Nesting

It’s been gloomy all day. Spend the day under a blanket kind of weather. And that’s just what I did. Getting out only briefly to help VC make lunch. He made us steaks with a creamy wine and mushroom sauce today, with sauteed garlicky beans on the side.

I’m happy for days like this, somehow. And I said to VC, how different this whole time might have been if he or I or both of us had full time jobs that took us outside.id have definitely missed this opportunity for nesting in the way that we have.

Something about the luxury of that has meant cocooning some more. And it has been very good for us.

One year ago: Reflections
Two years ago: I wouldn’t change a single thing

Things worth remembering (part 2)

There’s more where this came from.

Rainy Bangalore evenings. Still not nearly as many as I’d have liked, with nearly not heavy enough rain for my preference. But it’ll do. I’ll take it. Even prefaced with sultry pre-rain mornings, tantalisingly grey afternoons finally turning to pregnant dark skies that only break in the evening. So, so, so Bangalore. So much love. Of course all this overflowing love is because there’s no chance of getting stuck in post-rain traffuck situations. So much nicer to enjoy this from the safety of my home where it seems I’m going to be for the rest of the year.

If there’s anything that tops a perfectly rainy day, it’s a tea-time production complete with snacks. I have become quite the tea-time glutton through this lockdown. I cannot seem to have my evening chai, the only cup I consume on any given day, without a snack of some kind. VC has been watching me with amusement and adoration, turning to mild worry these days hahahahaha.

The three of us are up to no good. Something is brewing and it has made us make a record number of calls late into the night because we’re managing time-zones across two continents. So long after my neighbourhood (and husband) has gone to sleep, I sneak out of bed and get on the phone. In no time at all, I’m giggling. No matter what we talk about, I find myself in splits.

The day before therapy last week, I gave myself a session of therapy by mindfully making myself this stack of egg (omelette), ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled to a perfect gold, under the careful guidance of D, who also very, very kindly provided the ham. The best ham the city has, I think. Sometimes this is what self-care looks like.

Sat down one rainy afternoon for a little session of sound painting. My sister is doing these Ways of Seeing sessions, and they’re such a great way to sneak in an hour of quiet, self-involved, downtime while playing with colour — whatever you’ve got handy. Open to people of all ages — young and old. No prior experience or skills needed. I would so totally recommend this if you’re inclined to just spend some time with yourself, exploring, expressing. Quietly, without anyone having to judge, see or understand what you’re doing.

One year ago: Simple
Four years ago: Begin

Things worth remembering (part 1)

The last two weeks were an emotional landslide, to say the least. I constantly felt the undertow tugging at me, dragging me down and asking me to slip and slide and go under. I was torn between giving in to it and letting to, or flapping my arms around to stay afloat. I did bits of both — neither with very much success.

At some point last week, things began to turn ever so slowly. Then the weekend came and I noticed an observable, significant shift. Yesterday, I felt anew again. I’m getting better at witnessing the natural (and maybe necessary?) ebbs and flow in my emotional energy. I also see how, often, the movement is aligned with either the moon, or some planetary movement that’s on the cards. I just notice, there’s nothing to be done. But it helps be lighter and easier when the shifts and slips and slides come, as they do. And it helps mark the moments when things aren’t spiralling and feeling well isn’t so entirely out of my grasp. Moments when I can breathe deeply and fill myself with life-giving air. When I can smile softly, subtly. When I can stretch myself and take up space fiercely. When I can enjoy life’s little gifts, however minute. I like remembering those moments.

Cooking and allied kitchen/domestic activities have taken me through the last three months of uncertainty. Giving me that window of groundedness and familiarity — predictability — in a time where things are anything but predictable. And after consistently leaning on this habit for over three months, my hectic schedules the last two weeks meant planning, shopping for, cooking and consuming wholesome meals was the first thing to fall to the side. This was the first proper meal I cooked after cleaning out my fridge last week. Mixed veggie stir fry in oyster sauce with broken red matta rice.

Been stalking these critters twice a day, everyday, for the last 10 days or so ever since I spotted them. Watching their every move ever since, as they are fast growing out of the gutter where they were birthed. Also exercising massive amounts of self-control to keep from giving in to my own achy heart that wants to take the dusty brown one in, and also VC’s incessant chatter about this spotting of puppies is the last in a string of “signs” that we should get one.

