Recharged

I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year, really.

It’s been a week since I left home, and it feels like a lifetime has passed in my mind, during this time.

Feeling at home so deep in my bones, in my place, with a solid sense of belonging, is a truly unparalleled experience.

There have been worlds of thoughts marinading and being very slowly processed in my mind.

Thoughts about the power of truth snd conviction.

Thoughts about being impossibly heartfully connected, even as I find healthy separation.

Thoughts about how months of cultivating a healthy container seems to be giving rage a new kind of outlet.

Thoughts about an all new adult kind of definition of settlement.

I hope to unpack this slowly for myself over the next few days.

Thank you to this corner of Wayanad we now call home. Thank you for filling me up on ways I don’t yet have words for. But I will get there. For now, I’m Back on home turf, recharged and raring to go.

Two years ago: Here I go again (on my own)
Three years ago: 2016
Four years ago: In-bloom

To Mysore and

…back to the wild.

In four vignettes.

8 am at home.

11 am on the road.

1 pm at Mysore Railway Station.

4 pm en route back home.

Mandatory picture of parental unit, as seen in my adulthood, on a road trip rushing through just-planted paddy fields in that golden 4 o clock sunlight.

It’s a bit overwhelming, that I get to enjoy this peace and quiet, right here in my life without having to getaway or make space for it in anyway. I do have to physically get away to get here, but that suddenly my life is somehow fashioned so this is possible, and possible often kind of amazes me. Even now.

What a privilege and a blessing it is.

One year ago: Inhale. Exhale.
Two years ago: What is life
Four years ago: Reminders and notes to self.

Curtain call

 

New Year’s Eve has been something of a non event for years now. But this year we may have dropped even lower. And something tells me I could get used to the go-nowhere, do-nothing new year’s eve of this kind.

Snapshots from yesterday’s evening walk through the village, VC stopping for pictures and my father stopping to say hello to every single person we met.

We walked all along the river side for a good one hour, VC changing his mind and turning back halfway through.

Happy to be closing the year spending theseast few days (and the next few) in simpler ways and a slower pace.

We’ve had splendid sunsets for two days now. I hope today is spectacular too.

2020, I’m ready for you.

One year ago: December
Two years ago: Crossing over
Three years ago: December

Sunset

I had my last session of therapy for the year today and it was such a good culmination of the work I have done since I resumed again just over a year ago.

Today, as we talked about where I’m at — the cusp of a new unfolding in possibly every different space in my life — I had a moment of almost disbelief at the way in which I was even holding myself and articulating the things that I was.

Today, I reiterated and reaffirmed to myself the uniqueness of my own journey, the need to honour my pace and place, without judgement or measuring it up against anything or anyone else.

Today, I felt like I turned yet another corner in my becoming.

***

The fundamental building blocks of doing things to please others (and in that way make myself agreeable to them) because of the firmly held belief that doing things to please me will inevitably and always be “too much” for them to take, or might make them upset, or unhappy, or confused, or hurt, are shifting. This has been an unsaid code and way of being in my family. Especially for generation after generation of women.

In moving out from that space, that way of being, I have had to slowly let the foundations — those very fundamental building blocks that decide how I will be in the world — slowly crumble and fall away. There is no rebuilding new and healthier foundations without undoing the unhealthy, unsafe and unstable ones that have held me so far.

There is tremendous power in doing this. The proverbial endpoint seems promising,  liberating and great. And it is. But the journey to there is seldom uniformly great. It is downright painful, difficult, isolating and harrowing even. Milestones and in fact many important pivotal moments along the way are often the ones that have left me shaken up to my core and like I have lost the very ground beneath my feet.

But one of the most powerful experiences I have had this year is of letting myself crash and drop so low, allowing myself the ability to dive and sink to depths so low, and meet vulnerabilities so raw and deep that the only way from there has been up.

And the person I am today, as the year draws to a close, definitely feels like a transformed version of the person I was at the start of this year. I am ending the year feeling solid from within. Truer to myself, more in touch with my body and emotions, and very, very unafraid of seeing and holding my vulnerabilities

It’s true what they say. True strength only comes from being intimately and ruthlessly honestly in touch with those deepest fault-lines that exist in all of us. If only I learned earlier that there is no glory in that outward facade of strength and powering-through facade that comes at the cost of bypassing real pain that is asking to be seen and heard.

