Home base

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow will be a new day.

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

Three years ago: June

Reflections

Things I’ve enjoyed this past week:

Bonus time with VC, who arrived in Bangalore as soon as his uncle passed last week. He stayed on for the weekend, coinciding his date of departure with mine, as we headed to Goa on separate flights on the same day. It’s been a while since I’ve seen VC chill like he did in Bangalore those few days, and even though I was away at class pretty much the entire time, I enjoyed the time we had together.

One rainy evening, we camped out at Koshy’s chatting (VC is suddenly into chatting, elaborate, detailed conversations and I can’t get enough of this) and drinking while we waited for the rain to subside, before we took ourselves for a dinner of soba noodles and stir fry. Bangalore is nicer, and more complete for me, with VC around. This surprise trip was well-timed, and solidified some things about us, in my mind.

Being in class again and feeling my brain stretching beyond control. Feeling distressed with a muddle of jitters and mild intimidation, with the delicateness of this new learning that sits in my hands, while I know not how or what I am going to do with it. Staying with the jitters anyway and finding joy at the very end of the short cycle of distress, and feeling a sudden surge of energy almost, at the excitement of what lies ahead.

Catching lunch with D and S, chatting about all the ways in which the work and the learning permeates our lives. While we’ve been in touch after L1 ended, we haven’t met — all three of us — as much as we promised we would make the time for. So there was a lot to really dive into and take apart. Later, on Saturday evening when we were finally done, S and I walked to Airlines where we chatted and chatted, over a Maddur vada and coffee (after ages!), in a conversation about marriage and womanhood and making space for both to coexist.

A marathon two hour conversation with N on Sunday that was preceded by a card reading. I realised my readings are only as deep and insightful as the clarity and intent that the questions bring with them. The ripe way in which N asked, and the lithe keenness, opened something up and resulted in a very powerful message that felt like it was as much for me as it was for her. No surprises there, considering how much our individual journeys mirror each other.

Then we had this never-ending, freewheeling conversation that touched upon so many different, varied, sometimes disparate things that matter to us right now. Things we’re experiencing, things we’ve understood, all that has come to be, and the greatest trepidation about what will be. I found great resonance in N’s words about how deeply personal, intangible and utterly indescribable the nature of what she’s doing as her self-exploration feels. And the consequent loneliness of it too. And yet we get each other, I thought.

D came over on Sunday evening, bearing gifts — kheema samosas and khoya naans from Albert Bakery — and VC made us chai, that we enjoyed with chatter and giggles (as per usual). I’ve been off tea and coffee for about three months now, and even though I have indulged in the odd evening snack, the milky, sugary beverages have been missing entirely. Last week I had that craving for aloo buns, and today too I tucked in a few bakery biscuits. The snacks on Sunday were just perfect, the tea was sweet, and if we had even the slightest rain, it might have been a perfect Sunday evening.

This was the icing on the cake for my weekend. Closing the week, and the month in Bangalore before I left for Goa with this banger of a show that I had booked myself for two months ago, was everything I anticipated it would be.

Kunal Kamra is astonishingly precise with his humour and he delivered a cracker of a set that was bravely political, didn’t shy away from intelligently bashing the current Saffron regime for all that they must be criticised for, while also keeping it light, funny and even touching in some parts. There’s something deeply touching about honest art delivered in this unfiltered way that crosses all kinds of barriers. I may have teared up a couple of times, not just at the bitter truth that he delivered, albeit in a funny manner, but also at the purity of his work that touched me.

Arriving in Goa to find that the plants that had nearly died have been mostly lovingly revived in VC’s patient and regular care. The crazy bougainvillea has in fact suddenly sprung to bloom in most uncharacteristic fashion (they prefer the sun to rain) and has in fact changed shades, now dressed in a heart-tuggingly bright pink, rather than the beaming, gentle salmon I thought we had.

One year ago: I wouldn’t change a single thing

The rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside, the rain began to fall harder and noisily.

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

Three years ago: The rain, the rain

Simple

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

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

My heart is full. And still.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So yeah, my heart is full. And still.

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

Three years ago: Begin

Small sadness and everyday grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m ready

Today is my last day in Goa. This has been like a proper summer vacation of yore — when regular programming was interrupted, annually, to make space for a total and complete state of relaxation. That’s what the last two months have been like. Waking up easy, getting my workout in, pottering about the terrace garden, settling in to stress my eyeballs out with excessive screen time, napping whenever necessary, chilling all day basically, rising only to cook dinner, eating early and turning in by 8.30 pm on most nights and getting back to TV — most days in a nutshell.

Ever since I fired this client, I’ve been out of steady retainer-based work. Being here in Goa already in a holiday state of mind I decided not to begin hustling for other/new work immediately. I have instead watched copious, and I mean some seriously colossal, amounts of all kinds of TV. Netflix and the works, TV shows, movies, and a shit ton of YouTube — binging on entire channels and playlists mostly in the food, fitness and gardening departments. It’s been so excessive, I haven’t ever abused my eyes this bad, so bad that I’m going to go get my eyes tested as soon as I’m back because, let’s just say I’m beginning to feel the effects of it. Some days I may have done some writing, very little reading, but mostly I’ve done nothing of real consequence aside from the bare minimum. Spending a majority of this time all alone has also meant something to me. Once VC gets home in the evening, we chill, chat, eat and retire.

