Gratitude fix

Grateful for the great weather we’ve been having. Sweaters by night, sunshine by day. Crisp early beginnings, the beginnings of winter sunlight that frame every new day and make me forget all that’s wrong with the world for just that little bit.

Sure, it’s made waking up as early as I am used to a tad harder. Actually, scratch that. The waking up happens rather easily, I’m afraid I’ve hacked my body clock to open eyes at 6 am. It’s the leaving the bed and getting out from under the blanket bit thats much, much harder. I end up snoozing the alarm for upwards of 40 minutes and have pushed my start of day a fair bit.

Grateful for the festivities of the weekend. After many years I had the opportunity to indulge in more than just the partaking of the feast — which is frankly the most interesting part of Ganesh Chaturti, amiright? I enjoyed wandering about shopping with amma, and doing my little bit to cook parts of the traditional meal we’ve been accustomed to eating for all these years, and that I realised I have a special fondness and affinity for.

I’ve indulged in about three times the amount of food I consume on any given day over Gowri and Ganesh, taking seconds (and thirds in some cases) of all my favourite foods, unabashedly. All my restraint and restrictions have fallen to the wayside almost as easily as they have been imbibed, and I’m observing how natural and easy to give in and slip back on track it has become of late. Is this what eating intuitively is?

Grateful for the burst of life that festivals bring to my neighbourhood, literally transforming the place. Traffic is a bitch, but we got out on foot, in the middle of the day and in another time I might have been hassled and bothered. But I enjoyed it, the sights and sounds suddenly appealing and sweet, touching a hitherto untouched part of my heart almost.

This is V and we’ve reconnected after about 10 years. It’s only been a handful of times that we’ve met, but every time that we have, it’s been lighthearted, easy, full of laughter. I almost forget we are adult versions of the people we were when we used to be broke teenagers in college who resorted to hanging out on park benches because we had no money to go anywhere else. And yet, somewhere in between the rambunctious laughter over the silliest things, I see how far we’ve come, how grown up we are. I’m grateful for the many reconnections I’ve had. It’s brought variety to my friendships, loosened me up and brought a much-needed lightness to my life that allows for unabashed day drinking.

There’s been something of a throwback theme going on with me. Last week I caught up with S after more than a decade, and at Koshys where we met, I happened to glance around and notice my English Literature professor sitting at a table behind me. She’s literally the only teacher from those three godawful years in college, who I cared for, who made an impact on me, and who I remember enough to go say hi. I looked straight at her, dead sure she wouldn’t recognise me. In my head, I look nothing like I did in college, especially with the shorter than ever before hair. But she looked straight back at me and went; “Revati!”

We engaged in a full on conversation and she seemed to remember every little detail about where we left off — which was 2006 — when I graduated! My interests, the professors I disliked, my resistance to Shakespeare and my love for Eliot, alike. And I have no idea how, but she knew I lived in Goa. She expressed such joy when I responded to What are you up to? with I write.

I can’t tell you how happy that made me!

Extra, extra grateful for public transport more than ever before. The more I think about the little ways in which I can reduce putting a car and four wheels on the road, the more I think about the implications of spending so much money on something as basic as getting about town, the more compelled I feel to make the effort to take the metro whenever I can. And it’s a delight to see it pay off.

I’m grateful for N who has stayed like a silent, strong force holding space for all that has been unfolding for me. Even with our infrequent meetings, I’ve found a space where I can increasingly be me, in all my different states of togetherness of the lack thereof. No filters, no adjustments. It is a real privilege, relief. And joy. As I make sense of so many little and big things as they unfold and churn up a world of emotions and realisations within me.

One year ago: August

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Love actually

When you know, you just know. Ever so slowly, with just as much intensity creeping up on me as it did when I realised I needed to live on my own, I have realised that this time is done. Everything that it could have served at this point in my life, has been nearly done. And I am so ready to go back to living with VC. I am ready to share space and togetherness again.