Today, I felt extra gratitude for all those whose help and support I have sought and leaned on during this time. Fellow truth-seekers, truth-tellers, some professionals whose work it is to help shine a light in spaces we are unable to journey alone, some friends and confidants who have offered everything from a kindred spirit, silent holding of space when I’ve been in the lows and cheered me on through my highs. All the people who have joined me on and off along the way, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes leading, sometimes being led by me, sometimes holding up a mirror or a light, sometimes stopping momentarily and letting me go on so I can journey those necessary parts on my own.

Meeting myself has been equal parts thrilling and terrifying, but I hold close those moments that I have been in touch with recently, the real fruit of all these years of an inward journey — moments where I have felt in love with myself. It has been life-giving like drinking sweet, sweet nectar. And somehow it makes all the heaving difficulty, the bouts of pain and loneliness so worth it.

What a ride.

One year ago: Be kind to the growing mind
Three years ago: Rewind

Away and around

Ever so grateful for the vast expanses of this country that offer sights, smells and sounds so removed from what one gets used to, day in and out.

Three years ago: Cutting the fat

Gratitude and love

Just gratitude today.

For flow. For life.

For excellent therapy. For movement. For learning to hold myself through the depths of despair, so I can soar to the skies with just as much ease.

For safety and opportunity, in the face of these difficult times so many of our fellow countrymen are facing.

For being the object of love and affection from my family and some friends.

For work and the new way in which it is manifesting in front of me.

For the unseen kindnesses I routinely receive. For the unabiding way in which no matter what happens, things move on.

One year ago: Love in a thousand different flavours

The ground beneath my feet

The mind is still a tizzy with thoughts of the country and how fast things are escalating. How the mainstream news channels and newspapers aren’t portraying a picture that’s even semi close to the reality on ground. Sending out prayers and good vibes to everyone facing this in a far more brutal and real way in their lives and days. And trying hard to find my grounding in simple things today. A visit to the nursery, where my father and I spent over an hour traipsing through the entire length and breadth of the sea of plants and flowers. The winter flowers are in full bloom, and it is an absolutely delightful sight for the eyes. So I walked, stopped, touched, smelled, picked, and then some. Before returning home with a small loot.

I napped a nap deeper than I’ve had in a while. My night sleep hasn’t been the best the past ten days or so. Preoccupations, my mind active, reaching out to read the news — all the things I do when I cant sleep that then keep me from getting to sleep. I woke up feeling tremendously rested.

I felt a shift, a weight lift, a sense of clarity and a penny dropping after my afternoon with S yesterday. There is a sliver of light shining through, and I feel heartened and suddenly invigorated by the possibilities, and the palpable sense of things coming together. I am no longer in dream stage, but things are quickly moving to action. I am not feeling paralysed by that movement, rather feeling more and more energised to get going. I have a website going that I hope to finish by the close of the year, tomorrow we meet a CA to discuss the options ahead of us to work together and the first project is already in sight.

And so, this evening I feel alive and full again. Not shrinking and cowering under a helplessness like I have been feeling inside of me, for over a week now. I cooked us dinner, figured out what meddling I need to do with my pots and plants tomorrow, and now I’m off to pick up some frames of prints I want to get up on the walls this week. And then I’m off for therapy.

I want to acknowledge and state here, that since my first meeting with S last week, where we really got down to the brass tacks of working together, I had this feeling that shit just got real, it has translated into a sudden burst of action in the rest of my life. My days are flowing smoothly. I somehow wake up knowing what I want to do and have been moving through my time effortlessly, getting things done. And not just work things, but home and food and life things as well. We’ve had people over, I’ve cooked umpteen meals, we’ve made time to chill and watch TV, we’ve been out, I’ve found my rhythm and regularity with the gym again, I went to a couple of protests, work got done, home improvement is in full swing like it hasn’t ever been. Somehow everything has been finding a time and place, and happening. I have managed to get some simple, small things that I have planned and not moved on for literally years — like a website revamp, like a visit to the nursery, like frames of prints I’ve collected over the years. I’m feeling a sudden effortlessness. And t has brought to my days a fullness that is not overwhelming or exhausting, which is the only kind of “full” I knew for a very long time.

Balance and flow, balance and flow, balance and flow. It is such a surreal, heady feeling to suddenly have that which I have only dreamed of and coveted for so many years. I feel so grateful.