A surprise Sunday morning video call with the nugget/rosogulla/dumpling/firecracker of a new niece. It’s all kinds of surreal, yet somehow acceptable, that I have barely any smidgen of an ongoing relationship with so many of my cousins, but one of them has a baby this cute and suddenly I want to video call them?

The “new normal” featuring a live Kunal Kamra show via Zoom. It was more like hanging out in a room with a comedian and a bunch of random people, listening to the comedian talk about a realllllyyy random collection of things and being funny some times, and less like a live show I’d catch on stage. But it was interesting, and I stayed up later than usual for it, and I laughed a lot.

Three years ago: What coming home feels like: Bangalore sky porn
Four years ago: Kursi ki peti

Outdoors

In the midst of all the madness last week, I managed to wake up early, put my mask on and head out for my first outdoor run in over three months. I swear, I cried a little.

And because I felt so good, I went again, the very next day. It was raining, a typicaly Bangalore morning, feathery drizzle all the way through my entire run. It felt so great to be outdoors, and so good to be running in the rain.

It’s all the exercise I could manage. But it gave me a burst of energy and good hormones I so needed. I took the weekend off from volunteering, and lay low. Feeling feels. Journaling, painting, listening to music. Eating greasy Chinese take out. Crying and laughing. Sleeping. Not exercising. Just listening.

Then Monday came around, and I knew from the moment I woke up and stepped out of bed that it was going to be better. This week, I’m looking forward to gently getting my exercise and cooking routine back on track. Infections are spiking in Bangalore again and I’m not feeling so safe to head out again for a run. It was short-lived joy, but I think I’ll pass for now. Back to those home workouts that I’ve not done in two weeks now. My fridge was a mess, overstocked, but chaotic with nothing cohesive to make a meal from. I cleared it out and set that right over the weekend and already, I feel so much better.

As much as I am raring to get going, I clearly am not ready to dive into the deep end, so I have had to reign myself in and stay with what I can do and what my body and mind is allowing for. This whole experience has been a live lab for all my learning in boundaries, empathy, holding space for the other while also making space for everything that it rakes up within me. And I’m quite pleased with how I have pulled myself through it. Not punishing myself, but staying very close to what I need and taking it when I must.

Two years ago: Love on the weekend   
Four years ago: I’m only procrastinating to avoid the discomfort

Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

The fullness of ease and balance

Going through another phase of really enjoying this stay-in business. Cooking, gardening, exercising, cleaning, pottering, tending to forgotten corners of the house, napping, bingeing on TV, staying up late, spring cleaning, hanging out with VC, chatting with Niyu, video-calling S. There seems to be time for it all. All the things I usually put off for “later” is here in the now.

There’s also no rush about any of it. I wake up and go with the way I’m feeling on any given morning. Energetic, sprightly? Great! A little lazy and wanting to sleep in? Let’s do that, let’s exercise later and get about the day accordingly, not doing all that I might ave planned to. Feeling downright lazy? Cancel the day.

This morning I had one of those slow days. I nearly skipped exercising altogether, because there were chores to be done and that usual toss-up played out: workout and skip chores or skip chores and workout? Except a third choice is emerging these days. One that only comes up when I’m not time-bound. So I worked out, slowly, because that’s the kind of day it was. No high-intensity jumping about. And then we got to the chores, VC doing his bit, me doing mine. And I took twice the amount of time I usually do. Going about it probably “inefficiently” — but it was okay. At lunch time VC made grilled cheeses toasts for me, and Maggi for him, while I cut up a plate of mangoes. And we called it lunch.

This is new for us. Certainly very new for me. This level of relaxation, the ease, the ability to just go with the way the day is unfolding and the way my body feels. An older me might have fretted about the slow start, the sloth in my body, and tried to whip myself to be productive and efficient. I might have felt terrible about wasting an entire morning to chores. I might have felt really guilty about VC having to make me “lunch” and a lunch of bread cheese, processed noodles and mangoes just wouldn’t cut it.

But somehow, it’s okay. There have been many days like this, and they’ve all been okay.

I have had phases of easing up like this before, and every time it has come from being very tuned in to what I am feeling. This is no different, I want to say. Except there is a difference. No previous phase has lasted this long, and been so enjoyable. Something has changed, the energy around this ease is different this time around.

It has come with a deeper connection, a newfound ability to fill out time, take space and take place, and really lean into intentionality a little bit more. Every little mundane thing that I do, feels very intentional. And I have a tiny inkling that is what has made the difference.

