Day 47: There’s still time to change the road you’re on

I can’t believe how quickly this week has gotten ahead of me. It was busy, with meetings every single day (which would explain my rant), shoots on three days (including a full day shoot that had us on our feet from 9 am to 5 pm, straight), lots of battling gnarly crawly traffic and generally being up and about and on the move.

And that’s just the work I do for VC. On my side, I worked on an essay, worked on edits and submitted it, placed another one and began researching it. If I’d squeezed in the interview and a movie watch it requires I’d have been able to start the week banging the story out.

There was also beers with R, dinner with VC at Nagarjuna and the gas running out at home.

It’s been an eventful week. I was out so much and even though I didn’t clock too many hours “at work” at my desk, it’s been productive and meaningful in many ways.

Next week, I hope to kick-start gym time again. So help me God.

Two years ago: Day 47: Cloudless skies

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Day 43: You guys, I must be the luckiest alive

I’m super duper massively thankful for my body and what it seems to put up with. I bounced back from the walk rather quickly, surprising even myself. But while my muscles seemed to have healed fast, my general exhaustion lingered on draining out very slowly, with every night of good rest I had this week. And through it all I’ve just been giving thanks for this marvel, the machinery and the workings of this complex body. And it’s incredible capacity to stretch.

I’m so thankful for all the rest and great sleep I’ve had this past week. It’s at times like these that I fee grateful to be my own boss. No work to wake up to. No office to be at. Save for a few meetings and a couple of deadlines I had the luxury of taking it easy. Which means I’ve slept like a beast, having these epic pass-out-like-a-light nights, and the occasional afternoon nap from which I emerge feeling as good as new.

I’m thankful for both my mothers. My mother, who had dinner ready for us, packed and delivered at my house, when we came home bone tired from the walk. Within ten minutes of turning on both geysers (because all we really, really wanted was a piping hot shower) we had a power trippage that rendered our house pitch dark. So I hobbled over to hers, where she had filled a bucket full of hot water already. I’m thankful for my mother in law who tirelessly commits herself to giving all her children the littlest joys. She made us a massive dinner of chaat, for the day after my walk when we visited them. I ate what felt like my body weight in sev-puri and dahi-batata-puri and came home with a doggy bag of gajar-halwa. So satisfying.

I’m thankful for our home. For how despite its perpetual state of WIP, it feels like home. I’m grateful for the feelings that makes up for the absence of stuff I might have otherwise tried to fill it up with.

I’m as grateful as I am surprised and fuzzy-hearted at the return of my itch to entertain folks at home. This once habitual side of me had all but died a slow death in the last few years in Goa, but seems to have made a comeback in the last few months.

I’m so thankful for D. For how she was instantly available to pull some cards for a reading. I’m thankful for her way with words, and her gentle patience and how it has a persuasive effect on even the most sceptical person of us all — VC. I’m thankful for the affirmations we’ve received, and to have them up on a wall for easy visualisation.

I’m thankful for the quiet conversations I have had with VC this week. The opportunity to work at something together, nurture it slowly, to pick at the challenges and examine the ups and downs. I’m thankful for the team that we make. It’s all kinds of humbling to have a partner who fights tooth and nail for what he believes in, even if it means he’ll sleep over it and come back eight hours later to admit quite easily that he was being a child. I hope I am able to reach that level of honesty someday soon.

I’m thankful for the chance to play parent to my father who called me for instructions on how to make dal. He’s staying all alone in Wayanad at the moment, and as I gave him step by step instructions over the phone, and I could hear him wildly sautéing the onions in the cooker, I became acutely aware of how the roles had momentarily reversed. I’m thankful for the opportunity.

I’m thankful for the plenty of relaxed time I’ve had this past week, to read, read, read and read some more. I’m thankful for the great recommendations I got and how much I enjoyed each of the books I finished this week.

I’m thankful for people. The electrician, however cocky and over-friendly, who came over on a Sunday to ensure we wouldn’t go another day without power. For my house help who works tirelessly. For my security guards who can be banked upon any time of day or night.

I’m thankful for the rather absurdly delayed extended winter, which is only now slowly showing some signs of fading away. February, and I’m still in a jacket or sweater most days, enjoying hot cups of tea and coffee, and feeling snug as a bug at home.

Two years ago: Day 43: Beach bum

Day 31: What you seek is seeking you

A couple of weeks ago, we had PK over for dinner on a weeknight. I cooked a hurried meal of pasta tossed in a silken tomato sauce, with mushrooms and roasted peppers, green salad with almonds and feta, and crostinis topped with apricot chutney and salty cheese. Something told me PK would want to eat a non-Indian meal. Since I had already checked, and he had told me he was off meat, it was easy to pick pasta as the main!

It got me to thinking how effortless it was communicating and planning this with PK, who was, for all practical purposes, someone we had never met in our lives.PK is N’s husband, and we’d all be meeting for the first time that night, but it felt like a trivial detail. I guess upwards of eight years of exchanging notes and talking about ourselves has made our husbands feel like a part of the group even before we actually met. Even before he arrived, VC and I felt like we had invited an old friend over.

As conversation flowed, over everything from issues of identity living in a predominantly white country, to politics of hate and violence in India, it didn’t take long before we wound down to the matter of self-discovery that we have each stumbled on, albeit in our own time and in our own ways. By the end of the evening, I was astounded at how much we had to talk! VC, who is otherwise the silent watcher, had talked a week’s worth of words usually rationed for social engagements.

It was rare, unexpected (because we went in with no expectations, I suppose), but also very special. I don’t think that PK and VC, or even I, for that matter would have found common ground, if we weren’t connected as spouses of friends. On the surface we’re not the most similar bunch of people. We each come from such varied backgrounds, interests, professions, even. But connections happen in strange and sometimes roundabout, perhaps serendipitous, ways too.

The evening really confirmed this new truth about the people piece in my life: my attitude towards friendship has become less about finding likeness and sameness at the outset, over the most obvious things that show on the surface, and more about inviting in the differences, and finding deeper things to connect about.

This is the piece that I have struggled with. I won’t beat myself up about it, because I suppose it is natural, and the easiest thing to seek comfort in familiarity. And let’s be honest, that is the basis for people to forge connection. But the more I find myself coming around to accept the fact that the boxy definitions and fixed ways of looking at people and who I let into my life may not be working for me anymore, the more I find myself enjoying people, the more connection I am able to forge, and the fuller my life becomes.

On the flip side, this kind of bonding takes time, effort and is hard to come by. Primarily because of the effort involved. But I find that I am slowly accepting it in whatever form it comes. In bits and pieces, glimmers here and there, in surprising conversations, in unlikely places.

It’s starting to be a lot more about quality rather than quantity. I have never been the one to have a large bustling group of friends, so numbers haven’t been my stronghold. But even with the few, I found that the disappointments occurred when I realised that every friendship seems to come with an expiry date. Today, more and more, I am okay with that. I’m learning to give thanks for the years I get, than hang on to an idea of “forever-friends” with the weight of foreverness attached to it, even when the friendship has faded away.

The wonderful thing about breaking the barriers in my own mind as far as friends and friendship goes, is that I’ve connected with people I’d least have expected to. And this transcends age barriers, interest groups, activities to interact over.

I think two things have contributed to the shift in my mind.

  1. Time off from social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and a 12-hour WhatsApp shut down) has ensured I focus on real interactions. I’ll make the effort to go out more, meet up with people, and really show up rather than flake off over text.When I’m out there, at an event, or in a conversation, I’m picking up my phone less. It feels like a small change, but the consequences it’s had on the quality of my interactions has been manifold.
  2. Deliberately trying to shake off the fear of uncertainty. Or the need to control it in some way to bring in certainty. By approaching every experience with people as a fresh, standalone chance to connect, rather than as an event that blends into a stream of continuity labeled by time, distance, duration.By allowing myself to be surprised.

