Renewed relationships

It’s easy to get that comfortable in a relationship that we feel we have each other all figured out. And maybe we do, to a large extent.

If there’s one thing spending these past 6 weeks in Goa with VC has shown me, it is how refreshing it to also allow for growth, evolution and surprises from your significant other. I’ve been so consumed in my own growth, so much so that I had to physically remove myself from our partnered life and live separately, that I may have forgotten that the space and time apart could have done him wonders too.

In our eleventh year of being married, and almost thirteenth of being together, I’m surprised, humbled and so grateful that there is room for freshness, still. For surprises, for new developments, for renewed excitement, and the possibility of uncharted territory opening up once again.

I did not see this coming. But somehow, here we are.

There’s a lot of surprises that came from this trip. All totally unexpected, some very wild, but I think this has been my favourite surprise of them all.

One year ago: April

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Summer

This year, the first in many many years now, doesn’t feel like it is zipping by me while I clamber to catch up with it. I’m aware May may have felt like it came too soon, wasn’t it just December last week, but this year I feel like I have experienced  what a slowly ripening mango waiting in my fruit bowl. Sturdy, bright, ripe, and yet gently giving in to age and time. There is life in that passing, and it shows in how it lives even as it passes.

Of late, life has the quality of that of light suspended through the gap in my curtains on a bight summer afternoon. It’s laid back, it’s still, and it is full of life.

This morning, I realised that perhaps this is a function of age too? And of this extremely fortuitous place in life that I am in, where nothing is too fast or too slow. Things just are, and they’re passing. I’m aware of it, but it is without the manufactured urgency and/or FOMO that has come to be synonymous with time itself. I’m grateful for the slow, empty, pensive weeks I’ve had since getting to Goa, which have undoubtedly contributed to this internal slowing within.

One year ago: Simple things
Three yeas ago: Summer evenings

Gratitude

I didn’t really plan on “birthday week” per se, but as it happened, the entire week of my birthday was a blissful happy time and it makes me really thankful for so much.

I watched Endgame, twice — on opening day and the day after. I am still not a hardcore MCU fiend by any stretch of imagination, but last year I really got into it and bothered to try and watch some of the better films of the lot, in order to get a handle on the overall plot. I did, to some extent, but watching Endgame made me realise there is so much I am suddenly curious about. So I also spent some parts of the weekend watching older movies. Dr Strange, for one, which I think is so far the best movie in this series for me.

We finally ticked off the other thing on my wish list on the weekend too. And. It. Surpassed. All. Expectations. The burger was huge, juicy, spectacularly flavoured, with a side of homemade potato chips, not fries, and aioli. MMMMMMM. The burger was in fact so big and filling, and my appetite has shrunk so much, both VC and I packed half a burger away to have for dinner. Which worked out just great for us.

Having my birthday on a national holiday has meant that there is always someone to celebrate with, and this time was no different. When I was growing up, it was always summer holidays and I’d mostly be in Bombay with my handful of chuddy buddies, and everyone was available because everyone was on holiday. As an adult, Labour Day has ensured that I’ve always had the day off and spent it with friends. VC had a holiday too, and we planned to go to the beach. But I got my period that morning, bummer, and was in no mood to swim anymore. So we made a detour and I got me another tattoo I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now. Even though it’s been in the works in my head for a while, I think the timing was perfect, and the tattoo suddenly means so much more to me, personally.

We then went out to dinner to my favourite Italian restaurant because earlier in the week I went down a rabbit hole watching endless videos of pasta in the making, that had triggered a serious, massive spaghetti bolognese craving. I went totally crazy and ate dessert too — a luscious, flowery fragrant creme brulee. Memorable.

It’s time to write my annual birthday letter to myself, and I got down to it this past week. Last year, I decided to write two letters a year to myself and ended up actually writing three — just so many thoughts and feels to share I suppose hahahaha. This year, in addition I’m writing letters to some folks I feel like letting know how much they’ve contributed to my life this past year. So there’s going to be a fair bit of letter writing in the coming days.

This is probably the only “work” I did. With fasting diligently on weekdays at home, I’m pretty much down to one meal a day. And that means I only need to cook dinner. So I spend a large part of the day, really just chilling. This extended chilling, with literally nothing demanding my attention or asking for my time has been timely, and hasn’t happened ever before. I’m learning to go with it, and doing my best to shut the guilty person in my head down.

Meals have been really good. Something kicks in in the evenings when I decide to get up and cook dinner. They’ve been simple meals, but low-to-no-carbs and unlike ever before, I’ve been feeling inspired to create something fun and hearty even with those limitations. VC has joined in and this entire week we managed to eat well, stay on top of the fitness goals by exercising every day, which always sets me up for a good state of mind.

