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

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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

Plant babies

It’s official. I have a new problem interest.

Monday began with a drive to drop VC off to work, because he was off to Bombay for the day. On the way back, I swung by the lovely nursery I’ve been going to almost every weekend since I’ve been here. I cannot help it. It is one of the nicest nurseries I’ve ever seen, is so large and well organised and just so calming just to walk through it. And it’s dangerously just five minutes away from home.

I came back with this loot, some more empty pots and couldn’t wait to get home and get my hands dirty again. I spent a couple of hours repotting the new babies I got, shifting some old plants into bigger, new pots and making a few adjustments.

An old, familiar excitement is back. The painfully testing but thrilling test of patience and the never-ending fascination with how plants grow is back. There is a quiet happiness in beginning my day with opening out the balcony and checking on my plants — seeing what as sprouted, observing tiny white tender shoots slowly creep up one milimeter at a time from the soil that holds the seeds so snug, seeing the gradual way in which buds become flowers, how dying withering leaves give way to bright green new ones, which plants are fighters and keep going even when the water runs out and the sun is beating down on them (bougainvillea, incase you’re wondering) and most of all how much just a little involvement and attention can make such a big difference.

The first batch of plants I’d set up when VC moved in were all but dead, with just the two bougainvillea and one tiny plant hanging on to dear life, when I arrived three weeks ago. Today, they’re all doing well again. And I promise, all it has taken is a little attention every day. I don’t claim I understand gardening or know what I’m doing even. This time around though, I am enjoying observing and figuring things out as I go. I guess that takes involvement and that involvement makes a difference?

Sooner or later, it will be time to go back to Bangalore, and I’m already feeling FOMO about looking after these new babies.

One year ago: You know it used to be mad love

Slow and steady

It’s been a rather flip-floppy week and I’ve floated along feeling unanchored for the most part. First the extended weekend and the extra day spent at the beach. It took me a whole day to recover from that and get out of the holiday blues and back to work. Just then I had the blow out with the client. I felt all loud and fierce in the moment when I stood my ground, but a couple of hours later I began to feel really sad about it. Not for what I said or did, because I was in the right, but just about yet another disappointment. Human beings are just so disappointing and it felt like a last straw.

So I turned to good old carbs for comfort. With a side of a Sri Lankan cinnamon and burnt star anise infused G&T at my new favourite pizza place. VC was only more than happy to take me out and so I binged on a meatballs on focaccia starter followed by a pepperoni pizza.

Today though, I woke up feeling quite rudderless because it dawned on me that suddenly a large chunk of my day is absolutely free and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Work does give my day structure and purpose and I’m back to the drawing board about where to go next. All of this is especially floaty in Goa where my days are long and lazy, and I’m technically in this limbo between holiday and regular life, not sure which way to go.

It could have been another floaty, aimless day but thankfully by now I have figured out my go to fixes that anchor me and bring steadiness to my days. I’ve dragged my feet with exercise this week, thanks to sleeping late so many nights in a row and all the indulgence in terms of food and drink. I’ve flaked and fudged a workout or two, even though I caught an hour long beach walk/run with R every morning that we were away.

Today I just knew I needed to not give myself any excuses. So I kicked myself to workout in the morning and forced myself to finish it strong, in a pool of my own sweat. I was finished, totally wiped, by the end of it but I felt so good. It’s like every single day, I forget how this is just starting trouble and that just seven or eight minutes in when I really break into a sweat and begin to feel the burn, is when the endorphins happen and I begin to thank myself for not allowing another miss.

I went to the nursery again this past weekend and got some new plants for the house. I’m afraid it might have become my new retail therapy, considering I’ve decided not to buy any clothes, shoes or accessories for at least another year.

After my workout I spent a good 20 mins tending to my plants. Don’t ask what I do and why it takes so long but I just enjoy pottering about, digging here clipping there, moving pots around. I don’t believe I’m very good at it but it is extremely satisfying and warms my heart.

I’ve also figured I don’t do well with just being cooped up all by myself for many days. I’ve been especially lonely after VC leaves for work this week, and the lethargy has made my enthusiasm to plummet. So today I got out and decided I should get out every few days, even if it’s just a supermarket run. I’m no longer the homebody I used to be when I lived here, going for days on end without stepping out at all. An hour outdoors was all it took, stocking up on groceries and stuff for a BBQ dinner VC has planned tomorrow, for me to feel steady and like I was back to being myself.

