Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

Babies

The only kind that interest me:

***

It’s been a quiet few days again. Meddling about the plants. Cleaning here and there. Cooking some. Sleeping lots. Reading a little again. And I may be getting eerielt comfortable with it all.

The silence. The aloneness. The containment. The sufficiency of it all.

One year ago: An opportunity and a gift
Two years ago: We keep this love in a photograph

Minimal

Things that excite me these days.

Before I get startled by the price for a bunch like this. 50 rupees last week. 55 this week. And yes we’re running through entire bunches in about a week. Don’t ask.

Mid-week work from home scenes. Aka: life. I have really enjoyed being locked down with VC. Much, much more than I imagined possible. And by that I mean for a simplified, pared down, minimal routine that we have had, it has somehow been richer and fuller, together. I’m not even sure how.

Blue hour that otherwise makes me slightly blue, I find bittersweet and beautiful, some days.

One year ago: Happy bytes
Four years ago: Malleswaram market things

The fullness of ease and balance

Going through another phase of really enjoying this stay-in business. Cooking, gardening, exercising, cleaning, pottering, tending to forgotten corners of the house, napping, bingeing on TV, staying up late, spring cleaning, hanging out with VC, chatting with Niyu, video-calling S. There seems to be time for it all. All the things I usually put off for “later” is here in the now.

There’s also no rush about any of it. I wake up and go with the way I’m feeling on any given morning. Energetic, sprightly? Great! A little lazy and wanting to sleep in? Let’s do that, let’s exercise later and get about the day accordingly, not doing all that I might ave planned to. Feeling downright lazy? Cancel the day.

This morning I had one of those slow days. I nearly skipped exercising altogether, because there were chores to be done and that usual toss-up played out: workout and skip chores or skip chores and workout? Except a third choice is emerging these days. One that only comes up when I’m not time-bound. So I worked out, slowly, because that’s the kind of day it was. No high-intensity jumping about. And then we got to the chores, VC doing his bit, me doing mine. And I took twice the amount of time I usually do. Going about it probably “inefficiently” — but it was okay. At lunch time VC made grilled cheeses toasts for me, and Maggi for him, while I cut up a plate of mangoes. And we called it lunch.

This is new for us. Certainly very new for me. This level of relaxation, the ease, the ability to just go with the way the day is unfolding and the way my body feels. An older me might have fretted about the slow start, the sloth in my body, and tried to whip myself to be productive and efficient. I might have felt terrible about wasting an entire morning to chores. I might have felt really guilty about VC having to make me “lunch” and a lunch of bread cheese, processed noodles and mangoes just wouldn’t cut it.

But somehow, it’s okay. There have been many days like this, and they’ve all been okay.

I have had phases of easing up like this before, and every time it has come from being very tuned in to what I am feeling. This is no different, I want to say. Except there is a difference. No previous phase has lasted this long, and been so enjoyable. Something has changed, the energy around this ease is different this time around.

It has come with a deeper connection, a newfound ability to fill out time, take space and take place, and really lean into intentionality a little bit more. Every little mundane thing that I do, feels very intentional. And I have a tiny inkling that is what has made the difference.

Our home feels more lived in, because I feel more present to every corner. Dusting, tending, prettying — because I now have to do it all and I have discovered I have the time, the patience and I enjoy it. The garden is abloom because we’re much more involved than we have been. I feel the fittest and leanest I have in a long while, because there’s so much more movement and exercise happening even outside of the scheduled workouts. We’re hanging out and conversing and enjoying things together — games, movies, silence.

Last week was a tumultuous one. For me, but consequently for VC too. I felt volatile and I erupted more than once. It was emotionally challenging. I felt and expressed anxiety that what we have had and enjoyed will not last forever, that it will be ruined. I felt torn up about that, horrible that I had no control in doing what one needs to to just make it stay. Until I realised; of course it’s going to change. Of course it’s not going to last forever. Of course it’s not in my control. 

