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More books (and a mini Bangalore update)

24 Apr

There’s a lot of stuff I had planned for this break. Yeah, roll your eyes. I’m that person who makes a plan even when I’m on a break. The last few weeks before I came to Bangalore have been a blur and in order to focus on some important things on hand, I had completely ignored work, and to a large extent, home too. So I wanted to spend my time here, working in earnest again, get some writing (that’s not work) done, fleshing out some long pending ideas that have been sitting in cold storage and make some short term goals and plans for the months to come. The decision to spend an indefinite amount of time in Bangalore was also spurred by the fact that the emotionally tumultuous phase I’ve been through had me wanting the comfort of home, family, friends and familiarity. Bangalore was the last place on my mind when I thought about taking a short sabbatical from my life in Goa, and somehow after roaming halfway across the globe searching for options that ticked all the boxes for this kind of a break, I found myself booking a one-way ticket to Bangalore, of all places.

This was not part of the plan. The plan was to go away, not return to where I used to be. This was meant to be a month of meandering. A relaxed, routine-free and spontaneous few weeks with no immediate end in sight. At least that was the plan.

It’s how I fool myself into believing I’m in control of things — I make systematic plans and work out intricate routes and systems for the way I want things to move.  But yet again, life has shown me it has it’s own plan, and that in fact so little of it is my doing, or even in my control.

When it comes to plans, I’ve got nothing on life. So, a twist in the tale the moment I landed in Bangalore brought on a completely unexpected turn of events. And I spent the first ten days of my trip (starting from the very next day after I landed) house hunting. More on that later, but all this to say I haven’t had any time to do the things I planned to, and have instead been playing to the tunes of this other plan that’s playing out all on it’s own.

What I have been doing instead, while I wait for brokers, on cab rides between destinations, at the dining table, in between conversations and right before bedtime, is reading a lot more than usual. That has been a welcome change.

(I also realised just now that of late my Instagram has been pictures of books I’m reading and my feet/legs. And sometimes both.)

The High Priestess Never Marries, Sharanya Mannivanan
Quite easily the most intense and visceral book I’ve read this year. The High Priestess Never Marries is a collection of 26 short stories about love, longing, lust, desire, relationships — each told from the perspective of women at the heart of the story. Featuring women from diverging backgrounds, social make-up and geographies too, Sharanya Mannivanan presents women hopelessly in love, some deeply committed, some spurned and looking for requital, some flirting with infidelity or polyamory (depending on how you look at it) — and every single story made me stop and question my notion of commitment, fidelity, marriage. Densely packed, beautifully crafted, it was a slow read and I literally had to use the dictionary on every single page. And yet, I gobbled it hungrily. I haven’t had a book grab me and break me slowly, beautifully, enveloping and taking me in more and more with every page, like this book did, in so so so long.

Karachi, You’re Killing Me!, Saba Imtiaz

I picked this because I wanted a quick, light read and I suddenly heard this had been made into a movie (out now!) featuring Sonakshi Sinha, but of more interest to me, Kanan Gill and Purab Kohli. So of course I’m going to be watching it. This is a very light read and delivered on the quick bit too, perfect for the weeks before my visit to Bangalore, when I was busy as hell. This is a little bit like a Pakistani Bridget Jones meets your most typical, cliche chicklit book ever. It has all the right ingredients — a 20-something journalist (who lives in Karachi), lots of angst about where she is in her life, adequate mention of alcohol, partying hard, fashion, high-society, and of course a sweet and very predictable love story woven in. I went in with no expectations, and rather than coming out happy, let’s say I wasn’t disappointed.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer
I was very late to get to this book that has come so highly recommended many, many times over. But I’m so glad I finally got to it, because it was another book I just devoured in record time. Largely because it is written in epistolary form — which is easily my most favourite style. But also because it is such a heartwarming book about books, writing, a writers pursuit for a subject, and the depths to which book lovers and writers go to unravel the secrets within stories we’ve only read in words before.

It’s 1946, in London and through a series of letters exchanged between Juliet Ashton (a writer seeking a subject for her new book) and a man (who becomes her primary source for said subject that completely consumes her) that draws Juliet and readers into a mysteriously wonderful and dream-like world amidst the members of the curiously names Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. The author, the main character, is . strong, critical woman very aware of her independence and choice, and navigates post-war society with thought, but without losing warmth and grace. The writing is charming and flows easily. The story, even more so.

All Grown Up, Jami Attenberg
I picked this book from this list (yes, it’s yet another list of several compelling titles to now knock off) because the short description was so compelling:

Jami Attenberg’s All Grown Up follows a 39-year-old woman who lives her unconventional life — unmarried and without children — by choice and on her own terms. But when her niece is born with severe birth defects, she is forced to re-examine herself and what being an adult really means. A raw, honest, and often hilarious ride of a novel.

And it did not disappoint. I absolutely, thoroughly loved this book because it was so damn relatable. The writing is tight, super honest and chock full of brutally honest vignettes that any millennial will identify with — from the angst of choosing to earn a living versus following a calling, to carefully cultivating a deluded sense of poverty, to having misguided priorities, to our difficult relationships with our parents, eventually finding our way to and out of therapy, dealing with love, loss and emotional upheaval. Another book that really drew me in and I finished reading in under two days.

I think I read this book at an apt time in my life. After a rather intense burst of therapy, returning to spend a longish period of time at home with my family, reworking notions of my existence and independence vis a vis the part I play in the various relationships I am a part of.

It was also oddly surreal to breeze through this book much the same way I used to breeze through books lying in my bed, spending sunny afternoons peeling back the pages from cover to cover, without a care in the world. This felt like the kind of book that reaffirms your current reality.

It really, really feels great to be home.

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Kitchen Soup for the Homesick Soul

3 Mar

So here’s a little known detail: Somewhere in 2014, I was suddenly inspired to write a book. It would be a food memoir, I’d decided. Threading memory, tradition, nostalgia, food, and how it had all shaped me into the accidental kitchen-lover that I’d turned into after moving to Goa. Fragments of ideas popped like mustard seeds in a hot wok of oil. The time was ripe, I thought. So I jumped into it all guns blazing. Took 2 weeks off, went away to Bangalore with the intention of doing nothing but writing. It was a glorious time away from all responsibility and I spent my days writing and reading furiously, adding bits and bobs in the cauldron that was brewing my book. I came back to Goa with what I thought was more than 50% of the writing done, and confident that all that was left to be done was finish it. The draft has been sitting in cold storage since then, a series of episodic events that I needed to somehow tie together with a more than just coherent narrative, to take it from reading a blog to make it a book. Farr too often, I’ve seen bloggers, especially food bloggers, make the mistake of thinking that a successful blog is a validation of one’s ability to write a book. There have been some truly atrocious food memoirs and books to come out of the Indian food blogger community and I suddenly became very conscious of adding to that list. It also has to be said that in the time between then to now, my interest as it was then, in food, also waned. As I found more avenues and stories to go after, I found myself looking beyond food in the myopic way that I was: through the lens of nostalgia and memory alone. In case you haven’t already noticed, I shut down my food blog somewhere along the line too, and until I find a compelling reason, I will probably not resurrect it. With time, it became alarmingly clear to me that I no longer wanted the book to be just a chronicle of disjointed food-related memories peppered with recipes. Eventually, it became clear that I didn’t want to finish the book at all, not in the form it was.