On Friday, I went to my happy place this side of Goa — the Friday market at Mapusa and bought the freshest veggies, mangoes, and generally revelled in wandering about the crowded place. I love, love, love this place and going there just makes me so happy. To take in the sights and smells and to jostle about with the locals, watching the hustle does something for me. I came home with these insane flowery plants that I’m going to put in my terrace too.

I ended the week with watching Endgame yet again hahaha — third time’s a charm. Because I watched some of the older movies, and now I actually get — at a deeper level — what some of the little details mean. This past week I’ve been very taken by the cultural phenomenon that this entire comic book universe has been, almost like the Star Wars of our generation. So I got all academic and geeky and did a lot of reading to fill in the blanks for myself. And that really changed the experience for me. I’ve now decided to slowly go through the entire lot of movies in sequential order. While I think I should watch them in the chronological order of the sequence of events that unravel in the movies, VC believes I should go in the (mis)ordered way that they were made because that back and forth has a place and a logic, apparently. My sequence-obsessed mind is having trouble accepting that.

For various reasons, it’s taken me a while to get into the mangoes this season. Also, the best has only just begun in Goa, in my honest opinion. I’m firmly in favour of Goan mangoes over even the best Alphonsos which I honestly find super overrated. So I also got back some of my favourite mangoes from the Friday market, and I have to say there is quite nothing like breaking a 16-17 hour fast with mangoes. And for that, I am utterly, utterly grateful.

Every day this past week I’ve woken up to mildly overcast skies, with that sticky pre-monsoon stillness of heavy humidity hanging in the air. It’s given me wild hopes that I get to witness at least a shower or two before I leave for Bangalore again.

One year ago: The beer I had for breakfast
Three years ago: At sea

35

This has been a pretty significant year for me. But quite unlike significant times in the past that have had an unmistakeable flourish, this has been a quiet sort of significant year, with flecks of change, the tiniest shifts and movements flowing in, unnoticed. The sort of change that mostly only I and the people I am closest to know about or will likely notice.

For far too long I’ve been very shy about admitting how much I love my birthday. But the honest truth is that I love having a day dedicated to me, to look back on how far I’ve come, to give myself a good pat on the back, and to take stock and feel optimistic and really hopeful about the future. I’ve been fortunate to have this happen every single birthday thus far. So, even though I haven’t really admitted it in as many words, my folks, my sister and my husband already know how only too well, how much I love this day. To the rest of the world, I’ve always played the omg-it’s-just-another-day-it-doesn’t-matter act pretty damn well.

So, today is that day again, and I’m off to the beach to celebrate how grateful I am for the gift of another birthday, another year to travel around the sun.

I’m grateful for all that this past year has been — for the lessons it brought, for making me see that growing up sometimes requires looking back, accepting transgressions, grief, hurt, difficulties, but absolutely looking ahead and making amends gently, slowly.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to temporarily disengage from the forced cohabiting arrangement of marriage, and for all the realisations and insights that came out of this experience. It’s been quite the game-changer this past year, enabling me to stretch myself and come into my own. I’m so grateful for VC’s understanding, support and acceptance of this and all that came, and continues to come out of it. I really cherish and hold close his ability to accept me as I am, as much as the woman I am becoming (which I am sure sometimes feels like not at all the woman he married hahahaha), and the constant state of work-in-progress that is our lives at the moment.

I’m grateful for therapy that has so wonderfully tied together the various threads that currently bind my life and being, in a way that no amount of conversation with friends or family can, no amount of reading the best books has, and no amount of trying to figure this out on my own could ever have.

I’m grateful especially for my body. In the past year I have seen what happens to it when I deliberately, totally let go, allowing it to balloon and flourish in surprising ways. I began to notice age in some places — in the way the suppleness and flexibility I took for granted now resists when I push it, the way the skin on my face doesn’t spring back as easily as it used to, the way my digestion has visibly slowed, the tiger stripes that really stand out now, the way getting back to exercise was a bigger uphill task than I ever imagined it could ever be.

And yet, I’m grateful that with a little work, my body still does the things I want to do — whether it’s working my way up to a 5km run again, nailing push-ups again or doing a cartwheel on a whim. Yes, still got it.

I’m grateful for the awareness that all of these changes have come gently, slowly, with little to almost no panic for a change. There has been a very conscious awareness, yes, and it’s made me prioritise taking care of myself and my body in a way that feels very intentional. I’ve always had an eye for eating well, a penchant for fitness and staying fit and healthy, but somehow this feels very different from before when I held many fantastic (unrealistic) notions about my body.

I’m grateful that the rush has died down some. The rush to get somewhere, do this, be that, do more — that constant buzz in my head reminding me of time rushing by and there being so much left to do is dormant for the most part, and I’ve figured out how some tricks to shut it down, when it tends to get active from time to time.