This feels so sweet, I can almost taste it.

One year ago: Love in a thousand different flavours

<3

It has been a good, good week. And the highlight, quite easily, is having VC back home. We’ve been like stuck records repeating to each other, umpteen times, over the last week: This last year, living apart, was the best thing we could have done. Because from time to time, we realise the little things that have changed about us, within us, and the way in which we’re being different around and with each other.

Just a week since we’ve returned, VC has already flown off to Bombay today for a bunch of meetings, and I suddenly found myself with a day to myself.  It sparked so many thoughts.

On how living apart unconsciously made us experience individuating in this relationship too. How that has somehow brought us closer. How I think this might be a good thing to do every few years, if the need arises. But I’ll save that for another day. But for now, just gratitude for this here. For going full circle. For love.

One year ago: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)
Two years ago: Acceptance is a small, quiet room
Three years ago: Guess I’ll have to leave some stuff behind

To new Mondays like these

I’m home.

And so just like that we are cohabiting again. Which means we have to both adjust to the rhythms and routines of living with one other human being around us. The added detail this time is that VC is probably going to be working out of home for the foreseeable future.

It’s exciting as hell, because everything is suddenly different, shiny and new and I love all the extra time we get together thanks to the fluidity that comes with having complete control over our schedules. But it’s also been a touch unsettling, as much as it was unsettling when VC moved away. Because it means getting through a bunch of suitcases once again, finding space for all our expanded belongings again. And until that happens, especially over the weekend, the home felt a bit like an obstacle course. I’ve noticed that this tends to happen very quickly when VC is around — things never find their way back to where they belong, they hang around, scattered and misplaced — and our tiny home begins to feel cluttered very quickly. But I’m also observing how this time I am less perturbed. Aware, and observant of the mess, but more realistically accepting, not annoyed as yet. Also allowing for ease, time and space before we get to unpacking fully.

It means that I have to temper my excitement of having VC around a lot more. It curbing allllllll the random things I want to say to him over the course f the day, because unlike me, he can’t compartmentalise his brain and chat while working. So I have to save it up for break time.

It means I have someone to outsource the chasing away of stray lizards that makes it into the home, rather than brave the horrendous task myself.

It means replacing the long-drawn facetime calls of the last year with actual facetime, everyday. More togetherness, more conversation.

It means twice the laundry, twice the cooking, twice the planning, yes.

It means realising once again that it’s possible to feel wistful and nostalgic about the time I had living by myself, simultaneously as I feel an overwhelming excitement about the days to come. The two can coexist. Like with most other dualities, I find myself no longer trying to choose and pick a side. Accepting one doesn’t make the opposing force less true.

It means spontaneous Monday afternoon jaunts to eat things we randomly crave, without having to plan or schedule them. Like we did today, with the intention to eat a really good burger — our last real binge and the end of the holiday life before we get back to regular programming and eating healthy, home food again — which turned into us eating really good steaks at an old Bangalore favourite. It did not disappoint.

It gave me special thrills to take an auto back and forth, to walk down the streets of CBD together on a typically Bangalore November afternoon with a slight nip in the air, a distinct breeze with the sun shining down too.

For now, I’m definitely home.

***

Gratitude today for the twists and turns of the last year. And like VC said to me yesterday, ever so grateful for whatever it is outside of us that has shaped and enabled the way in which our relationship has evolved and brought us to where we are today.

One year ago: And yesterday becomes tomorrow
Three years ago: That’s how the light gets in

Into the wide open

We left a blisteringly hot and sunshiney Goa yesterday, and have entered overcast, grey sky weather in Karnataka today. It stormed all night with scary thunder and lightning. But it means a more comfortable drive today. For VC more than me, who is happier riding when the sun is playing hide and seek.

Today, I’m grateful for the way in which VC and I can see eye to eye and make good travel buddies. It makes even tedious journeys like this one a touch more fun.

One year ago: While the world plays for our pleasure
Three years ago: Midweek blues

Drive

Our car will be ten in the new year. And while she’s begun to look her age, thanks to nine years and nine monsoons in Goa, she still runs like a very young girl off to chase a dream at the slightest opportunity.