I came home, put things away listening to John Mayer and cooked myself a simple lunch. Dal, millets, a sabzi of sprouts and ate it with leftover kheema. Later, I watched Brene Browns new Netflix special and I ended up doing a couple of card readings for peeps.

This is pretty much all it takes to bring steadiness back to my life. A rhythm of utterly mundane tasks. Some days are just like this, steady and normal, as S said just as I was going about my day and she coincidentally texted me at the very same time telling me how she went about her plain and simple day and how it grounds her in ways nothing else does.

The benefits of having a routine are seriously underrated and I realise this is just what my parents talked about all along when I was growing up. I’m just living and experiencing the wonders as an adult.

Watching Gully Boy yet again in bed tonight and already looking forward to the beach tomorrow morning.

This is joy.

One year ago: The times, they are a-changing
Three years ago: Go far, they said

Home

What coming home feels like: Finding home within

The Goa home is small, cozy. I walk from one room to the next and out into the balcony and I have coursed the entire distance the house has to offer. That small. Before VC moved here, I swore we wouldn’t be able to live here together. We’d be all up in each others faces too much, I said. A single loo between the two of us? Impossible, I said.

Early on when we were contemplating splitting locations between us, living apart and the like, one of the nascent plans we had in the middle of last year was for me to semi-relocate to Goa and spend extended periods of time here. It seemed idea. The house is great for one person, especially the sort who has a homebody within them. So, briefly I nursed the dream of living in this single-persons pad of sorts all by myself, until VC turned the tables on me and we decided it made sense for him to come here.

On Friday evening, when I stirred after several hours spent lying on the cool floor under the far trying to work, I got my evening coffee. I decided to have a side of raisin and walnut bread that I only get to enjoy in Goa. Slathered with my new favourite peanut butter. It’s come to be a little guilty pleasure I associate with Goa evenings.

Eating that crunchy toast, the salty peanut butter, the yellow light filtering through the curtains indicating another afternoon coming to an end, I realised it had been three days since I had stepped out of the house.

Every time that I visit VC in Goa, it seems I get spurts of time to enjoy that life I imagined for myself last year. When he leaves for work early every morning, I get to ease into this one persons home the way I imagined I would. My day is marked with little rituals I enjoy by myself. Cooking for one. Music all day long. Watering the plants. An afternoon lie-down whether I need a real nap or not. Evening coffee and peanut butter toast. Shutting the doors and turning the lights on at mosquito time. There’s a rhythm to my life here, it comes without disruptions. And I realised that day that perhaps because the home is so small, I don’t even have the disruptions of chores and maintenance it would otherwise compel me to do.

I am yet to figure out what it is about utterly simple mundanities like this that helps bring me back home. And here I don’t mean home as in this house, or Goa. Not even the eternal should-I-go-or-should-I-stay conundrum vis a vis home. I mean home within myself. A grounded, centred, sure-footed sense of home within me. And maybe thats the core that makes me feel settled whenever I need it the most? Wherever I may be. Wherever I may go to.

Three years ago: On being average

Mostly nothing

After spinning like a top for two weeks, I had a much needed quiet weekend of mostly nothing, all to myself. It was just what I needed to hit reset, make the wheels in my head stop spinning. And it was good to just resign — to sleep, to cooking for myself, to eating eggs and toast for dinner, to binge watching shitty movies, to just being without doing much else.

I say nothing, but it wasn’t an empty weekend. It was just a low-key one, filled with basic, mundanities. The stillness of a regular routine, of being able to do whatever I want of my time, of lying low like the afternoon sun slanting in, stark yet sleep-inducing, is seriously underrated and I don’t know what it will take for me to remember to indulge this luxury that I have, more often.

If on Thursday I was confused and disconnected, this weekend reconnected the link that had snapped. Who knew all it needed was a weekend spent simply, spontaneously?

There are times where I arrive at perfectly regular, unspectacular days like these. Where everything is just normal, and I get the sense I’ve been here before. I know this, it works, it has worked before. And the way in which they ground me and bring me back to myself, I sometimes feel they heal — harder and deeper — than the epiphanies and breakthroughs on days that come like a spectacular bolt of lightning and shake the ground beneath my feet.

I wish for more days like these. Where the truth is easy, and it dawns unannounced. Where there is love in simple acts of pleasure. Where I feel grounded and held, even when I’m going about my home all alone. When I suddenly realise that what I’m looking for has been here and within my reach all along.