This past year, I re-discovered deliberation. It’s brought a certain slowness and a calm, an ability to move with intention, that has really been another game-changer. It’s made me free-er in choosing which way I want to go, more open in accepting everything that has come my way, and just light and easy going in embracing it all.

A younger me might roll her eyes and scoff at me for turning soft. Maybe she’d balk at how little I hold on to anymore, and how fluid I’ve become. But it is what it is and it seems to work for me.

***

Just one birthday ago I wondered about whether I’ll ever really feel my age. For most of my life I haven’t felt exactly my age. I’ve always felt extremes — either too wise and old beyond my years sometimes, or just so young and naive for my age. This was mostly brought out in situations where I had other people my age to compare with. I’ve lived a large part of my life feeling like I never quite fit right.

This is changing, ever so slowly. I realised recently, that thanks to this newfound comfort I have begun to feel over the course of this past year, I have truly begun to feel my age. Not that I miraculously make myself fit, but that I am comfortable just the way I am, whether I fit or not. And so more often than not, it does feel like I fit.

Nothing feels out of sync, things don’t stick out and irk me as much, differences don’t hinder my experiences. I hold desires for doing more but the desperation to get there fast is slowly fading. I’m re-learning patience all the time. I’m comfortable in my skin, in my body, in the way I am, and the way I feel for the most part.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age or growing up, but I’m keenly aware that my time here is limited. So limited that I feel a strong need to make the most of it. Which is not so say I’ve drawn up a bucket list of impossible things like scuba diving and bungee jumping or visiting 10 countries in the next 10 years, I must tick off. I want to focus my time in spaces that matter to me, on things and people I love and am drawn to. I want to try and always say what I absolutely mean, be more honest, articulate and truthful in the relationships that matter, and try more and more to tell those people just how much they really mean to me.

I’m being constantly shown how often I need to redefine the many catch words that I hold on to — markers of things that are important to me — Peace. Success. Happiness. Care. Love. Strength. Joy. I’ve also learned that happiness and joy is not, and never needs to be, linked with perfection. Or success. Of any kind.

I am mostly bumbling along and stumbling over myself along this journey, but if there’s one thing I’m truly proud of, it’s how much I have been able tame that inner perfectionist in me. I’m grateful for having learned that it’s okay to change my mind. I’ve embraced softness as far as possible, in every area of my life that I can — softness with people, towards myself, with my body, with my dreams, with my emotions. I don’t see the need to be the kind of strong or hard that I once aspired to be.

This past year I relinquished control over the grand plans, a lot. Life has become so much about living the small everyday things, cheering myself on for the little wins, revelling in mundane daily happinesses and the utter smallness of it all. I’ve really been feeling this is where that joy — that I’ve so long believed lies in chasing the grand plans, the big picture, the distant future — is at. Right here. Now.

The nowness of life hits me on a daily basis, and it stays and lingers in a way that has made me feel very, very secure and steady. I put this down entirely to the course I did last year that altered my compass, pointed me closer to my true north. It’s made me see things so very differently, shifting my very perspective on everything, on life itself, 180 degrees. And there is just no unseeing it, no turning back. It has been like opening the curtains on a view I’ve known all along, but suddenly everything is brighter and beautiful.

Year 36, I’m so very ready for you.

Past birthdays: one year ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago.

Beachy things

Here’s all the times I have been out to the beach, had so much fun and told myself I need to do this “more often”. 2012, again in 2012, and again in 2012 — makes sense, because this was the year I quit full time work. Then it became a sort of ritual to do one big trip, go away for a weekend or more, in 2013, 2014, 2016 and again in 2016. And this is just counting the few posts I remember writing about more than a day being spent by the beach, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the number of posts in the archives that I can’t remember, or the number of times I’ve been out for just the day, or the evening to chill by the sea, drink or book in hand, to just be — I had an almost-weekly routine of doing this and recall mostly taking either S or VC for company, when I didn’t choose to go by myself.

All this nostalgia and rewinding time to say this trip, I feel like I have been bitten by the beach bug good and proper. There was last weekend spent entirely by the beach in the water, which made me immensely happy to the very depths of my soul. I have not enjoyed the sea this much in a long, long time, such that I was unwilling to leave the water, sunburnt shoulders and nose be damned, until the sun had well set. If I count beginning the day at 6.30 am with a run with R, sometimes splashing through waves, it takes the average hours spent at the beach up a notch. All of this inspired the same old feels — a promise to get out and do this more often. (You can see VC’s recent pictures from these trips on his Instagram.)

What I didn’t think would happen so soon is yet another day spent at the beach. When D invited us to join her and the family (Olive too! And when I saw how happy she was on the beach, it made me miss Leo and Lego oh so much) at a beach in the South, I hesitated because we had planned a barbecue for 12 people that we had to prep for. But both VC and I decided in literally two minutes of discussion that we should go — that’s how much we’ve enjoyed the sea this season. So we rushed through preps the previous night and off we went the next morning.

