Day 346: Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

Gratitude today, for being in Bangalore. Because if it weren’t for being here, I wouldn’t have:

  1. taken the course I did, which has led me to the very best sources of everything else that I need, such as:
  2. the kind of doctor who spent over an hour with me, patiently listening, getting exactly what I was saying, only spoke when asked and opened her side of the conversation by asking if I was bi or hetero. And then proceeded to smash every single pre-conceived notion I had harboured
  3. the therapist I have been looking for
  4. the right friends for the right time. S showed up at home with flowers yesterday. It’s not with everybody that I can spend half a day in perfect silence, each of us chipping away silently and diligently at our work, and then taking a break to eat lunch, followed by a few hours of non stop, high-stimulation conversation

This week has reinforced a kind of belonging that comes with a sense of feeling like the universe’s luckiest child. It’s only Wednesday, and I’m brimming over with gratitude.

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Day 340: Now I’m free falling

I’ve been feeling drawn to cooking again. And I’ve been feeling equal enthusiasm to make quick dinners of things as simple as eggs and toast as I am for the the slow, laborious, long-drawn out way that the food I grew up eating is made. I realise that primarily, it is the act of using my own hands and brain to create a meal that gives me that kick of dopamine. It happened last week when I made a large pot of pulao, some faux cholle and a mashed pumpkin sabji. And it happened again today when I cooked this meal for A who came over to spend the day.

What is it about this kind of food that takes one right back to ones roots, that spells home? Today it was the wispy fragrance of the just-boiled beans from a freshly released pressure cooker, or the crackling pungent hit of coriander seeds and crinkly red chillies sauteed in coconut oil, or the weedy robust and palpably green smell of freshly barely wilted dill spun in the mixie with fresh spices and coconut, that kindled a warm fullness in my Heart.

A full plate of this sort makes me indescribably happy. And to make and share this with friends — complete with granularity, texture and a transference of the tedium that this sort of meal requires — is extra special. 

There is something about labouring over the food that sustains me. An experience I take for granted on a daily basis when I casually waltz over to Amma’s and eat at her table, and of her giving. Perhaps it’s the slowness, or the act of proceeding in a sequence of actions, or just the sheer meeting point of all the senses, that taps right into that deep, primal dormant fire that is stoked every time a good meal is in the works, and immediately invokes a feeling of connection to The Source. Of belonging. Of roots. Of home. 

Two years ago: Day 340: Happy high

Day 339: Trying to get high enough to cut the clouds

Today was a good day.

For some reason, I woke up extra early. This hasn’t happened in a while. The nippy mornings we’ve been having have meant that even on the off chance that I wake up early, I linger around under my blanket much longer after. Getting out of bed is a task in this weather. But today was different. I actually woke up, managed to finish some work ahead of time today. I also did this reading for D, which uncannily seemed as much a reading for me, as it might be for anyone else who stumbled on it today. Uncanny because of the pondering about friendship that I have been doing, which has been pointing me in this general direction — of surrender and acceptance once again. Uncanny because last night S and I met for dinner and our conversations stirred up these feelings again.

I went across town to meet S for breakfast (and run a few pending errands) and here too, our conversations brought home this fact again. Of accepting changing dynamics, keeping my heart open to the inevitable evolution and to drop expectations and embrace things as they are. Unconditionally.

Breakfast was an elaborate affair that started off on a breakfast-y note, but since we lingered around chatting, while I waited for the person I was meant to meet to arrive, and it was past noon we indulged in some chaat too. I came home in time to catch an afternoon nap and some work, before I headed off veggie shopping to prep for lunch with A tomorrow.

I came home and suddenly felt a cooking frenzy descend. I stuck some tomatoes laced with garlic, basil, salt and pepper in the oven to roast. I set a big pot of vegetable stock on. And I set off cooking tomorrow lunch with guidance and help from Amma who came over for dinner. We made one of my favourite gravies, but with cow-peas (teehee) since they’re in season and because I love them so much. And a cold dill and sour yogurt coconut curry. Then I also made a few Vietnamese cold rolls with fresh carrots, cucumber, spring onions, mint and pan fried peanut-chilli tofu for us to eat with the soup. By then the roasted tomatoes were set to cool, and blended with the vegetable stock to make soup.

I love a day like this that is full, productive and fun. A day that has equal parts work and play, and leaves me feeling content with such seemingly simple pleasures.

I’m grateful, and thankful, today. For the winter chill in the air. For breakfast with S. For her friendship and life-affirming conversations she brings. For serendipitous messages from the universe. For the cabs and autos in Bangalore. For VC, who gets me. For my CA who takes the load of paperwork off our backs. For flexible work hours that allow for the rare nap. For fresh vegetables and the sporadic willingness to cook. For amma and her company. For keeping me well-fed, one way or the other, wether in her kitchen or mine. For light, satisfying dinners. For experiencing living alone and to my own rhythms alone. For turning in at 9 pm.