But at the end of last year, I decided the least I could do was pick out episodes from the book and turn them into essays that explore the gamut of emotions, experiences, thoughts and memories I made in the seven years that I have lived in Goa, where my love affair with food began. So, I went ahead with shaky hands, to pitch this. As luck would have it, my very first attempt landed me this opportunity with Arre, a website whose distinct style intimidated me. This was really gratifying to write for more reasons than one. Besides being able to finally find an outlet for the umpteen stories in cold storage, it was made made even better by a delightful edit experience that is becoming increasingly rare amongst Indian publications.

*****

Kitchen Soup for the Homesick Soul

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I remember sitting cross-legged on my mother’s kitchen counter, eating beans palya out of a steel katori, while she put finishing touches on a meal. I remember watching my grandmother deftly work the large grinding stone in her kitchen, breaking down fresh spices with a mesmerisingly giddying turning of the stone. I remember the excitement stirring every time my grandfather stepped into the kitchen to make his six-hour slow cooked mutton stew.

I remember always being a mere observer, a taster. I had no interest in the cooking, a process that everyone in my family took such pride in. The one time I succumbed to being taught how to cook, I was coerced into it. I was 13, and holed up in stuffy classroom with girls. It was the home science laboratory, and we were in groups of four, poring over our single-burner stoves, atop which were pots of bubbling pongal. While every other girl in the room lovingly stirred her pongal to buttery, smooth goodness, I was looking at a solid mass, fast transforming into a something that resembled industrial strength adhesive.

I’d rather have been out in the field playing, to be honest. These were electives, extra-curriculars, as they’re called. And I wondered why the only choices for us girls were aerobics and home science. Why were athletics and sport not up for grabs? I stared down at the gloopy mess that lay before me. While every other girl in the room lovingly stirred her pongal to buttery, smooth goodness, I was looking at a solid mass, fast transforming into a something that resembled industrial strength adhesive.

Right then I had decided this domestic business (okay, home science) was not for me. Years of tender convincing on my mother’s part turned to goading and silent worry. How would I feed myself when I moved out? How would I provide meals for my future family? Given that I couldn’t boil a pot of water without a minor casualty, her concerns were valid. But all that gentle persuasion was only met with my staunch rebellion.

I was convinced cooking was a completely unnecessary skill and played no part in my womanhood.

Over a decade after that ill-fated pongal incident, on a blistering day in March, I found myself setting up a new home, miles away from my own. Nothing shatters a self-satisfied, smug existence like a reality check. Mine had arrived less than 24 hours after I had landed in sunny Goa, in the form of six large cartons of kitchen equipment that I didn’t know what to do with.

I realised very soon that two-minute noodles and quick-cooking oats simply weren’t going to cut it and that there are only so many ways to cook eggs. Before long, I was deeply regretful for not watching Amma make phulkas. For wishing I knew what to make from the three different kinds of dal in the supermarket. Was there some way to thinly slice onions, without gouging my eyes out?

Resisting slipping into the identity of a homemaker that this situation demanded of me, I chanted repeatedly: Cooking isn’t for me. But, I had to eat my words. Along with the badly made meals of dal, rice and sabzi.

I began to cook in my new house because I simply had to. I was overwhelmed by homesickness and hunger. I had been wrenched out of a job I loved, uprooted from the only city I have ever called home, and was starting life over in a dusty home that didn’t feel like mine. I had no choice but to make sense of the demands of this new space I was in. This kitchen, this home, and this life in general. I had to recreate an identity and purpose in these new circumstances.

I began first with taking solace in recreating the comfort of rasam and rice. When I needed a challenge, I attempted to deconstruct a biryani from the memory of taste. When I felt lost and weightless, I grounded myself in the mundanely tedious rhythm of peeling garlic, making a massive batch of tamarind extract, rearranging my kitchen, or cleaning the fridge out. When I simply needed to occupy my mind that would race toward unwanted and sometimes destructive thoughts, I went into the kitchen and cooked a meal. When the emptiness felt like it was consuming me inside out, cooking filled the void. All of it to bring some semblance of sanity back in my life.

Memory is a wonderful thing. Almost every single day, my mind would float back to the humble homely meals, festive celebratory meals, skimming over the traces of taste, texture, and aroma that lingered at the back of my mind, thoughts of customs and habits related to food. I recalled things I didn’t know I had stashed away at the back of my mind – the way my mother stored her coriander and curry leaves in the refrigerator, the exact dishes she made when she was strapped for time, the way her pressure cooker was the centre of all kinds of magic. All of this simmered together slowly, and gave me a sense of self again.

Before long, my days began with praying the dosa batter had risen, picking out the weekly vegetable and fruit supply, and haggling over best prices of grains and pulses. I don’t know when I embraced the kitchen, even less when I began to find contentment and joy in cooking.

In finding myself, I somehow found my way back home too. Through simple, hearty meals to satisfy hunger at first, and more complex challenging ones, to satisfy my mind and find my feet again. When every other aspect of my life, and strong facets of my identity felt like they were slipping away from me, cooking helped put it all back together again.

I was not only teaching myself to cook, but was also recreating my own sense of home. Donning the identity and roles I’d observed all the strong women in my life play so very well, being in the kitchen was no longer an aversion. It was my sanctuary, and cooking, my raison d’être.

In the process, I rekindled relationships of a new kind with my mother, grandmother, and aunts. They gifted me cookbooks, emailed me recipes, and sent me tips and tricks I could use. I forged new ties with friends when we gathered around my dining table. Eventually, though, and possibly the happiest consequence of all, I found a career in writing about food.  In an odd roundabout way, stepping into the kitchen, into the very role I believed was a trap, had liberated me.

Thirteen-year old me would most likely be disappointed to see how contempt has been replaced by a deep affection for the kitchen. But if only I knew back then, that it would eventually be food, that would teach me to love my life again, and that learning to cook had little to do with being a woman but everything to do with identity, I’d probably have tried to just keep calm and stir that pongal to perfection.