The critical change in all of this was getting over the fear. The fear that something’s changed. The fear that I’ll have to inevitably face loss. The fear that I will have to start over.

But here’s the deal — discovering myself is not without the constant process of recreating parts of my identities. And creating new identities and ways of being is impossible to do without letting go of the old. It’s the only way to make to make space for the new.

Loss, is a crucial, and essential, part of revival.

Coincidentally, Mark Manson wrote an insightful piece about this aspect of loss just earlier this week. When I read his piece, I knew exactly what I have been processing these past few days.

I’ve been an emotional ball this weekend, with the abundance of people and the love it has brought to my life. I’m so thankful for it. But it’s only when I read Manson’s article that I was able to make sense of what I was feeling, and fully internalise the change that has very obviously kicked in.

The more I open myself up to this newness, the more new stuff (people, experiences, small little events) come my way. Whether it is willing to host my sister in law and her sister and her husband last week, or feeling so excited to meet PK, or catching up with A and finding the ability to be so vulnerable despite the time and distance between us.

As a result of this, I am no longer stuck in a loop of rueing the death of some friendships, or the format in which they existed. I’m no longer craving the connections I feel I’m not getting.

When the world is my oyster and my heart is wide open, even a chance interaction with a stranger fills me up in ways that years of friendship can. And can’t.

One year ago: Busy times, apparently

Day 24: How about me enjoying the moment for once

I’m thankful for the extended winter. For how it made a comeback after a surprisingly warm two days last week, that seemed like it was all over.

I’m thankful for the music. For PJs overwhelmingly generous offer to lend me his Bose dock, indefinitely. For technology that allows me to share the music of others whose taste I trust and get.

I’m thankful for the access to fresh, pesticide-free lettuce delivered to my doorstep. For having found the answer after weeks of cribbing about this to all and sundry.

I’m thankful for the meals amma cooks me every single day. I think about how I’ve completely fallen out of the habit of having to cook my daily meals, and how amazing it is to have this option. Not just the ready meals but the company, companionship, the conversations over meals and the big-hearts-and-full-plates.

I’m thankful for the lunch date with A yesterday. For our common love for Koshys. For how we always find common ground to obsess and rant about. For the happy connections and the free wheeling conversation.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to watch Nrityagram on stage again today after almost ten years.

I’m thankful for weekend walks in the park. For discovering hidden pockets of space that I can get to love.

I’m thankful for the opportunities to meet people over business. I’m ever so grateful for the unexpected kindness of some, and the willingness of others, to help with these connections when I reached out.

I’m thankful for the times VC holds my hand. When we’re crossing the street. When we’re passing through crowded places. And sometimes for no reason at all. I’m thankful for the realisation that I like to be looked after.

I’m thankful for technology and how it enables connection in my life.

Day 18: Afterglow

Today was a really good day. For no special or momentous reason. Just many little seemingly insignificant things strung together. And I just want to remember it while I’m steeping in the afterglow.

Bunking gym and sleeping in.

Early morning reading even before I got out of bed and surfaced for the day.

Placing an essay that would have otherwise been just a blogpost.

Talking to S about hypno-therapy and social media.

Afternoon reading that lulled me to sleep.

Meeting P and having pasta for dinner for the first time in months.

Turning in early and tucking myself into bed with a book.

Two years ago: Day 18: End of day

Day 17: You’ve been on my mind

Fresh off the back of a long weekend, that also brought with is the unusual first-time that both my parents, and my sister are away, I realised how much VC and I are out of the bubble that was our default mode of existence in Goa.

Physically cut off from family, alone, in a home where we called the shots, had no social obligations even in the city we lived in, had a life devoid of most other sorts of obligations — we were really left to our own devices.

In Bangalore, the bubble doesn’t exist. With my parents living in the building adjacent to us, I’m more often than not tempted to go hang out with them. I spend entire days with my sister, with my folks around. More often than not, I choose going over to be with them, even when VC is home. This was not the case before. So, when either/all of them are not around, I physically miss their presence. Of course, all this is compounded by the fact that I am so ready to get out and go, these days.

We’re about a fifteen minute drive away from VC’s family, which also means we go over at least once a week. And we’re subject to invitations to lunch, dinner and other family hang-out scenarios, more often than we’re used to.

But this past weekend was different. Slightly under the weather, I chose to stay in, made no plans and had nowhere to go. VC, as usual, indulged in a lot of TV. But it was after absolutely aeons that we were alone. Together. And we had a weekend to ourselves like the ones that were the norm in Goa.

There is quite nothing like a weekend like this, extended time spent in quiet companionship, to reinforce and reaffirm my faith in the absolute, critical need to have someone in my life who is there for me wholly and completely, even as he gives me space to do my thing (while he does his). Who doesn’t need the noise and fanciness of plans and dates and conversations and the overtures of love. Who revels in the smallness of the rhythm of everyday life. Who is happy to just be beside me. In silence. And who still comes out of three days of just doing that and only that, to tell me he had a “fun weekend”.

I love the synchronicity of seeing in words the exact representation of what is otherwise just a jumble of feelings, a tumble of emotions on spin dry in your heart. Even as I was sitting down to write about this, and finding myself unable to pin down the right words, I opened The Artidote today after forever, and saw this —

I love when you become so close with someone that you can see parts of each other in one another and you begin to say the same things and steal lines from one another and have a similar sense of humor and can exchange an inside joke with just a glance you don’t even have to talk because you have such a strong connection with them and you can sit in comfortable silence but also talk for hours it’s really hard to find that kind of compatibility

Compatibility, while accurate, feels like a small, limiting word. Caging the immensity of togetherness — a far bigger, open, expansive word, in my mind — into a small cubby hole. If compatibility feels like the two parallel columns finally syncing with a ka-ching! when the right elements find alignment, togetherness feels like massive rivers gushing down from parts unknown, tumbling together in a noisy ashen blur, only to collide and find a peaceful merging, even in the cacophonous union.

Compatibility does the trick, but togetherness goes several layers deeper. It digs in to the depths of my soul. Touches and kindles a fire that fights through the hubbub of regular life, throbbing to stay alive even when we’re turning the lights out.

Compatibility is just the tip of the iceberg. To have this kind of comfort, connection and peaceful coexistence with a single person feels like so much more, I actually don’t have the word/s for it.

Day 15: Block rockin’ beats (Wayanad, 2017)

When VC told me he was meeting with R and R over drinks one November evening, “to plan our cycling trip,” I dismissed it as an excuse to drink and talk bicycles. But four hours later, when I caught up with them and they spelled out their well-laid plans to cycle 300 kilometres, over three days, all the way from Bangalore to Wayanad, I ate my words thoughts and kept my cynicism to myself. Because the second part of the plan, as I was informed, included me. They would need a support vehicle. To carry essential supplies, a bike rack for emergencies, and generally a fall back, should something untoward happen. Which is where I featured: designated driver or said support vehicle. At this point, I happily joined in what I thought was a mad plan from hell. I haven’t seen VC this excited in anticipation of anything, ever. Except this time, instead of his typical hyper-efficient, over-preparedness, he just had a lot of sleepless nights. Like an over-eager kid before a school picnic. I was a bit surprised to see he didn’t even dust his bike before the ride, forget getting it services or tuned up. They’d managed a few rides here and there in supposed prep for the long distances, but really, nothing that can actually be passed off as training. Anyhow, that’s what the support vehicle was for, they said. To jump into when the going got tough.