Day 337: Anyway, I should be doing alright

Before I look back on last month, I want to remember last weekend.

My favourite kind of experiences are those that flow organically, forcing you to go in with no expectations, but emerge with so much more than just the experience. This past weekend was kind of like that, for me. Last week, when I found I had finished up all my assignments for November a week ahead of time, I decided to sign up for 3 days of participation in D and K’s practice module on a whim. Until then I was quite sure I didn’t really need to go, and so my inclination was low. But what I experienced, was far bigger and better than anything I could have anticipated. It was yet another instance of being guided into the right place at the right time, finding myself representing parts that resonated with my own position and patterns in life, prodding me on to look deeper at things I am unconsciously resisting seeing. More than one aha moment occurred and completely unexpected was the impact they have had on me. So deep that I have begun my Monday with a bang, acting on three things that have been mere ideas in my head, very very quickly this morning.

Besides the experience itself, I absorbed, with wonder and humility, yet again, how this work is the gift that just keeps giving. When Im not looking, when I’m not even anticipating it. There is healing and then there is this kind of healing that comes in gentle, timely doses that I feel so blessed to be a part of.

Then there were umpteen, endless conversations with D & K of course. I sometimes wonder when we will run out of things to talk about, and how it is that we always have so much to talk about.

There was also lots of little happy making events. An MTR thali, another opportunity for a whole day in a saree, pani puri, two evenings of enjoyable whiskey drinking after such a long spell of feeling completely not inclined to drinking, greasy Chinese take out, fresh fruit and mithai and eating together.

Early on Sunday morning, D and I went for a long walk again, increasing our pace and distance by a notch. Topping it off with idli-vada and hot coffee makes it worth leaving home that early on a Sunday morning. The rest of the day was spent completely relaxed, and in the evening we caught Bohemian Rhapsody, finally. What a complete treat it was. And once again, it touched me in a way I least expected it to. I thought I’d be entertained, yes. I didn’t think I’d be moved. Moved by the sheer mammoth powerhouse of talent that Freddie Mercury is, and the entire canon of his poetry and art. It’s a beautifully made film, that captures the energy just spot on. In fact, it’s left me feeling like I need to watch it again. Somewhere in between there was coffee in an elephant mug, and mutton mince samosas from Albert Bakery.

I had a good weekend that has filled my heart up. And something tells me there is more to come.

Two years ago: Day 337: November

Day 325: Discover some new truth that was always wrapped around you

[Goddamit, WordPress has gone and changed something around and everything looks different. WHY?! Why do you have an issue with things that work well staying the way they are?!]

With that out of the way, and while I try and figure out how to insert pictures *eyeroll* let me tell you about Auroville (and I’m going to quickly run through this).

All the non-stop running around since 1 September had really left me feeling very exhausted and in need of some deliberate, organised downtime. Outside my own home, removed from the urge to potter around and tidy up and generally keep myself needlessly busy. I have been longing for some time to just sit, be, slow down, empty my head, breathe easy. I wanted to go away somewhere — not fancy where I’d be tempted to sightsee — where I could wander aimlessly, or choose to sit with a book (or two, or three!) uninterrupted. Some likeminded company would have been good, I thought. In a wild, wild coincidence I happened to discuss the idea and the sudden urge to eat at the Solar Kitchen (in Auroville) with A, exactly when she was plotting to go over there on the weekend, by herself. So of course I just tagged along, in what she called our separate “alone trips”. But not without some overthinking of the fact that I would only just be back from Goa less than 48 hours before taking off again, that I have been feeling travelled out and should probably chill. But really, it took a split second to realise two days wasn’t going to change much. So I quit the overthinking and just went. With the express intention of accompanying A to eat at the Solar Kitchen. 

As much as I like elaborate holidays that require planning yada yada, I am oh so very happy with this kind of quick escape, with absolutely no plan whatsoever. We picked a spot to stay within walking distance of the Solar Kitchen. Because, priorities. And allowed the rest of the nonexistent plan to work itself out around that. Which it did, organically, spontaneously and rather beautifully for our liking.

What ensued was two days of mostly wandering around on foot, interspersed with lots of reading and eating. Yeah, basically just that.

The cyclone scare meant the weather while humid and sweaty, wasn’t exactly blistering and painfully hot as it could have been. We had pleasant-ish weather most of the way, which encouraged us to get out a little. We walked a total of 11 kms on day 1, despite spending most of it sitting around reading or eating. We hit the Solar Kitchen, the Auroville Library (which is oh-my-god delightful, and an ideal place to spend many uninterrupted hours, if you enjoy books and silence) and neither spots kicked us out in a rush. So there was much lounging, pulling out our books wherever we were plonked, and proceeding to lose ourselves.

Then we took a loooong one-hour walk to the beach to catch the sunset, making stops at the Auroville Bakery and Farm Fresh to stock up on Auroville goodies, followed by a super-early pizza at Tanto’s before heading back home. 

