I can laugh

Yesterday was essay submission day, and as usual it was a dash. This, despite having done some work progressively over the last couple of days, and having practiced nearly every single day for the last ten days. I just can’t seem to escape the last minute rush. At least it wasn’t panic this time. Because I had my points of focus down, I knew what I had to say and I just had to work on putting it together coherently. I wonder if last minute panic is just a part of my process, and weirdly brings out the best in me?

As I was flipping through the pages of my notebook, referencing things because last time I was in class feels like it was two months ago, I realised it’s only been two weeks. Something strange has been happening: this distortion of time. This weird expansion and collapse of time that’s not in my control, the way that I’ve been losing track of what day of the week it is, and generally how slow and quiet everything has become.

It’s only been two weeks, and while externally there has been a whole lot of peace and quiet, within I have been in full tilt churn. I have witnessed this quietly for a change, allowing it time and space, not rushing it, not trying to make sense of it.

In the bargain, time has slowed down in this most beautiful way. And yet simultaneously, it’s zipped by so fast that. Two weeks has felt like two months. Except, it’s just been two weeks, how can it feel like two months!

***

One of the things I’ve been working on is building a safe internal container — for my process and for myself. I know it is an outcome of that timely meeting of my inner child, from the strong and resourced place of the adult that I am growing into. It is a slow and testing process, and I have been waiting for a sign, some indication of this development.

So yesterday, when I registered this distortion of time and how I have retreated in some ways because of it, I suddenly realised this is probably what a healthy internal containment looks like! I have in many ways held myself together (not in a way that is repressive and uptight), even as I allowed the unfolding and processing of all that has come to pass these past two weeks since that important day.

I whooped for joy. Because this has taken no conscious work. All I have done is consistently and consciously stayed with what I was feeling, everything that came up, saying yes to it all and giving it a place.

***

One of the most healing things during this time has been the lighthearted chatter I’ve been having with S. We don’t meet nearly as often as we’d like to, and when there’s things going on internally we may some times withdraw into our own worlds, emerging to touch base only for the fluffy banter, a spot of nonsensical gabbing and the like. But it almost always results in oh so much laughter.

To be able to resurface for a breath fo air, reach out, and be met with a response that generates giggles and stifled guffaws that make me look stupid in public places, or make it seem like I have a constant boyfriend chat going on because of the stupid grin pasted on my face, is a real gift. It has been so empowering and healing to be reminded so, so often that I can laugh, even as big, life-altering changes are in swing.

***

The other two things that have given me support and steadiness: adequate, restful sleep. And exercise. Truth be told, the sleep has been so good, and the weather has been so good (and cold!) that it’s been a bit hard getting out of bed early in the morning. There’s such a massive draw to just stay under the cover, that many days I wake up, get into my gym clothes and drop back into bed for a snooze again, before I finally leave.

I’ve had to step back on the regimen a bit, focusing just on making it and getting a basic workout in everyday. Because I realise there is a resistance and whatever is going on inside is probably taking away some energy too. So I have allowed for it, not pushing myself too hard, going with what my body feels like. Running 5.3kms one day, and just 2.5 the next. Getting weights done some days, coming home after a sweaty run on others. This is clearly not a time for fixed and rigid rules, but to flow where my body goes.

One year ago: They paved paradise

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Content

It’s been a glorious rainy, Bangalore monsoon day. Probably not the best day for it, but I spent the entire day out. And it was good, after a weekend of excessive solitude.

I’m getting more comfortable taking the slightly long route to take the metro wherever possible. Especially on a rainy day like today when I got ghosted by two consecutive Ubers, who had collectively kept me waiting 25 minutes. There’s a sense of liberation in not having to depend on another human being to get anywhere. Though I noticed, to my utter delight today, that all the trains I took were being driven (is that what you do with a train? drive it? suddenly I’m not sure) were women.

It was nice to be out and I realised how much I crave invigorating company and conversations that make me tick. A rare spot of daytime drinking to start the week was not a bad idea either hahaha. S has a way and we have a way together. It was a good idea to start the week this way.

Completely satiated, mind and body, I stepped out to of the restaurant, to get back home, only to find profuse rain. That typical feathery, persistent as hell Bangalore rain that comes down like a gossamer veil that feels like it’s not too much, but stand outdoors and you’ll feel it envelope you completely.

There’s potentially a lot to say today, but I’m just not in the mood for it. I feel strangely quiet and content. So, that’ll be all.