And so, on the long weekend around Christmas, they were off. The plan was to cover approximately 100 kms a day, over three days, halting along the way. Day 1 began at 7:30, saying goodbye to the boys as they rode off to battle Mysore road traffic on bicycles — all the while wondering why they wouldn’t just allow me to drive them to a point beyond the traffic jams, and then set off. But there’s no arguing with such determination. And stubbornness.

I had happily agreed to drive when this plan was first proposed, but on the morning after the boys had left, a wave of laziness came over me. I wasn’t so hot on driving all alone anymore. Slowly, over three days. What if I had a flat? What if I got caught by the cops (the car was GA registered)? What if I was just bored hahaha? Anyhow, too late to have second thoughts, I left a good four hours after them, and we merged about 10 kilometres short of Mandya, which was our first pitstop. On the way though, turned out my worries were unfounded. The car was a zippy Honda Jazz, and with absolutely no weight to carry around, some really good music and a better drive given less traffic at the time of day that I’d ventured off, I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the drive.

I met with a very dehydrated R stopped on the side of the road, with a flat tyre, waiting for the other two to back track and come help him. We made it to Mandya by about 3, ready to check in to the hotel. It was super entertaining trying to explain to the hotel staff in a very straight-jacket, respectable lodge, why three men dressed in neon coloured lycra wanted to cycle from Bangalore to Wayanad, when a woman was driving along with them. Not nearly as entertaining as convincing the same staff that VC and I were in fact married, and the other two “gents” sharing the other room were just friends. The request to carry our bikes into the rooms with us probably did nothing to help our cause.

Picture: VC

A terribly delayed lunch, a mistimed, extra-long nap and general disorientation from the schedule being so off meant we woke up bleary eyed at 8 pm, wondering what to do next. We drove off into the town looking for dinner. We circumnavigated the place  three times before we settled for a seedy local stop that promised Bannur style biryani. It was delicious, but not the kind of place we could chill and eat slowly. In and out quickly, we then headed back to call it a day in lieu of an early start the next. But not before finishing the tedious task of fixing R’s flat – which he did in amazing sync to Block Rockin Beats that played, as we all watched, amused.

Day 2, despite good intentions, began late. It didn’t really matter to me, but the boys needed to beat the rising sun and make it to the next stop ideally before lunch time. But that was not to be. Traffic, a horrible head wind and then cross winds, plus the sun beating down hard, meant they took it nice and easy. I sped off, drove through Mysore, and found a nice little spot just 20 kilometres short of our next pitstop, where I pulled over. I popped open my kindle and read for the next 2.5 hours waiting for them to catch up.

It was a glorious day, had they got that early start, but with the sun soaring and the wind to beat, the boys looked completely wiped. At this point VC threw in the towel, mounted his bike on the rack and drove with me for the remainder of the journey to Gundlupete, our stop for the second night.

200 kilometres done, I couldn’t believe they were still up and gunning for more. Crazy, crazy boys. While the other two caught some z’s, VC and I ducked off towards Gopalswamy Betta, to catch the sunrise, but ended up mucking around trying to catch light trails, on the drive up instead. Which is to say VC pitched his tripod up waiting for the right light, and that trail you see are my tail lights speeding off into the distance.

Picture: VC

After some much needed food, drink and rest, we convened for a round of drinks and other downers to set us up for a good night’s rest. The evenings were getting progressively cooler and I was excited to get to Wayanad the next day.

Day 3, the last third, commenced late once again. But, in terms of terrain and landscape, it was probably the best, most enjoyable drive for me. I know the boys thought so too. Undulating stretches of road, driving through not one but two states worth of national forest reserve, which meant a constant canopy of trees to hide under, gave them sufficient shade from the sun.

And thank god for the nice and refreshing first half of the ride, because the second half, once we entered Wayanad, was gruelling. Arduous ups and downs, punishing climbs, narrow hill roads in bad shape, unruly traffic. By the last stretches, we were halting every two kilometres or so, so they could give their legs and backsides a rest. VC, being VC had called it a day soon after the good bits riding through the jungle were over. He drove shotgun, and grabbed his camera to film what little he could of the ride. R and R powered through, all the way till the goddamned end.

We’d booked ourselves in a lake-facing resort with tented accommodation, which looked very promising online, as such things tend to. In person, it left a lot to be desired. Also, the resort was attached to a government tourism facility with boating services in the lake, which meant we had noisy, selfie-taking tourists traipsing around us all evening long. However, the view made up for it, once the facility shut shop for the day, we ventured out to sit by the lakeside, watching the sun go down, and a ghosty fog descend over the lake. The morning was supposedly gorgeous we were told, so despite three mornings of rising early, R, VC and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed while it was still dark, waiting for the sun to rise. It was stunning, and worth the few hours of missed sleep.

Wayanad is quite the stunning part of Kerala, and it takes a little scouting to find a nice spot tucked away from the humdrum of mainstream tourism, much like any popular destination in this country. But once you do, the sights and scenes are a feast.

Picture: VC

The acres and acres of banana and areca-nut plantations, blue skies, palm trees and winding roads, are all reminiscent of the slow life. It was easy to decide we wanted to stay another day. And so we decided to delay our return, and set off on the look out for a place to stay the night. A place that wasn’t as “public” as the lake-facing resort.

We found another tented accommodation set along the steep slopes of a coffee plantation. A setting and a price that was honestly too good to be true. Happy for the opportunity, we settled in. Pretty much all day was spent indoors, and we only set out before sunset, for a walk that took us from the wild and rogue growth of coffee plantations to the immaculately neat style of tea plantations just across a winding village road.

A splendid sunset sealed the deal and we returned, to repeat our evening routine – drinks, downers, dinner.

The next morning, R and VC trekked off once again to catch the sunrise, and apparently had the best hike of the trip. R and I missed it. Because, sleeeeeep.

The boys, of course, had their share of fun. High on adrenalin from the ride, and the thrill of having finished what was only an idea just few months ago. However, it was a really good three days, for me too. After ages, I found myself amidst a gang of boys — a feeling I’ve forgotten. I realise it’s a different kind of easy-going, hassle-free fun. Maybe it’s my own newfound fascination to let-it-go and go-with-the-flow and see where it takes me, and these boys were probably the best boys to tag along with on this kind of trip, but I surprised myself. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t feel lost or left out, so much so that I didn’t even open my kindle for the rest of the trip. Whenever they were off the saddle, we chatted, listened to music, ate some good food, drank and made merry late into the night. Road trips of this kind, are the best kind.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what the holiday did for me.

My memory was jogged back to days in Goa, with the same gang (a couple other boys sorely missed) when doing this kind of spontaneous thing — a random road trip to a faraway beach,  an unplanned but miraculously well-worked-out barbecue, a secret trip to a campsite in a neighbouring state, a monsoon trek upstream a river — was so passe, so normal, so regular. And so I took it in, happy to have had another chance to experience something I had pushed far back into my mind. Like I also said here. And here.

The best part, for me was how relaxed and devoid of rigid plans the entire trip was. Aside rom setting off to cycle every day, little else was fixed and we played it entirely by ear. There were several stops for chai, coconut water, pazham-puri, and on our return journey, toddy — which I’d never have ventured out to try on my own. I’m glad I did because I really, really loved it.

It was truly a trip that was more about the journey than the destination. And perhaps because I was meant to tail the boys and always stay within accessible distance, I was forced to slow down and enjoy it that way.

VC, he made a film, so we can always go back to it and remember the trip for what it was.

Next time around, I want to be on a bike, rather than in the car.