The great thing about eating at sunset means one still has a couple of hours before bedtime, which we of course spent, surprise surprise, reading, and still slept early enough to rise just after sunrise the next day. We walked upto the MatriMandir, which wasn’t too far off from our guesthouse, but of course we weren’t let in. No amount of referring to the sweet security dude as “uncle” seemed to help. The rest of the morning, post an excellent breakfast of muesli and yogurt with fruit and hot chai, was spent lazing in bed, you guessed right, reading. At lunch time we headed back to Solar Kitchen and hit the Visitor’s Centre to shop for some more goodies before walking back home again. When the sun went down a bit, we hit the beach again — earlier this time — to take in the evening sights and the sunset. A chai stopover later, we were back home to catch yet another dinner and lots of bedtime reading again.

You get the drift right? We were very, very focused on the eating and the reading, strategically planning all our wandering based on where we wanted to stop to eat and the moment we settled in a quiet spot for longer than five minutes, we’d whip out our books and ignore each other. Somewhere in between all this we chatted too, somehow. Lots and lots of chatting, some gossiping, lots of giggling. It was just the weekend I needed, and it couldn’t have panned out better.

We meant to book ourselves tatkal tickets to return on Sunday night, but a slow Internet connection, a two minute delay in catching the window and a large dose of not caring too much meant we missed our chance. And so we ended up staying an extra night only to leave on Monday. Which actually worked out excellently because it meant I got to finish three entire books, have an extra breakfast at the guesthouse and I always prefer leaving fresh on a new day than spend a whole day in anticipation of leaving at sunset (which is always so FOMO-inducing).

Things I enjoyed the most:

  • A train ride after yonks! And unreal excitement about cooking and packing dinner to eat enroute. Train journeys are all about the food for me.
  • Walking, walking, walking. I’ve been feeling the need to move, and walking specifically, has been calling out to me. Ever since I had to make the hard decision to skip the next OXFAM trail-walk (because I’m woefully underprepared this year and in absolutely no shape to wing it) I’ve been feeling the urge to start walking in preparation for next year. Wandering on foot has been such a great way to get a hang of the areas I’ve travelled to, and creates a very different kind of connect with the space that I’ve loved and hadn’t tasted in ages
  • All the reading. To be able to read in silence, as much as yak nonstop is special thing to share with a friend. I’m happy to add another person with whom I can share this with, to my list. 
  • The sense of community at AV. While there’s a confusing slightly disorienting strain to wandering around a hot and sweaty area in Tamil Nadu surrounded by white people who seem to be more in tune with the land than most of us visiting there like outsiders, it definitely triggered a yearning for community living in me. One of the things that’s really come to the fore thanks to living in Bangalore is how isolating and insulating city life can be. In sharp contrast to my life in Goa where I’ve just had the luxury of camping out at a friends for three weeks, where everything is slower and harder to get done but the process leads to uncanny conversations and surprising connections and dependencies always gives me a sense of community and connection that I miss in Bangalore where there’s a palpable dog-eat-dog energy and everyone just fends for themselves and asking for help is so difficult. It warms my heart to see people come together, in whatever form, to nourish and nurture a common vision and I hope and wish that somewhere in my future, I have the means to experience this more deeply.
  • Watching women cycle around with such ease. In dhoti pants, in sarees, in cycle shorts and all the gear — so was so much cycling it made me think back wistfully to my cycling days in Goa.
  • The ease with which I could get up and go. This was a real thrill, one that I am still savouring slowly two days after I’ve been back. This is new and refreshing for me.
  • The food. The food. The food.
  • A visible, slowly permeating shift in my own ability to connect with people one-on-one. While on the one hand I’ve been talking about and feeling a sense of needing a community, deeper within, I’ve sensed a shift of sorts in my own personal connection with people. My “groups” seem to be dwindling fast, and it’s putting me in a very different space, forging healthier, more stable, and most importantly hassle-free equations with many of those same people, as individuals. It has come with a fair amount of anxiety about something very deep and innate about me changing, the resistance to let the comforts of an old and stable pattern go, but it has also been oddly liberating and that has encouraged me to push thru, let down my guard and not worry too much about the old ghosts that rear their heads so often. 
  • The sea. I realise I visit the beach so little in Goa, that going to the beach elsewhere is still a treat. I made a mental note to make the effort to go to the sea more often when I’m back in Goa, because it’s a luxury I don’t want to take for granted.

Day 324: I’m feeling outshined

I wanted to write about the weekend, the food we ate, why we walked so much and the thoughts about community living that I’ve been having swimming around in my brain. But cleaning up my WhatsApp media just now, I saw these pictures and felt the ache of a big twitch in my heart.

Easy love. In three simple steps.

Irrevocable, irreversible, love. I’m grateful to have received this and have it touch me in a strange and unexpected way.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that in the emotional department, humans have nothing on dogs. In my next life, I want to be a sausage doggie in a home that will keep me well.