(A version of this essay first appeared on Arre)

Day 358: Home is where the yellow roses are

23 Dec

VC is not usually one to feel the need to state the obvious. He sees no need to tell me he misses me, or that he wishes I was around. For one, he assumes it is understood, and doesn’t need constant repetition. He doesn’t find it endearing. So the only two occasions this year that he explicitly stated the fact that he missed me, I knew there was good reason for expressing himself. This time, I was away for longer than usual. It felt even longer so, with all the hopping travel and transit through multiple modes of transport. While I was enjoying my time away, and at home in Bangalore, I was suddenly told I was being missed. And that I should perhaps lay off on the travel and just “be with me” for a bit. Hein, yeh kya hua? I thought to myself, but brushed the thought aside almost immediately, thinking VC was yanking my chain, or being unnecessarily dramatic. It was only when I landed in Goa at 10 pm last night, and was picked up by VC who came bearing a bouquet of yellow roses, that I realised just how serious he really was. This year has seen one heck of a lot of travel. For both VC and I. Separately. Which has meant a fair bit of time spent apart. It has been altogether wonderful. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on my own, home and away, and I know VC has too, I think it has allowed us an opportunity to really miss each other again. And even though I cannot actually remember the last time VC gave me yellow roses, for no damned reason, I haven’t forgotten what they mean. 


Day 347: 6 am essentials

12 Dec

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For the last two weeks my days have begun at 5 am. Because of a situation I mentioned here, I have found myself in this far-from-ideal situation that I had to very grudgingly adjust to. I now wake up a lot earlier than usual. So early, that its in fact still dark out, which is typically my reason to stay in bed. But no, I have to wake up to dark, moody, wintry beginnings of day. One would think two weeks is long enough to form a new habit, or get used to it at least. But no, it’s still difficult. And I still grudge it, complain every night and go to bed hoping I fall asleep instantly, so as to maximise sleepy time.

Today began no different. The doorbell rang at the dot of 6. I trudged down the stairs, bleary eyed, opened the door and wished K good morning. Usually I proceed to flop on the futon, for a whole hour while she potters about and does her thing. I could just go back to bed, but a strange sort of guilt takes over. How can I be asleep while she works hard to keep my home clean? So I sit, fighting residual sleep, chat with her sometimes, or give her a hand, make her some tea and make my presence felt. She doesn’t need me. She’s perfectly efficient, and barely talks at all, so it must actually be pretty annoying to have someone trying to make conversation when she’s trying to work. So, I took to sitting by the balcony door, reading. Which I’ve realised, is brilliant. Almost a whole hour of uninterrupted reading time – it’s bliss, really.

Today, I realised, I’ve watched the sun rise every day these past two weeks. It’s pitch black when I wake up, and the inky sky shivers to life, blotting as the sun breathes life across it. Bright shafts of light cut through the horizon. It’s a daily show, and I get to watch it.

Today, there was a definite draught in the air. My legs had gooseflesh all through, but I couldn’t get myself to wear longer pants, get a sheet or shut the damned balcony door. It’s a slim sliver of ‘winter’ time in these parts, and I get to actually witness the best, most dewy time of day.

Today, I finished a quarter of my book, just sitting there in peace. The dogs go batshit and fight sometimes, ruining the silence and annoying the crap out of me. But that apart, it was lovely. I was once a morning person, the sort who loved to wake up super early and get shit done, maximise the day yadayada. I don’t know what happened to that person. Despite whining about not wanting to wake up early just last night, I was strangely happy to be up in the dark today.

Today, I realised it’s an oddly nice time of day. There’s silence, but with a distant drone of things humming to life. Everything is slow, but you know it’s only building up for the day to come. There’s darkness, which makes everything feel like it’s on pause, but there sunrise is always only minutes away, slowly creeping out and changing everything irreversibly.

It’s a time I usually spend coiled up in my blanket like a pea in a pod. Oblivious to everything. Asleep. And yet, there I was, enjoying my moment in the chill, with the lights on, because it’s too dark outside, only two things keeping me awake. 6 am essentials – a hot cup of tea, and my book.

I could, perhaps, get used to this.

Day 340: Happy high

5 Dec

I began the weekend by posting this picture on Instagram because I missed the blue skies, the sunburns skin, the green waves and the unencumbered time to read.

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Here’s why. December was to begin with the announcement of the winners of the fellowship I’d applied for. I didn’t win it, un case you’re asking. To be honest, my confidence flagged when I got news that the media house received 5k applications from across the globe. An email I received on 1st December confirmed that I had in fact not won it. What I did get instead, was my domestic help taking off for two months. I haven’t cooked a meal in over 6 months. And neither VC nor I have had to do much by way of heavy lifting around the house in terms of regular chores. The help is just one of those efficient people who has become so used to the way my house functions, and takes ownership of everything she does, often going above and beyond her responsibilities, picking up even when I have slipped or forgotten something. To say my world was falling apart a week bit, would be accurate. Luckily, she found me a substitute. Just to do the cleaning though, so I’m still going to have to cook us our meals. Having two hot cooked meals appear at meal time, without even having to do much thinking has been a luxury and I’m not looking forward to planning meals, stocking up veggies and culling out time from my mornings to cook, dammit. Second, substitute help comes at 6. On. The Dot. It’s been five days, and she’s never been a minute early or late. But, it’s literally still dark out when she arrives. And I’m usually very asleep at 6 am. So to alleviate my paranoia of sleeping through her arrival, my alarm rings at 5 am and I snooze it for an entire hour, neither really sleeping, nor waking up, making it an altogether restless, useless hour in bed, before I wake up when she rings the doorbell on the dot of 6. It’s hard to be complain or grudge her punctuality. I cannot complain. But I was drowsy for the first few hours of every morning last week, which made me miss my morning workouts. I made up for it by going to the evening slot instead, but it’s not the same and I’m just not a fan of so much change in routine at once. Urgh.

You know what else I got? The morning of December 1st began with a battle with a lizard that had entered the study, so when I opened the balcony doors for some morning breeze, it scampered out from behind the curtains, running behind my cupboard, dangerously close to the bed in the room. For someone who’d get paralysed at the sight of a lizard, only to recover long enough to jump on the closest piece of furniture, descending only once the creature had been dealt with by someone, I’ve come a long way. I still shriek. I still get a little stunned. But I am able to gather myself and deal with it on my own – with the help of insecticide to make them drowsy and a long broom to probe and poke them out of the room. Double urgh.