One year ago: Two new pieces
Two years ago: Day 15: Come undone

Day 12: Obscured by clouds (Coonoor, 2017)

As it happens, VC and I hadn’t taken a holiday together in a couple of years now. The last trip that comes to mind is Sri Lanka. There have been several weekend getaways in and around Goa, but my privilege doesn’t allow me to count any of them as “holidays”. And so this December, we decided to take off on NYE. Two reasons. In all our years away we’ve never “celebrated” the day with a typical bang. Save for the one year we went to P’s for a small party of close friends, we’ve always only ever stayed home, cooked something nice and had an evening by ourselves, or with a friend or two – tops! It would be nice to get away, I thought. Second, being in Bangalore I was deathly afraid of getting dragged to VC’s annual family get together. So I figured, anything would be better than being here.

Having woken up very late to this eventuality meant we were left with little choice. It’s Bangalore, and every single getaway destination within driveable distance was naturally booked up. So we made multiple bookings in multiple places, because we really didn’t have the luxury of choosing. Unsure till the very end where we’d actually end up. The week before NYE, we received a strange email from the hostel we’d eventually locked down on, asking us to make a final payment to confirm the booking. In it was a clause: a no-alcohol clause.

Now, I’m not the biggest drunk around. I can go entire holidays without drinking actually. But I’d definitely like to have the option to choose. Especially if I’m on holiday with my husband, over NYE. It was a dealbreaker. And that’s how our final choice too went out the window. Back to the drawing board again, I was frantically hunting for a place that would have us. Even if just for one night, we thought. All we needed was a clean bed and loo, some peace and quiet. I’d manage the rest, I thought. Our standards were really dropping.

Suddenly, a property we’d never stumbled on in the weeks of hunting before popped up. A home nestled amidst tea estates, aesthetically designed, small and cosy, not housing more than 7 people at any given time, and available over the long weekend — it seemed too good to be true. So without much ado, we booked it.

And so it was that we decided to be in Coonoor. I was super excited. It would be my third time there, the second being just one year ago when S and I took off for a blissful week in the clouds, with no plan but to stay-in.

I realised that over 2016, I took many holidays, none of which were with VC. 2017 was dedicated entirely to settling in, and despite considering several opportunities to go away, somehow nothing materialised. It really was beginning to feel like it was time to go on holiday. Together.

My new-found excitement about going to cold places (even though I’m petrified about turning into an icicle) peaked when this trip came through. I bought myself woollen gloves and a beanie, in addition to the ridiculous number of warm clothes I’d packed.

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Picture: VC

VC laughed, but within mere hours of landing in Coonoor, the sun setting and the evening mist settling in, I had the last laugh when he gingerly asked if I’d perhaps packed any extra warm things for him. I had. An extra sweater, a muffler and lots of socks. So there I was, in two jackets worn over my teeshirt, socks, gloves, a shawl around my neck and my beanie — snug as a bug. While VC had to make do with a double-barrel sock arrangement, a sweater inside his jacket and a muffler. Before long though, he appropriated my beanie.

Google told me night time temperatures would drop to 3-4 degrees. I had that exhilarating combination of thrill and worry when I read that. But when we got there, the homestay owner pointed at his very dead looking tea estates and told us how bitterly cold it had been this winter. Temperatures had dropped to -3, causing the tea to be bitten with frost, dying a slow bitterly cold death.

But this is the wonderful realisation I’ve come to so late in life. Like the Danish saying N told me about goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” if you’re adequately equipped, you’re mostly good to go. I used to think I was completely incapable of handling the cold. This was confirmed by short brushes whenever I’d travel to cold places in the years I was away, but it was exacerbated because I simply didn’t own the right clothes. I’ve been too afraid to consider travelling to Ladakh for this reason. For years I’ve nursed the dream, but stopped short of committing several times over. This trip though has been a bit of a game changer.

***

We planned to leave early on a Saturday morning to try and beat as much outgoing traffic as we could. Anticipating that most of Bangalore would be on the Bangalore-Mysore highway, an early start was crucial. But it was not to be. We celebrated VC’s birthday the night before, had a late night, and stupidly forgot to set our alarms (forgetting that the auto-set ones only goes off on weekdays!) so I woke up with a start, a good two hours later than the time we planned to be out the door.

Oh well.

This put us considerably behind in our schedule and extended our drive time by three hours. But, since we weren’t on a deadline, VC and I decided to just relax and drive. I had a playlist ready and it was a long, but comfortable trip up, despite considerable traffic along the way.

Once we were in tea land though, the landscape is just so gorgeous. Rolling gentle slopes of green, so green it makes your eyes hurt, achingly blue skies, with the of fluffy clouds scattered, mist floating in and out casually, with tea pickers huddled under the weight of their baskets, tea stalls selling piping hot tea and vadais, the narrow hilly roads made us relax and enjoy the ride.

In Coonoor, I had no agenda but to put my feet up and chill. We had the house completely to ourselves the first night, and on NYE night, we were joined by a group of five people from Chennai. The hosts were incredibly lovely, hospitable, and cooked us simple homely food. The rest of the time, VC was determined to be outdoors shooting pictures. Having recently rekindled his love for still photography, he wanted to make the most of the best two slots of any given day — sunrise and sunset —  so we ended up driving out everyday scouting for vantage spots. I’d carry my kindle along, and when we found a spot, VC would take off to set up his tripod and begin his patient wait for the right moment and right light. This would take anything from 1-3 hours, during which I’d listen to music and read. It’s how I finished the last book of the year in two days. I like this part of our life where we manage to make our love to travel and be outdoors merge, only to get there and have the freedom and space to enjoy it the way we please.

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Picture: VC
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Picture: VC
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Picture: VC

NYE itself was a very quiet affair, that surprised me. I had no expectations actually, and was fully prepared for another simple meal eaten between just the two of us, and an early night. However, the other house guests got chatty, invited us to share their daaru and maal, and were delighted when we offered them ours. It’s not usually like me to happily join a crowd like this, but I know now that that’s changing. So we joined them quite willingly, the hosts got a big fire going, and we huddled around it. Me in all the layers I could possibly have thrown on, of course. It was an added bonus that they had speakers, and remarkably good taste in music (they had a lot of Coke Studio Pakistan on their playlists, aside from some Beatles, good old classic rock and a few staple new poppy trash favourites). Dinner was simple, but it was all that was needed. I was high on the ambience, and the experience. Deathly silence, with our music playing softly, while we chatted — smack in the middle of a tea estate in a corner of Coonoor, with no humans for miles around us — it was like no other NYE I’ve ever had. Our house guests joined us half an hour before midnight, and entertained us with stories about interesting guests — of the human and wild kind — and by the time the fire began to die down, my energy was flagging. It was just before midnight when I called it a day and crashed. A hot water bottle snuggled into the sheets was such a welcome little touch of hospitality, in Coonoor!

Intoxicated on all the relaxation, and the perfect, best end the best months of the year, that I could ask for, I woke up on Jan 1st feeling physically energised. Happily grateful for where I am, excited for where I am headed. And just so happy deep into my bones. So happy, that we decided to extend our stay by another day, and drive out to Ooty, in the hope that the crowds would be on their way out.

We checked into a hotel there, spent the day roaming around, took an extra long nap, and headed out before sunset, grabbed a drink of thick hot, rich hot chocolate at Moddy’s and went off into the hills because VC wanted to catch one last photo opportunity. We topped that off with a hearty dinner at a rooftop Chinese restaurant in a hotel that VC has lots of memories from his childhood spent there. I was happy for the extra day and the chance to share this slice of nostalgia with him.

The next morning we woke up super early to hit the road back to Bangalore, only to find our car frosted over. Pretty soon I realised the grass all around that was looking oddly pale was actually encrusted with a layer of frost. I’ve never seen snow in my life, so this came pretty close and excited me no end!