Day 323: So we want to stay, but we can’t find peace while sitting

Back from a weekend away at Auroville with A. I’m feeling enriched and energised. It was the kind of getaway where we meant to be away for one night but ended up staying two. And even with the extra time, spent 70% of our time with our noses stuck deeply in our respective books, stopping for nothing but meals, wandering in search of meals and chatting about past and future meals for the remaining 30% of our time, all the while contorting our lazing bodies into shapes conducive for uninterrupted reading but that gave one of us a crick in the neck and another to finish three books over the weekend.

A has been telling me about the poetry of Jeet Thayil for a while now. I’m not too big on poetry but sometimes something so apt comes my way and makes me wonder if it’s time to venture into these unexplored territories. In an unexpected coincidence while hunting for what to read next, I stumbled on this absolute piece of perfection, which I have just discovered is in his recent collection.

Home

Give me a home 
that isn’t mine,
where I can slip in and out of rooms 
without a trace, 
never worrying 
about the plumbing,
the colour of the curtains,
the cacophony of books by the bedside. 
A home that I can wear lightly,
where the rooms aren’t clogged
with yesterday’s conversations,
where the self doesn’t bloat
to fill in the crevices.

A home, like this body,
so alien when I try to belong,
so hospitable
when I decide I’m just visiting.

Arundhati Subramaniam

Of course the collection has made it to my TBR list, immediately. But it’s also worked itself I to my newly content heart where I will allow it to germinate, unfurl slowly, watching closely as this idea of home takes new form in my head yet again.

Such a joy to be home, to travel, to have this sense in two places, and yet feel anchored within too.

Two years ago: Day 323: Holiday reading

Day 320: Do you need me before I fade away?

Today was such a good day. It started with meeting N for breakfast at CTR and then a big fat loaf on Commercial Street. I don’t realise it as often, or admit it often enough even when I do realise it, but there is a deep connection with this city that is rekindled every time that I have an experience that feels le a throwback to the good days. Commercial Street remains largely unchanged and walking through it always feels like going back in time. Hitting the send haunts — Vashis, Suryanarayana, Woodys, Bhagatram, Mysore Saree Udyog — ways takes me back to a familiar and warm headspace, and gives me a big dose of nostalgia that seems to dull the ache of being in the city and the parts of that trouble me.

I’m grateful for the extra time we got to hang out today. We yakked pretty much non stop and I’m lucky we always make the time for that. This is an ease that I don’t have with too many folks in my life and it is a good place to be.

It was such a good Bangalore winter day! I caught a long nap before I packed up to leave. It’s been a while since I made a trip so spontaneous, so short that I need nothing more than a small backpack. The lightness of it is palpable.

And now, Im on a train after almost three years! So excited that I made a production of the dinner I packed for us and I’m unnecessarily happy about this side berth I’m on.

I’m so looking forward to two days off the grid.

See you on the other side of the weekend.

Two years ago: Day 320: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)

Day 313: And yesterday becomes tomorrow

Two steps forward and one back. On and on it goes.

Amazed and humbled at how things one feels confident and sorted about have a strange way of cropping up when least expected.

Surprised myself at the latent anxiety I have obviously absorbed and locked away these pastany months, only to have it surface when I roamed a supermarket in Panjim last week.

It led to this post and much introspection and eventually a light at the end of the tunnel. But not without first running myself down just a little bit.

But it helps to have timely conversations and frequent insights from folks who help realign my mirrors, clean the fog up and remind me see the me I am now, when it seems easier to be stuck in a difficult past.

Two years ago: Day 313: Mid-week blues

Day 311: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?

Dogs, I tell ya. They’ve got my heart ticking in ways nothing has in many, many years now.

It’s been more than a few days since D left on her holiday, leaving the puppies with us. It seemed like a huge responsibility we were only to happy to take because of how fond of them we are, but also because of how familiar being around them has been thanks to the many many trips I’ve made this year. Not just being around the pups themselves, but knowing their daily lives and whereabouts, their routines, food habits and even the intricacies of their weird whines, barks and unique manipulative moves. I have loved these dogs for a while now, so there was actually little thought or consideration involved when D asked if we’d puppysit. All three of them have (Leo leading the way) have long wormed their way into my heart, so I was prepared to have my heart crushed by puppy love. But this much?

I honestly didn’t see this coming. I booked my return ticket to Bangalore today, and while I am excited to be going back to resume life all on my own, I am already prematurely heartbroken about going back to a puppy-less home.

Safe to say I am beyond smitten.

(Yeah, how did I get to the dark side? When did this happen?)