***

It began on Friday, actually. With S coming over for lunch, I ended up cancelling all plans to work. This wasn’t part of the plan, but I just went with it — and this is something I am trying to let myself do more often without attaching judgement to it. I enjoyed cooking that meal complete with greens, salad, curry and millets. There was filter coffee post-lunch and we ended up gabbing till well into the evening, having to forcibly stop because I had to leave. Else we might have gone on and on, I suspect.

On Friday night I drove an hour across town (willingly, excitedly, on Friday evening. I don’t know who I am anymore.) met with A and caught Girish’s Karnad’s Rakt Kalyan, a Hindi translation of the original in Kannada, directed by Sunil Shanbhag. The play was stellar and deeply moving because even though it’s a tale of a perfectly idyllic society degrading to despicable levels of anarchy and bloodshed, it felt all too real and relevant for where we are as a country today. However, it was dense, intense and in such perfect Hindi, I had a hard time not tuning out. It wasn’t the play, it’s me. I realised that night that I’m just not in the headspace for anything densely engaging right now. It’s why I haven’t been able to read a full book this year, and why my journal writing is fragmented and staccato, not flowing like it was just last month.

The feels come deeply and sweep over me and I can’t do much but sink with it — a feeling I don’t quite enjoy. It makes me listless, my mind torn between over-engaged and letting go, stuck in between and doing nothing.

The play made me feel something. A little too deeply. And when we got out to catch dinner, I found myself nursing the idea of breaking my carb fast to chase the blues that had descended away. Luchi-aloor-dom it was. And it did not disappoint.

***

On Saturday morning, I woke up early, ostensibly, to hit the gym. My body has been stretched to the max this week and that morning I felt it in every inch of my muscles. I was very, very tempted to chicken out, but I persisted and pushed myself out the door. Thankfully it was a spot running workout, and even more surprisingly, once I was past the 7 minute mark, something inside of me kicked alive and I began to enjoy the run. Even so, I was battered — in a good way — by the time the 45 minutes were done. I’m still only running 50% of the stipulated time, and everyday that I make a small improvement whether in a new distance reached or a better pace, I feel good for it.

There is something ridiculously satisfying about getting my workout for the day done before 8 am, coming home to a super hot shower, getting back into my night clothes and back into bed for a daytime snooze. In summer, with the AC on, it hits the spot a little more. I meant to catch a short nap but woke up 2 hours later, when the doorbell rang.

I then spent half an hour sorting and arranging flowers around my home. This week I got two deliveries worth of flowers which means there’s currently more vases with excessively dressy flowers in my home than there are humans. The ratio is 5:1.

A lunch of leftovers was meant to be had, but after binge-watching the Bong Eats youtube channel yet again (I have no idea why it’s so addictive and makes me go on and on, one video after another, losing track of time) I was craving a simple masoor dal. So I made myself some and ate my lunch in bed, watching Netflix.

A few hours of Netflixing later — I really got into the gritty and raw Delhi Crime (can’t dial into anything serious, she says) — I received an annoying Basecamp notification from a slightly irrational client who I suspect has the idea of timelines all wrong in their head. I was so triggered in the moment that I decided right then and there to just give them what they’re on my case for (even though the timelines they expect are crazy). Sped off to Third Wave, which has become my go-to when I need to kick my productivity in action, and pounded away for a few hours getting some work done even though working on the weekend was the last thing on my mind.

Somewhere in between D texted me and what ensued was a really funny conversation that had me stifling loud laughter and wiping away tears. The dude working at the table next to me kept glancing sideways, with a very perplexed and worried look. Later I realised it must have looked like I was crying, violently shaking as I was from trying to mute the noisy laughter that was threatening to erupt, while wiping away a stream of tears. I really needed that bout of laughter, and the endorphins that rushed in.

I came home and made myself a boiled egg sandwich with Kasundi (thank you, Bong Eats!) and ketchup, salt and pepper before calling it an early day.

***

Thank God for Sunday being rest day. And after the brutal week it’s been in the workout department, I was looking forward to it. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hit my Sunday walk again after so many weeks. We promised to try. Except I woke up and promptly listened to my body, — clearly begging for some rest — cancelled and went back to sleep for two more hours.

I spent the rest of Sunday pretty much horizontal. I managed to read a bit, cook myself some cholle for lunch, loll about for extended periods of time for the rest of the day, watching Delhi Crime. Niyu came over in the evening and we chilled for a bit, before I caught Captain Marvel (again!) in the evening with D.