And then things eased up again. Differently, this time. I know something very elemental has changed for us during this period of lockdown. I know things have shifted for VC, and I know they certainly have for me. Even though the physical reality of our life isn’t very different from before, something is different. Especially now than when the lockdown began.

It feels like a return. A return to connection, return to love, return to beauty and a return to ease and balance. And this feeling has really filled me up most days this past week.

The biggest difference by far though, is that I am not hanging on to it. I am not filled with thoughts of wanting to bottle it up for the future. I am just here, experiencing the balance, within and without. Witnessing the ease and flow that has made a remarkably different entry. Savouring this fullness now. As it is.

One year ago: Renewed relationships
Two years ago: April

The sweet confinement of aloneness

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn,
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

— David Whyte

I don’t know when it happened, but this extended solitude and stillness has filtered much from my daily life. Chatter. Energy sapping conversation. Distractions in activity. Distractions in thoughts. Distractions in being. People and their behaviour. Inner circles and outer circles. Essential must-haves and non-essential great-to-haves-but-can-totally-do-without. Habits. Obsessions and compulsions. High standards. My own overactive kind. My own hyperactive energy.

It was probably a gradual and gentle descent and not a single, pivotal moment. Somehow everything seems very narrowed down to the bare minimum. Only showing what is really needed. Giving me proof, again and again, of all that I really need to survive, get on, and be happy. Like the barely visibly shiny dot of a pinhead.

Has this period made anyone else frightfully quiet, inward and still? Almost motionless. Minimal. Pared down. Stripped. Naked. Free. Light. Unadorned.

Necessary. Breathing. Alive.

Minimal-everything has been an ongoing theme and pursuit in my life for many years now. And I actively work on minimising (sometimes a little too ruthlessly) all aspects of my life — whether consumption or people — reflecting and course correcting at regular intervals. And still, nothing has brought me to this level of containment where everything feels subtle. Delicately complex. Yet understated. Delicious.

Even with the days I long to be out, the missing of people, the longing for the trees and the outdoors, the dreams of travelling, my life and my days feel full. The realisation of this dichotomy, this crazy contradiction, is so thrilling.

I already feel a new way of life has slipped under my skin. I am seeing changes have already just happened even as I was considering them just a few weeks ago. The newness has tucked itself in the notches of my joints, sprouting new muscles from beneath my bones. It feels natural, like a part of me, re-growing. I feel like now my insides need to be re-accustomed to it all.

I was telling N the other day, I feel like I need to re-learn how to be a person out in the world again. And I find myself treading slowly, in that direction, utterly sure about what I don’t want to do.

Baby steps.

The darkness has been hard. The aloneness has been heavy at times. The slowness challenging sometimes. The quiet, haunting. But I see how necessary it was. I see the sweetness of it all. The magic. The ways of the universe.

One year ago: Quiet
Four years ago: Things about VC that I never want to forget #16

Never gets old

Watched Piku tonight. It never get’s old.

Yep, I’m still not over it, I still can’t believe it.

One year ago: All the hearts
Two years ago: Sweet dreams are made of these
Four years ago: April

Birthday gratitude

It could have been a less than ordinary birthday. It could have. Given the lockdown and the slim supplies and an empty bar and what not.

But many special, not ordinary things happened.

I woke up to the remnants of a nights light rain. My adenium that I’d given up on six months ago burst forth to life, with not one but two bright death-defyingly pink flowers.

My mother was first to wish me.

My grandmother wished me by telling me she remembered my birth story vividly because she was the only one waiting outside the labour ward. She told me how they brought me out, still bloody and slimy, pink and wet, and in the twelve steps it took to get to the waiting area I’d managed to shove the entirety of my fist snugly in my mouth, vigorously sucking. Making wildly loud noises, both eyes looking deceptively placid. Apparently.

VC wished me every time he approached me. Approximately 36 times, I think.

We ate Maggi for lunch and I took a longer than long nap.

I woke up to a telephone call from an aunt who called to wish me, who I ended up speaking to for over 45 minutes about everything from getting older to why I am glad I didn’t have babies to the state of our country.