I guess you could say the realisation crept up on me when I began to miss him more intensely than normal. It began about a month ago when I returned from Goa. The number of calls I make on any given day have outnumbered the number of calls he makes to me (and the fact that he had taken to calling me more than twice a day was in itself a pleasant shocker). But I think the real clincher that something fundamental had changed was when I started nesting again. It’s almost like the dead impulse to do anything remotely domestic has been kindled again, and I am homing. Like a bloody pigeon. Readying this home once again to the familiar, warm and life-filled place it was before VC moved.

For no apparent reason, I took down curtains to launder, cleaned out storage spaces and carried out a massive deep cleaning operation of my fridge and kitchen a few weeks ago. In the process, I realised how disconnected I have been from all things domestic around here. Partly because living on my own has required less involvement on the home front. Things have functioned on auto pilot, with just me taking care of me. Amma and I eat most of our meals together, prepared by her so my kitchen has been barely functional the last 3-4 months. Things have been proper and in shape, but with a perceivable lack of life. The sort of thing that fills homes as an outcome of when people being connected, bringing energy and breathing life into mere spaces. This takes active living, and since I was mostly just coming home to sleep for the greater part of the last many months, there’s been a growing sense of lifelessness about my home.

Suddenly something turned. I’m spending more and more time here, feeling homely and cosy. Imagining meals I want to cook, dreaming of all the places my plants will go when they’re transported from Goa. And there’s groceries in my kitchen, vegetables and curd and bread and eggs in my fridge. The curtains are clean, the cupboards slowly being made dust-free. A whole lot of old clothes and shoes have been discarded/donated. You know, mundanities.

I’ve even spent some mornings cooking elaborate meals that I felt inspired to make. I braved the daunting 6-hour recipe making ulavacharu out of half a kilo of horsegram because all this staying in, in this weather demands all things zesty and earthy in my plate. I also made half a kilo of popped makhanas to snack on. I mean healthy snack preps? Is there a bigger sign that I’m well and truly home?

The home is functioning again, basically. And then this morning, I emptied out VC’s cupboard that I had appropriated and spilled myself and my belongings over into last year when he moved to Goa. So I suppose, it’s official now. I’m done living alone.

The distance has been especially painful this week, since he left early Monday morning, and I am already counting days to our next trip already. The good thing is, I managed to convince him to make two trips to visit me here in Bangalore during this time I cannot leave the city. He was convinced, very easily. And he acted on proposed plans, very quickly.  Last weekend was one of those trips and it was a joyful, quiet, contained weekend for me.

Even with the excessive (by my new standards) being outdoors, it was a weekend spent just being. Whether out or at home (and we did consciously spend a fair bit of much-needed time by ourselves at home) it really brought home the fact that this is something we sorely missed doing in the initial months when we moved here from Goa, over two years ago.

I realise now, in retrospect, that 2017 Revati and the headspace she was in when we moved — initially out of desperation and then driven by a compulsion to make it work — swiftly slipped into get-it-done mode. This made me completely inward-looking and disconnected from all else. What parts of me remained were drawn and invested in being with my family. Which left VC to deal with his family as best as he could, or be alone. Even when we were together, I see now how disconnected we were. Emotionally, more than anything else.

I’ve been feeling those gaps closing in the past many months. But something about his trip here really hit home. There was a visible comfort in being here — in this city — that was missing in 2017. An ease and presence. A deliberate relaxation from not trying hard to make it work, and the consequent lack of guilt from sometimes failing at that. A comfort and acceptance of things, and just going with the flow.

This past weekend, we did things we haven’t done here in a long time. Chose to be home. Ate home cooked meals, making rotis and chopping onions together. Also ordered our favourite desserts to eat in bed while we Netflixed, separately. You know, life as it used to be. We also took ourselves out on a proper date — drinks at HRC followed by Kunal Kamra who made us laugh so hard our faces hurt and we came home buzzed and unable to sleep.