***

Time and time again I am shown the beauty and wonder that slowing down, minimizing and steadying myself has to offer. Most times, when I have nowhere to go, no place to be, no timelines to worry about, I am happy. This past weekend I was all alone. My folks are travelling, my maid took the weekend off and I had no real plans — something that hasn’t happened in many weekends now. The plans that got made, happened spontaneously, with ease, and because I wanted to. No obligations, to stretching myself more than needed.

Cerebrally, I know the benefits of letting go, going with the flow and all of that. And for the most part I am in sync. But there are times, like the last two weeks, when everything about my being decidedly rejects the idea and insists on staying on the run. I must remember to especially slow down and stay still at such times, not to see what I am getting away from when I run, but to see what emerges when I stop.

I know what it was this time, and I feel a little silly that it takes a weekend of forced staying in and nothingness for me to dial in to that. When will this become my default? When will that inner knowing be fine-tuned so much that I don’t have to think about it and I just know when to pause, without having my external life orchestrate the pauses?

I was chatting with VC the other night about how much I am loving what has become of my life. Aside from the fact that it’s missing his presence sorely, I am thoroughly enjoying how much space I have for me, for what I want to do, even if it is sometimes nothing at all. I hope I can get myself to turn the negative self-talk down more often and really make the most of this time. That was after all one of the major motivations of staying on in Bangalore.

I must remind myself more often.

Three years ago: Piece of peace

At ease, at home

No matter how hard I tried to get most of my work done before I got here, there’s that little tail that’s lingering, and only two days for the month to end and for me to tie up the loose ends. The reason I worked my ass off ahead of time, this time around was because I know what happens to me when I get to Goa. I slow down, and I got into a mental shutdown, holiday-like mode, for no apparent reason. So here I am, making difficult choices. Much like I did yesterday. To research a new and wildly fascinating aspect of septic tanks again (please sense my sarcasm, please sense it), or watch the Oscars? To finish that scintillating post about the economics of sanitation or to binge watch This Is Us that I didn’t even know has started again?

Decisions, decisions. Anyhow, you’ll be happy to know I spent 75% of yesterday binge watching Trevor Noah, before I decided to get down to work. And somehow, I managed to finish, and meet my deadline before the end of day, while simultaneously cooking us some pasta for dinner.

Speaking of binge-watching, I have been watching a lot of TV since I got here. I watched Period. End of Sentence. last week — it’s possibly one of the most beautiful documentaries I’ve seen on menstrual health in India, and even though it’s a topic that has the potential to be dismal depressing, it made me just so happy watching it. OH, and it won an Oscar yesterday!

I watched Stree last week, and as much as I love Rajkumar Rao, I think this one was lost on me. I just didn’t get what the big deal was. On the weekend, VC and I re-watched Befikre (Ranveer Singh makes this one worth it for me, again and again and again) and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (surprisingly, I enjoyed it this time around, which makes me think the company of the opinionated twats I watched it in the first time had coloured my experience). After we watched Gully Boy last week and having our senses smacked in, I’ve been guzzling any video related to it. So I decided to rewatch whatever Zoya Akhtar films I can get my hands on, just for the heck of it. I recently watched Dil Dhadakne Do, only for like the fourth time around, so I might give that one a pass.

I’ve managed to sneak in exercise almost everyday, and mostly cooking all meals at home. This time around, things feel a lot more settled, and I even though there are places I want to go to, I’m tempted to stay in and just be. On Sunday night, though, VC and I went out to dinner to a charming little restaurant in the garden of a home in the neighbourhood. The music played off an old Macbook hooked up to a Altec Lansing tower speaker, the furniture looked like it was dragged out of the home itself, the lady of the house chattered away on the telephone to her grandson loudly while we stifled giggles, and the power went off three times dashing our hopes of eating the lasagne because their oven went out of commission. The joys of living in a village, the chef/owner said to us. And I agreed. It was a joy to eat in the mostly silent ambience, with just the sound of granny chiding her 15-year old grandson who is in Bombay and refuses to learn Marathi or Hindi, and the crickets, with no lights in sight for miles. When the lights did come back on, there was this.

This week though, I plan to drive myself to Panjim to meet A, And C. I also want to go to the beach again. VC’s friends get here on the weekend and we’re going to be socialising and back at the beach, I anticipate. I also want to eat at at least one of the places on my list of restaurants I like to visit whenever I am here, but I’m having trouble deciding which one.