Another aunt wished me with a memory of my 1st birthday. A raucous affair in my grandparents home in Bombay, by the end of which I had abandoned all other kids, apparently. Stripped down to my diapers. And with a random string of colourful beads that had found their way around my neck, too long for me, bobbing around my baby belly.

My dearest Niyu cooked me this massive storm. And planned this epic, dreamy garden themed sundowner party of three. It was perfect, and unlike anything I’d have possibly had if it weren’t for the lockdown.

It began at 5.30 and ended close to midnight. There was some gourmet level finger food all made by her singlehandedly at home, fresh fruit and cheese, drinks form my dad’s bar hahahaha, sunlight fading, this overgrown garden that hasn’t been touched by the gardener in over a month, drawing games!, music and what not.

Dinner was a sumptuous Asian style cold noodle dish with shrimp and a side of kung pao meatballs.

I did the smartest thing I could have and Swiggy’d a salted caramel chocolate cake to myself, for myself. Yes, I do this a lot. I’ve done it before too — sort my own birthday cake out.

It was truly, easily one of the nicest birthdays I have ever had. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Niyu has an excellent track record of throwing great dinners like this, in general. But she has a particularly great track record with throwing me surprise birthday dinners. Which I have only ever reciprocated once — on her 18th. Such an ingrate, but what can I say? I’m incredibly lucky?

I came home thinking of how I have ended up with VC and Niyu on so many birthdays now. And they’re easily amongst the most memorable birthdays for me.

This is how much VC hates being in pictures, he ensures he’s invisible.

One year ago: Gratitude
Two years ago: The beer I had for breakfast
Four years ago: At sea

Contained

I find myself swinging between wanting this lockdown to end so I can be with people again, but also kind of never wanting it to end because I am also thoroughly enjoying being home in this way. So much.

Taking charge of the house completely as we have has done something very good for both VC and me. It’s snapped back a connection between us and the home that as probably flagging.

Between the cleaning, the cooking, the gardening, the routine of exercise, healthy meals, work schedules, there has been joy and great benefit in being stripped down and contained within the home. I’ve become very aware of how much dissipation of all kinds happens on a regular basis, otherwise.

One year ago: Acceptance
Two years ago: Looking back over my shoulder

Poof

These days, my phone is filled with pictures of only what we cook/eat, my plants, the same view from my window/balcony.

Finally, today, I just want to go out.

It’s day 40 and like everyone else, I’ve only been as far as the neighbourhood vegetable vendor and supermarket a handful of times. I haven’t missed the outdoors this desperately, until now.

I’d like to do something other than cook, clean, watch TV, practice solitude.

I’d like to see some human beings other than VC, Niyu and my vegetable vendor. Much as I am so thankful for not being all alone, I’m ready for some life.

I’d like to see some views other than the one outside my window.

Today, I’m really feeling constricted. There’s low hanging, horribly muggy summer rain clouds that are doing nothing more than hanging around. The air is hot and thick, impenetrable, sultry. Some rain would give respite, but the clouds just won’t part.

It’s making staying indoors really stuffy today. But I know that’s just the external. Internally too, I’m longing for a change of scene. Even if just for a bit. A drive? A walk?

While I’ve had good days and bad that have flowed from one to the next, I have mostly been able to get by and get on. Today, I’m finally feeling the suffocation of it all. And I’m feeling all kinds of gloomy will-this-ever-lift thoughts. The lack of information around whatever the fuck is going on, where we stand, is not helping me.

I’m longing for a nice long run in the park.
I’d love a beach day, from last summer.
My dreams alternate between meeting S to consume cold, stiff cocktails in restaurants I currently cannot go to, and my loved solitary escape to consume brownies slowly, greedily at Third Wave.
I long to get a haircut.

I miss it all so, so, so very much. And it’s all a bit surreal to be dreaming about such “basic” things. I know, to dream is also a privilege at this point.

Feeling defeated and deflated today, to think that I’m living in a time when all of this is currently a question of “if and when” and not “sometime soon”.

Who knows how long it’ll be?