Many little niggling things have been acting up. The AC has been on its last legs for about a year now. The headlamps were horribly foggy until I scrubbed them with baking soda yesterday. The speakers have been in various stages of disconnection for a long while now but kat year the music system itself came unhinged and stopped working. All it’s good for is charging a phone. So this drive hasn’t been easy. The heat is a lot more intense than I expected, the air is dry as hell. There’s no music to be had so I’m using a portable speaker because I’m all alone (with two suitcases riding shotgun in the front seat) and I could do with some entertainment.

Also, this blasted curse of development just won’t let things be. Forget setting dysfunctional things right, they’re hell bent on fixing things that ain’t broke. So the perfectly decent highway between Goa and Bangalore that made for a comfortable 10 hour journey just one year ago has shot up to a painful 14 hours. The road is pretty flawless, silky smooth, but the endless diversions every few hundred metres has made it painful. Getting on and off the rough service roads, throwing up clouds of dust and dry air as we bump down terrible stretched of dangerous half-built roads, means one can’t even enjoy and maximize the good bits for what they’re worth.

As such, we as a country deserve nothing good. No amount of “development” will ever be good enough and worth it because you can’t get on a “world-class” highway long enough before a tractor lazily ambles across without warning, or a two wheeler shoots at you on the wrong side of the wrong side of the road just to avoid going the long route to make a U-turn. We’re the pits.

So it hasn’t been a fun drive. And yet, I’ve enjoyed driving. If that makes any sense at all. Because my car, my gosh, she is still so fine. And perhaps the only advantage of having a choc full car loaded up to the brim is that the weight in the tail of the car means I can take all the bumps easily. I accelerate and the car complies, no fear of people or things flying around in the back of the car. There’s grip and grounding.

Anyhow, leg one of this arduous journey is done.

***

Today and glad and super grateful for my parents who absolutely insisted (not that I needed any coaxing and convincing at all, but still) I learn to drive as soon as I turned 18. It has made making movement in my life so much more significant.

One year ago: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?
Three years ago: Holiday mornings

Moving on

If I had ten bucks for every time someone confusedly asked me So what’s the plan, really? or some variant of that with regard to this moving back and forth between Goa and Bangalore life, I’d be able to buy myself a ticket to take yet another flight to Goa, I think. It’s been confusing as hell, I believe. Even now, a whole year later, I find I’m still explaining that I’m in Bangalore and VC has been in Goa, and sometimes I’m even explaining why we have this arrangement. Officially, I suppose what seems to everyone to be a precarious balance has ended. VC and I will now be in the same city. And if you really had to make me pick a side, it is Bangalore, for now.

But I guess it’s official now. Because our plants left for Bangalore today. The packers were a bit amused to see that the plants were literally all we’re shipping back to Bangalore. And judging by VC’s stance and expression, what he’s thinking is probably This is one of the stupidest things I’ve done in a while.

But that it how it is. The rest of the house remains, and I believe it is a not-so-subconscious attempt to keep the back door open, so we may keep coming back. Even with all my readiness to move on, the growing sense of an ending with this chapter, a feeling of having somewhat grown up to stepping into an all new phase in love and in life, I just can’t get myself to believe fully in my bones that we’re moving (yet again) on from Goa. I’ve been wondering if maybe this is one of the side-effects of having a home here? It makes a place never too far off? And this easy access is always just a flight or a day’s drive away. But today, after I spent a couple of hours this morning hanging with D, I realised it’s more than just the home. It’s connection and belonging that goes beyond physical limits. When I left Goa in 2017, it came with a lot of ties broken off with people here. I left feeling quite orphaned by the place, with little sense of belonging to salvage. And even though most of those people aren’t in my life today, others are. Others with whom I have significant, growing, constantly evolving relationships that seem to surpass time and distance in a way that was difficult for me to do even just two years ago.

I guess what I’m saying is Goa — even with all it’s befuddling changes that break my heart on a daily basis — will always be home in some form. It is after all, the place that gave me space to drop roots, sprout wings and fly in what was easily the most formative decade of my life thus far. It’s where I made friends with folks who have significantly impacted and shaped this very important phase of my life. And there is a sense of belonging in that, more than in the physical idea of Goa as a place. A part of me does feel like it belongs here.

What I’m also trying to say is, this feels like yet another short-term good-bye, and not at all like the heart-wrenching goodbye from moving lock stock and barrel, like it felt in 2017. This feels like a see-you-very-soon rather than an alvida!