It was a happy three days of peace, lots of snuggles, plenty of good hot tea and biscuits, soaking in winter sunshine, enjoying the mist and finishing off a book and just re-grouping all that I have been mulling over in my head. I cannot explain it, but the last six odd weeks have been so high on mental activity, I have felt like I have really crossed a major landmark and stepped into all new ground as far as self-awareness and growth goes. My heart was just so full. I came away with all the sights embedded in my head, and not more than half a dozen pictures. So almost all the pictures here are courtesy VC.

On the way home, the otherwise not very expressive VC gently shared how the holiday, simple and unplanned as it was, had unlocked something in his head.

“We’ve got it all wrong, Rere,” he said. “We can’t be working our asses off so we can travel. There’s got to be a way to make this our work.”

I’m summing up a conversation that lasted a good hour, of course. But I think he’s on to something. The same thing I’ve been on to for years now.

I heaved a sigh of relief, and ended the holiday on such a good note. My workaholic husband has come home to me, and is finally on the same page as I am.

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One year ago: Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read
Two years ago: Day 12: R & R

Day 11: I have my books and my poetry to protect me

Most days, I write because I have so much to say and I want to be heard. Contrary to popular belief, being articulate in writing doesn’t always mean a writer is articulate in speaking. I’m not very good with those words, so I choose these.

Most days, I write because it’s the fuel that keeps me going. Thoughts turn to words, words turn to thoughts and on and on and on.

Some days I write to silence the voices in my head. Some days, to give the meek whimper struggling to stay alive, a breath of fresh air, and a mouthpiece.

Some days, I write because I feel like I’m a part of a tribe of likeminded people. Writers. Women. What have you. Some days, it’s to remind myself that even at my loneliest, there are people who will read my words and some times write to say they could relate. Or that they’ve been there too. Or that they liked what they read.

I could go on and on.

These days though, I write as a means to conserving my emotional and mental energy. I write as a means to finish every thought that I kindle. I write so I can journal all that I’m figuring out, fully, before I make heedless utterances. I write to jot the stops and starts on this path that I’m on. I write to mark the milestones, the small victories and the dips that define it. I write because at the moment, I am selfishly committed to looking inwards — writing helps me converse with myself.

I write because it is a very good way to sit still and be present with everything that I think, feel and process. I write because it helps me make sense of this fascinating process. I write so I can journal it in long-form. I write because this is for me. I write because I’ve only just tasted the sheer pleasure of this intensely personal experience. I write because I’ve woken up very late, to the bliss of going this way alone. I write because I choose not to snap a picture for Instagram every time, or shoot out an update on Whatsapp, to make a declaration, every time I arrive at a noteworthy moment. I write because it makes me slow down and savour every memory better, twice over.

I write because it is the only way I know how to record my truth. I write, so I can look back someday and ponder over how far I’ve come (or not). I write as a means to drop crumbs along the way, so others can follow if they find themselves in the same place. I write because words speak, connect and bridge distances. I write so my mind can go the distance and arrive at the destination I’m headed to, even before the rest of me can.

Two years ago: Day 11: This and that

Day 10: A hazy shade of winter

Mid-November or so, the weather in Bangalore turned. Nothing unusual in these parts. Winter was coming. But for my sun-fed, humidity-aged Goan muscles of the last almost-decade, it felt like an insurmountable challenge to take into my stride the nip in the evening air, the dark mornings and the perpetual cold fingers and tip-of-nose.

It comes with the typical tell-tale beginnings. The sun setting sooner, casting gloomy evenings upon me. Disoriented, I’d rush off into the kitchen too early, thinking about getting dinner started, prompted only by the too-early sunset that brings night time sooner than I’ve experienced in a long while.

Much as I loved the balmy climate in Goa, and luhhhved the rain (heck I have a whole category dedicated to it), I’ve been obsessed with devouring every little bit of the winter I’ve had. Maybe it’s time to jog my memory, and get more than my muscles to feel it and start writing about winter in a way that deserves it’s own category too.

The thing with being in tropical climes for long enough is that you body changes adapts beautifully. My muscles always felt stretched and well-oiled, my skin supple and perpetually sticky from the humidity. Here, it’s not strange to wake up in the morning, your limbs feeling stiff, my skin is parched and turns white and scaly if not adequately oiled and lotion-ed. At the gym, it takes awfully long to really warm up and break a sweat.

Because muscles, they forget.

I’m quite sensitive to the cold, quick to feel it and in need of warm clothes and socks in no time at all. This typically meant that in Goa, in December, I’d wear a jacket and people would look at me oddly. In Bangalore, it means I have been revelling in winter clothing again. I’ve discovered things in my wardrobe that have been stashed away in suitcases relegated to the loft for the last eight years. I’d forgotten I owned some of this stuff. Extra jackets, scarves and shawls. And still, I realised in shedding stuff from my wardrobe over the years, I’ve lost some of the winter basics one tends to keep when you live in a place that has more than one season.

It’s no secret, I love winter in Bangalore. So I was already really looking forward to this time of year. And lucky me, we’ve been blessed with a colder than usual winter, I think. Nippy mornings, bright blue winter skies with no clouds for miles, chasing spots of sunshine and snuggling into them, wrapped in warm clothes.

So, with great glee, I stocked up on a couple of warm tees, a woollen pullover, a new jacket (with a hoodie!) and a couple of warm accessories. When I step out, it’s nice to have a while new kind of clothing to dip in to. And then there’s the extras — jackets, stoles, shawls, sweaters! I may have spent a lot more time and energy than necessary being excited about the winter, and winter clothing. And don’t even get me started on the joys of socks and closed shoes *eyeroll*

Ever since I’ve gone off carbs at dinner time, it’s been complicated thinking up things to eat for dinner. With the weather turning I no longer felt inclined to eat cold, crunchy salads, even though it is the best time for winter veg. Soups have made a comeback, into my kitchen. And my life!

Now that I’m back, it has taken a handful of weeks to get my sun-loving body to get used to the biting nippy mornings that feel sharp, turning my fingers and tip of my nose perpetually cold. We’ve been sleeping without the fan for the most part, unthinkable i an older life. Even now, though it’s necessary, it feels odd. I’m torn between having the fan on slow and layering up to stay warm, or having it ff and sleeping easy, only to wake up in the middle fo the night feeling claustrophobic.

Waking up in the mornings is a huge task. With the sun refusing to peek out before 7, and even then, being a slow, hazy rise, it’s been an everyday battle to face. I like to get o the gym by 7, which in this season means waking up when it’s still dark out. Something about that just feels illogical.

I realise muscles have a memory and perhaps ours have forgotten what it is like to be in the cold. VC quite literally forgot. And he went around for the first few days claiming he was feeling feverish. After some medication and befuddlement when there was never a real temperature spike, when I asked him if maybe he’s just feeling cold, he replied with; “I’m not cold, I just feel nicer when I’m covered up.”

*eyeroll*

Mystery solved. Yeah. He’d totally forgotten that that’s what feeling cold is actually like. So I had to re-introduce him to the joys of jacket-wearing, sock-donning, soup-drinking, chappals-at-home Bangalore winter habits.

This winter, I’d like to think I’ve made the most of being out and about too. Lots of evenings out, walking about, a crisp sunny morning or two at Cubbon Park, drinks in outdoor places, warm soup and Asian food galore. Lots of chai and the like too.

There is something lovely about being in a Bangalore watering hole in the winter, and it’s filled me with so much happiness that I’ve been around to really enjoy that this past winter.

I wont lie. These are some of the things I’ve really missed in my life before the return to Bangalore. And to be able to experience it all again has done a number on me. Making me love being outdoors, rekindling memories from my childhood, and making for good Bangalore silverlinings, when I often feel overwhelmed by it all.