Sigh.

One year ago: Plant babies
Two years ago: You know it used to be mad love

Just now

It gave me joy to do something for just myself yesterday. 90 minutes spent alone at home, by myself and with myself. At two points when we were required to place our palms on our heart centre, my eyes welled up profusely.

Practicing a form of yoga that isn’t about the physical body as much as it is about the emotional body. No getting sweaty and breathing heavy. No complex poses. No challenging the body physically. Just steady, mindful breathing for a whole 90 minutes, while observing what comes up emotionally, when the body is placed in certain ways.

As someone who has a strong physical practice that is all about the challenge, rigour and stretching my limits, and most definitely performing better, this is a challenge but surprisingly, as I discovered yesterday, also a delight.

***

Things I am desperately craving:

  • A really cold, crisp beer
  • A run in the park. Heck, even around the block would be good, right now
  • A good, meaty burger
  • Cool, crunchy papdi chaat, with cold dahi and pomegranate on top

Things that are making me really happy right now:

  • My plants (I’ve started to call it a garden) are thriving again, the hibiscus flowering regularly, all babies growing up very quickly, new shoots and leaves and buds showing up in places they haven’t before
  • Thums up
  • Mangoes
  • The silence

One year ago: Slow and steady
Two years ago: The times, they are a-changing
Four years ago: Go far, they said

Zen

Woke up this morning and just felt like it had to be one of those days with no routine. Even though I’m always saying routine is what keeps me going. Especially during this lockdown, it has been the anchor to my days. But this is hardly a time to be exacting and rigid. I have been much more relaxed about having the day going to “plan” lately, and it has helped.

I spent a good half hour tending to my plants. Half an hour is really a lot, given the size of my balcony. I thrilled at the roots that are cropping up in many little babies I’m propagating in water. I pruned the bougainvillea that’s behaving odd.

Then I did some really mundane stuff like hang out the sheets that had washed overnight, put some dahi to set and figured out lunch. There’s some new excitement about roaming about my home in the day time, every morning feeling like Sunday morning. Doing things in that unhurried, slow way that is usually reserved for Sundays.

I skipped working out today. VC did the dishes as usual and I skipped cleaning. Had a late shower and settled in to TV time. Niyu cooked us a splendid, mindblasting dinner — eggplant lasagne with a roasted pepper and beetroot salad. It took her a couple of hours in the afternoon.

By then it was chai time. I’ve taken to having adrak chai every evening and it’s a bit of a production that is more exciting than the drinking itself. I enjoy it. Everyday last week I ate a maska-fied bun toasted on the tava, along with the chai. The period has come and gone and I no longer feel the need for the additional carbs hahaha. So today, I skipped that bit.

VC went off for a run and Niyu went home to workout, and I spent some time by myself, catching up on work and answering emails. There’s suddenly a spike in requests for readings and I have been thinking what that might be about.

Dinner was earlyish, as has become the norm these days. We ran out of alcohol some days ago strangely, quite unlike me, I have been craving some Coke ever since. It’s been in short supply in the neighbourhood. But today VC managed to score some imported, extra sweet, overpriced Pepsi. I drank it in a wine glass, with lots of ice and a slice of lime, like it was contraband. Dinner was mindblowing. And not because I had that Pepsi with it.

I am enjoying this easy rhythm of life. The minimalist days, the liberty to quit my days plan and go freewheeling, the simple home-bound joys.

I am truly realising what my most-needed essentials are and what I can absolutely do without. Right from the likes of atta and milk, butter, rice and eggs to people and things.

What I do need though, is a good brownie. A haircut. And birthday cake in a few weeks, thanks to the lockdown being extended.

One year ago: And thanks, Goa
Four years ago: Imperfect timing

Good things

that have come from this stay-in. Just some things I’ve started to pay attention to, enjoy/care about more than I used to before this strange, strange time:

The value of housework. And by value I mean the actual worth. I am totally rethinking how much I’m paying my help enough. And I’m a muddle of thoughts about all the unpaid labour housewives put in and how much of themselves they are forced to forget in the bargain.