Our home feels more lived in, because I feel more present to every corner. Dusting, tending, prettying — because I now have to do it all and I have discovered I have the time, the patience and I enjoy it. The garden is abloom because we’re much more involved than we have been. I feel the fittest and leanest I have in a long while, because there’s so much more movement and exercise happening even outside of the scheduled workouts. We’re hanging out and conversing and enjoying things together — games, movies, silence.

Last week was a tumultuous one. For me, but consequently for VC too. I felt volatile and I erupted more than once. It was emotionally challenging. I felt and expressed anxiety that what we have had and enjoyed will not last forever, that it will be ruined. I felt torn up about that, horrible that I had no control in doing what one needs to to just make it stay. Until I realised; of course it’s going to change. Of course it’s not going to last forever. Of course it’s not in my control. 

And then things eased up again. Differently, this time. I know something very elemental has changed for us during this period of lockdown. I know things have shifted for VC, and I know they certainly have for me. Even though the physical reality of our life isn’t very different from before, something is different. Especially now than when the lockdown began.

It feels like a return. A return to connection, return to love, return to beauty and a return to ease and balance. And this feeling has really filled me up most days this past week.

The biggest difference by far though, is that I am not hanging on to it. I am not filled with thoughts of wanting to bottle it up for the future. I am just here, experiencing the balance, within and without. Witnessing the ease and flow that has made a remarkably different entry. Savouring this fullness now. As it is.

One year ago: Renewed relationships
Two years ago: April

Just now

It gave me joy to do something for just myself yesterday. 90 minutes spent alone at home, by myself and with myself. At two points when we were required to place our palms on our heart centre, my eyes welled up profusely.

Practicing a form of yoga that isn’t about the physical body as much as it is about the emotional body. No getting sweaty and breathing heavy. No complex poses. No challenging the body physically. Just steady, mindful breathing for a whole 90 minutes, while observing what comes up emotionally, when the body is placed in certain ways.

As someone who has a strong physical practice that is all about the challenge, rigour and stretching my limits, and most definitely performing better, this is a challenge but surprisingly, as I discovered yesterday, also a delight.

***

Things I am desperately craving:

  • A really cold, crisp beer
  • A run in the park. Heck, even around the block would be good, right now
  • A good, meaty burger
  • Cool, crunchy papdi chaat, with cold dahi and pomegranate on top

Things that are making me really happy right now:

  • My plants (I’ve started to call it a garden) are thriving again, the hibiscus flowering regularly, all babies growing up very quickly, new shoots and leaves and buds showing up in places they haven’t before
  • Thums up
  • Mangoes
  • The silence

One year ago: Slow and steady
Two years ago: The times, they are a-changing
Four years ago: Go far, they said

Zen

Woke up this morning and just felt like it had to be one of those days with no routine. Even though I’m always saying routine is what keeps me going. Especially during this lockdown, it has been the anchor to my days. But this is hardly a time to be exacting and rigid. I have been much more relaxed about having the day going to “plan” lately, and it has helped.

I spent a good half hour tending to my plants. Half an hour is really a lot, given the size of my balcony. I thrilled at the roots that are cropping up in many little babies I’m propagating in water. I pruned the bougainvillea that’s behaving odd.

Then I did some really mundane stuff like hang out the sheets that had washed overnight, put some dahi to set and figured out lunch. There’s some new excitement about roaming about my home in the day time, every morning feeling like Sunday morning. Doing things in that unhurried, slow way that is usually reserved for Sundays.

I skipped working out today. VC did the dishes as usual and I skipped cleaning. Had a late shower and settled in to TV time. Niyu cooked us a splendid, mindblasting dinner — eggplant lasagne with a roasted pepper and beetroot salad. It took her a couple of hours in the afternoon.

By then it was chai time. I’ve taken to having adrak chai every evening and it’s a bit of a production that is more exciting than the drinking itself. I enjoy it. Everyday last week I ate a maska-fied bun toasted on the tava, along with the chai. The period has come and gone and I no longer feel the need for the additional carbs hahaha. So today, I skipped that bit.

VC went off for a run and Niyu went home to workout, and I spent some time by myself, catching up on work and answering emails. There’s suddenly a spike in requests for readings and I have been thinking what that might be about.