Since we’re avoiding leaving the two of them unsupervised and alone for long periods of time, I have been timing my errand runs during the first half of the morning when the help is still around, which means our days have fallen into a neat little routine. So much so that Olive now knows that I will step out between 9.30 and 10. So she begins to follow me around like a tail, waiting for that moment when my sunglasses come on and my bag goes across my shoulder. Then she begins to bark and bring the roof down, demonstrating a full-on protest with gusto, giving it her all in the hope that either I will stay or take her with me. In a last ditch attempt, she dashes off to the gate ahead of me, bounding in double-steps, and stands between me and the gate defiantly. She may be small in stature and size, but she is larger than life in confidence and determination to have her way. In that moment, in her eyes, I see the wild, unbridled firmness of a woman who wants to get her way come hell or high water. It’s like she is oblivious to the fact that her ground clearance is barely four inches off the ground and her height is not more than a foot in total. And it means nothing to her that I can actually just step over her and proceed. Because she has the grit of a woman who means business, she seems large. Massive, even. And it makes me stay a moment longer, get down on my knees and pet her and mumble a few weak and unconvincing words to let her know that I will be back really soon.

What she lacks in size (how can anyone be so damned cute and small and contort themselves into something that resembles a puppy-inspired sushi roll? HOW?) she makes up in her vivacious personality.

Lego on the other hand, is best known for the way he uses his lanky front limbs like hands. Grabbing, holding, pawing, nudging like a bloody human being. It’s like a constant defiance of his doggy-ness and a consistent effort to be human in the way he carries himself. Inside his large head with impossibly big ears is a small brain, from the looks of it because he is dufferest of duffer dogs I have ever come across. But aren’t they the best kind?

He is VC’s favourite, and vice versa. Nobody in this home greets VC with the kind of unrestrained enthusiasm that Lego does. When VC walks in the door Lego loses his shit and doesn’t know what to do with himself. So he darts back and forth, between jumping on VC to bouncing off pieces of furniture like a crazy ball. Except if VC walks in with his full-face helmet on, or with a broom in his hand like he did the other day. Then Lego has no idea who he is and the only way he will run is in the opposite direction. We’re major fattu like that. Despite his small brain and easily triggered flight response, he has the body language and demeanour of the man in charge. Restlessly pacing about, investigating and inspecting things all the time, always walking around with an officious look on his face that would make you believe he’s the boss around here and everything runs on his watch.

He is also completely oblivious to his stature and size which, when he is standing, is about four or five times Olive’s. So sometimes she gets caught underfoot, as he tramples over her like collateral damage to his attacks of excitement.

After a morning of all these adventures warding off humans from leaving the premise, or pacing up and down in anticipation of our return (which leaves them quite hyper and wound up, borderline traumatised on occasion), some semblance of normalcy returns at lunch time, which is when I am usually back home. Nothing settles them like the sight of a plate of food in a human beings hands. They turn into the quietest, most docile dogs with the sweetest, googliest eyes. They sit, transfixed by the food focusing all their attention on the plate as if willing it to float towards them. At that moment, they’re a picture of perfection, the most innocent, angelic dogs. Until Olive’s drool pool begins. Depending on what’s in the plate it varies from being a drippy, leaky tap to a full-on open tap.

Afternoon naps follow. For the first two days after D left, Olive staged a massive sulk by hanging around us but at a safe distance, refusing to respond when called, making no eye contact and generally avoiding too much contact. But after 48 hours, something switched and she has become my tail. If she had it her way she would be attached to me, I suspect. And so we regroup in the afternoon, almost to assuage the trauma of separation from the morning, usually clustered on the couch — me stretched out reading or working, with the two of them curled up on 2/3rds of the couch. If I so much as stir or move, they wake up. If I get up to leave, even to just go to the loo, Olive follows me while Lego looks on from a distance.

Evenings are easily my favourite time of day. I have been walking Olive, while VC has been walking Lego. I didn’t know it, because I have no experience with dogs, but there is something so very grounding about walking a dog every single day, on the clock. The rhythm, the trail, the clicking of their nails on the tarmac, the same spots they stop at, the other dogs we encounter, the predictable fashion in which they behave at all the known spots.

In all of this, I deeply feel the absence of Leo’s presence. I feel it the most when we walk because I remember how different it was walking him. He’d saunter like the King of the land, scoping his field as far as the eye can see, his head held high. I find myself wondering what it might have been walking three instead of two dogs and I yearn for the missed opportunity. Yesterday especially, I was lost in a daydream thinking about him when we were out on our evening walk carrying around a heavy heart like I was aching for a person.

Evenings have been passing in a mellow, quiet fashion. It really is the time when the frenetic activity of their days too, winds down. I’ve found comfort in sitting together with the pups in silence. Them chewing on a bone, while VC and I read or Netflix before we eat dinner and turn in. There is companionable silence and an unspoken togetherness in sharing your day so closely with animals who so easily make you their own.

It’s taken barely 4-5 days for us to make this our routine and figure out how to manage the two of them together.

It’s not taken much doing really. The simple life that a dog loves, makes it easier. There’s barely any managing needed beyond feeding them and walking them on time, giving them adequate pets, belly rubs, back scratches, watching their poo for anything suspicious and holding them close when Diwali crackers begin to thunder around us. They make it very easy because they’re ruled by their hearts, and they know nothing else. So they go after what they want, demand it with all their might and don’t rest until we’ve understood just what they need. And in return for just that little bit of care and attention, I’ve been at the receiving end of a love so, so very pure. Filterless, distilled, concentrated love that is very hard to fight and not feel. It has swept me in, into a life-long snug embrace.