Anyway, last week was not very productive. PMS plus PTS (what I call post therapy syndrome) had rendered me a bit dazed. So I decided to take the weekend seriously. What I did was stay in bed and not leave for practically the entire weekend. I finished one and a half books, ravenously reading and getting out from under the covers only to eat.

All of Saturday, VC was at my service, bringing me beer, food and anything else I demanded, to bed. He even sent me an sms saying “at your service” – giggle. On Sunday, I kind of returned the favour. He’s developed what is now looking like tendonitis on his left wrist which has been acting up every now and then. It flared up early yesterday morning, rendering his left arm pretty useless. Which meant, I was doing the delivery. Aside from that, I stayed in bed reading, while he watched Black Mirror.

In the evening though, I dragged myself out. Cooked some chicken 65, and planned to have dosas and chutney for dinner. R came over with beer, chips and dip, and rasmalai (!), and we watched YJHD together, which I thoroughly enjoyed for some reason. I turned in early, diving right back into my book again before passing out close to midnight, a little frantic about waking up in time for my very timely house help.

This morning, I was up on time, with this song stuck in my head. So after the maid had gone, I turned it on and turned it up. At 7.30 am.

The rest of my day has been ati fantastic. A sudden spurt of productivity has meant I finished three stories I was struggling to make progress with last week. I responded to some enquiries. I even felt empowered enough to take a bit of a ballsy (for me) professional decision that I hope is going to pay off.

Somewhere in between I cooked lunch, picked and dropped off the injured husband, and watched an episode of my current shitty TV guilty pleasure and did some admin stuff I have been avoiding.

I wish there were a day to bottle the good juju from days like this. So I can take sips of it on days when the haze of the sads descends and makes me feel and behave totally useless.

 

Day 329: Like coming home 

24 Nov

The days have turned tenuous. Like every inch of my skin, stretched and laid out flat, from end to end. Covering miles of unpreparedness. Vast expanses of hesitation, like a lake frozen over. I must tread across these. One day to the next. While my blood has turned cold, only bubbling violently beneath the surface with every momentary glimpse of hope. Of surety. 

There’s a muscle twitching, it won’t relent. It’s a sign if life, it’s a sign of a fight. It’s a sign of movement. Preparedness maybe? 

It’s the night that always brings calm. Like a steady, thick stream of cooling oil poured on my scalp that seeps into every pore. Deep beneath it all, working from within and bringing quiet back again. 

Day 319: Homeward bound

14 Nov

There was a time in my childhood when all holiday endings were depressing. No matter how exhilarating the travels had been, heading home and back to normal life was always uninspiring and invariably sent me down a tunnel of sadness. Something changed in adulthood, particularly in my years in Goa, and that sequence of events gave way for a peaceful longing to go back to where I came from that sweeps in at the end of every holiday or travel out of Goa. Going back to base feels like a return to the safety and security of my own turf. Perhaps it is the fact that home is Goa, and that is always pleasant to look forward to. It’s definitely also got to do with the fact that life really began here, and this is really as home as home gets. This is the kind of normalcy I look forward to. Settling into my own bed, showing in my bathroom, pottering about in my bedroom, beginning my days with the view outside my balcony or kitchen window. It’s here that I really understood what they meant when they said there’s no place like home, at a wholly different level.

Could it be that maybe I am just happy with the here and now, for the most part, and that holidays aren’t so much about letting go and running away, as they are about temporary escapes. So returning really doesn’t make me miserable. And my home is a welcoming space. No matter where I’ve been or how far I’ve gone.

Winding down in Thailand too, I was overcome with a sense of peace. I always believe it’s a measure of a satisfying holiday when you’re so content with the time off, that you’re actually looking forward to going home. Except I had a stopover at the original home. I’m here at home in Bangalore right now. The used-to-be-and-will-always-be home. This time though, I was so content with my holiday, if it weren’t for meeting my parents, I’d have happily skipped Bangalore and headed right back to Goa.

But home things are always inviting. Despite being stretched between the in-laws and here this time around, I’m happy for the quiet moments. Colours and corners that will always spell home. Like the flowers in amma’s kitchen window, basking in the afternoon light.

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Frothy hot coffee all day, erryyday.

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And lazy days safely ensconced in what used to be my room. It looks nothing like it did when I grew up there, but it still feels just like it did so many years ago. My bed is still in almost the same spot, so I feel like I’m transported right back to the exact place I’ve spent all my teenage and growing up years. Sprawled or plonked, either reading, studying, or most likely on the phone.

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Safe. And at home. This is the one place I return to that always makes me feel like the more things change, the more they really just stay the same.

Day 295: In with the new

21 Oct

Things are shifting. Slowly, but surely, they are. Within, without. Inside out. Squelchy and yeeuurgh, to shiny new, bright. Hot, even. Like so.

From three weeks ago:

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To, this, today:

I feel it in my bones. Everything is suddenly super light, unburdened and very fresh and bright. It’s funny and uncanny how it almost always reflects in my immediate surroundings. My desk is cleaner, my calendar light, my work done on time.

After what feels like aeons, I’m home alone again, with VC out on a super long work trip. This hasn’t happened in a long, long time. I’m having those slow days again, coinciding with work winding down in prep for my holiday. The review gig means I’m out of the house a lot. Today I even woke up, and got dressed in going-out-clothes and went to work like a normal person. (Things are shifting, I told ya!) It felt strangely nice to have somewhere to be, that wasn’t the next room. And it was awfully nice to have a chance to be presentably dressed. The weekend has me going away to another review, with a girlfriend and a bottle of seco. I could get used to this, you know?

Today, I’m just happy. I’m winding down with an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, dal-rice and lemony onions, and then my book. This one, if you’re wondering.

Happy song I discovered today:

Day 291: Mondaze

17 Oct

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Most times calm is a feeling. The quietening of a racing pulse. My feet returning to the ground after days of floating just a few inches off, anchor-less.

Sometimes, calm is a deadline met. Well before time. Sheer delight billowing the insides of my heart.

Calm is the obvious lack of worry. Worry that’s draining from my finger tips. Worry that never belonged here, but that somehow had made itself so at home.

Calm is an enjoyable book that’s melting away faster than I realise. Blurring the line between its last page and I.

Sometimes calm is reassurance. The weight of the hand that rests on my chest, slowing my very being down.

Calm, it’s thin, like vapour. Like the invisible evening dew that wraps itself around me.

Calm is like quiet solace trapped, like hot air rising to the ceiling.

Sometimes calm is an afternoon. Sometimes it’s solitude. Sometimes it’s a room.