Folding the laundry, doing the dishes, mopping the floors down on my haunches. Thanking my stars for having a small (manageable) home. Finding the daily dose of happy by tending to my plants diligently again.

Cooking twice a day, every day. Managing efficiency with groceries. I’m frightfully aware of consumption and wastage lately. We’re becoming champs at repurposing leftovers all the time. Salad becomes raita. Dal goes into paratha dough. Bits and bobs in the veggie tray get roasted up and piled on toast, coffee grounds go into my plants. And it feels really good to be using up everything that’s in my fridge and kitchen to the max.

Cleaning methi leaves. Making dahi every single day. Remembering to soak nuts every night.

Video calls. I’m not much of a phone person. It’s only in recent time that I’ve started to enjoy telephone conversations with some people. Video calls were saved for work and readings. And suddenly now I’m doing it so often, so easily.

Working out alone. Working out at home. Treating the half hours of sweeping and mopping the floor as my full body cardio warm up hahaha. This has forced me to get really innovative with my exercise. Trying that new yoga class on Zoom.

Getting comfortable with finding pockets of routine in days that are really not uniform and where no two days are the same. Being okay with having no routine. I feel quite relaxed.

Not knowing what tomorrow will be like. Imperfection. Taking time out to make myself happy, either by cooking something I want to eat, or finding that window of time to paint, being flexible with exercise.

Holding grief and allowing for it when it comes. Learning to be okay with witnessing it and not making meaning.

Realising I’m in a space of retreat again. Not having much to say about it. Watching as it’s making my relationships change. Not doing a thing about it.

Waiting. Uncertainty. Pause. Going really slow.

Justin Bieber. That daily sugary evening adrak chai with a small unhealthy snack.

Who knew.

Two years ago: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Four years ago: Weekending

At home

In today’s edition of excessive-but-necessary domesticity, we made a batch of homemade paneer by curdling 2 litres of milk. Because while milk has been in abundant (daily) supply where I live, paneer and cheese has not.

Yesterday, it was a whole wheat plum galette. Yeah, apparently I’m that person now. Because we had plums (only fruit available on the clean shelves in the supermarket) that tasted like nothing really and I didn’t want to bin them. This, in addition to house cleaning chores, unending dishes (because we are a house of three foodies who are taking our meals very seriously even in isolation), laundry (what with working out everyday) and cleaning the bathrooms, the actual cooking itself and what not.

So it’s no wonder that this week, I haven’t had it all chill and easy like the last few weeks. Suddenly I’m wondering where is that free time and hashtag-slowlife everyone has been talking about. It’s also mega amusing how I do the most basic, essential-for-life things that I otherwise outsource blindly for a few days and I cannot resist the urge to max it out and I do somewhere feel like I deserve a prize for it. It’s messed up, no?

I mean, this is life. This is normal. I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary — okay if you discount the baking and the extraaaa domesticity — it’s just cooking, cleaning, and focusing on being healthy and responsible, during this time. What’s the big deal, man? It kind of made me wonder how distant I am from these very normal functions of life, and it’s something I’m going to try and correct even after things normalise, to the extent possible.

Slowly beginning to see that not everything from my “normal”, old life may be worth returning to once things go back.

***

We had a beautiful, mellow, cotton candy sunset yesterday. And I rearranged my pots in the morning. The most unexpected plants are thriving — and I think it’s the clean air.

I’m not bored being home as yet, seeing as how I have had a lot going on. And even before that, the silence and stillness has been good. But today I said to VC and Niyu, I do want an Andhra meal. Or a coffee at Third Wave. Or a good wood fired pizza. Mostly, going out is about the food for me, I realise. Everything else I need is right here with me. Immense gratitude for that, given how impossibly devastating this has been for so many others. I struggle to make sense of the dissonance of it all. And I find no answers.