I got a special kick in showing VC all the things I newly love about the city. We walked a lot, took the metro into town on the night of Kunal’s show, walking some more to get places. It felt like I was taking a tourist about town and we giggled at the idea. We hit some of our favourite spots in the city, and I realised this is such a pleasant change — VC willing to get out and about and do things in the city. We spent time talking about what the next few months hold for us — me urging him to take things slow, for a change, and him egging me on to push myself, for a change. And I couldn’t help but think, how far we’ve come.

I’d be lying if I downplayed the fact that I am severely excited about VC’s return. In some odd ways it feels like we’ve hit reboot on our relationship. Without knowing it needed work, it somehow got worked on. And the results are only visible now in the palpable freshness that’s in place of the comfortable staidness that I suppose kicks in after you’ve been married for ten years. As I count down the days to living together again, I feel excited like I used to be 12 years ago when we’d plan to hang out and I’d count down the hours to when we’d meet, and he’d show up with the childlike enthusiasm, but the kind of grown-up love he was never too afraid to show. I sense that old VC returning, and this feels like a homecoming in more ways than one.

When it’s time, it’s time. And when you know, you just know.

One year ago: I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life

Downtime

I spent all of today luxuriating in one of my biggest plusses of living alone — the ability to lose myself to a book.

I’ve been reading voraciously again. I’m not sure what turned, but I know something definitely has because today was spent completely in bed, save for a workout early this morning, and finally extricating myself from bed to step out only at 5 pm (because I had no choice and had somewhere to be).

I tried watching OITNB again but I can’t seem to put down Lisa Ray’s Close To The Bone that I started last night. It has me totally enthralled. Shockingly well written with unexpected, beautiful turn of phrase, she tells a story that’s deeply emotional, evocative and so real and relatable. I’m equal parts moved and inspired by the story she tells of rediscovering herself.

This hasn’t happened in a long while — this unputdownable energy to a book — certainly not all of this year that I’ve spent staunchly away from books in general for no other reason except that nothing deeply compelling came my way, and what I found just didn’t give me enough to sink my teeth into.

I just finished Michelle Obama’s Becoming before I picked this one up. That too was a complete revelation — a stunning book about the struggles and contradictions minorities face on the rare, hard-won rise to places of influence. It’s such a slap-you-in-the-face honest book that had me completely gripped. I’m a Michelle Obama fan now and will read anything she puts out.

Lisa Ray though, has knocked it out if the park in a startlingly unexpected way. I didn’t think this book would have much to offer but her life is so rich and full of love, a palpable passion and zest to thrive and it is so packed to the brim with varied, wholesome experiences, I guess it had to be an enriching book. But to limit it to that would be to take away from her very obvious and clear writing prowess that makes this book a true keeper.

I can’t get over this sentence early on in the book I read this morning. I’ve been turning it over and over in my head all day, marvelling at how perfect and reassuring, and just so basically true it is.

…a life lived in pieces is grace; you can put it back together the way you want.

Perfection in a sentence, right there.

It was nice to spend a day doing absolutely nothing else and losing myself to words that clearly had a charm and piqued me in this way.

It’s been a while.

One year ago: And you were an island to discover
Three years ago: July

Reboot

I don’t know if it’s the rush of the days since I got back from Goa or the intense experience I’ve had in class this past weekend, but I feel like it’s been forever since I returned. Goa seems like a distant memory because of how in the motion and flow of things I’ve slipped into here, so quickly. It’s like being settled snug in the thick my life here again. It’s new but it’s also a bit like a distortion of time in my mind’s eye. I can’t seem to tell recent from past.

It usually takes me a few days to slip into the way of life here, when I return from travel. Just the getting out of one routine and settling into another, in the different way that life happens here, takes time.

Similarly, it takes a few days of excessive sleep and fighting exhaustion before I can return to some state of normalcy after a module of study at class.

This time it has been different. I went straight to class quite effortlessly taking cabs and metros and autos, the very next day after I returned. Given how difficult, intensely challenging and emotional this last module has been I was prepared to spend a few days flat in bed.