One year ago: Hold on to this feeling, when dreaming of leaving
Two years ago: Book ends

Three years ago: Stack overflow

Unpretty

Been thinking an unnecessarily awful lot about my need to have the last word in confrontations that don’t end in a rosy, pretty way, all tied up in a pretty bow. Because this need is high. At the moment it feels a little bit like the need to be heard, my truth that I’ve never allowed to be heard (in this specific situation) slowly finding a way out. But it also feels a little bit like my urge to still control the way in which what I’ve expressed is taken or received.

It takes constant reminding to let that shit go. That once I’ve spoken, the words are out, it’s on the other to take it and make what they will of it. That is decided entirely by where they may be placed, emotionally speaking, at any given point of time as well as how open they are to seeing and hearing the truth.

It takes constant reminding that I have never been able to control that, and it’s not about to change now. If anything, the more the truth is finding its way out, the more resistance I am going to face. The more people are going to step away. The more the outcomes are going to be hard and far from perfect, all tied up in bows.

I don’t know about strong, but this is still amongst one of the bravest things I’ve done in the last few years.

This business of accepting the unpretty side of things is a long and slow process. It has meant shedding the belief that I am a fixer, the belief that I am a uniformly good and understanding person. Because there are many things I cannot (and do not) want to fix. I want to let people do the work to figure out why things sometimes go wrong between us, and put in their share of effort in building bridges if they so wish. And in the absence of that, I am an imperfectly fallible human being with feelings — sometimes hurt, sometimes rage, sometimes disappointment — about just how much I cannot mould and fix an ending so it can be pretty.

Sometimes endings are not pretty. Most times, even when they bring liberation, they’re not happy. It just takes constant reminding that that’s perfectly okay.

Two years ago: In which I end up without a phone
Three years ago: Homebody

Support

In case you haven’t gathered already, whether I’ve explicitly stated it or not, it’s been a heavy couple of weeks weeks. Not to say it’s been outright down and out. We have made it through with our fair share of laughs. I was in Goa for the most part, amply bolstered by VC and my sister, being around whom, I realised just softens all the hard knocks for me. You know, there are some folks who make any situation better? I think VC and Niyu are those folks for me. So much so that it wasn’t until VC left to come be with his folks, Niyu went back to her routine, and I had a day all to myself that the full impact of just how heavy and overwhelming everything really was, caught up with me.

It’s been pouring buckets in Goa, the kind of weather I love. And I was all in to sit back and enjoy it. But the day VC left for Bangalore, I had a realisation that for now, he is the only remaining connect I feel with the place, the only reason I can get myself to spend any time in Goa at all. Without him around, even the rain, the solitude, the freedom felt a bit insipid and pointless. Because as soon as he left, I was all Okay what am I doing here ya very nice rain amazing weather beautiful lush green nice nice but can I just be with him thanks?

And so, it was also easier to follow and spontaneously book myself a ticket to come back to Bangalore a few days after.

Once here, felt ably supported to just do what I came here to do — to dive right in and be there for VCs family, sans distractions, because amma provided all meals — everything from hot rasam and rice, aloo buns to snack on, idli-vadas from our favourite breakfast spot — even though she is down with the flu herself. It meant I didn’t have to think about stocking up, cooking or managing anything at home, especially given that VC was recovering from the flu at home.

I managed to also squeeze in meeting with S for breakfast. It was meant to be quick and breezy, but it became a relaxed, drawn-out catch up because a turn of events allowed it.

I’m realising the importance to lean on my own resources and to take care of myself, so I can be there for others. The idea of giving from a full cup and all that. To recognise and acknowledge my support system, even if to myself. All the things — people, my routine and habits, comfort foods — that help me stay afloat, whether the going gets tough or not. I’m realising that I am less shy to ask for support when I need it, and a bit unabashed in stepping forward to take it when it is offered.

Recent developments with a friend, have really made me aware that sometimes the silence of waiting (for support, for help, for attention, for love) can be so detrimental. To the self, to a relationship, and to the other at the receiving end of it. I used to embrace silence — sometimes because I felt ashamed asking for help, or I felt indebted to step up and take help when it was offered, or I was hurt and offended that it hadn’t come anyway without my asking, or I just plain wanted the other to figure it out themselves. But all that ambiguity creates absolutely nothing but a lack of clarity about the truth. And quite honestly, sometimes it stemmed from my fear of stepping up and asking for it when I needed it — my fear of showing up as I am. Very often, in fact more often than not, it is my ego that keeps me from showing when I need support or what I feel the desire to connect.