Dinner was earlyish, as has become the norm these days. We ran out of alcohol some days ago strangely, quite unlike me, I have been craving some Coke ever since. It’s been in short supply in the neighbourhood. But today VC managed to score some imported, extra sweet, overpriced Pepsi. I drank it in a wine glass, with lots of ice and a slice of lime, like it was contraband. Dinner was mindblowing. And not because I had that Pepsi with it.

I am enjoying this easy rhythm of life. The minimalist days, the liberty to quit my days plan and go freewheeling, the simple home-bound joys.

I am truly realising what my most-needed essentials are and what I can absolutely do without. Right from the likes of atta and milk, butter, rice and eggs to people and things.

What I do need though, is a good brownie. A haircut. And birthday cake in a few weeks, thanks to the lockdown being extended.

One year ago: And thanks, Goa
Four years ago: Imperfect timing

Good things

that have come from this stay-in. Just some things I’ve started to pay attention to, enjoy/care about more than I used to before this strange, strange time:

The value of housework. And by value I mean the actual worth. I am totally rethinking how much I’m paying my help enough. And I’m a muddle of thoughts about all the unpaid labour housewives put in and how much of themselves they are forced to forget in the bargain.

Folding the laundry, doing the dishes, mopping the floors down on my haunches. Thanking my stars for having a small (manageable) home. Finding the daily dose of happy by tending to my plants diligently again.

Cooking twice a day, every day. Managing efficiency with groceries. I’m frightfully aware of consumption and wastage lately. We’re becoming champs at repurposing leftovers all the time. Salad becomes raita. Dal goes into paratha dough. Bits and bobs in the veggie tray get roasted up and piled on toast, coffee grounds go into my plants. And it feels really good to be using up everything that’s in my fridge and kitchen to the max.

Cleaning methi leaves. Making dahi every single day. Remembering to soak nuts every night.

Video calls. I’m not much of a phone person. It’s only in recent time that I’ve started to enjoy telephone conversations with some people. Video calls were saved for work and readings. And suddenly now I’m doing it so often, so easily.

Working out alone. Working out at home. Treating the half hours of sweeping and mopping the floor as my full body cardio warm up hahaha. This has forced me to get really innovative with my exercise. Trying that new yoga class on Zoom.

Getting comfortable with finding pockets of routine in days that are really not uniform and where no two days are the same. Being okay with having no routine. I feel quite relaxed.

Not knowing what tomorrow will be like. Imperfection. Taking time out to make myself happy, either by cooking something I want to eat, or finding that window of time to paint, being flexible with exercise.

Holding grief and allowing for it when it comes. Learning to be okay with witnessing it and not making meaning.

Realising I’m in a space of retreat again. Not having much to say about it. Watching as it’s making my relationships change. Not doing a thing about it.

Waiting. Uncertainty. Pause. Going really slow.

Justin Bieber. That daily sugary evening adrak chai with a small unhealthy snack.

Who knew.

Two years ago: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Four years ago: Weekending

At home

In today’s edition of excessive-but-necessary domesticity, we made a batch of homemade paneer by curdling 2 litres of milk. Because while milk has been in abundant (daily) supply where I live, paneer and cheese has not.

Yesterday, it was a whole wheat plum galette. Yeah, apparently I’m that person now. Because we had plums (only fruit available on the clean shelves in the supermarket) that tasted like nothing really and I didn’t want to bin them. This, in addition to house cleaning chores, unending dishes (because we are a house of three foodies who are taking our meals very seriously even in isolation), laundry (what with working out everyday) and cleaning the bathrooms, the actual cooking itself and what not.

So it’s no wonder that this week, I haven’t had it all chill and easy like the last few weeks. Suddenly I’m wondering where is that free time and hashtag-slowlife everyone has been talking about. It’s also mega amusing how I do the most basic, essential-for-life things that I otherwise outsource blindly for a few days and I cannot resist the urge to max it out and I do somewhere feel like I deserve a prize for it. It’s messed up, no?

I mean, this is life. This is normal. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary — okay if you discount the baking and the extraaaa domesticity — it’s just cooking, cleaning, and focusing on being healthy and responsible, during this time. What’s the big deal, man? It kind of made me wonder how distant I am from these very normal functions of life, and it’s something I’m going to try and correct even after things normalise, to the extent possible.

Slowly beginning to see that not everything from my “normal”, old life may be worth returning to once things go back.