This kind of filterless love, this way in which puppies go all-in with all their heart, the endless giving even in the face of everyday little betrayals and disappointments (I still leave every morning, I still withhold that little morsel of food), this is the stuff worth aspiring for. Who knew, these doggies might teach me a thing or two.

Two years ago: Day 311: Okaybye

Day 306: Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend?

Recently someone remembered me as that person with a strong aversion to people I have changed my mind about. It had obviously irked said person enough to remember me as someone who inexplicably rejects and moves on from people without so much as a thought.

I was taken aback when I heard this. The thing is, the description is not entirely inaccurate, but it isn’t completely true either. And even though better sense has prevailed, I haven’t been able to shake off the judgement. Perhaps it bothered me, and continues to bother me to some extent, because I realise fully why it might seem that way to onlookers who take the convenient position of watching my life from a distance and who get this sort of second-hand information passed on by other onlookers.

From the outside, if does really seem like I run through friendship like seasonal wardrobe changes, I’m sure. I have built and broken far too many friendships in the three decades I’ve lived, with most of the action in this department being concentrated in the last decade. And here’s the thing, I’m finally in a place where I am at peace with that. After years of longing for forever friendship, I’m more in acceptance of the idea that for some of us, that is not a realistic goal. And the more I accept the very transient nature of relationships in my life, the routine coming and going of people, the gradual building of some friendships and the natural fading away of others, the more it seems to make sense, and the less angst it causes me.

So in that sense, it is a bit like wardrobe changes with seasonal spring cleaning and doing away with that which no longer fits or interests me, while keeping some ever-green favourites that will never go out of style, and having that stash of items in the periphery towards which I have temporary difficult feelings, but that I hang on to for nostalgia’s sake or in eternal hope that we will fit again. Someday.

This no longer feels like a bad way to live. It works for me. However, there’s no denying that the uneasiness of this judgement bites me. And nothing makes it bite harder than a visit to Goa, because the judgement was based on the state of my relationships in the time before I left Goa.

I moved cities, yes, but much before that happened I had moved on from many people in my life here. But today, over a delightful few hours spent with C — fellow freelance writer and dear friend from Panjim — I realised that every time the uneasiness about being judged for this surfaces, I give away a little bit of my power. I dim a little bit of the light that is my lived experience and my agency — both which shined bright in guiding me through these choices.

Every time that I am affected by how easily I have been branded, I am weighed down by that opinion that is quite honestly only a half-truth. But most of all, hanging out with C and having the delightful time that we did made me realise that every time that I feel bad about this judgement and I wallow about being misunderstood for walking away from some relationships, I undermine all those relationships that I have allowed to remain. I lose track of those that I actively chose to nurture and grow. I fade out the light and love of those that I continue to keep thriving in my life, even 700 kilometres away.

Meeting C who I have such a soft spot for, had me overjoyed and so content. And I realised its a friendship that has had none of the typical markers. We barely hung out, we’ve met a handful of times in real life, but we’ve connected over so much more. And every time that we meet, we seem to have so much to talk about. It’s one of the few connections that has endure even after I moved on, and she is one of the handful of people I feel like connecting when I come back. We’re frequently sharing things of mutual interest over email, catching each other up briefly on where life and work is, sharing writing contacts and passing assignments on to each other. And I always feel a genuine warmth without the song and dance of it.

Most times I tell myself I don’t care what people think, but today, I acknowledged that the reason being judged in this instance bothered me is because it hurt to be judged and misunderstood. I have not done a very good job of dealing with that hurt. And so every time it surfaces, it takes me right back to that half-truth, misinformed judgement. It takes me back and it makes me focus on the lack. The lack of empathy, the lack of understanding, the lack of people in my life at that time, and the lack of my ability to deal with it then. But that was then, and I have come a long way since. But in choosing to focus on the then, I discount the abundance of all these little connections that I have now. Many of which have flourished in the time after I moved away. I discount all the relationships that stirred over a few commonalities that only bloomed as time passed, and I discovered friendship beyond the limited definition I had back then. I think of people like C, and a couple other “work friends” who I am in touch with virtually, and how despite how little we hung out when I lived here, are always quick to jump at any opportunity I present for us to catch up. I am overwhelmed at how my relationship with D and K has turned into so much more than mere friendship. I think about B and R who keep checking in on me to see if I’ve had enough of Bangalore and if I’m returning any time soon. There’s R and S and J who are some of my fondest friends from Goa, and how our relationship has gone so far beyond the time we spent together here. And there is A who I know I can always turn to and lean on, in times of need. I think of P in Finland (Hi, P!) and how we catch up over infrequent but frantic bouts of messages about things we feel deeply about. And all I feel is a sense of abundance.