In some ways, slowly being comfortable with myself, including all my imperfections and pleasant and unpleasant aspects, I cluding those that I once thought were “weak” or “shameful” in good times and in bad, has meant being able to take in all the love and support that I have, in a more fuller and wholesome way. And being comfortable with asking for it when I need it.

I really feel the difference that this has made to my life, during this time that was heavy and could have otherwise being very confusing, isolating and lonely. What a relief it is to know I can lean, and lean fully, on those who are there for me without having to be asked, and who don’t assume that I will come around when I need it. And what a pleasant surprise to realise that in the event that I need something extra — breakfast with a friend just for a few hours of normal talk, for example — I can ask for it unabashedly with confidence and without feeling lesser or shameful about it.

One year ago: Under my umbrella

Breaking the silence

Today is better, only marginally so, but entirely because I stepped out of the house and came over to spend the day with D. And that always puts me in a good mood. I don’t mean just the laughs and the good times, but just the space and comfort it affords, even outside of the acts of friendship. I’m seeing this as a blessing, the universe looking out for me today, a day that began with me responding to a long-pending call for honesty, a breaking of silence, with a relationship in my life that I have been struggling to make sense of.

There is an imminent sense of relief, the kind of relief I didn’t know I was missing, that I only fully realise when the burden is suddenly lifted, but there has been an undercurrent of deep grief too, all through today. Strangely, not just grief for yet another friendship irrevocably altered (perhaps ended?) but for myself, and the way in which I have unconsciously allowed myself to be taken for granted, in this and other relationships, for how misunderstood I have been by people I have counted as my closest friends, for how some of these friends I held close to thought it was better to read my blog and make wild assumptions about me and what I needed than straight up ask me if there was a way they could be available for me, for how imbalanced the nature of giving and receiving has been between us, for how used I have felt and still sometimes feel when I think about specific instances, for how angry it all makes me, for how my vulnerability was so often met by a complete unavailability.

There is grief, and a sense of feeling sorry for the person that I was, that I have been so many times in friendships past, who felt the need to connect in a certain way, that so obviously came at a cost to the person I am underneath it all. There is grief, for how simply innocent I was in the way that I so quickly went all in, blindly trusting of words of loyalty accompanied by the sweetest smiles. There is grief for how much I have allowed myself to be hurt. There is grief for how mistaken I was in thinking I was understood by people who clearly did not, and did not even care to try.

So on a day like today, when I am feeling forced to revisit all this hurt in my head, it’s a true boon to have the safe haven of a friendship like this one with D, where I can exercise and put into practice the very things — the silence, the honesty, the empathy — I know friendships past lacked. On a day like today, S has been an absolute rock listening to my unending rambles, re-hashing and revisiting it all with her. Careful to reaffirm what I know to be true, but also gently, kindly flagging off potential for more hurt, where I may be unconsciously slipping into my old ways. Despite her own current crisis, S been there for me in ways that I find hard to put words to, but that make me choke up because it shows me how we’ve grown and how far we’ve come from the fearful, insecure nature in which we once were friends, to being the open, heartfelt, unafraid women we are towards each other today.

The heartening part about today for me, is that I was able to dig deep and find the courage (that frankly, I didn’t know I had) to be as honest as I was; that I resisted the urge to get into a circular you-said-i-said conversation and stuck to just me, what I have done, and what I can do to be better in future; that I resisted the even bigger urge to place some part of the blame where it perhaps belong, and instead accepted blame for my side of things leaving the consequences of the rest to the other; that I truly suspended hope and expectations of any kind of response, appropriate or not; and that I was able to choose integrity, truth and my own vulnerability, over the moral high ground and silence, time and time again today.

This, is especially heartening because I have been disturbed by the palpable silence that I was met with this past week. Silence that is perhaps a place of moral high ground, a coping mechanism to deal with the hurt, for some. But a silence that only screams cowardice to me. It is that very same silence, that I chose to break with my truth today.

One year ago: Follow me down, to the valley below

Pure love

Staying in and all is fine, but how long did you think I’d go before this happened?

I love the frenzy with which O and L greet us, every. single. time. like it’s the first time after a loooong time. Like a reuniting of long-lost friends. L with his hyper-energetic bouncing off any piece of furniture and launching himself at you, and O with her very precise and targeted attempts to torpedo herself from her very low ground clearance to reach high and plant a kiss on your mouth.

It’s really the best, most heartfelt and enjoyable welcome I’ve ever received and it gives me life when I see them do it loyally. every. single. time. like it’s the first time after a loooong time.