But it has not happened.

On Saturday when class ended, D, S and I went out to grab a bite and catch up outside of class, to decompress from all that had happened for us. Later, when we split after a few hours I went to meet S and get her views on what was going on with me. It was all kinds of energising, rather than draining which is my usual feeling at the end of three days of intense personal work.

On Sunday, I even managed to wake up early and meet D for a walk at Cubbon Park — our first in months. And yesterday I hit the gym again. It’s been about 20 days of no exercise thanks to the travelling back and forth, a misstimed period and generally feeling so emotionally wrought all I wanted to do was not move and eat all the sugar. That phase has clearly passed because I have been itching to resume ever since I returned. I anticipated my body would need some coaxing before it begins to co-operate, simply because it’s been a while.

But this has not happened. I have bounced back. To regular programming, in the gentlest most surprising way. It happened rather effortlessly.

This morning I realised, my breath that was short and tight, is now deep and full. Yesterday my neck was achy and felt like it needed constant support, to it feels extended and upright, my posture relaxed but strong. My body feels supple, but firm.

There is certainly something about coming home. A sense of slipping back into the flow. With all the up and down to Goa and back these last eight months, this time around I returned wanting to stay put for a while. I was beginning to feel like a plastic bag in the wind, and my body was craving some stability.

Stability in this city? An older me might have laughed hard. And possibly chided me so much and kept me from dropping roots and finding the stability I need. But something special seems to have happened.

As I drove to two different corners of Bangalore on Sunday, through pouring rain and mad traffic, I felt that deep sense of having found a home. The city is snarling, it’s falling apart in more ways than I care to count, it’s madenning with the constant rush and the sheer unbelievable number of assholes out on the streets. The trees are disappearing, temperatures are rising. Nothing is reliable, rules don’t exist and anarchy rules loose, people are aggressive, undependable and empathy is mostly dead.

And yet, in that moment I felt completely at ease and at home. Bangalore with its afternoon showers, orange light and rare spots with full tree cover.

This is certainly new.

One year ago: There’s glitter on the floor after the party

Home base

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pause

Yesterday was a fairly sunny day with just bursts of downpour intermittently punctuated by bursts of bright sunshine but as I drove to Inox in the evening, it began to come down. It made me severely nostalgic for the days when J, S, R, VC and I would make impromptu movie plans to entertain ourselves in the monsoon when everything else would be shut and inaccessible. We’ve watched a shit ton of terrible movies as a last resort, invariably thinking of it with just under ten minutes to show time, as a last ditch attempt to entertain ourselves in dreary days that felt like they were slipping away. I thought about the countless times we’ve rushed to Inox, ten minutes away, running from the parking lot to the multiplex huddled under shared umbrellas and entering the movie hall slightly damp, but spirits sprightly and excited.

There was something really sweet in the simplicity and utter basic truth about having just one multiplex to go to and wondering on rainy days if there’d actually even be a minimum of five people for the show to actually run. Sometimes we’d gather ourselves in groups of five or more just to make sure we hit the target. I felt nostalgic for that simple, unadorned Goa that I had the privilege of knowing so intimately.

Anyhow, as I watched the rain come down and we fished our umbrellas out to get to Inox, I felt my plans to catch the Friday Market at Mapusa wash away. Also Article 15 while an important film about an important issue, stopped just short of really working for me because of some inherent (inescapably Desi) flaws, premier amongst which was length. It ran just too long for my liking, which meant it was well past midnight when I got home.

All this to say, my morning today was not as smooth as I’d have liked. I woke up late, and that set my schedule off. I mostly spend my days doing nothing of grave importance but my morning routine has come to be kind of sacrosanct and unexpected changes potentially throw my day off. I no longer like to just casually skip my workout, and I like to get it done as early as possible. This usually gets first priority. Today there was also some omelette sandwiches to be made for VC to take to work, and getting ready in time to leave with VC to get him to work so I can take the car to the Friday market added to the mix. It already felt like a gargantuan ask even before I’d begun.