So, I came away wondering why it takes so little to shrink that sense of settledness and abundance I know I carry within me. What is it about hurt that makes everything that’s otherwise solid, so fragile? And what do I need to do to make it go away?

Two years ago: Day 306: Diwali 2016

Day 303: Quiet movements where I can find

I’ve been marveling at how the opportunity to puppy-sit has beautifully coincided with VC and I needing a roof over our heads during this time in Goa. I know by now that these are not mere coincidences alone. This is chance that works in beautifully orchestrated ways. Chance that works for and with me, rather than at odds with me or taking me by surprise. This is chance that feels like it was meant to be this way all along.

To feel at home in two cities, is one thing. But to also find a place like home that fits and welcomes me every single time is beyond heartening.

D and UTs home has always felt open and welcoming so while I was happy to volunteer my time puppy-sitting their babies, I make no bones about the fact that I felt confident and comfortable enough to do it because this feels like home.

It’s wonderful to be in this space where things work so symbiotically, where I can lean on and depend on friends as much as I can be there for them. There is as much give as there is take, and there is a quiet understanding of this that needs not much explaining.

Day 296: You and me, we come from different worlds

Reading this post from exactly one year ago sent me down a rabbit hole, going over how the last twelve months have really brought the “at home in both cities” dream to fruition.

Sitting here, on the brink of my better half moving back to Goa, while I exercise the privilege and the dream of living here, and enjoying the luxury of also going home to visit him there for the foreseeable future, I’m amazed at how what was a mere distant thought is today an unbelievable reality for me.

This year I had umpteen opportunities to visit Goa and with each visit the realisation that some part of me will always feel at-home there has grown. And so focused all our intents and thoughts on making this return possible. The funny thing is, now that the move is upon us, I find an equally settled, at-home feeling has developed here too.

This morning, watching and helping VC pack, I thanked my stars for this opportunity to stay. Because I am not ready to relocate just yet. This is a wild twist of events for me: I am not ready to go away just yet. This is not a reflection on Goa as much it is on me feeling at home here, with myself.

So it must be true then, when one door shuts, open it again. It’s a door, it’s how they work. Because it’s certainly what has brought me to this unexpected state of being. At home everywhere. Ready to go. Happy to return.

This agility is such a refreshing change.

Times like this, I’m extra glad for this journal. To look back on and see how far we’ve come. To see how lucky we are. To see how much abundance I have received.

***

I’m already recovering from the throat infection. It literally caught up with me between one day and the next, skipping a the usual signs of bugs festering within. It honestly felt like I was on the mend, and it’s the only reason I let go and indulged in the beer on Sunday. It was R and S’s anniversary and I found my favourite Goan beer on tap so it was hard to hold back.

But taking yesterday off reminded me that I’ve had wheels on my heels this entire month. Pretty much since the day we returned from Europe. There have been slow days spent at home, yes but I’ve been in charge and in fight mode in my head ever since the start of the month. It’s amazing how our bodies have this capacity to get up and run, endlessly, when the time calls for it. To stretch endlessly on and on, swallowing all signs of usual fatigue or time-outs. But everything has a threshold I suppose. And if it weren’t for illness, I probably wouldn’t have known to shut off that fight mode, which is honestly not needed anymore. My sister is all better, my father is back at his home, we’re slowly packing up. I don’t need to rush around.

It wasn’t until Friday when I drove an hour across town to spend the day with N at her home, that I realised that it was the only day I had to myself this entire month. I’m grateful for it. We had a good day of conversation, a walk about her unbelievably green colony, a really good meal and chai and banana cake to end it all. I delayed my departure by a good three hours over what I had planned. And I do not regret it.

Next week, though not entirely free, promises some quiet. I’m looking forward to it. I’m going home, after all.

Day 285: They’ll be making sure you stay amused

Grateful for friends today. This week has shown me abundance in friendship like never before.

Rekindled connections, restored conversations, grown up versions of the camaraderie we once had.

New friends who I’ve found unexpectedly. New friends who visibly feel a sense of kinship through the experience of the work we shared and make no bones about wanting to stay in touch long after.

Friends who lead by example and champion causes dear to us. Friends who will always be the torchbearers for me to look up to.

Friends who relentless stay in touch and more even when I completely fail to.

Friends who send me food. Always, friends who send me food.

Two years ago: Day 285: Shifting gears

Day 282: Try to remember the good times

Since the day we got back from holiday, there’s been a heaviness hanging over me. It’s not as if things are down out and dreary, but I cannot ignore this achy, heavy heart that’s feeling trapped inside my ribs. It started with Niyu’s illness that even though we caught in time, really pulled the rug out from beneath my feet. Physically there were many sleepless nights, which though one pulls through high on an adrenaline-addled response, begin to show one way or another. But even otherwise, this is the most stress I have known in a while. If it weren’t for my father, and all the support and help we got from unexpected quarters, I don’t know how we’d have managed. It didn’t help that I had to be away from home for four days, finishing my course, leaving them and my mind at home, trying hard to stay focused. The work in class itself, deeply emotional always takes a toll on me. All in all it was a cocktail of things that sucked the juice out of me last week.