I’ve been thinking so much about pure emotions. Especially, love and the level of dropping self-consciousness that it requires. And I realised yesterday that in these aspects, puppers are hyper-evolved. They’re way ahead of the curve, and certainly well ahead of us humans when it comes to showing their emotions in a pure, simple and utterly honest way.

It’s safe to say these three puppies have made a place in my heart like no other. They’re probably the first and last puppies to ever find their way so deep in there. I haven’t taken to any dogs like this before. Their presence, and seeing them every time I visit D, truly fills me up on the inside.

One year ago: Werk,werk,werk,werk
Three years ago: One foot in front of another, babe

Reflections

Things I’ve enjoyed this past week:

Bonus time with VC, who arrived in Bangalore as soon as his uncle passed last week. He stayed on for the weekend, coinciding his date of departure with mine, as we headed to Goa on separate flights on the same day. It’s been a while since I’ve seen VC chill like he did in Bangalore those few days, and even though I was away at class pretty much the entire time, I enjoyed the time we had together.

One rainy evening, we camped out at Koshy’s chatting (VC is suddenly into chatting, elaborate, detailed conversations and I can’t get enough of this) and drinking while we waited for the rain to subside, before we took ourselves for a dinner of soba noodles and stir fry. Bangalore is nicer, and more complete for me, with VC around. This surprise trip was well-timed, and solidified some things about us, in my mind.

Being in class again and feeling my brain stretching beyond control. Feeling distressed with a muddle of jitters and mild intimidation, with the delicateness of this new learning that sits in my hands, while I know not how or what I am going to do with it. Staying with the jitters anyway and finding joy at the very end of the short cycle of distress, and feeling a sudden surge of energy almost, at the excitement of what lies ahead.

Catching lunch with D and S, chatting about all the ways in which the work and the learning permeates our lives. While we’ve been in touch after L1 ended, we haven’t met — all three of us — as much as we promised we would make the time for. So there was a lot to really dive into and take apart. Later, on Saturday evening when we were finally done, S and I walked to Airlines where we chatted and chatted, over a Maddur vada and coffee (after ages!), in a conversation about marriage and womanhood and making space for both to coexist.

A marathon two hour conversation with N on Sunday that was preceded by a card reading. I realised my readings are only as deep and insightful as the clarity and intent that the questions bring with them. The ripe way in which N asked, and the lithe keenness, opened something up and resulted in a very powerful message that felt like it was as much for me as it was for her. No surprises there, considering how much our individual journeys mirror each other.

Then we had this never-ending, freewheeling conversation that touched upon so many different, varied, sometimes disparate things that matter to us right now. Things we’re experiencing, things we’ve understood, all that has come to be, and the greatest trepidation about what will be. I found great resonance in N’s words about how deeply personal, intangible and utterly indescribable the nature of what she’s doing as her self-exploration feels. And the consequent loneliness of it too. And yet we get each other, I thought.

D came over on Sunday evening, bearing gifts — kheema samosas and khoya naans from Albert Bakery — and VC made us chai, that we enjoyed with chatter and giggles (as per usual). I’ve been off tea and coffee for about three months now, and even though I have indulged in the odd evening snack, the milky, sugary beverages have been missing entirely. Last week I had that craving for aloo buns, and today too I tucked in a few bakery biscuits. The snacks on Sunday were just perfect, the tea was sweet, and if we had even the slightest rain, it might have been a perfect Sunday evening.

This was the icing on the cake for my weekend. Closing the week, and the month in Bangalore before I left for Goa with this banger of a show that I had booked myself for two months ago, was everything I anticipated it would be.

Kunal Kamra is astonishingly precise with his humour and he delivered a cracker of a set that was bravely political, didn’t shy away from intelligently bashing the current Saffron regime for all that they must be criticised for, while also keeping it light, funny and even touching in some parts. There’s something deeply touching about honest art delivered in this unfiltered way that crosses all kinds of barriers. I may have teared up a couple of times, not just at the bitter truth that he delivered, albeit in a funny manner, but also at the purity of his work that touched me.

Arriving in Goa to find that the plants that had nearly died have been mostly lovingly revived in VC’s patient and regular care. The crazy bougainvillea has in fact suddenly sprung to bloom in most uncharacteristic fashion (they prefer the sun to rain) and has in fact changed shades, now dressed in a heart-tuggingly bright pink, rather than the beaming, gentle salmon I thought we had.