I wrestled with it for five minutes in my head, there’s an undercurrent of the lets-do-it-all energy just waiting for an outlet to surface, any time she can. But I’m better in curbing this type A side of me now so it wasn’t long before I decided I to prioritise my workout and make VCs lunch. I ditched the plan to go out and instead VC went off to work on his own.

Today was looking like a day to stay in. The weather agreed, vehemently and it has been pissing down with a vengeance pretty much all day. There is not a single cloud to be seen. The sky a vast mass of grey streaked with darker shades of more grey which shifted and changed as they passed, like a watercolour on blotted paper, waiting to take form.

It has since been a day of silence with nothing but the rain for company. I did some reading (not the reading for learning I need to, but reading for fun), I realised I had two episodes of Big Little Lies to catch up on, so there was that. A nap that was interrupted by the early return or VC with Niyu in tow. VC who went for a meeting and didn’t think it was fun to drive back to work and back home again in the pouring rain, and Niyu who also incidentally cancelled her evening class today.

I seem to be having a string of days like this. Even when I try and make plans to get out and “be productive” things happen that make me change plans, or halt and defer them altogether. Many times it makes me contend with the parts of me that still attach value and self worth to productivity of a certain kind.

Today is what I’d really call a clear and present wash out day. Necessary autumns of our lives, times for essential pause, whether we know and acknowledge or are present to it or not. I’ve had many thoughts about productivity, success, a life well-lived and the like in the last few weeks, some of which may make it to a post in the coming future.

It’s grey out, still. We’ve just had cups of tea and Iyengar bakery biscuits I brought from Bangalore. And I pulled out the stops and indulged in my other Goa staple — peanut butter toast, with a drizzle of honey today. We’ve got our noses in our respective laptops, each doing things that need to be done. It’s a picture of silent companionship, of pause itself.

As soon as this post is done I’m going to cook us dinner, Thai Curry which has become a Goa staple for me now.

Tomorrow will be a new day.

One year ago: You’ll be a good listener, you’ll be honest, you’ll be brave
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: light and life

Three years ago: June

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

The rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside, the rain began to fall harder and noisily.

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

Three years ago: The rain, the rain

Simple

To Wayanad and back home this evening. So, some more Wayanad things:

It rained, but not nearly as much as it should be, or as much as I’d have liked to have experienced.

My heart is full. And still.

The home is coming together beautifully. And my heart fills with: 1) joy to think of how painstakingly and lovingly and with how much grit and determination my father has worked tirelessly, uprooting his entire life in Bangalore, to make this happen. For him, and for us. 2) humility and overwhelming gratitude to think of the number of hands and brains of complete strangers, blood, sweat and tears that have gone into building this home.

Walking into the house for the first time on this trip, looking around, watching masons splashing on cement on a bare wall, I had a moment where I really, fully registered how a home, a building, no matter how big or small, is still a handmade thing. A piece of art. A building together and making a sheer figment of someone’s imagination come true. It kind of blew my mind to think of the scale at which, brick by brick, things come together. How today, three years on from when we went as a family to break the ground and begin work on this piece of land nobody thought could be useful for anything, there now stands this magnificent home. A home, I think is amongst, if not the best, my dad’s finest creative work.

It’s taken many hands, many heads, many weeks and months of tireless confluence of energies, lots of hiccups and pitfalls, but to finally see it in it’s near-finished form, made me very, very happy.

I’ve seen this piece of land so many times before, and we’ve obsessed over the view through all stages of the making of this home, again and again and again, we’ve imagined it, hyped it, dreamed of it, built it up in our heads — but this was the first time it took my breath away like it did. Maybe it was because it’s the first time I was in a room, surrounded by walls, a super high ceiling, with this view in front of me created a different sense of space — of belonging — that it hit me the way it did.