One year ago: Blank
Four years ago: Fullness

 

Life these days

In truth, my everyday life isn’t altered very much by social distancing. I do stay home for much of the time. And since VC moved back here, he does too — working out of his home office in our second bedroom. Life has fallen into a neat little rhythm. There is routine and I know it keeps me grounded to have this baseline of some method to the day. Even when I allow myself the odd day of freewheeling out-of-schedule meandering, and do wild things like or sleep in till noon and order-in a burger for lunch, I know that days like that are the exception not the norm. I take solace in some routine, and I have finally, after an entire lifetime of being a slave to routine, learned to acknowledge it’s place and purpose in my life, and make it fluid so I can move, rather than rigid so I feel caught.

Anyhow though, I’ve noticed that when things are spiralling around me, I take extra pleasure in taking my time to do the little things. Like making my bed every morning. This morning, as I folded up our blanket, stacked the pillows, stretched out and de-wrinkled the sheets, I realised I have really grown to like being at home again. Full circle.

The simplicity of this life suits me a lot. And I felt glad we have a life that hasn’t faced much disruption, where work can and has continued for the both of us, where the comforts of home with home cooked food are easily had. It makes a huge difference.

So, I’m listing down the simplest pleasures in my daily routine that I have enjoyed these past few weeks (and months) of uncertain and trying times, when what has been happening in the world has had an impact on me and my mind, and the one thing that has kept me sane has been my routine and the comfort of my home.

  1. A full nights restful sleep, waking up, turning off the alarm and going back to sleep
  2. A good home workout or a run in the park
  3. Slow, mindfully cooked lunch, most every single day
  4. Eating lunch at the dining table with VC, sharing that window of time together before we go back to our respective work/activities
  5. Sometimes catching a nap
  6. Being actively involved in doing the laundry, folding it when it’s dried and putting things away
  7. Thinking about what to make for dinner
  8. Making, or should out to VC to make us our evening tea or coffee
  9. Enjoying it in bed with a snack plate of sponge cake and sweet rusk (this has become something of a ritual in recent weeks, since we have found the ultimate source for both)
  10. Sitting in my living room at sunset, looking out the windows at my plants and beyond, it’s become my little window of absolute nothingness, where I do nothing, no phone, no laptop, no book
  11. Smelling the rain as it has threatened to come, watching glimmers of lightning in broad daylight
  12. Taking client readings and sessions (online and off), different times of day, it’s been an unexpectedly satisfying thrill
  13. Cooking up imagined recipes that have formulated from nowhere in my brain, and having them turn out well
  14. Eating fruit in bed before turning in
  15. Lying on my massage ball
  16. Regaining my lost sleep again

I have certainly been cooking with a lot more involvement than I usually do. And I have taken way more interest in home chores that I otherwise find quite tedious and just like ugh-this-needs-to-get-done. I suppose this is is the difference between staying in and having to stay in with nowhere to go, maybe? Because I know I have been doing all of this with a quiet, but furious energy like my life depends on it.

Maybe, deep down, it does.

One year ago: It’s been a long time coming   
Two years ago: Let’s talk about love   
Four years ago: On un-learning and relearning order

Peace within

Feeling a sense of equanimity and peace today. Despite stepping out of my cocoon to read and realise that the world is still fast spinning out of control.

On days like this, when the balance shows itself, I feel that internal “container” within me that we have been talking about building and growing since I began therapy. It’s the space that keeps me grounded and in touch. Balanced. Peaceful. Even as worlds of emotions swirl inside. The two can coexist, without my having to fly off into a mood.

It’s also been a full, satisfying day. Once again reiterating my need to be grounded, in reality, to feel equanimity in my being.

A night of restful sleep, a sweaty workout to start the day, two readings in person, the house to myself all day long, a nap, a long walk around the neighbourhood and returning with some fresh greens and groceries I picked up along the way, some solid, involved, deeply satisfying cooking (for today and tomorrow!), dinner that hit the spot. Finishing this all by 8 pm and settling in bed, done for the day and writing this as I get ready to shut my laptop off and wind down already — it just feels very, very good.

One year ago: Home away from home kind of feeling
Two years ago: I still remember when we did not have the answers