This time around, things feel a lot more settled. This time around, there is clarity. And even though I am unsure of when and if I will ever move here again, it’s a really good feeling to have a home and the mindspace that feels like home enough for every visit.

One year ago: I’m glad that I’m alive
Three years ago: In between mouthfuls

In-between

Bye, Bangalore.

Hi, Goa.

I don’t know if this feeling of landing up here and feeling right at home, especially now that there is a home to go to, will ever get old. It was so nice to come to a familiar space, sleep in a bed that’s mine and wake up and make myself coffee and eggs in a kitchen that’s mine.

Considering how much I have been enjoying Bangalore, and all the changing feelings I’ve been experiencing, it felt like an odd time to be going away. But I have been missing VC dearly. I suspect he has too. And, it’s always a good time for a Goa break. This time around I’m also looking forward to three days in a workshop, hopefully off the grid on the island I’m going off to.

Three years ago: Light and shadow

Inhale. Exhale.

And just like that, we’re more or less done. Yeah, still only more or less. I’d say about 95%. I’d like some more plants — indoors and out. Art and photographs on the walls and some more essentials in the kitchen. But for now, this will more than do.

Gratitude for the privilege that is a second home. In a second state. By the beach. For all the resources — monetary and otherwise — that came our way at the right time in getting this home up and going. For my folks who’ve cheered us on right from the word go when we put in our down payment on this home. For friends who pitched in all along in so many, many, many ways — I can’t even count the ways. For VC my rock. For VC my fellow-nester. For VC my all-time partner in crime who has more or less indulged my every whim as far as this home goes.

I feel like I can breathe easy now. Just like I did nearly two years ago. And five and a half years ago. And nine years ago.

I know this familiar feeling. And last evening, I was so grateful to have the house all to myself to just soak in it and let it creep into my bones. I’m home.

One year ago: Day 3: What is life
Three years ago: Day 3: Reminders and notes to self

Food and friendship

When the kind ladies at The Lookout Journal wrote in to ask if I could write a feature on food and how it forms such an integral part of documenting vignettes of my life, I was flattered. But also mostly shocked. That a) my blog interested someone enough to ask me to write for them and b) the angle they’d taken in talking about food was quite a refreshing departure from most things I’ve seen food-documenting in a while.

I didn’t end up writing the essay. What with being smack in the middle of travel, moving cities, setting up home, and continuing to work through it all. So they were kind enough to turn the opportunity into a Q&A with me instead.

I was deeply touched by how insightful the questions were, moving away from the most obvious and usual extension of food — nostalgia. Particularly inspiring for me to get down to answering their questions was the fact that really to got the heart of the place food occupies in my life especially this year — facilitating friendship with others and with myself. 

So here it is if you’d like to give it a lookie and a read.

***

It’s true. Food is such a vehicle for normalcy and finding grounded-ness.

This is the first meal I cooked at the new home in Goa and immediately I felt at home in a way that only cooking a full meal can make me feel. Even though it was just khichdi and aloo-fry. 

VC had been eating take out for over a month since he moved in. I had to buy a pressure cooker to begin with. But I went a little extra and bought a set of idli plates, a hand-mixie too. And I stocked up on a lot of masalas, which I’d been avoiding thinking VC is not going to ever cook an elaborate meal that will require them. Soon enough I realised the stupidity of that thought process. This is my kitchen too. I’m going to be visiting often enough. As soon as I gave myself the space to settle in, spices, pressure cooker and all, I immediately felt at home.

We have since had idlis and chutney, dal rice and anda-masala, aglio olio with mushrooms and sausages. On New Years Ever we even managed a barbecue for two — VC outdoing himself with a malai chicken (which had no malai hahaha) and paneer skewers. I tossed together some buttered veggies to go with it. It was simpler than I imagined, and we had a quiet, satisfying evening of it by ourselves.

***

Somewhere in the midst of it all R came to visit, and it happened to be the eve of VC’s birthday. So we bought our favourite chocolate cake for old time’s sake to surprise him with. And then on the birthday we had dinner at a quaint little “pizza bar” in North Goa.

I’m really enjoying exploring the food here. I didn’t do enough of it when I lived in Panjim, especially in the years just before I left. So I’m glad for the opportunity to be closer north. And for friends who’ve arrived bearing enthusiasm to make me get out and about. 

One year ago: Day 2: Gratitude. That is all.
Three years ago: Day 2: Love

Taking it slow

We spent all day today — all day except for a break for lunch and a snooze — in our night clothes and unbathed, painting furniture.