There was also the undeniable sadness and almost grief of ending this incredible journey I’ve been on thanks to the learning. It was an emotional four days, and the cherry on top was the very moving, very inspired and sweet closing ceremony we had. I got some very encouraging feedback on my essays, a very powerful module to close the course with, and all in all it feels like I’ve refuelled for the next many months to come. It was all too bittersweet, high on the sense of accomplishment, of having done something entirely for myself after so many years, of having finished it so well, of having gained oh so much from the entire experience, and yet having it end so fast. It seems like I only just began, just the other day.

Just when that finished, and I was looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday, the #MeToo shitstorm broke out. With S braving the eye of it, I’ve been getting frequent, gut-wrenching, enraging updates, even though I am not on social media where one can follow closely. Every story, every update brings up the bilious rage. But that is not all. This time around, the wave of stories has left me very helpless, hopeless. With a fast and quick-changing idea of feminism brewing in my head, I am very conflicted this time around. My support lies fair and centre on the side of victims, but I am so undecided about many other things. Mostly I am also very troubled by what this means for us as a culture, as a people and a race. What have we lost that has brought us to this point? Where are we letting out boys and girls down? What does it say for us as a culture where so many, many men it seems have just no clue how to deal with desire in a healthy manner, and just don’t know what to do with their feelings when met with a no? I was at the WeTheWomen even here on Sunday, very briefly. I went in just to listen to Raghu Karnad and Rohini Nilekani talk about “Working with boys and men” and though the session left me quite dissatisfied and wanting more, one thing she said really stood out: what have we done for aggression to be the default response to all unaddressed feelings?

I am deeply ashamed at where we stand today, having done a giant disservice to generations of men and women by shrouding all conversation around sex, consent and healthy relationships in shame and fear. For building a culture that normalises violence, aggression and harassment in the name of desire and love. For how we have done little to question and topple power structures present in various facets of society, even as we make advances and have women increasingly make inroads into the ranks. It’s deeply distressing to hear stories from 30 years ago that are coming out today, echoing exactly what is still going on. What has our evolution come to mean? What use is all that performative wokeness?

It felt like a never-ending weekend of the sads. Monday couldn’t come soon enough. My sister got a clean chit on Monday morning at the hospital, and as I heaved a sigh of relief it felt like the first time I exhaled a heavy bout of air I’d trapped inside of me all week long. I returned home, thinking about resuming work again and finding some semblance of routine and normalcy. But then I got a message from D that Leo had passed on and I felt like my world had fallen apart all over again.

I’m due to puppy sit at theirs next month and there’s an ache and a puppy shaped gaping hole in my heart just imagining what it will be like to have 2, not 3 of them begging for a taste of my dinner. I’m still broken, and I have no idea why this has hit so close home and why this loss feels so personal.

Over the course of the last almost-two years, I have grown terribly attached to and fond of D’s puppies. There is something to be said about getting to know your friends dogs. Slowly, over time. It’s a lot like meeting your friend’s children. At first there’s tentativeness on both sides. They’ll look at your curiously, almost as if to say “Why are you here to hog my mommy’s attention again?” But you visit often enough, and the familiarity grows. Eventually guards will drop, and if you’re anything like Leo, you might even offer me your bum from a safe distance of about 2 feet, demanding a good scratch on the rump. You keep the visits frequent enough and slowly you’ll build a relationship with the puppy, outside of your relationship with your friend. You’ll take gifts along sometimes. You’ll take pictures of them. You’ll surprise yourself by feelings of longing when you actually miss the cute little runts. So you’ll fish out your phone and look at pictures lovingly, send them hugs and kisses in your mind. Eventually, you’ll be accepted as family and every arrival will be met with happy wagging tails, wet noses at your feet and gentle demands for petting. All pretence of good behaviour for “guests” too will fade away and you’ll love them anyway. All this and more happened with Leo. He was a special, special puppy who crept into my heart in a way no puppy has. I had mad respect for his underwhelmed-by-everything, too-cool-for-everything-unless-it’s-food demeanour. I loved his focus on all things food and I will truly miss his gentle giant presence every time we visit D and UT going forward. All I know is that special place in puppy heaven with an unending supply of pork sausages just found it’s most ardent occupant. And the loss is entirely ours.

The entire week, weekend and beyond has carried this heavy energy. The bittersweetness of it is inescapable. Wonderful things have happened, but not without a tinge of that heavy price being/to be paid. I’ve crossed paths with difficult times, and through the crises found the immeasurable gift of support, help and boundless love. I’ve ended journeys and felt the palpable beginning of new ones. I’m mad proud and excited for the way in which the universal energies of women are syncing up, but I feel drained and heavy with the pain it is making us all revisit. As much as life endures, it is not without death, surrender and difficult lessons in moving on. All of this is heavy, all of these are life-changing experiences.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: Revisiting old haunts II