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

This is now

The weather is doing weird things. It’s overcast/cloudy sometimes, but mostly warm during the day. The rain is playing hooky again. It’s been raining in pockets, but mostly not in these parts. So many days I have smelt the air, thick with rain, but it seems to have just passed us by. But the evening skies have been sooooo dramatic and downright show-offy. Like all dressed up with nowhere to go. I took this on Thursday evening as I walked back home from Third Wave. Something about the shimmery lake, golden tinged everything and sparkly greens made me feel like I was in a Bangalore of some long forgotten past.

***

The past three days have been near perfect. Balanced, quiet, in sync and in flow.

Friday and Saturday were spent entirely at home. I felt like staying in, which was strange given that I had an unusually high number of options and invitations to get out and do something, all of which I declined.

I stayed in and did some reading ahead of my course that begins next week, wrote that letter, I watched some Netflix. I absolutely crushed it at the gym, got a long, very good head massage with amma, and ate all our meals together.

Balance.

***

I might have easily done another day of that, closing the weekend un utter sloth and relaxation, but I agreed to catch up with S, R and the kids for a morning of drawing in the park on Sunday, which turned into some painting, some playing catch and lots of lounging. This was followed by a long and lazy lunch. I wound up coming back home closer to 4, just in time to catch a short snooze. D showed up at about 6, and somewhere between sipping chai and stuffing my face with a palya-bun, we he made an insane spontaneous spur of the moment decision to drive to the Muji store. In freaking Whitefield. On a Sunday evening. If it weren’t for the very compelling pitch that was bolstered by the fact that all of Bangalore was indoors watching the India-Pakistan match, creating a near perfect reason to get out and drive that far, I’d have politely declined and gone back to bed with Netflix. But I agreed, and it was the most efficient, productive trip to Whitefield I have ever made. Especially because I have been wanting to go to the Muji store ever since I moved here two years ago, and will probably never make the yatra all on my own ever again.

Win. Win.

***

Every so often, I have days like this that feel like perfection. When everything flows, there is ease (as in lightness and freedom) and just so much space for everything to find its place and stay. Days that surprise me, as much as they feel right and like they were planned all along. Days that show me time and again what balance without effort looks like. Days when I feel just so tuned-in.

It’s on days like this that I manage to grab at emptiness, and find meaning. It’s like enjoying the warmth of a sunny day, without feeling the discomfort of heat. When I can catch in my hands the meaning of what it is to be. Not do. To just be, now. When I can parse away the heady castles in the air about what should be, and I shed the weight of what once was, and all I am left with is this moment, in the present. The now. And I’m realising this is all there is to be done, really. To be present, and go with it. Everything else is imagined.

One year ago: Love on a weekend
Three years ago: Work things that make me chuckle

These days

It’s been about 10 really good (and bustling) days — some reflections, writing, anticipation, exercise, good food, friends, great conversation — and as this week comes to a close, and I’m looking forward to staying in this weekend.

This happens to me every time I touch down in Bangalore. My calendar gets so full so quickly with catching up with people. This time, interestingly, I have been careful to filter out what I am not so keen to do (things I’d do out of politeness), sticking only to meeting people, going places and doing things that I am really interested in. And yet, after a burst of activity like this, I feel the need to just hit mute for a while and sit at home. Which is my plan for the coming weekend. Starting tomorrow, actually.

One year ago: Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
Three years ago: About yesterday

On boundaries: how they’ve changed my experience of friendship

Lately, I’ve been seeing some interesting shifts with the way in which I am experiencing friendship. For years I understood boundaries purely cerebrally, and struggled to find a way to really let the ideas sink deeper and peter into my life. The idea of a boundaries always drew up images of a solitary existence. While I embraced this as a kind of solitude at one time in my life, there came another time when I began to really crave connection, and I began to understand the importance and need for healthy, dependable relationships. Forging those has been a whole adventure of it’s own with so many hiccups and milestones alike.

I didn’t realise this before, but for the longest time I saw a boundaried existence and loneliness as by-products of each other. For the longest time, I didn’t see the middle ground that exists between setting healthy boundaries and simultaneously forging deep and wonderful connections.

I am slowly getting this now that I am experiencing a physical healthy distancing from people, even those I love and hold close. And I am doing my best not to mistake this for the old loneliness. This manifests more as a healthy space between me and the other, and it’s so fascinating to note that it’s the same space that acts as a protective boundary in some relationships, yet deepens my capacity to relate and to connect in others.

In just the last week alone, I experienced both in two separate instances. And both times, I experienced it as a safe, welcome distance between me and the other person. Being someone who usually knows no other way but to go all in, sometimes to the point of being completely enmeshed or losing myself totally to the relationship, and therefore experiencing constant lack from an imbalance in giving and taking, this has been a welcome change.