Day 286: When the going is crazy

12 Oct

This is what I’ve felt like going at pretty much everything the last many weeks.

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(Most excellent gif that depicts my sense of purpose, but just will not play. Which, strangely, also depicts the state of things in my life right now.)

This is what I feel like, when I have recovered from ^^

And this is what it is really like around here. Once I’m done with the meltdown for the day, adding a fresh new angle to the level of crazy I’ve brought into our lives these past few weeks. After I’ve given VC a complete download of all the frustrating and exciting things I’ve been up to in excruciating detail. When I’ve made fresh promises to myself and managed to thrill and scare myself simultaneously. When I cannot handle any of it on my own. He stays, patiently listening, probably chuckling inwardly and reconsidering his decision to marry me every single day this month. But still, becomes this picture of calm that eventually rubs off on me.

 

 

Day 251: August

7 Sep

Facebook brought this post I wrote at around this time two years ago, back to mind a couple of mornings ago. Reading it made me so very misty-eyed because it was such a different time, and I was such a different person back then. Arguably, it has been a long enough time for change, even if just at the hands of progression of time.

The posts makes excuses for being MIA, and those excuses are hectic! There was so much happening then, events, random people in pictures, a social scene, a chockablock calendar from the looks of it.

I’m currently MIA, if you were to go by all the action from 2014, of course. I’m missing, just from those aspects. Going out, being at every food event, meeting random groups of people and taking the trouble to put myself out there. Today, I’m MIA becuase I’m mostly cooped up at home. Or out with the few people I can be around, doing the things I like. Like reading in silence, cycling or watching a movie. Some of my friends here have expressed that they don’t know if my withdrawal from all things social and externally stimulating should be taken as a call for persuasion to break out, or to just let me be. That’s quite a sea change for me. But, that aside, it was mildly comforting to see how otherwise predictable August is.

  1. The monsoon is in that weird transition petering out the finale when it’s all over
  2. It seems to be the month my parents always visit
  3. Invariably there is some travel for me

All of that happened this year too. Despite it being a month to consciously pipe down from the overload I was feeling, it was busy (in other ways). With travel, to Bangalore and Wayanad that was the fall-off-the-grid that I needed. There were visits – friends throng Goa in the monsoon, and this year has been no different. A weekend with S, hanging out with with L, and my dad clocked his August visit too. I missed amma and Niyu desperately, but I’m also so glad to see how our individual lives have become so full and taken us our own respective ways to follow our bliss — amma all the way in America for her annual teaching and performance trip, Niyu otherwise engaged with adult things like keeping a job, my dad in the throes of building his home in the woods.

Of course there was the rain, even though we’re gearing up to say goodbye and bracing ourselves for the heat which is slowly creeping up on us. And there was plenty, plenty of cycling, because I suddenly realised there;s really no better way to do it than to cycle in the rain. I cycled so much, and so far, and did so many things as a by-product of cycling that I’m feeling really thankful I took to it this year.

This is what months of recharging should be like. Slow days spent wandering about with no plan, out in the real world or in your head, virtually, tossing up worlds of words and ideas. I didn’t pitch for any new work all through the month, focusing on finishing up some spillage from work I’d submitted at the close of July. Being caught in this “in-between” kind of headspace made even that a bit of a challenge. But the downtime meant I caught up on somethings that needed uninterrupted time and attention. Picking up the reading habit once again. Sending in a well-thought out (rather than half-assed, which is what it would have been if I didn’t have downtime) application for a fellowship. And writing for myself, things that often brew at the back of my mind and die like stubbed out cigarette buts that could have smouldered if I’d had the time to let them. Despite blogging everyday, I am constantly grappling with allowing more immersive, trains of thought meander and make their way here, because it means giving it more time, and an ease that I don’t always allow it. So I wrote yet again, about my shapeshifting idea of home and where that might possibly be. I got dragged down a tunnel of nostalgia, way back to gloomy Sunday evenings before school, and found a delightfully new memory to take its place.  I took a lot of pictures, and so I wrote a lot of haikus this month, too.

August was definitely the month for refuelling that I needed, and made time for. I drank up the slow, empty days in big gulps, and I saw myself enjoy the busy times with the folks I hung out with. The weird restlessness I talked about in July seems to have passed, and I’m aware its probably only temporary. Big and small changes are afoot, many of which I am unable to put a finger on even for myself to acknowledge. These are exciting times.

Day 238: Inside-outside

25 Aug

S landed this morning for what is a completely unplanned break sans any agenda whatsoever. Time and again we talk about how nice it is to be able to just sit together with friends and be at peace without even having to talk.

So that it exactly what we did this evening. Our noses buried in our respective books, me sprawled across a futon, she sitting upright, nursing a catch in her shoulder, looking up only to punctuate every few pages to exchange a passing thought, respond with a hmmm or and huh? or some other undecipherable grunt.

It’s been steadily hot, and the sky was blue all day, threatening hot days ahead. The sun set in flaming wispy pink fluffy trails painting the clear blue.

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So we stepped out.

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Day 235: What my Sunday morning was like

22 Aug

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Somehow, this year I have skipped the entire phase of frustration with the monsoon that typically follows the initial days when I’m in raptures about how amazingly beautiful everything is. I usually go from revelling in picturesque views, accompanied by monsoon-perfect soundtracks that usually always make me super nostalgic, to working my way out of an insurmountable pile of undried laundry that just wont relent. But, somehow it’s August and the rain has suddenly slowed down to less than a trickle already. The temperatures are rising again. But there is clean, dry laundry and I realised I have skipped that rigmarole entirely, moving swiftly to complaining about how the best of the monsoon has gone by all too soon.

It was meant to be a good monsoon this year. They even issued warnings about its possible severity. It did lash down for the first two months. It lashed down so long, so hard and so incessantly that all of June and July have gone by in a blur of rain. I don’t know how they’ve just zipped by. When I left for Bangalore last week, it was pouring like there’s no tomorrow. I had to endure some tremendously unsettling turbulence on my flight out and back in, but I returned to bright, oppressively sunshiny weather. The laundry is drying to a crisp in under 24 hours. The doors and windows are remaining open all day. We’re back to using the air conditioning. I even dug my sunglasses out of hiding. Needless to say, I have not been happy about this super speedy sequence of events.