Serendipitously discovered these pictures undoubtedly taken during summer vacations, just as I was packing today.

It’s been just right in the most simplistic sort of way. We managed to eat at all my favourite places that I had shortlisted to a pithy bunch. But I’m actually happy about how much we ate at home, how willing and enthu I’ve felt about cooking, and how often VC managed to take leftovers to work the next day.

Those were home days, which was a bulk of the trip. I also spent many days with D, and we did a bunch of things that really brightened up my stay here. The pups of course, they bring so much joy. And I feel hanging out with them always does me so much good. So there was that. I hung out with A several times, eating meals with her and the family, and we had D and UT home for dinner one night and VC’s work folks home or a barbecue night, but aside from that there has been little socialising.

What there has been is solid days — and entire weekends — at the beach, but the highlight of my stay is all the time we got to spend at home, with each other. The quiet, deliberately mundane life that isn’t numbing or distracting from anything with a hectic busyness. We’ve had a lot of conversation and discussions this time around, a development for VC haha!

This is life, externally, though. Mosrly a time of stillness and near-nothingness. Internally though, a lot has happened and this trip has given me so much to be grateful for, so much to ponder, so much to hold close. If you’ve been reading this blog for the last two months, you might have an idea.

Sometime last week though the bliss of all this relaxation turned to sloth and really got to me. I haven’t had this sort of an extended time of doing absolutely nothing, probably ever. There is only that much not doing anything a girl can take, and since I am not so interested in random wandering around to places to eat and drink at the moment I haven’t really entertained myself around here like I might otherwise have. So I was bored and I began counting the days down to returning to Bangalore — a first for me!

Perfectly timed like a summer vacation, I’m headed back tomorrow like I used to in the days of yore. Pre-June days in a coastal place, when the heat is wilting and the promise of rain lingers in the air. There’s a slight dullness about fun-times ending, but a gentle excitement bubbling under about new beginnings. Like a new term at school, a pair of fresh shoes waiting to be polished, crisp new notebooks waiting to be cracked open.

It’s been a good time to reboot, hit refresh. It might seem odd to say I’ve gained a lot from this seemingly mundane routine of nothing really, and I’m leaving feeling fuller and richer from it, somehow. I can’t put it in words really, to explain how emptiness can feel fulfilling, but that’s just what this summer has been like.

Yesterday I realised I was in Thailand at this time last year, and felt mildly soppy that we didn’t get a summer holiday this year, until I realised very quickly that a summer holiday is exactly what I got. Right here at home.

June in Bangalore has some schoolish new beginnings for me — level 2 of the course I did last year commences. I am delighted to be going back to my other home and I’m looking forward to so many things including an extended wardrobe that is more than shorts and tees, full meals a la amma, South Indian food, running and my gym, hanging out with S and A, Sunday walking ritual with D, hanging out with my family. Okay I could just go on and on and on. I didn’t think a day when I’d be excited to return from Goa to Bangalore would ever happen, but here we are and the odds stack up nice and high, it seems.

I’m ready!

One year ago: How fragile we are
Three years ago: Monday this week

Happy bytes

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

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

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

***

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

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things

Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing friendship

Yesterday, I clipped off the tops of the Thai basil growing in a little pot in my balcony to add to a Thai curry that was simmering away on the stove. For something that came from a wee little seedling, smaller than my thumb when it arrived, it’s grown at an astonishing pace and is now flourishing, green and bright. It’s taller than the length of my palm, and threatening to grow even taller, which is why D advised me to snip the tops off to encourage it to grow laterally.

I’ve grown herbs and greens in my balcony before, but I’d forgotten the thrill that this ease and access brings. I’ve forgotten the satisfaction of chopping and using something that I watched grow, inch by little green inch, right here in my home.

I cannot overstate the joy plants have brought me over this visit. I think it is particularly the act of using my hands and spending time at something as satisfyingly slow as growing plants that has done the trick. I came here to mostly dying plants, but over the last six weeks we’ve revived some, grown some from scratch, potted and repotted some, and added so many more plants. So many that the terrace now looks a bit full and inviting. So many that a few pots have extended over into a second balcony that gets some dappled morning light that’s great for them.

Every day begins with me inspecting every pot closely, touching new leaves, excitedly examining the microscopic growth (that I swear I can see!) growth and all the possibilities that lie in every nook and node.

Last week, I spent three days with D when VC went off on a work trip. We spent a significant time over two mornings, planting things. Fresh seeds little paper cups that we labeled, saplings in pots, and I learned a thing or two about how to prune some plants, and possibly grow some from cuttings. Olive watched over us, occasionally stretching out right in the path before us to sun herself.

This trip, D and I have spent a fair bit of time doing things with our hands — painting wooden stools (more her than I, but the one day I spent doing this was immensely satisfying), gardening and obsessing over growing plants, cooking and mixing salad (we did a lot of this hahaha!) and card readings of course. I realised I really enjoy having friends to do things with. And this is something I have missed in recent times. Of course the chats and laughter, the eating and drinking, the gabbing, the going out is great, but I think for me personally, to have a shared interest, or the opportunity to learn something new is a huge draw. To really participate and collaborate at doing something together is such an added bonus.

Something grows between people, when we do this.

One year ago: I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you

Routine

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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