Deliberate, painstakingly slow, I realised only at the end of the day that it had been quite an exercise in relinquishing control — for VC, of the rush to get the job done, and for me, of obsessing over and being ring leader to make sure it’s a “neat” job.

Waiting for paint to dry meant what we thought would be a 3-4 hour job took all day. But that was the beauty of it all. It took an unplanned activity that we got into without much thought, to make a day of it.

When these chairs came home, I assumed I’d be doing this paint job on my own. Obviously, I assumed it wouldn’t interest VC, let alone hold his attention for an entire day.

I love that day 1 began with a pleasant surprise. And a lesson for me to allow myself to be helped. Even without asking.

They say what you do on the first day of the year sets the tone for the rest of the year. And if the contentment we’re feeling right now is anything to go by, this has been a good start. There was pleasure in having head, heart and hands all in, intimacy in working together and chattering through it all, camaraderie in the occasional laughter non-stop music. And all this while creating things that will go into making our home a little cosier.

Goa a second time around has been special. This trip, especially so. Something about making a home, our own home, has triggered a lightness about me. It has freed a little bit of me in an inexplicable sort of way.

I never want to forget what it feels like to be this free. This happy. This absorbed in building a life that fits and makes sense to me. And us. This interested in scribbling little anecdotes that will become slices of memories in the album of my life.

One year ago: Day 1: Onwards and upwards
Three years ago: Day 1: Move more

Day 361: Take me to your heart

I’ve enjoyed spending a whole day at home — a first in this home. And I’d like to swap locations with VC for a bit.

One year ago: 2018: Shut up and drive
Two years ago: Day 361: Spinning the wheel

Day 357: Let the water lead us home

Gratitude: Goa homemaking edition.

I’m grateful for all the minds and hands that have gone into making a home from the shell of a house we came to some time ago. It’s taken time, and it’s been all kinds of trying, but we’re finally almost there.

I think back to how things were nine years ago when we first came here, with just cartons full of shoes and clothes and absolutely nothing to make a home with. I remember how hard it was being in a new place where we didn’t know anybody at all, figuring out places to buy essentials, not being able to afford furniture, feeling totally at sea and all alone. And I think of how this time around our experience has been completely the opposite. The sense of familiarity and homeliness in Goa aside, this time around, we’ve been surrounded by overtures of help, friends who handed down furniture, surprise interventions of the right thing showing up at the right time. And it made me realise how little of the stuff that’s gone into it is our own. It’s a product of mostly people’s kindness and generosity. Only the marginally better ability to receive it is our own.

That little makeshift kind-of settee is actually a baby bed that my aunt S didn’t want to let go of after her babies had outgrown it. So she offered it to me to keep just when we needed seating in the new home.

That teak-wood book case belonged to my great grand father, and after many years in our old Goa has finally found a forever-home in this one.

Those curtains were the first thing that went up in this home. D helped me one morning, and it was one of the first moments I felt this house had potential.

Before VC moved in here, he (and I for a bit) were camped out of D’s home for a whole month. When VC eventually moved, he took the liberty of taking a comforter and pillow with him. To use on the mattress D had passed on to us. Along with a set of side tables that made the only furniture VC has had for a whole month. Last week D handed down an extra double bed, complete with a set of side tables, completely changing over our visions of slumming it on the floor for at least 6 months before we felt ready to buy ourselves a bed.

The jute chairs in our terrace are about as old as I am, and came to us from my parents. They’re sturdy and great for sitting outdoors, but are in need of re-stringing and I hope to do that myself next week.

Our entire kitchen and bedroom wardrobes were made by an efficient, creative and very, very polite carpenter in Bangalore. My father designed and instructed him, while he built it all in Bangalore, then collapsed it all, neatly packed it, transported it to my home there, stacked it in storage. I then arranged a transporter, had it all packed and sent to Goa. The carpenter then landed up in Goa a day after I did and got to work, assembling it all in a record 2 days. Achieving this would have been unthinkable in Goa.

That dinette was my father’s idea and it trumps our idea to stick a table in such a small kitchen-living-dining space.

Starting last month, this has been a testing period — more for VC who actually lived in a non-home for the most part — in trying to get shit done. It’s holiday season and finding workmen is getting increasingly hard. And even in between much complaining and cribbing on my part, things are shaping up.

I’m grateful for all the help I got, and that I continue to get. It has been such a massive blessing as we begin again.

Two years ago: Day 357: Cutting the fat