Because muscles, they remember.

The icing (literally!) on the cake was ending the year with back to back trips to Wayanad and Coonoor in the last week of December. But that is the stuff of another post (or two).

***

And because it’s Wednesday and I promised music at least once every week, and because I’m not sure how many of you have picked up on the fact that I’m trying to cheekily title every post with either the name or a line from a song I’ve heard or loved, here’s today’s aptly titled track.

One year ago: Happier: perpetual WIP

Day 3: What is life

Something terrible happened last year. Despite sporadic posting, I went through the entire year without posting a single music track, or writing a single Things about VC that I never want to forget post. It says a lot about what occupied my brainspace last year. It’s not that I didn’t listen to any music. The truth is I listened to an awful lot more music than I have in the years before, thanks to high speed internet in Bangalore — at home and on my phone, having to entertain myself while on the treadmill and realising 4G actually works and means I can watch youtube videos instead of just listening to my ipod. It’s opened up a spectrum of music again. One of the first things I did in the new year was get myself on Apple music again. And after six months of having these speakers in my wishlist, I’m lusting after a slightly more realistically prices portable speaker again. I don’t know how long it will be before I buy it, but I’m so ready for more music in my life.

So this year, as I embark on writing a post a day for a whole year again as long as I can keep it up, I want to try and have enough music to go back to. Because, I routinely go through my archives and hit the music tag. It’s a good archive of all my favourite music through the ages, and invariably looking and listening back sends me down a nostalgic trip. It’s also doubly amusing and heartwarming to see what I listened to at different points in time reflected in my writing. So, a track a week at least? That’s very doable.

In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I’m super eager for the new year. I love a fresh start, a clean slate. Amongst other things, it feels nice to have a neat little beginning to set off a new habit on track. And since motivation levels are typically skyrocketing, there’s a good chance starting off now will mean some of these habits will stick.

So here goes.

Because, I listened to it on Coonoor on new years eve, huddled around a bonfire with a bunch of strangers I least expected to engage with, let alone enjoy the company of. (The strangest and loveliest things have been happening, ever since I opened myself to it. And that will make for another post.)

Because, I’m back.

Because, what is this life (without music)?

Two years ago: Day 3: Reminders and notes to self

Day 2: Gratitude. That is all.

It’s just the second day of the year and already we’ve had a super moon. Silly me, it didn’t occur to me to check that first, while I pondered about the sudden surge in emotions and the very contemplative mood I’ve been in. The last month has been a lovely end to a rather special year. A month of deliberate silence, lots of stolen quiet time, enough busyness with work, plenty of socialising, food drink and cheer and to top it, some really needle-pushing realisations that have given me some much needed clarity and reassurance right in time for the new start. It’s made me look back at the absolute ride that 2017 was and my heart is full like it hasn’t been in a long time. Combine that with the obvious new-start shininess that has kicked in and I’ve been a bundle of gratitude for a few days now.

I’ve been wanting to take stock of all that I am thankful for. A couple of nights ago under a misty sky with a moon so bright, it allowed no stars to shine thru, I realised with humbling coherence that the only steady, unflinching, silent, unwavering and absolutely constant support I’ve had this year has been my family. My parents, VC and my sister have consciously (when I vocally asked for help) and unconsciously (by just being there and giving of themselves) seen me through a year chock-full of uncertainties. The morning after, I woke up feeling content and utterly filled with gratitude.

There are umpteen reasons why moving to Bangalore made, and continues to make, sense. Depending on various variables and situations we’ve thought this back and forth and through to the heavens and back a bazillion times over. Sometimes it is to reassure ourselves of the decision, sometimes it is to find reserves of courage to plod on, sometimes it’s to take stock and see where we’ve come. All of the time, though, I pat myself on the back for how we managed, and I feel grateful it’s worked out. But really I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t acknowledge the kind of help I got. I’d be doing the entire move and the effects it had on me such a gross disservice if I didn’t acknowledge how much therapy for my soul it has been to just been in such close proximity to my family.

I mentioned finding belonging yesterday and this has been the missing piece in the puzzle that I’ve only recently uncovered. Whether it’s the daily home cooked meals I enjoy with my parents, the sharing of workspacebwitb my sister, being just around the corner from my mother, or always having a home to come too even when the city still deceives me with its homeliness, I’m convinced that this pivot in my life came at the right time, and for reasons I didn’t fully understand earlier.

Now, I do.

It’s late, we’ve just touched down in Bangalore after a long drive back from holiday, and I want to get this post out before I call it a day, so this acknowledgment of gratitude will have to do for now. But I will be taking stock and giving thanks soon. It’s such an important part of moving on and stepping ahead, I don’t want to miss out.

For tonight, this is gratitude for where I’m at, and excitement for where I’m going.

Two years ago: Day 2: Love

Crossing over

It’s looking-back time, I know. But I find myself only filled with wishes for the year ahead. I ended 2016 with a strong burning need to find my place — physically speaking — as I dealt with the growing certainty that it was not Goa. but I had no idea how that search had little to do with location or city or anyplace. And everything to do with looking within.

I moved cities, back to Bangalore, a move I didn’t imagine possible even ten to fifteen days before we took the decision. And it was merely the start of a series of unexpected, but so necessary, changes that would surprise and challenge me in equal measure.

2017 has been one heck of a year and the thread unifying it all would have to be one of transition and transformation. It’s been a time of letting go of the reins in order to figure out a new way ahead. In a strange space of being back on familiar ground, yet recognising so little of the city I once called home, I found fertile testing ground to stretch my ability to allow change, move with it and realise I actually enjoy it. Physically, it took wrenching myself out of the comfort zone to find myself again.

How odd that it took cutting the roots off to find belonging. It’s been a year of discovering that belonging and my place. In family, in work, in friends and camaraderie, in connections, in extended family, in my marriage, and most of all, within myself. It’s been a year of peeling back a few more layers and getting closer to what’s at the core. A year of understanding, with extreme clarity, how necessary it is to be so wholly comfortable in my place and in my skin, in order to belong to each of the systems that I do, need and want.

This will always be the year that I realised with astounding certainty how much I need and love my family. I’m closing the year rich with memories and experiences of time spent deeply engaged with my parents, amazing times with my sister (who fortuitously moved back home around the same time that I did), VC — my truth-teller and fellow braver-of-change, and a handful of friends who have walked along with me as I navigated the shortest. I feel so much gratitude for the gift that was 2017. Even with all its oddballs and challenges it was a gift to realise and claim a whole new set of values to go from here on.

For all my life I have craved stability, consistency and the safety of roots. This year I let that need go and turned my life around in the most significant way possible. The truth is, I have seen how different the entire year turned out to be, as a result of it. I took a wild chance, shut my eyes and jumped with little idea of what was waiting for me. I’m happy with how taking this chance has turned out. Because it turned out that at the bottom of that jump, I had an army of support waiting to hold and bolster me. Giving me a huge step up even as. Picked myself up with okay feet and wobbly knees. It’s been an incredible year of vulnerability that tested my resilience, but gave me surprising revelations and staggering opportunity for personal growth. And it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t changed certain fundamental truths and values I held to be mine.

I’ve seen as much loss as I have, gain, this year. People have come and gone. Work has transformed. My sense of home currently lies in shambles (and it’s okay). Like I said before, it’s been an incredible year of shedding. But all the room created by it has only opened me up that much more for what’s to come.

I’ve already signed myself up for another year along this path. To discovering more. To talking less and doing more. To belonging more and more to myself.