We stayed on site on site, this time around in the parts of the home that are complete. It was such a thrill to be totally out of network coverage, so I mostly forgot about my phone. Pitch black darkness and just the sound of crickets after sundown makes for a kind of desolate and off-the-grid like I don’t witness otherwise. Simple, home-cooked meals eaten so early we were all in bed by 8.30 pm on all nights, in utter silence and total darkness all around, was topped by waking up to the rain-dappled morning sunlight. Forest sounds, birdsong, watching turtles frolicking in a pond — it’s a bit surreal to think this is what morning is like in a corner of the peninsula not too far from home.

The kindle did its thing and I finished two books in two days. That’s what happens when the day expands, time stands still and the world is forgotten. It’s nice to think I now have access to a spot thats not a “holiday” spot and experience this degree of remote now.

It was also nice to be with amma and anna, away and in peace, just us. This hasn’t happened in years, and to think this sort of unplanned trip gave me this opportunity to just be, unconsciously cocooned, is heartwarming. I enjoyed it thoroughly, we shared a room, cooked and ate our meals together, drove all around the little village, listened to music and drove all the way back to Bangalore together today. Things were absurdly simple. And easy.

So yeah, my heart is full. And still.

One year ago: Nobody really likes us, except us
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: Bangalore sky-porn

Three years ago: Begin

Small sadness and everyday grief

I woke up to terrible news today. My maid, who I had e trusted with a rather simple task of watering my plants for just four days till VC was back, had failed spectacularly at the task. I couldn’t have made the job easier even if I tried, seeing as how I’d already moved everything into the shade, separating the plants that need daily watering from those that do better with less. And yet she couldn’t have done a better job of killing them even if she’d tried.

VC showed me the damage on a video call as he tried to salvage what he could, watering everything in a hurry. And as I watched the extent of damage a surge of grief rose within me and made its way out in a heaving big cry. Loud wails and big tears, snot and all, that was the start to my day.

They’re just plants, I know. But for some reason this morning seeing what had become of them just days after I’d left felt too much to take. I felt disappointed at my maids lack of care, and I felt guilty for having left them to her to begin with. I felt it all and I felt very, very sad. The irreversible finality of death, hitting me harder than it maybe should have? I don’t know. Because I’m also not sure if I was just crying about the plants, because I know the whole act of gardening and the attachment I’ve felt to this little garden I grew from a handful of pots has been something more, to begin with.

I went about my day after, but every now and then the feeling of sadness has been welling up in me. In empty moments, especially on a lonely cab ride into town, when the mind is empty and traverses so much, I teared up again.

I talk so much of everyday grief, and yet every single time I experience it, it feels fresh and new. I wonder how much if this is actually pent up grief from elsewhere and from another time perhaps many other times from long, long ago that I happened to tap into in an instant today. Small deaths, little defeats, insignificant hiccups all rushing out to find a way out to be seen and heard.

Anyhow, hitting a favourite happy spot this evening for a coffee and some conversation. But lingering at the back of my mind is surprise at the sudden outpouring of tears and sadness, and utter perplexity at where it may have come from.

One year ago: It don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering
Three years ago: Ten

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

Happy bytes

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

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

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

***

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

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things

Better

Some days are heavy. Especially after particularly investigative therapy sessions that come like a bolt out of the blue, squashing my optimism about maybe finally being able to go longer without a session, reminding me how much I need to heal still.

Monday was that kind of day and it took till yesterday evening to lift. When it did, in that instant, I knew something had flipped internally. I woke up from lying in bed yesterday afternoon, and from the moment my feet landed on the ground and the way I stood up, I felt something had changed. The cloud had flown by, the heaviness had done it’s time and left the building.

A lot happens in that time of heaviness. A time I have now learned to just let be. I don’t fight it as much these days. I am quick to recognise it to begin with, no longer mistaking it for random blues or anything else. And I give in and go with the flow. Allowing myself slow days if that’s what I feel is the need of the hour. Actually allowing myself whatever else is needed in that time. On Monday night it as chocolate chunk cookies, eaten without sharing, in bed while watching Mission Impossible.