Post full moon magic is real, you guys. The sea was magnificent. Giant rockers perfect for wave jumping and sea salt immersion, complimented with the gentlest bouncy bobbity waves perfect for just lolling about, with white froth and salty breeze in the air. I really soaked it in, coming out only to have a beer and eat batter-fried calamari and fries. We had landed up at the most random and uninviting shack, but were thoroughly surprised with how great the food was. A giant meal was had, and while we all balked at the quantities we had ordered at the start, I noticed we’d done a decent job of wiping most of it clean by the end.

BIG love <3

Again, we came home close to 4 pm burnt to toast and crashed for a whole hour, waking up only in time to do all the last minute things we needed to before folks began to arrive for dinner.

Yesterday evening, we went off to Chapora Fort. I hadn’t been back since 2014, and VC since 2012 or so. And boy, o boy, the place has changed. For the worse, I’m afraid. It’s got a Baga vibe, chockfull of tourists recreating their own Dil Chahta Hai moments — we saw a group of girls singing along to some DCH song and trying desperately to get it right and on video. They eventually did in what seemed like the 23rd attempt. To make things worse we didn’t realise it was Sunday so of course it was going to be packed. However, we found a spot to enjoy the seamless, vast views of the sea that remain, thankfully. It is still one of the best spots to catch the sunset.

Today, VC is in Mumbai for a meeting and I briefly entertained the idea of going to the beach in the morning, before giving it up in favour of gardening some. Phew. I’ll save it for the weekend.

The sea still remains one of the top things about Goa that I miss when I’m away. Sigh. It’s heartening, and I feel so very lucky for having had this luxury for so many years. I think of all the evenings, weekends and entire days spent under the influence of the sea and it truly makes me feel so grateful for this experience that I have really exploited. It’s undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to access healing, calming and humbling stimuli around here. Just walking on wet, solid sand watching the moisture stretch away under pressure beneath my feet, or having a wave completely submerge you, or getting that timing right down pat when I’m able to skim the surface of a giant wave and let it buoy me over than drag me under, it is just such a thrill.

Im approximately four shades darker from all of this — a colour I love, and haven’t had in many years now– and my shoulders have proceeded to peeling, painlessly this time thankfully. But on the inside, I feel so good.

One year ago: Doesn’t mean I’ll stop
Three years ago: Stop

Thank you, Bangalore

Couple of things I’ve been missing sorely:

Running on a treadmill. I’d built my way up to a decent pace and distance. And it was only going to get better with consistency, but running on a treadmill came to a grinding halt in Goa because I do not have access to a gym. I could run outdoors but I live just off what used to be a rather pretty highway flanked by villages in either side, that is now just a royal mess with massive road construction in progress for kilometres on end. It’s not only dangerous for me to try and run there but also just such a displeasure. The home workouts have been a blessing, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss the sheer rush of a good even-paced, speedy run on the treadmill.

Seeing Amma everyday. Most unexpectedly, I’m really missing Amma. I say unexpectedly because this is the sort of trip that’s happened many times before. We’re constantly travelling and not seeing each other for bouts of time. I wonder what has changed this time around?

My nearly-daily iced americano fix. I miss spending those couple of hours at Third Wave every other day, getting work done while nursing an iced americano that they’ve just mailed and that just hits the spot for me every single time. I’ve been demotivated to get working, enthusiasm flagging in the comforts of my home and loungey routine. I miss having the option to go to an “office” space.

My frennsss. Truth be told, I miss my friends too. I can count them on one hand, yes, but I miss them nonetheless. I’ve realised with alarming clarity that I am not as much of an introvert and homebody as I used to be or as I thought I am. I like the presence of people, I like making spontaneous plans, I like meeting with them regularly, I like going out and catching up over food and drink. And when I come here, all of that has a forced stop. The quiet is great, but I’d kill for some frequent, well-timed bits of action.

My therapist. Even though I continue therapy over Skype when I am in Goa, I do so miss the face to face interaction and the extra insights it brings.

Sunday walks. It’s been an unexpectedly long hiatus and it’s beginning to show, because last Sunday, I had visions of walking the snaking paths we do in Bangalore, covered by green, and the idli and vada we have after. Green space I have aplenty here, but I will never find an idli or a vada to match up.

***

I guess what I’m also feeling, on the flipside, is gratitude for all of this. It fills my life with a certain energy and richness that I feel the palpable lack of when I am away. This, I realise now. I’m so grateful for all that I receive from Amma. I’m grateful for the renewed inclination to get fit again and for all the help and resources I have to make this happen, uncompromisingly. I’m grateful for work, and all that it enables. I’m grateful for my friends, the ones who remain and who always show up. I’m grateful for Bangalore and the nature in which it shows me a contrasting experience to the one I have in Goa, because it makes me realise again and again that I am not bound to any one place, vibe or state of being.