***

Gratitude today for all the restful days I’ve had in Goa. It has rested something deeper within me, in a way that I couldn’t have done in my own home, smack in the middle of my regular life in Bangalore.

One year ago: The rest is up to you, you make the call

For Kashmir

Two weeks of Rohail Hyatt being back in the freshest season of Coke Studio Pakistan, and there’s already so many reasons to get back and be hooked.

  1. Rohail is back producing it
  2. Zeb is back
  3. Atif Aslam looks and sounds like he’s grown up
  4. The season features Fareed Ayaz, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sanam Marvi
  5. It’s already sounding like it’s full of the old, peaceful vibe of the old CS Pak days
  6. It’s raining
  7. Did I mention Rohail Hyatt is back?

I’d lost interest in the show once he exited his position as producer because he brought in a certain perfect aesthetic that no producer ever after managed to even come close to matching up to. And there have been oh-sooo-many producers and directors after him, not a single one could level up. In all the many seasons after his moving on, there have been so many misses more than hits that I’d gotten used to cherry picking the good tracks I could weed out of the trash and consoling myself about having to make do, when what I wanted was a whole seasons worth of music to fill to my hearts content.

Eventually, I skipped the last three seasons because the experimentation just got too much for me. To poppy, too noisy, too loud, too out there, just not tight, just not together, just not melodious even after a point. There’s a space for experimentation and fusion, but it can’t come at the cost of pure melody and aesthetic. It can’t replace music with noise, and unfortunately the last two seasons have been just that for me — noise.

Until this year suddenly my attention was piqued all over again because I heart Rohail Hyatt was back. I’ve been hooked, good and proper, since the premier three weeks ago. Atif Aslam has had a growth spurt, he’s singing well, he’s making sense. The general set isn’t OTT. The overall music production quality is sane and soulful again. The collaborations have been coming out of musicality first, and everything else next. There is a general sense of respect for the music, primarily, that is so palpable in every track so far. And I’ve only had a meh reaction to one out of seven tracks so far. That’s a bloody good conversion rate compared to the last few seasons.

I’ve been properly addicted, tuning into the BTS previews that release on Wednesday, and getting hyped like crazy in the run up to Fridays, when the episodes release. On Friday, there’s a dramatic countdown that happens on the video as it premiers live across the globe. And it has been such a rush to witness the release of these tracks along with other fellow junkies all shouting Rohail for president! and other versions of this in the comments as the song is slowly being released. S and I have been tripping cross continents, hyping each other and getting psyched in anticipation, on cue every single week.

I already have a season favourite.

The BTS, if it’s possible, is actually as good as the song. This is a song by Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoon who was called the Nightingale of Kashmir. In this she laments her beloved who has gone missing, for not returning to her, and keeping her waiting. It’s a comment on conflict and loss of life and love.

And I cried when I watched it. See for yourself, if you’d like. It’s worth it.

They couldn’t have timed this better even if they tried. And Zeb’s bright, twinkly eyes, the perfection in voice, and her heartfelt attempt to embody the spirit of Habba Khatoon, and her despair in missing a loved one, just did something for me that day.

The day the song released, the comments section was a celebration of love. There were loud comments harking freeKashmir! literally in thousands. Watching that, sensing the hope and optimism in those words really did something for me. Of course, I cried some more.

In the words of Zeb herself, “If we put aside what is right and wrong, the truth remains that in places where there is trouble, our loved ones are sometimes separated from us. This idea of missing someone when you don’t know where they are, it’s so relevant to places that have turmoil and that has been the experience of Kashmiri people now for centuries.” And it really hit me then, for centuries we have only heard stories of conflict, politicised stories that benefit nobody but those in power. Especially now, more than ever before, I’m suddenly curious to know more — what of the culture of the people there? What do they sing? What do they read? What do they eat? What are their celebrations like? What is it like beyond the face of turmoil and anguish that’s presented to us? Especially at a time when Kashmir is in a state of a blackout, I ask myself again and again, who will tell their stories?

It is so easy to get caught up in the right and the wrong, in the political angles. They’ll always exist, of course. And to choose one or the other will always put us in places at opposite ends of the spectrum. But what we’ve lost in all of this is basic humanity, a sense of basic rights, and this is something I’ve been sitting with silently (seeing as how this is not something I can discuss out loud, in person anywhere in my immediate surroundings) ever since the abrogation.