It’s been six weeks of slow days for me here in Goa. And yesterday I began to feel the time for that too has passed. It has played it’s part, served a much needed purpose and yesterday as the cloud lifted, I felt a distinct feeling that it is time to move. What felt serendipitous and right for the most part, and gave me so much needed time (and boredom, even) now feels done.

In the sprightly energy I suddenly felt there was just one thing I wanted and needed to do. Cook myself a hearty, wholesome meal. Not eliminating the carbs, not eliminating the dairy, not eliminating the fried crispies.

So khichdi it was. This was my heavy days ending. Right here in a single bowl. Eaten all alone, fresh out of the cooker at 6.30 pm even before the sun had set.

Some days are heavy. Then there are some days that feel like simple perfection. And the difference between the two is sometimes just a bowl of humble khichdi.

One year ago: Waiting here to find the sign that I should take it slow
Three years ago: Who do I think I am?

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

Routine

The heat has gone up a notch. But it still feels only contained in the afternoon hours between 12 and 5, when it is blindingly bright and searingly hot. To so much as look out makes my eyes hurt. So I have mostly stayed in. Ever since I told VC I don’t think all this staying in all by myself is doing me much good, he has been gently encouraging me to get out. Living much closer to the north now means it is actually much easier to access all the little cafes, bistros and restaurants that I used to lament were such a drive away when I lived in Panjim. But the heat has made it impossible.

After 6 though, things begin to change. Maybe it’s where we’re located, in a mini valley of sorts, halfway between the top and the bottom extremes. And maybe it’s something about a summer wind that passes between 6 and 7:30 everyday, transversing this area just so, so there’s a dramatic difference. The trees rustle wildly, and often I’ll hear things crashing in a home nearby. Today, in a perplexing occurrence, an unnamed towel has landed in my terrace. I look out from within my home and feel such a thrill to see all my plants dancing about, and holding on for dear life.

I have to resist the urge to step out and enjoy my terrace, the real attraction in my teeny-weeny home, to be honest. But, 6-7 pm is peak mosquito time. I imagine they all lie in waiting for the heat to subside, much like I do, and set out in full force to enjoy the wide open at 6 pm. So I cook during this time instead, slowly buzzing around my little kitchen, tending to slowly softening onions or lazily chopping a salad, hoping to be done by the time the mosquitoes are done. I open out the doors only at 7 and for a brief 25 or 30 minutes I sit outside on our low, falling-apart chairs, music on, either writing or browsing, or simply doing nothing.

The aromas of a just-cooked dinner tend to hang around in my home — the sizzle of tadka simmered in ghee that was poured over a hearty dal just minutes ago, or pungent onion vibes cutting through the air, the sweetness of a salad dressing that i whisked together and left lying on the counter. It’s just another small, simple, inconsequential part of my day. But in these three odd weeks here, it has already come to be an important part of the day. It’s become routine. It’s become another one of those markers of my days, pegs that make the day even. Full.

My therapist asked me how I’ve been feeling. It’s been a while since we last spoke. And so I told her it’s been up and down, honestly, with spurts of not really knowing what exactly I am feeling. But there has been a pervading feeling of fullness, of wideness and of grounded-ness over all. I’m discovering that the ups and downs are also a part of the routine, and that not every down needs dissection. That even in the downs, I do not have to float off or melt away or be snowed under. There are pegs to my day, to my being, they hold me down and keep me steady.

It has been up and down, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m really happy. I am in a good place, without having any one thing to pinpoint as a reason for it. Is this routine too?

***

I’ve learned that honesty can be very hard. But not impossible.
That it can be harsh, brutal even, but it need not be unkind.
It can be difficult to take, but is most often, essential. That it is impossible to be honest and expect it to always be received “well”. But none of this diminishes the value of honesty.

***

One year ago: Today I don’t feel like doing anything
Two years ago: I get by with a lot of help from my friends
Three years ago: Bits and bobs