One year ago: And I’m feeling so bohemian like you
Three years ago: Lucid

Chance encounters

One of my big fears about coming back to Goa used to be facing some of the people I left behind when I moved. I say left behind because it’s what I did. My moving cities coincided with a gradual moving away from certain people. It was an inevitable, gradual shift in my mind, but I can see now how and why it must have seemed to them like an abrupt kind of abandoning. And so every time that I am here, I wonder about what it might be like to meet them again. Goa is a small place, and thanks to my workplace, my freelance work, the gym I went to my circles were all very mixed and I was in a social space where everybody knew everybody (that in itself was too much for me, and a big reason why I just wanted out). On past trips here, I’ve been unusually stressed about possible encounters, getting riled up at hearing about things they’ve said about me post my leaving, and such. But I underestimate myself, and the capacity of enough time having passed and the wonders it can do for growth.

It is my tendency to protect myself when I feel vulnerable and my insecurities are exposed, and so in the past I may have done things like measured and calculated my wandering within Goa in the hope that I do not encounter someone I do not want to meet. I didn’t realise when this phase had passed, because on day 1 here, I didn’t even think twice about walking to VC’s office and waiting at the entrance for him. This was unthinkable last year. I was engrossed in an email when a friend from back in the day approached me with a tap on the shoulder. I turned, and when I saw it was her, I instantly expected a wave of panic and rage to come over me.

But it didn’t come.

We chatted, exchanging mundane pleasantries. And then she said those dreaded words.

Let’s catch up sometime.

Again, I waited for the polite response to make its way out with extra faked gusto: Sure!

But it didn’t come.

In its place was a measured, polite It’s alright.

And maybe I was saying that more to myself than her? It’s alright to be me. It’s alright to be honest. It’s alright not to put myself in a place I know will not make me feel good. It’s alright not to want the company of people I have chosen to move away from. It’s alright.

I’m grateful for whatever it is that’s happening with me that has suddenly brought forth this ability to put myself first. Even if in little, seemingly minor ways. I’m enjoying cutting away a lot of the unnecessary politeness, that stemmed from wanting to be seen and known in a certain light, fall away. I am grateful for the openness to discover this confidence to be seen as I am.

Sometimes distant. Sometimes impolite. Sometimes aloof. I am all these things sometimes, and it’s been freeing to let these sides be seen too.

***

With VC, I feel like I’ve come home to a whole new-old person. Does that make sense? Do you know what it’s like to know someone, deep in your bones and be so familiar and used to it that when a big change strikes it sweeps you over and knocks you down just like the charm you felt the very first time you met them? Maybe he’s changed as much as I have and I needed to be here to really see it. Maybe I’ve changed and I had to be here to see how it all plays out and what possibilities it now opens up for us? Maybe this is the beginning of something new and there was no way to unlock it than to come here. I’m grateful for the visible changes. I’m grateful for VC. I’m glad I came.

***

The very next day after I got to Goa, I visited A who has suddenly taken very ill. Last week, I sat in Bangalore, worried sick, helplessly wondering what I could do to make a difference. Distance is such a bitch at times like this. I’ll be there in two weeks. I’d said to JC then, feebly, feeling so inadequate and hopeless for not being able to be around when they’re dealing with so much on their own.

I guess it was just meant to be because here I am two weeks ahead of plan, and A got out of the ICU and came back home the same night that I landed. Which meant, I could see her immediately.

I know I went there for her. To be present, to offer support, to check in on her. But it was oddly fulfilling for me. There is an openness and welcoming nature she has that always, always makes me feel so warm and happy. I think even if 20 years go by and we meet again, I will feel this again. As I often worry about friends in Goa and having to start over in a pool that is already small, made smaller still by my very efficient first round of selection, I’m grateful for people like A who make me time and time again feel that it will be okay.

***

Of course I also went to visit D, Olive and Lego on day 1. The pups greeted me with exuberant jumping and many licks, hyper sniffing and loud demands for biscuits. All of this lasted much longer than usual. I am tempted to say it was the doggy bag of tandoori chicken that was parcelled in my bag, but I also want to say maybe it’s just that they remember me. And they are always so unabashed in showing that they remember, and welcome me back home. As per the norm, D and I chatted on and on and as per the norm, I caused her to miss her siesta again.

I like that we can pick up from wherever, whenever. Despite being emotionally all over the place in our own respective ways of late, I like that the prolonged silences do not get in the way. I’m truly grateful that I don’t have to pretend, or make extra overtures to bridge them. I can be what I am, the way I am and we still have a world of things to talk about, or sit in silence together, equally.

