. We began by imagining it to be a small event that wouldn’t attract more than 15-20 people, we’d get some bloggers to come talk about topics of interest and generally take the party offline. Since we know so much about each other only through the world of the web and our blogs, we thought it would be nice to meet for real.

IFBMeet_Logo

We began working on the idea slowly, and rather organically when we were all busy doing our little bit to make it happen, the event has morphed into this massive project in our little hands. The Indian Food Bloggers Meet is now slated to be an annual event. The agenda is super exciting and we have received almost 40 registrations and the total participation has crossed 50 members. We started by making cold calls to sponsors who would help make the event happen, and now have some food brands knocking on our doors asking if they can partner with us. We aimed at reaching out to bloggers to speak to us, but the agenda has widened to include experts in food writing, food photography, publishing etc.

We are now in the final run-up and I am stoked by the response we have received. It is the first of its kind national meet for food bloggers in India, and to think it all started in a casual conversation over lunch, in a beach shack in Morjim, just blows my mind. To think that this is happening alongside people who were mere online presences to me a few years ago, who I only knew through the interface of the blogs I have read and loved, and who have now turned friends and fellow organisers (Aparna, Arundati and Nandita) makes it all seem like a bigger feat. I loathed the idea of managing projects, and the little view I had into it at work in the agency life turned me off. But it seems my personality is quite akin to managing projects efficiently, in an organised way, and if the area of work interests me — or as in this case, is close to my heart — I have it in me to pull out all the stops and go at it with all guns blazing. It has been an exciting, humbling, exhilarating an very satisfying experience to be a part of the team that is coordinating this across 4 homes, 3 cities and several different levels of busy-ness in our lives outside of the meet.

I’m looking forward to this being an annual food blogger event that isn’t just about the eating but more about the meeting, one that isn’t driven by commercials or a PR-agenda, where networking is a by product of the main focus which is to share some words, thoughts and a lot of laughs with those that we have read and respected for so long.

11) Incidentally, a few months ago, for the very first time in my life I have gone to the point of having zero income. I was in between projects and I quit my Burro gig — which was the only constant month-on-month fixed assignment I had. I did it for a variety of reasons, and it was a tough call to take, because coupled with the decision to cut back on other assignments and focus on a couple of personal projects has made me 100% dependent on the hugsband. Something I never imagined I would do.

The results have been mixed. I definitely miss the flexibility of having my own income, but I like that it has curtailed a lot of unnecessary expenses. I am now forced to think about every little thing I want to do and question if it is worth my time, and what it will mean for me, and also evaluate every big purchase I make. This is of course a temporary phase, and I will ramp up the assignments when I am done with current projects on hand, but the situation it has put me in has been an eye opener. It has also made me prioritize my time more carefully, pick people and projects wisely and therefore savour the highs even more.

Remember my thoughts on ambition, in this post? More and more I realise that yes, I could continue to work my ass off and there will always be lots of money to be made, but I am okay earning less (even nothing at all, as long as I have enough to survive) if it means it affords me the time to do some of the other things like cook 365 new things a year, or write a book, or learn to dance professionally, train for a marathon — whatever it may be.

For a year with less “work” and more things to do, it hasn’t turned out too shabby, eh?