***

We had a beautiful, mellow, cotton candy sunset yesterday. And I rearranged my pots in the morning. The most unexpected plants are thriving — and I think it’s the clean air.

I’m not bored being home as yet, seeing as how I have had a lot going on. And even before that, the silence and stillness has been good. But today I said to VC and Niyu, I do want an Andhra meal. Or a coffee at Third Wave. Or a good wood fired pizza. Mostly, going out is about the food for me, I realise. Everything else I need is right here with me. Immense gratitude for that, given how impossibly devastating this has been for so many others. I struggle to make sense of the dissonance of it all. And I find no answers.

One year ago: Blank
Four years ago: Fullness

 

Food for my soul

It’s now been almost an entire month of no exercise, and even though I had grand plans to get back to eating normally (after the Manali holiday), here in Goa, that was not to be either. I tried, and realised very quickly that between extended Diwali shenanigans, meeting friends over meals, going to the beach, and general state of relaxation that has ensued, it wasn’t a sensible idea to force eating “right”. So I gave in and went with the flow instead.

There has been a lot of beer, a lot of alcohol, a lotttt of sugar (unbelievable amounts in fact, in comparison to how much I’ve cut it out of my diet), a lot of eating at odd times, ordering in, eating out and a lot more meat than I have been used to lately.

It’s always fun for a short while. I realise eyes and my brain that dream up the food I want to eat, enjoy it far more than my tummy does these days. Nearly a year f consciously eating better, eating cleaner and generally listening to my system has made it quite…not sensitive, but balanced, in a way that it is quick to protest when the balance goes off kilter.

I’m ready to hit reset and go right back to eating two meals a day, cutting table sugar out completely and eating home-cooked food again. But there’s still some days to go before I can do that. Tonight, the temptation of a new joint that’s doing momos and street-style North-Eastern fare has lured me out to dinner again. Then there’s the weekend before we leave on Monday or Tuesday.

So today, I gave my tummy a break from all the indulgence with the comfort food that I most crave when I hit periods like this. Those chips have become a staple in my meals here — see what I mean by off kilter?

I recently told D that I have discovered the easiest trick to sustain any kind of food plan and make it stick and work is to allow for moderation. I find that I do that by including semi-frequent indulgences and the occasional falling off the bandwagon. That said, this has been a good year for fitness, for pushing boundaries physically, for getting closer in touch with my body, for health, for food, for finding balance and for wellness.

Gratitude today for all the ways in which opportunities aligned for me to focus on my health this year. Whether it was finding means to sustain my regimen through all the travel, reconnecting with a trainer whose methods really worked for me (over distances even), finding a sense of balance with myself that encouraged me to keep going, discovering joy in running, living within walking distance of the gym, walking on Sunday mornings pretty consistently for nearly a year now — I feel like this year I really found my groove with fitness and didn’t have to really effort much. Things fell into place, they happened, and I just moved through it with minimal difficulty and very little mental doing. It helped save all my focus for actually working out instead.

One year ago: These days are better than that
Two years ago: More Goa postcards: Walking through Mapusa market
Three years ago: Light and life

Home base

I simply cannot overstate the wonderous effects that a done-to-death routine, based entirely in ordinary homely acts, does to make me feel grounded.

Today has been an utterly mundane day, borne out of complete and basic necessity. It’s been a good, steadying day and very early on, plodding through, I realised how easily pleased days like this make me feel.

I drove to Panjim and back this morning, cooked Niyu some upma for breakfast, had myself a simple smoothie and spent the morning catching up with the Internet that I have ignored for about a week now. I finished up reading one of the books recommended for class, before we meet again next week. And then I napped, waking up in time to cook — broccoli soup, salad and garlic toasts for dinner — and pick VC up from work.

It’s rained for the most part, that deeply soothing hum of rainfall that’s become a refrain in the background, now feeling almost meditative. And when it wasn’t raining, it’s been overcast with just that little leak of light.

There is something to be said of this minimalistic life I tend to have when I’m here, in this way and in this stage, in this home that we’ve specifically made, bare bones, stripped down and inward focused.

One year ago: Is someone getting the best of you?
Three years ago: What happens when you go cycling in the rain

The rain

Hi, from Goa, where I have arrived to not enough rain. But only just enough to inspire some Vada pav cravings as soon as I landed.