Same time, last year: Day 366: December

Warm sound

For the last two days now I’ve been willingly waking up before the crack of dawn. Venturing out in the cold, through veils of mist. Waiting for morning to break and the first rays of gold to kiss the sky. It’s not something I willingly and happily do back home. But it’s been oddly special and satisfying to be able to take in that transition from dark to misty and shrouded to gentle light casting mellow shadows all around before things get bright, warm and clear.

Slow, transient, forcing you to enjoy the process as much as the outcome, memorable, subtle, yet overpowering in its simplicity. And experiencing it took doing things I wouldn’t normally do, pushing myself out of the snug comfort zone I am in. Much like all the best things in life.

Same time, last year: Day 362: Time

Acceptance is a small, quiet room

About my post earlier this week: I see I’ve come full circle, from this post I wrote a year ago that echoes much the same feelings, albeit in an entirely different context and environment.

Acceptance. Peace. Contentment. Call it what you will – it doesn’t need the perfect situation. It doesn’t even need most things to be just right. It needs just the right things to work, and a little faith, is all.

It almost never comes with bells ringing and celebrations of pomp. It comes silently. Quietly. Sometimes when you’re all alone.

Illustrating my point exactly.

And while you’re at it, check out this post too.

Same time, last year: Day 320: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)

What coming home feels like: The sweet, sweet taste of acceptance

Some days I wonder at how I felt so compelled to uproot my near perfect life in Goa and swap it for this one here. Given how change-averse I am I used to be, it sometimes makes me want to pinch myself and go over the sequence of events in my head. On paper this shift makes no sense. Sometimes even I don’t have the words to explain the whys and hows of it articulately. Most times I do a lousy job of spelling it out, which is why every time that I’ve been asked, I’m met with expressions that tell me I’m really unconvincing.

It got me to thinking why I even need to explain myself. Aside from answering a question, what is this need for me to justify this?

Am I really just answering a question? Or am I trying to process the new normal myself?

I bumped into an acquaintance the other day, someone I first met in Goa, as I was walking down MG Road the other day. Of course the first thing he had to say was, “what are you doing here?!”

Maybe he expected me to say I was visiting.

“I live here now,” I said, instead.

“How come?!” began the volley of utterly predictable questions. It’s happened too many times. And I suppose it is to be expected. It is the most predictable train of thought.

But I’ve reached a point where I can’t help that my answers are so dead-pan and straight. There is no big twist in the story. I wanted a change, and so I moved. We started a business, and so we moved. I wanted to be around family and friends, and so we moved.

“You left Goa to come to this?”

It is unconvincing I suppose. Illogical too. And I don’t expect anyone to really understand or make sense of it. Which is why I’m getting used to the next reaction that follows, as it did with this specimen too:

Standing there, under the groaning weight of the concrete monster that is the Metro Line that has changed the face of what was one of Bangalore’s most iconic views, surrounded by the din of honking vehicles, hawkers shouting each other out to get our attention, the “left Goa” and “this” in that statement weighed me down.

There couldn’t have been a starker picture to illustrate how different my life and surroundings now are, compared to the where I used to be.

And yet my answer was a simple “yes”.

It was the first time I realised I didn’t need to explain myself.

***

This past weekend it dawned on me that I’ve finally found my place, after many months of coming to terms with the transition. Even just looking at the posts I wrote at when I just moved, I can trace the process. Part of it was explaining, over explaining, and making sense of it all myself. And it has been a process, not a mere turning of a switch. I see today, how crucial it was to take that time. Because it wasn’t just about adjusting to a new city and a new routine. Along the way, there have been lessons in making peace with the unlikeliness, opening myself up to uncertainty. In slowing down, letting that shit go. In being vulnerable and sit with the quiet, no matter how disconcerting. In allowing myself to unravel, come undone because how else can one grow out again, differently. In loosening up, expecting less and allow myself to be surprised. And shocked.

I was the most change-averse person I knew. But even that has changed. I find the more I let go of the rigid ideas I have about myself, the more I am in harmony with what is to come and the way things are panning out. The more I am willing to let things in, sit with them a little before I decide how I feel about them, the better I am able to deal with everything — the good and the bad. All this is not to say the transition has been smooth sailing. It has been anything but. There has been much getting used to, physically, emotionally and psychologically. This has taken a toll on both VC and I. We’ve both taken our time in dealing with this our individual ways. We’ve had arguments galore — disagreed and fought more this year than we have in a decade of being together.

But conflict always preceded great change, didn’t it? We’ve fought, differed, challenged each other, and I know deep in my bones we’ve grown as a result of it.

***

Last week, I met an ex colleague and friend from Goa, who is also back in Bangalore. This time, I was asked “so how are things?”

Again, there is no straight, simple answer. Honestly, I said “they’re so-so.”

Because that is the truth. I have learned to appreciate and respect and enjoy that which I know I am here for. Some new and enjoyable have presented themselves as a result, and it certainly sweetens the deal for me. But, I do miss Goa. I suppose that can never change, and I cannot expect it to go away.

“You’re never going to be happy, are you?” he grinned, almost as if to suggest coming to Bangalore was the silver bullet to every inadequacy I was feeling in Goa.

I don’t see it as not being happy, to be honest. I’m really happy. In fact I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, if you can even believe that. I know, I didn’t. But being happy isn’t a constant, one time state that I can turn on. I’m happy to let things go and come. And that is just the beauty of this shift. This new found flexibility. This give, the relaxation in the rigidity in my being. The openness to the possibility that I can love both places at once. And I can focus on the good, here and now. It has made space for so much change, and so much good has come from it.

I’m far more social than I have allowed myself to be.

I’m not the cagey introvert I was convinced I was.

I’ve reconnected with people I didn’t think I ever would.

the few people I thought my life would depend on, I barely meet. And it hasn’t turned my life upside down.

I’m loving the winter, and the wonderful choices I have when it comes to restaurants and food (since it is mostly all Bangalore likes to do).

I have embraced public transport and I barely drive anymore.

I’ve let go of the idea that being a writer defines me completely.

I’m open to working out new ways of earning money.

I find myself rediscovering the kitchen once again, after a bout of never wanting to look stove-wards again.

Things change. As long I’m willing to let them. And this fact in itself has been such a big learning to have come from moving base. If nothing else, I am grateful for this.

So no, I’m not peachy perfect and happy. I don’t believe I ever will be. Because it’s that rumble of unsettledness, that yearning for what’s next that keeps me going.

***

This past weekend it dawned on me that I’ve finally found my place, after many months of coming to terms with the transition. In a flash, I realised with utmost clarity, the many, many good things that have come from getting my change-averse self to uproot my near-perfect Goa life and swap it for the mad crawl of this city.

It doesn’t always make sense to people out there, but in my heart and in my bones, I know it’s what I most needed.

And I took a moment to savour the realisation that I somehow always find my way to where I most need to be. 

Same time, last year: Day 319: Homeward bound

On going solo

On Sunday morning, I read a quote (by Rainbow Rowell, from Attachments) on The Artidote’s instagram post, and it resonated so deeply with me:

So, what if, instead of thinking about solving you whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.

I got to Pondicherry late on Sunday afternoon. I will be here for the next weekish, wandering about by myself. And here’s the reason it really spoke to me. This is one of those happy(making) things I have been wanting to do for a while this year: to take a trip, no matter how long or short, no matter where, near or far, by myself.

The last time I truly travelled solo, all by myself, I was 19. And I think back to the time that is clearly tinged with absurdity. I was at an age that comes with a lot of natural casual, carefree naiveté, of course. But my parents too, had only but supported and encouraged my going. Fuelled the pick-up-and-go energy that was ever present. Undeterred by the fact that this was my first long solo journey lasting 8 weeks. No matter that it also happened to be the very first time I’d be travelling outside the country.