And what a relief it is. To be better with space between us, minus the throes of fear and peak abandonment that it once resulted in. To enjoy the poise and grace that comes with the space. To watch what happens in the many moments of pause that increase and grow, when there is this space in a relationship. To let go of the need to be seen as good, or well-meaning and kind at all times. To no longer mistake the desperate need and expectation of the other to change or deliver in ways differently from the way they can, as kindness and concern. To just let it go, entirely, as fulcrum on which the future of the relationship hinges. To be okay with people as they are (within healthy limits, of course). To be okay with the uncertainty that comes from not always being on the same page as the people I choose to surround myself with.

This has 100% happened because I am seeing the minutest ways in which I am getting better with a very conscious understanding of:

  • boundaries, how they won’t lead me to impossible loneliness and why they’re actually good for relationships
  • kindness and compassion and when I tend to allow them come into play
  • my tendencies to judge and how they have an impact on the quality of relationships
  • and of course, the overarching process that is meeting myself in a good way, feeling whole and at home with myself

There’s a lot of nuance involved in each of these, and I’m only recording this in brief to remember this feeling of ease and relief that I’ve experienced this past week. The sense of space, again, is really hitting the spot for me.

One year ago: Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride
Three years ago: How blue

All heart and all soul

Today, I stumbled on an email S sent me in January 2016. An email urging me to do many things that I didn’t know then would shake my very core, crumble the foundations of who I am an ask of me to rebuild from there. To drop all assumptions, compulsions, expectations of myself — to let it all go and see what remains. I didn’t know what any of this meant then, and I had no idea what to even do about it.

Some part unconsciously, some part by deliberate design, I set off on a path back then. One thing led to another and here I am. And it is only now, I would think as recently as early this year that I have just about found a somewhat deepened experience of what S had urged me to do in that email. What a long and fascinating trip it has been.

Of course I can only connect the dots backwards and so reading the email today, filled my heart with so much love and joy. For friendship that can shape my life. For friendship that has my back. For friendship that endures. For friendship that’s real and all heart.

It’s a good day for this simple reminder, which is also the crux of the email.

One year ago: With your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul
Three years ago: What I watched

I’m ready

Today is my last day in Goa. This has been like a proper summer vacation of yore — when regular programming was interrupted, annually, to make space for a total and complete state of relaxation. That’s what the last two months have been like. Waking up easy, getting my workout in, pottering about the terrace garden, settling in to stress my eyeballs out with excessive screen time, napping whenever necessary, chilling all day basically, rising only to cook dinner, eating early and turning in by 8.30 pm on most nights and getting back to TV — most days in a nutshell.

Ever since I fired this client, I’ve been out of steady retainer-based work. Being here in Goa already in a holiday state of mind I decided not to begin hustling for other/new work immediately. I have instead watched copious, and I mean some seriously colossal, amounts of all kinds of TV. Netflix and the works, TV shows, movies, and a shit ton of YouTube — binging on entire channels and playlists mostly in the food, fitness and gardening departments. It’s been so excessive, I haven’t ever abused my eyes this bad, so bad that I’m going to go get my eyes tested as soon as I’m back because, let’s just say I’m beginning to feel the effects of it. Some days I may have done some writing, very little reading, but mostly I’ve done nothing of real consequence aside from the bare minimum. Spending a majority of this time all alone has also meant something to me. Once VC gets home in the evening, we chill, chat, eat and retire.

Serendipitously discovered these pictures undoubtedly taken during summer vacations, just as I was packing today.

It’s been just right in the most simplistic sort of way. We managed to eat at all my favourite places that I had shortlisted to a pithy bunch. But I’m actually happy about how much we ate at home, how willing and enthu I’ve felt about cooking, and how often VC managed to take leftovers to work the next day.

Those were home days, which was a bulk of the trip. I also spent many days with D, and we did a bunch of things that really brightened up my stay here. The pups of course, they bring so much joy. And I feel hanging out with them always does me so much good. So there was that. I hung out with A several times, eating meals with her and the family, and we had D and UT home for dinner one night and VC’s work folks home or a barbecue night, but aside from that there has been little socialising.

What there has been is solid days — and entire weekends — at the beach, but the highlight of my stay is all the time we got to spend at home, with each other. The quiet, deliberately mundane life that isn’t numbing or distracting from anything with a hectic busyness. We’ve had a lot of conversation and discussions this time around, a development for VC haha!