Thankfully, there are some people at work. This video needs to be seen.

[Trigger Warning: Violence and Bloodshed in the video below]

Is it possible to look at the humanity? At Kashmir in the context of conflict and it’s effects on people? Is it possible to put the justifications and political ideologies to the side at all?

I don’t know. And not knowing makes me very, very sad.

***

I’m grateful for music today. For poetry and the power to express such deep emotions through words in ways that can cross generations, centuries and touch hearts long after they were first penned. I’m grateful for artists like Rohail Hyatt and the entire Coke Studio Pakistan team. I can’t believe I’m going to say it but I’m thankful for Coke, else I don’t think I’d have accessed this goldmine of music ever.

I’m grateful to live in times of peace in my part of the world. For stability. For love and life as I know it.

One year ago: October
Three years ago: Diwali 2016

Food for my soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seaside blues

What you didn’t see in yesterday’s pictures, and what I missed to reflect on, given that I wrote the post in my post sea-swim bliss, was how strewn with trash and how awfully filthy the sea was. Thanks to the combined effects of the sea being in full churn, from ten days of cyclonic, stormy weather — many red alert days — and a full moon, there was trash just everywhere.

Not ideal, but one anticipates this sort of filth on the beaches more popular amongst tourists. When we moved here nearly ten years ago, local friends would tell us to go beyond Anjuna — which was something of a cut-off point — to find quiet, cleaner beaches. That imaginary point slowly moved up to Vagator. Few years down it went even further up north to Ashwem. I remember one summer, perhaps it was 2014 or 2015, we went up to Ashwem expecting to find some peace and quiet, and found literal busloads and hoards of picnicking tourists trashing the beach. For two years after, we went all the way up to Arambol whenever we needed a beach day. I was really shocked and deeply saddened yesterday, to find Morjim in much the same state.

It’s not just the filth on the beach. Something about the vibe up north has changed. The approach to the beaches, the streets, the stores and outlets, the quick and disturbingly unplanned way in which buildings and settlements are cropping up — everything feels different. And of course this means more people, more trash, more noise, more desensitisation towards the place around us.

I watched it with my own eyes when I accompanied VC down the beach where he wanted to take some sunset pictures. Morjim felt like Miramar, and if it wasn’t for the stunning sunset, I might have come back really sad. I was so tired of dodging piles of shit and rubbish. And VC was already clicking his tongue thinking about how much filth he’d have to clone out of his pictures. He said this on Instagram too, recently.

I know Goa’s garbage problem has almost touched the point of no return. And I feel a sense of helplessness when I think about where that will take us from here on. The load on the land isn’t reducing any time, systems don’t seem to be at all keeping up with where things stand today, or prepping for the future, and it just makes me wonder with worry about where this will end. And if there’s a way in which it will end even remotely prettily?

***

That aside, it was a wonderful getaway. The fact that somehow, I have spent the last three Diwalis — every one, since leaving Goa — not just back in Goa, but in close proximity to and in the company of D and UT, dawned on me earlier today. In another day it might have felt like a chance coincidence, but three consecutive years is a bit much to ignore. On our first trip back here since moving, at the same time of year, we came to Morjim to spend a day and a night. And it was only the first of oh so many, many trips back to Goa where we stayed with them for extended periods of time, ending in a whole month spent with them, babysitting the puppies, while we got our flat ready for VC’s move last year. I know I’ve always said this about sharing space with them, and having a sense of home here. But I think it is as much about a sense of home in them as people, as it is about having a space to come to.

Given the number of friendship lessons the past few years has thrown my way, the difficult realisations, the betrayal, the disappointments, the pleasant turns and coincidences, I am grateful for (and I don’t think I flip this around on it’s head to see the other side often enough) all the people who have remained.

We had a really chill 24 hours. Slowness, sessions for gabbing, silences, swimming, saltwater, squids, sleep — lots of sleep. VC and I might have gone away for a day somewhere on our own before we left, but we ended up staying only because it’s easy in the company of D and UT. Plans melt, have tos get bent, must dos are forgotten. I’m glad we made the trip away. It felt like a satisfying send off from Goa, for now, before we begin packing.

One year ago: Quiet movements where I can find