Right from the airport, I headed off to VCs office to catch up with him and head home together. Today was one of those ultra efficient days with everything operating ahead of time, from the moment I left home in Bangalore. So I got there much earlier than anticipated. In order to kl some time, I dragged my suitcase and two handbags down, two streets away, in the drizzle to Cafe Aram because the settings were just right.

The gentlest drizzle, a sniffle in my nose, a I peaceful journey, and lunch six hours ago. I ducked into the buzzing tea room. Fond memories of my last cuppa chai had there the day before welved from Goa wafting back to my mind.

The tables are snug, a little too snug for comfort. And of course one also sits where there’s place, sharing humble eating space with just about anybody. Often, this results in staring into other people’s plates as one waits for food to arrive, from no apparent reason except that, it’s there, so close.

Few things kindle nostalgia and fondness, a sense of home, as speedily as food. So as soon as my vada pav and chai had arrived and I took a bite of it, immediately I felt at home. Despite the fact that I looked visibly like an outsider. With just the way I look, and strolley in tow.

There is something about a tea room at 6 pm on the heart of Panjim. The vibe just brings you back to ground reality.

It was such a good way to begin. To come back home.

Outside, the rain began to fall harder and noisily.

One year ago: I choose to be happy
Two years ago: I need to sit with the quiet, I know that much

Three years ago: The rain, the rain

Warm

This time, in Wayanad, I had the privilege of meeting with so many people my father has befriended over the last two years that he has pretty much lived there. Through smatterings of Malayalam, conversing in animated gesticulations and a lot of telepathy, he has managed to make friends. It helps that the people of the village he lives in are just so warm, open and hospitable. Ive been hearing about this, about them, for months now, but nothing prepared me for just how warm they could be, until I saw it myself this past weekend.

In the way that my father was waving, stopping to say hello, exchanging nods of familiarity and warmth with just about everyone, wherever we roamed along the long stretch of road that the home sits on. In the way that so many of those people, when they realised my mother and I were visiting, absolutely jumped at suggesting the idea of having us over, many insisted, and a couple were successful in convincing us. What followed was an overwhelming hospitality that I have not seen in a while. Literal strangers with whom I can actually barely converse (We don’t speak the same language) but who have a strange affinity for my father, this man building an impossible/unbelievable looking home in their neighbourhood, opened their homes out to us, laid their dining tables out with the best home-cooked food and snacks and just had us, hook line and sinker.

So we met, ate and dined with, got taken on house tours of new and ancient houses alike, ate home-grown fruit, learned about ancient bonsai and home-grown plants, and even got sent home with doggie bags of giant home-grown papayas, bunches of bananas, and seriously the very best pazhampori I have eaten in a very, very long time.

So now you know what added to my heart-full feels. (Belly was very full too, teehee)

It got me thinking about how this warmth, this wearing my ones heart on ones sleeve, being un-fearful, outgoing and just so open to experience and connection can dramatically change the quality of an interaction. It has the capacity to cross barriers of language, culture, socio-economic strata and bring people together in a bond of pure love. It’s something we definitely lose in big cities, where the hustle to just get ahead, the insular nature of life, the pressure to make meaning and tangible value of all interactions takes away something very tender and soft about connecting with a human being for just that — connecting, alone. It also makes us fearful, competitive, cagey. And in the process we’re definitely poorer for it.

Some part of my mind was cracked open by this experience, this brush with strangers who felt nothing like it, this thought post interacting with them. And I hope it sinks deeper and cracks my heart open too.

One year ago: Take a minute, I’ve been sitting here, wondering
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: seeking solitude

Happy bytes

The instructor on my workout video has this refrain whenever the workout hits a particularly tough or burn-inducing spot. Right when I’m wincing at that last rep, about to give up, he’ll go Just go to your happy place! and two months ago when I began using this channel, I’d chuckle, roll my eyes and have a giggle at his morbid sense of humor.

This morning though, right in the middle of all that burn, something like 45 burpees in, when he said Just go to your happy place! I suddenly got it. Even in that eye-popping, muscle-stretching moment, while I was melting nose-first, when I could have been seeing white spots in front of my eyes, I had such an endorphin rush I burst out laughing. In a truly happy, full-body guffaw of sorts.

I’m so happy that I’m back in this old familiar zone, even though I feel like a whole new me this time around. Where the exercise isn’t a pain or a chore (like it had become through 2017-18), and is in fact a joy-inducing, happy-making activity I am willing to put other things aside for, dedicating myself mind, body and soul.