I wondered if it was over. I felt a tad sad too. I complained loudly to anyone willing to listen. And just when I was writing it off as the close of monsoon 2016, it began to come down in little spurts again yesterday. Reluctant, uncooperative bursts of mini showers just enough to bring the temperatures down a notch, and to tease me into believing there is more to come.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, that a piddly shower or two is all it takes to make me happy. A brief sprinkling, like a parting shot is all it takes to induce a full blown monsoon-induced sloth. Yesterday, I woke up way earlier than usual (for a Sunday morning), stirred by the patter of rain outside. Of course wake up is a bit of a stretch, because I literally only got out of bed to make myself a cup of tea and reheat a paratha, both of which were taken right back into bed. I got right back under the covers and stuck my nose tight back into my book. For the next four hours or so. The next thing I knew, it was noon and there was lunch to be made had.

It takes very little to change the mood around here. I am so easily distracted. I am so easily pleased. The slightest smidgen of cozy comfort returning to my cocoon makes me feel so content, that sometimes I wonder if it’s the situation that makes a moment perfect or a moment that can make a situation perfect.

Day 231: About home

18 Aug

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If you were to ask me where I most feel at home, two years ago, I’d have wasted no time in spitting out my reply – Goa. Seven years ago, my instantaneous response would have been Bangalore. I vehemently stood by these choices at the time, polarised extremes, one or the other. I had to choose. After all, there is a foreverness the word home carries in its all-encompassing grasp. An inescapable definiteness, bound within the walls that shrink and close in as the years roll on.

But time does that thing it does, smoothing out the bumps and straightening out the curves, lighting up the dark and opening up multiple avenues at once. When the rough edges turn soft with use, with experience and comfort, diametric opposites too begin to blend and the vast grey that lies in between the two begins to look inviting. More recently, I told myself I cannot choose. That I do not have to choose. Because it is impossible to choose when the heart is in both places at once.

Home is not one state in a binary. It is not in or out. Here or there. Come or go.

Many times it is both. And like water flowing deftly between the two, taking the best of each and melding it with the other, you slip and swim. You turn soft over things you once abhorred, grow fond of things you didn’t imagine you ever could. You long for that which you once took for granted, even as you revel in new discoveries that you make every single day. You begin to associate comfort and a sense of home, with people, slices of time, experiences, smells, memories, and not so much only the spaces you inhabit.

And when you’ve lived away from home long enough, the city you once called home has mutated beyond recognition, yet it houses all your best people, and when you love your current home in a heart-crushing way that can only be tested by your longing for what once was your old home (from a time too long gone) you realise that your idea of home has been altered so many times over. You no longer know which is which, and you cannot always separate the two.

Eventually, you’ll find that you can be at home, anywhere. Even in a third place altogether, completely unlike the two homes in consideration. Like I did last week, smack in the middle of coffee and rubber estates, surrounded by jungle noises and an insurmountable peace that rolled in and out, silently, like the clouds that floated along.

Being at home was suddenly about being peacefully comfortable in each other’s company. So far away from home, it was about reading an entire book in a day. Effortless conversation, four bodies smashed on a double bed, snores, cackling breathless laughter, failed selfies, and the occasional hug or belly rub.

And then the moment passes, and you find yourself in the twilight zone between two homes. The one you have been in, and the one you’re going to. That strange space where you’re torn up about leaving home once again, but eagerly anticipating going back home again.

How strangely comforting it is — to have two homes, to live and love them equally and to know you will probably never outgrow one to fully embrace the other. How wonderful it is to not have to choose. To know you can have both, because they will both always have you. Suddenly home is a wondrous, shapeshifting thing. Like water. Flowing, always. Stopping to take shape momentarily. wherever it seems fit, wherever it feels right. But always flowing, never settling. After all, there is a foreverness to flowing water too. That uncontainable flow that refuses to be bound.

 

Day 228: Sunday

15 Aug

The last day of a summer holiday was when I’d grudgingly pack a bag full of shiny new books, with freshly stretched glazed brown paper that gave them unwieldy, poky corners. It was a very demanding kind of Sunday evening. A starched uniform needed to be ironed, a pair of shoes — always one size larger than I was previously used — to lay waiting to be laced, there was the constant reminder to get it all done well before bed time that was suddenly advanced by an hour. And suddenly two months worth of memories of fun and frolic collapsed into a jumble, a little blob that would forever be wedged deep inside my brain only to be pulled out when bouts of nostalgia about the good old days hit me.

What stayed above the surface, always accessible, well into adulthood was that palpable sense of gloom. The last say of summer holiday was almost always a Sunday and it brought with it that special brand of end-of-summer-holiday gloom. The hazy uneasiness of grappling with time that passed by too fast, and time that will hit me too fast the next day. Thoughts of the next day only brought an unbearable, overwhelming feeling of intimidation. Next day would be a new day. A different kind of new. A new week, a new year. Just. Too. Much. New.

I liked the old better. Languid summer afternoons spent lying on cool mosaic floors, looking up at a fan spinning so fast, having absolutely no effect on the trickles of sweat making its way through the folds on my neck. Sunday evening gloom always made me want to stretch backwards and hang on tight to the weeks and months that have gone by. That’s where the comfort always was. Is.

Like a lazy nap. And it suddenly ends. Abruptly. A power cut makes the fan go off, or I’ve suddenly heard the violent cacophony of birds cawing their way back home. The din always makes me stir and if I’m unlucky, it is a touch past sundown. The sky is that odd shade of magnetic grey. Everything looks touched with a shimmery blue-grey hue. Silhouettes shine, but not in a resplendent, bright way, but like they’re tinged with the light of that strangest time when the last rays of the sun fight to stay alive. For just a minute more, even as the overpowering black of night swallows it slowly, inch by inch. Unwillingly, finally the day gives into the ebony might of the night. And I’m just left, stuck in that limbo with the play of light. That familiar gloom hurls itself back into the pit of my brain. Separating the bliss of the nap, from the Sunday evening gloom wafts above.

It’s like twilight. With the dusky rays meeting the night. Like something good ended too soon. Like the credits of a movie that touched my deeply, rolling on. I know I should be walking out the movie hall, but I want to stay and watch them right till the end. Just a few minutes longer. Or a book that had me by the scruff of my collar, gripped and unrelenting, that I rushed through so rapidly, the inevitable end leaves me bereft. Lost, confused, not knowing what to do with myself, or how to make time stop.

Sunday evening gloom is such a stark part of my childhood, I find it impossible to shake off the feeling even today.

home-sunday

This time back home, I had not one but two Sundays. That same afternoon nap had ended. That same murky twilight lingered outside. A wonderful week, a beautiful holiday had ended. There was a cup of hot tea being had, much later than I normally would have. As I sat in the kitchen reading, watching amma cook, familiar smells of dinner filling the kitchen around me. That same feeling of a good time coming to an end washed over me.