This is life, externally, though. Mosrly a time of stillness and near-nothingness. Internally though, a lot has happened and this trip has given me so much to be grateful for, so much to ponder, so much to hold close. If you’ve been reading this blog for the last two months, you might have an idea.

Sometime last week though the bliss of all this relaxation turned to sloth and really got to me. I haven’t had this sort of an extended time of doing absolutely nothing, probably ever. There is only that much not doing anything a girl can take, and since I am not so interested in random wandering around to places to eat and drink at the moment I haven’t really entertained myself around here like I might otherwise have. So I was bored and I began counting the days down to returning to Bangalore — a first for me!

Perfectly timed like a summer vacation, I’m headed back tomorrow like I used to in the days of yore. Pre-June days in a coastal place, when the heat is wilting and the promise of rain lingers in the air. There’s a slight dullness about fun-times ending, but a gentle excitement bubbling under about new beginnings. Like a new term at school, a pair of fresh shoes waiting to be polished, crisp new notebooks waiting to be cracked open.

It’s been a good time to reboot, hit refresh. It might seem odd to say I’ve gained a lot from this seemingly mundane routine of nothing really, and I’m leaving feeling fuller and richer from it, somehow. I can’t put it in words really, to explain how emptiness can feel fulfilling, but that’s just what this summer has been like.

Yesterday I realised I was in Thailand at this time last year, and felt mildly soppy that we didn’t get a summer holiday this year, until I realised very quickly that a summer holiday is exactly what I got. Right here at home.

June in Bangalore has some schoolish new beginnings for me — level 2 of the course I did last year commences. I am delighted to be going back to my other home and I’m looking forward to so many things including an extended wardrobe that is more than shorts and tees, full meals a la amma, South Indian food, running and my gym, hanging out with S and A, Sunday walking ritual with D, hanging out with my family. Okay I could just go on and on and on. I didn’t think a day when I’d be excited to return from Goa to Bangalore would ever happen, but here we are and the odds stack up nice and high, it seems.

I’m ready!

One year ago: How fragile we are
Three years ago: Monday this week

On compassion, connection and belonging

I’m at a point in this journey where the path to self awareness and the search for belonging have merged. They are no longer seemingly divergent pursuits, but a journey to the the same destination, asking the very same things of me. That is, the courage to accept that this journey is not all peaches and glory, or one that miraculously turns unpleasant events into happy ones, or even one that is steadily ascending or gets increasingly positive. It is in fact up and down all the time, one step forward and three back sometimes.

There’s been a spate of news of broken/breaking relationships reaching me of late, and as I think of my own journey — as an individual and a partner — and how much my relationship with VC has evolved along the way I find strength and solace in knowing that things are where they are today, only because we chose to deepen our connections with ourselves as individuals first. We may have woken up to this much later in our lives together, VC and I, and we have our different ways of coming at this. But time and time again, as we move through live together, I realise that if things feel solid between us today, it is because they are solid within each of us as individuals. I am now beginning to see this percolate into other relationships — with family and friends too.

To belong to one another, to have deeper connections, kinder and more compassionate relationships is only, only, only possible when I begin to belong to myself wholly first. And to do that I must accept everything that I am. That is the ongoing, life-long journey, not one that I can arrive at or achieve or master. It means to confront and meet everything I am, as I am. With all the inherent contradictions, complications, duality. The beautiful bits with the messy ones. The happiness and the fear. The love and the joy, alongside the hurt and grief. The light that shines through and the shadows that I keep hidden, the lightness of being and the heaviness alike. All the differences, evolving sides and ever-changing bits. It’s all there, and with every step that I take towards discovering and owning it all, just as it is, the better I am at accepting this about other people. And the better my relationships seem to be becoming.

This has be my spirituality. The stuff that nourishes my spirit — this habitual holding up a mirror to see what remains to be seen, to integrate it all, to sit with the contradictions and the discomfort and myriad feelings they may bring. To just be with it for a while, without rushing to numb it, ignore it, iron it or fix it. To just stay with it first.

Last week in a conversation with Niyu, I realised that this is probably also the keen difference I see between mainstream religion as I have witnessed growing up and  around me today, in an increasingly polarised and bigoted world. The brand of religion that comes replete with rituals and acts of put-on solemnity that we believe is a path to a higher plane has always seemed a very disconnected practice to me. Very little of it, in the way that I see it practiced around me brings us back to reality and the heart of what we struggle with on an everyday basis.