I think back to that infectious impulsiveness, that ability to respond to an idea with little reason, because I know it’s what gets watered down with time. And with growing up.

Back then, I don’t remember once stopping to rationalise or reconsider or double-think anything. Literally nothing stopped me. No good reason. The opportunity presented itself, my parents supported me, and I got down to making the trip happen. I’m painfully aware of having lost that essential spontaneity and impulsiveness in recent time. Far too often I find myself thinking and over thinking even my littlest dreams and desires. And often, I brush them aside if I can’t think of a bigger reason than “doing this would make me happy”.

This is something I’ve woken up to recently. There are so many little, doable, realistic, essential things for the doing. For the taking. And I stop myself because better reason gets in the way. I don’t know when being happy has become an insufficient reason. But it’s something I want to try and change.

Combined with the fact that the desire to head out solo has been bubbling up for a while now, I grabbed this opportunity with both hands when it came my way. I didn’t think too much, even when the voice of reason and logic tried to get in the way and raise some potentially crucial points to consider.

I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

For someone who has done a lot of other solo stuff, and for whom solitude has been such an important piece in recent time, it was alarming to realise I hadn’t travelled alone for over a decade. To be fair, the thought or the desire hasn’t even occurred to me. I’ll put that down to the phase in life that didn’t demand it. I got so much alone time and was on a semi holiday for the most part of my life the past eight years, I didn’t feel the need to get away.

But the thought has raised it’s head multiple times this year. And it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, acknowledging it rather than brushing it aside as something I don’t need or desire. So when the opportunity came out of the blue, in what seemed like unlikely circumstances, I was mildly overwhelmed that all my thinking had probably created it.

Anyhow, this post is to acknowledge this change. And to acknowledge the gratitude I feel to be in the incredibly privileged position that allows me to tune in and listen to these seemingly unnecessary desires. To be able to indulge most of them. To have the choice and the ability to build this life wholly on on the belief that it’s worth it. To allow myself the spontaneity. Even if the reason for it is is nothing more than to add another thing to my pile of happy.

***

So much of growing into myself again this year, has been about acknowledging and honouring myself and my individual needs and dreams, outside of who I am in the many roles I play. To shed the fear, the guilt, the embarrassment and sheepishness that sometimes accompanies owning up to that truth. To free myself from previously held notions of who I am, and allowing myself the flexibility of changing again. Perhaps this too is another piece in the puzzle.

Just the idea of being presented with a chance to take off, with most things worked out, felt so freeing. In the run up to my travel to Pondi, I felt all kinds of excitement and empowerment.

Except, I’m a strong, independent woman. Who is sometimes afraid of the dark.

In my excitement to be travelling alone again, I forgot that I am sometimes quite the scaredy-cat.

My third night here, I found myself in a room with tall wall-to-ceiling glass panes on two sides of the room. The kind that are usually used in boardrooms and conference rooms in offices. Heavy glass doors without frames, that take an arm workout to open and close. Which means they don’t shut nimbly or speedily. Anyhow, I didn’t think too much about it, until after sunset when I had to draw all the drapes, and realised I was in what felt like a tent of heavy drapes. There was an added catch, the room had a bathroom attached, with the shower area open to sky, and a giant window with a ledge right in front of the pot, which had no bars or shutter or anything. It overlooked an indoor courtyard of sorts that nobody was ever likely to go into, beyond which a tallish wall enclosed the loo to allow just enough privacy.

Once the sun had fully set, the nighttime creatures began to make their presence felt through an orchestra of croaks and buzzing sounds, I began to convince myself that someone was going to scale the courtyard wall and very easily make their way into my room. I was convinced that in the face of an intrusion even screaming for help wouldn’t d much because my cottage was tucked away in the corner of the sprawling property.

I had the strangest night, sleeping with the lights and TV on. And when I say sleeping, I mean dozing in and out of sleep from time to time.

A restless eight hours later, I was just so happy when it turned 7 am and I could get out of bed where I was pretending to be asleep, hit the breakfast buffet and get on with my day. Everything seems better and safer in the light of day!

***

I remember that first trip I took to Europe when I was only 19, figuring out the Metro in Paris all by myself. I remember fumbling through, not knowing the language and being stuck on more than one occasion when I couldn’t figure out a map or a sign on the street or a station. I remember taking the last train back at 3 am one morning, and rushing through the underground station, dodging the homeless man who was drunk, singing out loudly who turned and came after me. I remember exiting the city limits my metro card allowed me to and sneaking in thanks to some careful thoroughfare. I remember being on top of the Arc de Triomphe enjoying the view where I was suddenly cornered by two incredibly good looking Algerian men who absolutely insisted I join them for a drink. It was a good ten minutes of conversation before reality and reason dawned on me and I realised I should probably not indulge them. I remember travelling through Brussels, Amsterdam and Brugge all by myself, taking trains at odd hours, walking through strange new towns where I was a stranger. I remember sitting on that pebble beach in Greece towards the end of my trip, when I finally realised I had overstayed my Visa and that I needed a quick plan of action to get home.

Yet, through all of it, I don’t remember too many moments of fear. Yes, there was shock, panic or an adrenalin rush. But never debilitating fear of the sort the stupid open-air bathroom caused last night.

I guess it’s going to take a lot more getting out alone because it’s been so long, I seem to have forgotten that going solo means also bracing myself for the odd situation where I am sometimes afraid. To get rid of some of those fears and remind myself that I am enough.

Same time, last year: Day 298: Weekend snippets

When one door shuts, open it again

There is something to be said about how despite everything positive that has happened for me in Bangalore, every time I return to Goa it immediately feels like home too.

This is my second visit back in the six months since I’ve moved, and it honestly feels like I never left at all. Even more so because we drove down this time around, and I immediately realised how different it is to drive around in Panjim. In Bangalore, I’m edgy when I drive. I hate it, I feel out of my depth. In Goa, it comes naturally.

It got me thinking back to how unhappy I was towards the end of my time here, and  realised how much of it I unknowingly attributed to the place and situations I found myself in. When really I should have been looking within, at the heart of my dissatisfaction. It made me wistful, and some part of me longs for a do-over. Like I said, life isn’t linear, and perhaps I had ti be that dissatisfied, and at sea with that feeling, in order to work it out in a way that led me to Bangalore, just so I could come back to Goa, where I would look at things anew.

So I’ll happily take this life of frequenting Goa, the magnet that it seems to be. I’m grateful for the opportunities to split my time between both homes. To the chance discovery that I have actually found the near-perfect arrangement to satisfy my cant-I-make-both-places-my-home state of mind.  To enjoy Bangalore for all that it has given, and continues to give, me and yet have the peaceful hug of homeliness that I know Goa will always have waiting for me. I’m grateful to have the second chance, and a place to go to every time I need respite from the humdrum that Bangalore inevitably brings.

I’m happy for the opportunities. Period.

Maybe this is my do-over. My second chance.

Like they say, when one door shuts, open it again. It’s a door, it’s how they work.

Same time, last year: Day 294: Link loving

Postcards from Goa

It’s been such an overwhelming week. Sensory overload. Hectic, tiring, physically taxing. Mentally and emotionally too, Ive felt stretched. But it has also been so satisfying.

Details to follow. But for now, thank you Goa, for a sparkly time, yet again. And before I head off to location two, here’s a few postcards from the past week spent wandering in spots I’ve roamed countless times, that I got to see through new eyes.

As a traveller. As a visitor. As an outsider. As an assistant to a film maker. As a professional on assignment.

Looking at everything anew sometimes makes all the difference.

Same time, last year: Day 293: Stuff