I waited for that heavy thud of finality to hit me. It’s usually like gates slamming behind me, something pushing me ahead as I drag my feet on, dejectedly. I waited, but it didn’t come. Suddenly I realised Sunday at home, as a grown up, felt pretty damn good. It had the glow of good times, the promise of more to come, and the wonderful embrace of a home that was and always will be, and the home that is, that I will go to.

Day 204: Homebody

22 Jul

As much as this is great weather to be out (because it’s not impossibly hot as it can be at other times of the year in Goa) I’ve realised this is also the perfect weather to stay in. The rain makes for an excellent view, a rather welcome constant background noise and everything is just so cool and pleasant. Today, I didn’t even need the fan on. One week of raining, and I’m officially cold.

If you’re the sort of person who can spend long periods of time with yourself, and rarely hate being alone, and almost never get tired or bored of being by yourself, working from home is the best arrangement you could ask for. I sometimes go for days, sometimes more than a week, without stepping out to meet people. I am able to keep the socialising and getting out and about to a minimum because I’ve realised it works for me and so I choose to have it that way. And it’s much easier to do because I don’t have an office to get to every day. A visit to gym less than a 2-minute drive away is about as far as I go on any given day. And if I were to be honest and admit how I really feel about it, I’d have to say I’d find my time at the gym infinitely nicer if I didn’t have to engage with people. I allow my errands to pile up so I have to get out once to run through them every ten days or so. I stockpile my groceries and veggies, limiting visits to the market to the minimum. When it comes to socialising, it helps that there are very few people who would try and come over or have me go over. So I do, when I’m up for it. In recent time I’ve gotten very good at being honest in turning down invitations when I’m not feeling like it. For the most part I’ve designed a life that is greatly suited to being alone. And I’m not sure if it’s now just a matter of habit but I really it. Waking up with nowhere to go, but having a whole day to do as I please is always a lovely feeling.

Recently I ran rattled off my typical routine to someone who was visibly stunned that I don’t need to get out for something or the other every day. I really don’t. Not even for fresh air.

Two days ago, I realised it had been over a week since I had stepped out. A visit to the doctor and the path lab don’t count. It was the first day I was able to get out of bed and not feel drained of energy. So I drove over to one of my favourite cafes all the way in Assagaon. With a notebook for company. Over many Americanos and a delicious Haianese stir-fried chicken over brown rice, I got a fair bit of writing and thinking done. It rained the whole time, and from the window where I sat, I saw a peacock perched on a large raintree outside the cafe. Then I packed up some brownies for later, and drove back home. The rain had tempted me to step out. Like I said, this is great weather to be out and about. But I was quick to come back home.

Why did I suddenly think about all this? Well, today, I went back to the gym after ten days away and it was nice. I came home and spent the rest of the day working, which is a vast improvement from the week gone by. It’s Friday and I could have been out with friends this evening, but in a completely predictable turn of events (for me), I chose to stay in and work on unfinished things. I’ve been a hectic socialiser in the past. I’ve had bouts of it up until recently too. But despite it all the inner loner always rises to the surface and wins. Goa did this to me, you know? Goa with its splendid outdoors, lust-worthy monsoony weather, beautiful places all within drivable distances from me, did this to me.

What can I say, Goa silenced the frenetic pseudo-socialiser in me, and unearthed this homebody who’s in no mood to go away any time soon.

*shruggy guy*

*****

Current rain-induced stay-at-home mood:

Day 203: Rainy day feels

21 Jul

As I stirred this morning, at an hour far later than the usual, I realised that the romance of waking up to the rain at this time of year will probably never get old. I could hear the constant rush of rain outside. I peeked out through a crack in the curtain behind my head and I was right. It was coming down in sheets. as it has every day, for the last week now. And like it has for at least least four similar bouts since the start of this monsoon. And like it has for the last seven monsoons I’ve witnessed. And every year the intrigue is fresh, the enchantment persists, the fascination gets stronger. It kicked in with full force early this month and on cue, it’s brought the daily undeniable urge to stay in bed longer, that can only be faced with the thought of a steaming up of tea that lures me out. Mornings are the best time. Everything is crisp, everything is lush and freshly birthed. Gleaming new baby leaves, brave buds bursting forth.

We’re in the midst of another rainy bout of continuous squelchy days. Waking up to get going has been really difficult. I haven’t been to the gym in a week and this morning I realised that starting the day with exercise really sets the ball rolling and without it, I feel a bit anchor-less. Added to that, I’m still a little low on energy from the illness, and waking up is fuzzy. But the promise of chai makes it better. That, and kitchen views of wild flowers that bloom and get going overnight. Where they can, when they can.

Day 200: Barely moving

18 Jul

The world is well and truly imploding. Literally every single day, something horrific happens. Five instances of terror in the last month alone. Kashmir. Alton Sterling. Qandeel Baloch. The FIR against Aklaq’s family. And closer home, LED bulbs being handed out in the run up to our next election (as if that’s all it takes to buy loyalty, they conveniently forgot about the power to light those bulbs up). The death trap of a main road. Some part of me is definitely turning numb. I see it in the reactions I have. Much of this, I process silently and it leaves me sometimes tormented, sometimes numb. But always deeply distressed. And restless. I suppress the feeling, as well as the way it always makes me feel little, pointless, shitty and helpless.

And then I move on. Deliberately keeping my social media timelines free of news. Steering away from politically fueled conversations with people I know I cannot engage with. Mostly using my own thoughts and words to fight these battles in my head, in private. To make sense of everything that seems to be fast escaping the realm sense, purpose and meaningfulness.

And then I move on.

I’m still down and out, and no, it hasn’t passed. Day 5 in bed today, with a persistent fever that abated only 24 hours ago. I guess I should be happy that I’m in a situation where I’ve been forced to stay in bed for five days now. But it’s no good when haven’t been able to do much with all that time. Reading a book or watching TV was out of the question due to severely blocked sinuses that made keeping my head up and focusing on anything near impossible.

Still despite all that, somewhere between then and now, a lot of has happened. I may or may not have used the words “a pain in my ass” to describe to a client the situation we’ve gotten ourselves in. I may or may not have cried copious amounts of tears that at one point I was afraid they just wouldn’t stop. I may or may not have told VC that I want to be a housewife because I am good for nothing. I can’t be sure.