What good is meditation as an antidote to anger, for example, if it doesn’t bring you closer to the root of your anger to face it, and instead takes you floating above it, escaping it altogether, to an illusion of peace. Until the next blow-out.

What good are words like acceptance, forgiveness and peace if we don’t begin doing all of those things with ourselves first? And how to be begin to accept and forgive ourselves and find peace unless we own ourselves fully?

What use is religion if it fosters exclusion and hatred? I see so many adults around me who are sleep walking through their days, being very religious while also holding the most bigoted, regressive, sexist beliefs and living by them. How can one begin to integrate, be whole, when outwardly one holds so much exclusion, divisiveness and hate?

If there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear it is that we were born for connection and belonging. In my own experience, I have seen my desire for this burst out from within, ever since I  have been working on myself. And the first step towards building connection and true belonging is with compassion that begins right at home, with myself. If I can be compassionate to myself and all the uncomfortable things about me, I can maybe begin to do that with people around me. My story and all the narratives I spin about it is probably never going away, but I can change the hold it has on me with a little kindness. I can own it and integrate it, instead of allowing it to own me, and forever holding it at a distance.

I have experienced in brief, fleeting instances, that when I extend this kindness towards myself, I am able to do it with others too. I can only belong with others, if I belong with myself wholly first. And what an impact it has on the quality of my connections, my relationships, and my experience of a fuller, wholesome life.

This willingness towards this path has brought about a degree of softness in me that I didn’t know possible. That I didn’t know I needed. That I didn’t know would take up so much space in my life and satisfy me in such a deep way.

Which brings me back to where I started, I’m at a point in this journey where the path to self awareness and the search for belonging have become one. They are no longer separate agenda points, or issues that I want to address. Instead, they’re beginning to feel like a practice in spirituality, where a little work everyday adds up. And every day that I am given this chance to know myself a little more makes me feel just that little bit more whole.

One year ago: Ground control to Major Tom

Growing friendship

Yesterday, I clipped off the tops of the Thai basil growing in a little pot in my balcony to add to a Thai curry that was simmering away on the stove. For something that came from a wee little seedling, smaller than my thumb when it arrived, it’s grown at an astonishing pace and is now flourishing, green and bright. It’s taller than the length of my palm, and threatening to grow even taller, which is why D advised me to snip the tops off to encourage it to grow laterally.

I’ve grown herbs and greens in my balcony before, but I’d forgotten the thrill that this ease and access brings. I’ve forgotten the satisfaction of chopping and using something that I watched grow, inch by little green inch, right here in my home.

I cannot overstate the joy plants have brought me over this visit. I think it is particularly the act of using my hands and spending time at something as satisfyingly slow as growing plants that has done the trick. I came here to mostly dying plants, but over the last six weeks we’ve revived some, grown some from scratch, potted and repotted some, and added so many more plants. So many that the terrace now looks a bit full and inviting. So many that a few pots have extended over into a second balcony that gets some dappled morning light that’s great for them.

Every day begins with me inspecting every pot closely, touching new leaves, excitedly examining the microscopic growth (that I swear I can see!) growth and all the possibilities that lie in every nook and node.

Last week, I spent three days with D when VC went off on a work trip. We spent a significant time over two mornings, planting things. Fresh seeds little paper cups that we labeled, saplings in pots, and I learned a thing or two about how to prune some plants, and possibly grow some from cuttings. Olive watched over us, occasionally stretching out right in the path before us to sun herself.

This trip, D and I have spent a fair bit of time doing things with our hands — painting wooden stools (more her than I, but the one day I spent doing this was immensely satisfying), gardening and obsessing over growing plants, cooking and mixing salad (we did a lot of this hahaha!) and card readings of course. I realised I really enjoy having friends to do things with. And this is something I have missed in recent times. Of course the chats and laughter, the eating and drinking, the gabbing, the going out is great, but I think for me personally, to have a shared interest, or the opportunity to learn something new is a huge draw. To really participate and collaborate at doing something together is such an added bonus.

Something grows between people, when we do this.

One year ago: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you

Flow

Yeah, what does it say to me about my community? And where do I go from here?

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed how this message spoke directly to something I spend so much time thinking about — community, connection, friendship, belonging — especially in the context of freshness and newness that I now desire in my life.

It seems like a fitting question to ask myself, and as I see it, it is an invitation to look at things in a new light and possible push myself out of a comfort zone in this regard. Great fodder for thought at a time when I feel I am moving from one phase, one way of being, into another.

One year ago: Stuck in the sunshine riptide
Three years ago: That urban poverty piece that has everybody’s panties in a bunch