***

I know why I resisted coming here sooner than planned so much. It’s because the circumstances brought out these latent fears full force, and I was just not ready to face them. But today I think maybe I needed this. As much as VC did. Because it’s been just a few days and, I felt it the very next morning. I felt like something very fundamental that I was missing in the last few weeks has suddenly been found.

In many ways I feel like I have come full circle, and I feel today, like I did one day two years ago when I finally made some sense (and peace) with moving to Bangalore.

I just had a strangely serendipitous conversation with VC about how sometimes one has to really go the distance to learn something very basic. It seems like an unnecessary journey, and sometimes the upheaval seems disproportionate to the truth learned, but it is how it is.

One year ago: A life of stranger things
Three years ago: Busy bee day

A good day to give thanks

Gratitude this week for:

My body for reminding me how resilient it is and how much I can push and stretch it to do things I sometimes think are unimaginable.

Access to a gym, to be able to afford it and to put money, mind and body into fitness as a priority.

My trainers and for the commitment and focus they bring. And for inspiring and pushing me.

One year ago: Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves

Love-filled

I feel soft and full of love today.

***

Today, I cooked the first proper meal all by myself in my home. I’ve had the extreme, extreme luxury of hopping over to my parents place for every single meal since I got back from holiday over ten days ago. Between feeling disoriented and resuming a killer workout schedule that has rendered my movement in the rest of the day a little compromised, and a whole week of hectic social activities, I have unabashedly leaned on amma and her unrelenting capacity to give and keep giving. Whether it’s hot meals, breakfast every single day, her car whenever I need it (which has been every day these days *eyeroll*) and just generally being that fall back I always have. It has meant I didn’t have to stock up my kitchen till yesterday, I didn’t have to worry about my nutrition as I stepped into the 6-week program, I didn’t have to do a thing other than show up and be fed with wholesome, nutritious food.

S is coming over for lunch today, so I decided to cook rather than order in or go out. While cooking this morning, I realised that to be able to slip into domesticity as and when I feel like, rather than bound by necessity is such a game-changer at this present time of my life. This is one of the big issues I fought in Goa, right before I left. I felt bound and tied down by some parts of domesticity, and constantly felt like doing them was keeping me from doing the things I really wanted to. I feel grateful for the proximity to my parents that allows this, for amma’s constant presence and support in ways I don’t even have to ask for, and for how life sometimes conspires to make possible the smallest, seemingly insignificant details of my life a reality, and for how hugely that impacts my life.

***

I woke up this morning feeling fresh as a new summer day. I’ve been having some incredibly good sleep since resuming working out harder. My digestion feels more settled, my skin feels better — these, and some other small niggling physical changes in my system that had begun to creep up last year seem to be on the wind-down. It’s amazing what a little extra movement, some essential burning of excess energy and regulation in food and hydration can do. I’m grateful for another opportunity to workout with S. For the new sneakers I got this past week. For access to a gym so close to home. For summer mornings that make waking up easier. For VC’s constant, unquestioning support in this area of my life.

One year ago: Somebody holds the key
Three years ago: Silence

Benaras: Orange

It is impossible not to feel the sense of reverence and deep, deep faith that people carry when they visit Benaras. It was palpable from the very first time we ventured out on day 1. While faith may be a singular word to describe what I saw, I saw it in many shapes and forms.

It was overwhelming to see how the city attracts all kinds of people, in an array of sizes and colours, from across the world, expressing their reverence in a host of different ways. Whether it was the solitary white man doing his early morning yoga, or the group of Naga babas offering their hawan at sundown hidden in a haze of what was clearly a chillum of hash, or just the blind way in which hoards of people thought nothing of throwing themselves into a veritably, visibly filthy river, or the literal gazillion people-strong crowd that was ballooning over the hour-long evening Ganga-aarti, clapping in unison with the bells and bellowing conches.

It was quite a rousing experience. To witness all of this in the matter-of-fact landscape of a religious place that somehow is the leveller that we expect it to be was humbling.

I witnessed the celebration of birth, or marriage taking place alongside the mourning of death. I saw white people filled with a genuine curiosity and reverence for soaking up the exotic edge they make of our culture, alongside boat-loads of Chinese tourists who didn’t bat an eyelid before collectively pointing all their cameras at the massive funeral pyres along Manikarnika ghat. There was a fancy cruise-liner like fancy boat that floated by the scores of humble hand-rowed small boats and the both co-exist in peace. There was as much a sense of spectacular outpouring of faith that gave me goosebumps as there was a little bit of the inevitable gross display of commercialism that preys off of religion. There was immense offering of gratitude, love and joy in the backdrop of such a filthy city.

The paradoxes were confusing, but also awe-inspiring, because they were just so reminiscent of how the nebulous idea of faith and whatever we make of it is beyond anything we can touch or tame.