What I can be sure of is that I had a persistent temperature that remained in the shadows of 99-100 degrees for two days straight and was beginning to worry me. Then when it spiked to 102 and VC had to resort to a cold compress on my forehead, I realised it was time to worry. That hasn’t happened since I was a child. A blood test was ordered, and that hasn’t happened in over 6 years now. A half-mile long list of medicines have been consumed with more regularity than I fancy, and it’s turned my stomach raw and my taste buds perpetually coated with a metallic taste. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was ill so bad that I couldn’t leave my bed for five days. VC was like a hawk and a chowkidar hovering over me all weekend, not letting me leave for anything. He brought me all my meals, endless cups of hot tea, and my medicines. He may have snuck in a packet of Nutties and a Snicker bar too. When he began to question me every time he saw me out of bed, even if I was merely going to the loo, I revolted.

So I’ve spent a lot of the last few days just moping and feeling more miserable than I actually am. It’s definitely added to the general state of ill-health. While it may have started with an itchy throat and a touch of fever, I had a work situation that caused something to snap in my head last week. It sent me on a downward spiral like I haven’t ever before been in a long, long time now. It’s not like me to break down over work issues, to cut communication and disappear into myself. But that’s just what happened. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, be around anyone. I just turned inwards and moped. Until VC shook me out of it partially on Friday night, when I began to see the light a little bit. Whether being physically ill aggravated my work stress or vice-versa, I’ll never know. But I feel like some part of this is my body telling my mind to chill the eff out. Or vice versa. But I need to examine it and fix it. Find that balance that I had regained temporarily, and have now lost again.

I opened facebook today after three whole days, to find something my friend V wrote and posted, right up top on my feed. V doesn’t post too often anymore, but when she does it always smacks the nail on the head. As it did just now too, bang on point, neatly summarising the inner turmoil I’ve been going through for the last 5 days now.

The two difficult forgivenesses:
1. Your gut, for not being loud enough.
2. Yourself, for not listening well.

Let that simmer a while longer. For now, I’m barely moving.

Day 165: About yesterday

13 Jun

It’s a fine line that divides solitude and loneliness. They’re almost two sides of the coin. If you’re not the kind of person who sees hectic people-centric activities as the obvious opposite to solitude, that is. It’s not often that you find the company of people with whom you can enjoy it all – solitude, loneliness, and some happy people-time, when you so wish. The past few weekends have defined a very desirable kind of solitude that I had missed for a while. Solitude, even in the presence of company. Weekends have been lazy and home-bound. They’ve been quiet. They’ve been aimless. Simple. And yet, they’ve done the job of weekending perfectly.

VC has been around and I think we’ve both made deliberate attempts to veg-out, which has resulted in ample lazing around and unwinding, either binging on a book, movies, or youtube, like I did the past two days.

Maybe it’s a sign of how streamlines work is getting, but I am unable to even open up anything work-related, even in the rare case I feel extra efficient and like I want to get a head-start. The last two weeks have seen such a surge in productivity, and I’ve gotten so much done that I am a) too wired-out to think of work on the weekend and b) left with none of those little scraps of work that once inevitably were left for the weekend.

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So, there has been time to watch questionable amount of TV. To go slow on a book, read the same one all day. To binge. There have been leisurely visits to the market. Extra long afternoon naps; indulgent, home-cooked meals. Impromptu dessert runs.

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Sometimes an evening walk or drink by the sea. Early dinner so we can get right back into bed and finishing watching whatever it is we each were.

I don’t have this luxury of just peacefully co-existing with too many people. the comfort of not having to fill the silence, the moments and everything in between with conversation and activities. To just be in the same room, each left to our own devices (heh, pun totally intended!).

But yesterday, we bothered to step out. And go beyond our usual, convenient spot. It’s a spot I find myself going back to at least once every monsoon.

The plan was to go out and get a drink, possibly even dinner after the sun went down. But a combination of laziness, and a rumbly tummy for VC made us wind up back home. Back into my night clothes, in bed, watching Netflix, waiting for my Chinese take out to arrive. We often talk of companionship only in terms of getting along with each other, doing things together, being a team. Such an emphasis on the doing, and not enough on the not doing. The passive, fuss-free, empty moments deserve so much more importance. It is a true luxury to realise peaceful coexistence/

Day 160: Workspace

8 Jun

I’ve experimented with working from home several times before. In the stint immediately after I got married, I remember being locked up in my bedroom, which was the only space we really had to ourselves in private, cross-legged and crouched over my laptop that was placed on my bed, while VC’s nephew turned a bunch of upturned kitchen utensils into a makeshift drum-set right outside the bedroom. there was also the time in Goa, before we bought a dining table, when I worked from bed. Which is really a fancy way to put it when the “bed” was actually just a mattress on the floor. I also reveled in the glory of working in my PJs, not having to bathe to get to work, and being able to work from literally anywhere in my home. In our first apartment in Goa, I didn’t have a workspace. I took my work to the balcony, stayed in bed some days and most times I worked at the dining table. Which meant moving things around all the time, especially meal times. When I began freelancing full time two years ago, I finally felt the need for a workspace of my own. My laptop, portable as it is, isn’t the only tool I use. I always need to have a notebook and pens at hand, often I need to look into books and magazines, and sometimes I just need space around me. Space to spread out, as much around me, as in my head. So I started making an effort to create a fixed space from where to work. Several other efforts to get more organised and treat my work professionally followed. It started as a necessity, and now it’s just a happy space.

The room has really become sanctuary. Funny how that used to be the kitchen at one time. In a drastic turn of events, I’ve outsourced cooking, to sit back at my desk and keep writing, as I take in the smells of my lunch being prepared for me. Having the room has made me more organised, and god knows, more productive too. I  spend most of my time in the chair, sometimes switching to my beanbag when I need to relax or straighten my legs. I play my music in here, sometimes I dance out a whole song in between deadlines. Sometimes, when I am lulled into a postprandial stupor after a particularly good lunch, or when I’ve had a really hard workout, I throw myself into the single bed and take a nap. On easy days, I read there or watch TV. In the evenings, I usually step out into the balcony and watch the kids cycle, or the sunset. The balcony extends all the way down the width of the house, so it is large enough for me pace up and down when I need to take a long call or think. When we decided to install a second AC in the house a few months ago, we were undecided if it should go in the living room or my study. Only briefly. Because I quickly realised this is where I spend all the time in the day. And I’m the only one who’s home most days. This past summer, I had the added advantage of air conditioning, which has ensured I pretty much never leave. For anything. Not even ringing doorbells. I love being in this room so much, I no longer think of it as a guest room, even. When we have people visiting, I feel temporarily unsettled about how and where I am going to get my work done.

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Today, I had a moment. It had just been raining, when suddenly the sun came out, doing that afternoon thing where the light hits the room in slanting, soft, gold rays. It made me painfully aware of what a privilege this has been. It’s all very Woolf-esque in how liberating and oddly empowering has been to finally have a room of my own.