***

Speaking of happy places, it’s been five years since P and I made the Goa Happy video, our little contribution to the literally thousands of local spin-offs to the Pharrell Williams song that took the internet by storm in 2014. So I revisited it!

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

I spent the weekend with D, because VC went away on a bike trip with work buddies to Gokarna. I think after food, therapy and tarot, the thing we’ve started to discuss the most is plants and gardening, and as usual (as always — I realised I’ve always left her home with plants or cuttings or both, on this trip) I came home with so many new things to pot.

I came away earlier than I usually would have. Ostensibly to catch a Sunday nap, wake up in my own home so I have the mojo to cook and settle back in, rather than be washed out by Sunday evening blues as it tends to happen to me.

What followed though made me want to stop and think, What Sunday blues?! because I woke up from my nap and went straight out into the terrace. I planted a whole bunch of fresh cuttings of plants I wanted that she’d painstakingly made for me, I repotted some plants that have grown too big for their pots over these few weeks, and I did sundry round of tending to everything, picking out dead leaves, watering, loosening soil and the works. All this while listening to Coke Studio that has made a timely pre-monsoon comeback in my life, right on cue.

The evening light was beautiful, and we’ve had a warmer couple of days so there was the residual heat of the day, as the sun is getting the full effect of the last of it’s rays in. My terrace was strewn with picked weeds, dry leaves, piles and trails of soil from all the dirty work, pools of water, muddy footprints. The sun set in a glorious pink yesterday, and when I looked up I was a sweaty, muddy mess. Such a joy. Such bliss. I didn’t realise I had kept going long after the sun had set, until VC walked in and laughed at how engrossed I had been.

***

Last weekend I cooked pork ribs for the very first time on my own. Following no recipe, winging it as I went along, throwing things in intuitively. And it turned out beyond delicious, if I can say so myself.

This has been happening a lot of late. The draw to go experiment, without too much planning, going in and going all the way. Some days are for the simply comforting givens like khichdi, and some days we pull out all stops and go the whole hog.

Either way, the kitchen has been a huge source of comfort for me these past few weeks. I’ve said so much about the peace and quiet and solitude staying in Goa offers me. And as much as I have enjoyed it, last week I realised I am ready for the hustle of my Bangalore life again. But this kitchen joy, the steadiness and joy that it brings to me, is something I want to try and keep going in Bangalore. Even if I am cooking in Amma’s kitchen, or even if I’m cooking for just myself at home.

Today, I’ve just cooked a marinara sauce, fortified with minced carrots and smashed stove-top charred red and yellow peppers, with smoky cumin and coriander and lots of red chilli flakes. I tossed up some frozen meatballs in some olive oil, and I will put them together right before we eat, mopping it up with millets and a salad.

***

After the bursts of those quintessential curly edged long green leaved mango trees, delicate frangipani and bougainvillea, we’re at that time of year where the gulmohar trees have come alive in all their glory. Literally everywhere, there are these clouds of fiery red, leaf-less trees, curvy and orb like when seen from a distance, eye-hurting flaming red when seen up close.

***

I’m all set to go back to Bangalore. I feel like this time of rest has been amazing, and well-timed and I am so refreshed and ready to get back to regular programming. I’m excited at the blank canvas sense I have for the next few weeks, and I feel certain I need to be in Bangalore as it unfurls.

Looking back, I’m so happy for the unexpected twist that brought me to Goa earlier than time, and kind of set a very different tone to the way the last two months have gone. It was unpleasant and challenging at the time and induced a fair bit of anger, frustration and resistance within me at the time, but as usual, as always, I can only connect the dots looking back.

It’s abundantly clear to me that there was no escaping this time, or the gifts it has brought, foremost amongst which has been the quality of the time VC and I have had together this trip. It’s been different. There was a quiet, reassuring and steady quality to it that hasn’t been there for a while — probably ever since we moved to Bangalore two years ago — that I didn’t know was missing until we somehow have regained it while not even looking for it. And so while I am looking forward to going back to Bangalore, this time around I am already feeling the pangs of missing him that I am anticipating will follow.

This is new. I have been so busy and involved with myself for the last six months, there hasn’t been a lot of room to sit and miss him really. I’ve been having a really good time in Bangalore, too much to let the usual longing dampen it. So this is going to be interesting.

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things