I feel really grateful for the opportunity to witness something so far out from the limited purview of my world and beliefs I hold. Faith and belief are very different things for me, as a strictly non-religious believer. It can get very comfortable and dangerously limiting to have a unidimensional view like mine, in the absence of exposure to other opinions and realities. My time in Benaras really shook the ground beneath the foundation of my current thoughts about faith, especially in the context of a country that’s growingly religiously fundamental. I’m glad for the wake-up call to re-assess where I stand. I’m grateful for the opportunity to view what faith looks like for people in worlds so different from my own. To witness what it must be like to surrender faith and suspend belief to this extent, to give in blindly to something beyond oneself.

<3

Looking at Benaras through the lens of faith really brought home the immense polarity and duality in our world. This rock that floats in the expanse of nothingness is a simultaneously harsh and gentle place. It is equal parts enraging and inspiring. It holds its fair share of maddening, infuriating truths, as it does moments of tenderness and beauty. All of that sat front and centre, quickly in just a few days. Seeing up close and personal, the deeply emotional cycle of birth, life, celebration and degradation, and eventually death, held up against a vividly unemotional canvas, I felt a resonance and a renewed definition of being in agreement with life and all that comes with it.

The last thing I expected this trip away to do was send me down an inconclusive, meandering path, thinking. This was a trio unlike many others we have taken, for various reasons but I think VC described it the best yesterday: this was a trip that demanded some soul searching out of us.

It was so refreshing. So unexpected. And for that, it will be unforgettable.

One year ago: The real, deep-down you is the whole universe
Three years ago: How we’ve aged (part 2)

Back to base

There’s something still very exciting about getting in a capsule of metal and hurtling through the skies at gravity defying speeds to be in places much, much faster than you could I’d you chose to go by road.

I’m feeling very grateful for the capacity to do this as often as I do, and for the possibilities it affords. But I’m even more grateful that VC is on board with the idea, after many years of dismissing it as “too much kheti“.

Today began at 5 am again. But only to catch our flight back to Bangalore. We touched base only for enough time to catch lunch and do a batch of laundry before jetting off to watch Captain Marvel. And OMFFGGGGG it was so meta. And so damn good. So posts about the food and the rest of Benaras will have to wait while I pick my brains off the floor and recompose.

Until then, ta.

Three years ago: Pretending to be brave

Home away from home kind of feeling

It’s been the strangest, nicest stay in Goa this time around. Unlike every one of my visits over last year, where I had an agenda and work to get done — whether we were on shoot, or I came down to help get the house in order and done up — this time around I had no plans. Nothing to occupy me except my own whim. I also got a lot of my own work done ahead of game this month, so I had plenty of time on my hands.

I imagined this would free me up to be out and about a lot, but on the contrary, I’ve spent a most of my time on my own. At home, and outside. But on my own. I’m once again in a very inward state of mind, and being free of external encumbrance has meant that I have been still a little more, staying more.

Consequently, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone even when I did step out. I went to the beach alone, I haven’t done that in years. I caught up with C over breakfast and then a couple of hours sitting in the sunshine in the municipal garden. I spent entire days with A, something I have probably unconsciously shied away from these past few visits, I wandered around my neighbourhood, I drove to the airport and back to pick VC up, I spent a weekend with VCs college buddy and family mostly entertaining and being entertained by a 2-year old who was 100% more interesting than any of the adults.

At home, I’ve caught up on reading, I’ve watched way too many terrible Hindi movies (I’m embarrassed to say how many — some days I watched more than one a day) , I’ve cooked most meals at home (we’ve only eaten out twice since I got here!), I’ve managed to get more exercise than I usually do when I come here (though the last week was disappointing in this regard), and still I haven’t felt that restlessness I usually do when I come here. That restlessness to get shit done — to tick things off my wishlist, to go places, to meet people, to garden, to paint chairs, to fix shit or whatever else — has found some stillness.

I’ve just stayed put for a change. I didn’t plan this. It didn’t take deliberation. It has happened mostly because, for a change, I’ve listened to the cues and followed them, I think.

***

Staying always has incredible advantages. When the rumble of life comes to a slow whir, and my breathing normalises, when there is an almost-uncomfortable silence about me, is when some unshakeable realisations happen. These are moments when I least expect them to happen. I’m learning to welcome them, without having my world temporarily fall apart because of them.

There’s been a fair number of those.

Thoughts about Goa. About home.

Thoughts about friendship. Of letting go.

Thoughts about where to next?

Thoughts about change. And growth.

***

Gratitude, today, for the opportunity of this time. For the solitary state of mind Goa inspires in me. For all the forces that have worked at unearthing things within me that have brought me this far, to this milestone.

One year ago: I still remember, when we did not have the answers

Born again, all grown up

I’ve been feeling overwhelmingly content. Like there’s just so much of this good life, I can’t get enough of it, I’m too small to take it all in, it’s abundance spilling over from all around me.

Everything is a bit superlative right now. All the words are excessive and extra. And even then the words to explain how new this all feels aren’t enough.

I feel young, tender, and wide open like a child. I also feel very confident, whole and empowered like an adult. All kinds of grown up.

I feel whole, like stepping into a new door with new agency. New energy.

This is new. This is mine. And I don’t have to fight for it anymore.

So much gratitude for where I am today. For how for the first time in probably my entire life I feel a sense of balance. Of everything being right just as it is. No unquenched yearning, no burning desire, no sense of longing or incompleteness for anything.

I have never known this before and I feel such immense gratitude for having arrived here.

One year ago: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

Digging to find the happy

I cancelled all of today out, and drove for nearly two hours to go spend the day with S at her home. Somewhere along the way, making my way through impossible traffic, I pondered over everything that’s been going through my mind these past few days. I was taken right back to 2015-16, where this part of my life/journey began. Suddenly, I recognised how far I’ve come from where I once was, where I once began. I felt immediately overwhelmed at the realisation of how much time it has been, how long I’ve been at this steadily (it’s longer than the longest job I’ve held down, if you need perspective), how fortunate I’ve been in finding the right sources for help every time that I have sought it, and most of all what a rock solid role VC has played in enabling this for me (and by extension, for us).

I teared up good and proper, thinking of the ride, some key milestones popping up in my mind, feeling so much gratitude for the ability to ask for help. And the unbelievable ways in which help has arrived promptly, every time that I have looked for it.

It’s easy to get caught up in the small, daily niggling issues. I often do. The seemingly minor annoyances growing into monsters of gargantuan proportions in my head, with ghastly effects ranging from self-flagellation to self-doubt and unnecessary closing-up. In all of this, I lose sight of the big picture. Often. But this morning, in that haze of tears and gratitude, I was able to really pull all the way back and see what a phenomenal time these past 3-4 years have been, and what they’ve done for me.

Nearly 90% of the person I am today, isn’t the person I was then. So much has changed. And yet, at the heart of it, so much endures. But what hit me the most, and hardest, was that my life and my being today, is a near-perfect version of the one that was but a desire and a dream in 2015. When I was beginning to hit rock bottom, when I was looking to slow down and didn’t know how, when I was flailing and in need of help and wondering where to look, when I wanted answers but all I had were questions.

This current reality, this life I am living, in this present moment — with regular therapy and growth and mindfulness front and centre of it, with a select few friends to hold my hands through it, with the way too many feelings, with the freedom and flexibility from work, with VC chasing the Goa life he wanted to test anew, with me in Bangalore, with the space, with the distance, with the brave and testing conversations we have, with an appetite for travel and new experiences and the means to make most of them happen, with the lightness and agility to go, to iron out every smallest detail of our lives the way we want to shape it, with a newfound ease with waiting and watching, with a new degree of peace and settlement within towards both my families, with a new sense of belonging that has nothing to do with where I live, with new roots and a new set of wings, with a capacity for joy — this is the life that felt so far away and out of my reach in 2015.

And yet, here I am. Living it.

It’s easy to get caught up in the small, daily niggling issues. To get so hyper-focused on feeling the lack, that I miss the true impact of time, generosity and flow that my life has actually seen. When I slide down that tunnel of overthinking, I lose sight of this larger picture. The story of how I got here to this place in my life.

I also lose touch with the inherent sense of gratitude and overwhelming gratefulness that I feel constantly. So today, I’m bringing that back and inviting it in and shining a spotlight on it again.

One year ago: The future is no place to place your better days

Slice of life

My breakfast ritual seems to have waned — for no reason other than that I didn’t get back to it since I’ve been back from Goa — but I’ve swapped it for a new one. Afternoons spent here.

This past month, this space has seen:

some of my most “productive” work hours

some of the best coffees I’ve had in recent time

me lose track of time

a lot of the alone time that I’ve enjoyed. Also a lot. (I could have very well done this at home, but then when I have access to this lovely space, why not?)

me make more entries in my journal than I have in years

Today, in the midst of writing frantically finishing a work piece on septic tanks (of all the exciting things I could be writing about), listening to this (so loud the damn train was in my brain) I had one of those moments of overwhelming happiness. I looked up, hit pause and just for a minute, wondered what I’ve done right to deserve this luxury — this life of such extreme flexibility that really makes my life better in ways I cannot even begin to enumerate.

So this is gratitude today, as always for the privilege and the means, but also for a change, for my heart that keeps me going, to chase every last detail of the kind of life I want.

One year ago: January
Three years ago: Fields of gold