Happy bytes

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

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

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

***

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

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things

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All the hearts

I’m in fine company today. Fully receptive, attentive and all eyes on me (and my food).

Funny how I was in their fine company same time last year too.

One year ago: Sweet dreams are made of these

Gratitude

I didn’t really plan on “birthday week” per se, but as it happened, the entire week of my birthday was a blissful happy time and it makes me really thankful for so much.

I watched Endgame, twice — on opening day and the day after. I am still not a hardcore MCU fiend by any stretch of imagination, but last year I really got into it and bothered to try and watch some of the better films of the lot, in order to get a handle on the overall plot. I did, to some extent, but watching Endgame made me realise there is so much I am suddenly curious about. So I also spent some parts of the weekend watching older movies. Dr Strange, for one, which I think is so far the best movie in this series for me.

We finally ticked off the other thing on my wish list on the weekend too. And. It. Surpassed. All. Expectations. The burger was huge, juicy, spectacularly flavoured, with a side of homemade potato chips, not fries, and aioli. MMMMMMM. The burger was in fact so big and filling, and my appetite has shrunk so much, both VC and I packed half a burger away to have for dinner. Which worked out just great for us.

Having my birthday on a national holiday has meant that there is always someone to celebrate with, and this time was no different. When I was growing up, it was always summer holidays and I’d mostly be in Bombay with my handful of chuddy buddies, and everyone was available because everyone was on holiday. As an adult, Labour Day has ensured that I’ve always had the day off and spent it with friends. VC had a holiday too, and we planned to go to the beach. But I got my period that morning, bummer, and was in no mood to swim anymore. So we made a detour and I got me another tattoo I’ve been thinking about for quite a while now. Even though it’s been in the works in my head for a while, I think the timing was perfect, and the tattoo suddenly means so much more to me, personally.

We then went out to dinner to my favourite Italian restaurant because earlier in the week I went down a rabbit hole watching endless videos of pasta in the making, that had triggered a serious, massive spaghetti bolognese craving. I went totally crazy and ate dessert too — a luscious, flowery fragrant creme brulee. Memorable.

It’s time to write my annual birthday letter to myself, and I got down to it this past week. Last year, I decided to write two letters a year to myself and ended up actually writing three — just so many thoughts and feels to share I suppose hahahaha. This year, in addition I’m writing letters to some folks I feel like letting know how much they’ve contributed to my life this past year. So there’s going to be a fair bit of letter writing in the coming days.

This is probably the only “work” I did. With fasting diligently on weekdays at home, I’m pretty much down to one meal a day. And that means I only need to cook dinner. So I spend a large part of the day, really just chilling. This extended chilling, with literally nothing demanding my attention or asking for my time has been timely, and hasn’t happened ever before. I’m learning to go with it, and doing my best to shut the guilty person in my head down.

Meals have been really good. Something kicks in in the evenings when I decide to get up and cook dinner. They’ve been simple meals, but low-to-no-carbs and unlike ever before, I’ve been feeling inspired to create something fun and hearty even with those limitations. VC has joined in and this entire week we managed to eat well, stay on top of the fitness goals by exercising every day, which always sets me up for a good state of mind.

On Friday, I went to my happy place this side of Goa — the Friday market at Mapusa and bought the freshest veggies, mangoes, and generally revelled in wandering about the crowded place. I love, love, love this place and going there just makes me so happy. To take in the sights and smells and to jostle about with the locals, watching the hustle does something for me. I came home with these insane flowery plants that I’m going to put in my terrace too.

I ended the week with watching Endgame yet again hahaha — third time’s a charm. Because I watched some of the older movies, and now I actually get — at a deeper level — what some of the little details mean. This past week I’ve been very taken by the cultural phenomenon that this entire comic book universe has been, almost like the Star Wars of our generation. So I got all academic and geeky and did a lot of reading to fill in the blanks for myself. And that really changed the experience for me. I’ve now decided to slowly go through the entire lot of movies in sequential order. While I think I should watch them in the chronological order of the sequence of events that unravel in the movies, VC believes I should go in the (mis)ordered way that they were made because that back and forth has a place and a logic, apparently. My sequence-obsessed mind is having trouble accepting that.

For various reasons, it’s taken me a while to get into the mangoes this season. Also, the best has only just begun in Goa, in my honest opinion. I’m firmly in favour of Goan mangoes over even the best Alphonsos which I honestly find super overrated. So I also got back some of my favourite mangoes from the Friday market, and I have to say there is quite nothing like breaking a 16-17 hour fast with mangoes. And for that, I am utterly, utterly grateful.

Every day this past week I’ve woken up to mildly overcast skies, with that sticky pre-monsoon stillness of heavy humidity hanging in the air. It’s given me wild hopes that I get to witness at least a shower or two before I leave for Bangalore again.

One year ago: The beer I had for breakfast
Three years ago: At sea

Content

It has taken me a practically all my adult life to understand that I feel most happy, experience contentment and flow, find myself to be “together” — call it what you will — in those rare (but very possible) moments when I am at peace with the imperfection that comes with work in progress.

When I am more in agreement with everything that I am — the good, the bad and the ugly — and believe I hold it all within.

When I accept what I can and absolutely cannot control, when I let that shit go, and when I revel in what is.

When I find those hidden joys in the everyday ordinary-ness of my life and realise just how much I thrive in it.

When I struggle less with making things happen, and allow them to happen as they are.

When I open myself up to the uncertainty of what can be, and find excitement in taking things as they come.

When I truly live by just putting one step in front of another, no more, no less.

This is when I most feel like I am enough. I’m alright.

One year ago: I’ve been saving this time
Three years ago: Inside-out

I am enough

I’m finding constant affirmation of my understanding of how much the process* of leaning in to my current needs, in the pursuit of becoming a whole, grownass, emotionally healthy woman, actually amounts to tending to the very same needs of my inner child — to make and take space, to feel safe, to be seen and heard.

It’s deeply gratifying to see how as one is soothed, the other is strengthened. And it is extremely reassuring to see that the outcome of this process has some many different forms. I experience it sometimes as a wholeness and steadiness. Sometimes it manifests as confidence. Sometimes it makes itself seen as peace and contentment. Sometimes as an ease in listening to myself, and a flow in following through. Sometimes as a quiet, a lack of words but an extreme fullness. Sometimes an inexplicable, overflowing love and positivity. Sometimes a feeling of power and being untouchable.

Most times it is a reassuring sense of security, of having found a place, of feeling my age, of having my feet firmly on the ground. It’s like stumbling on something so precious, I want to nurture it forever and ever, and never let it go. It’s a deep, deep sense of being, feeling, having enough.

*Understanding this (my) process constantly reminds me of Wild Geese, this gem of a poem by Mary Oliver that is always a fitting reminder that so often, all I need to do is just listen. And go with it.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

— Mary Oliver

One year ago: Like happiness is a truth
Three years ago: Kangana Ranaut’s crash-course in honesty, feminism and empathy

A seed of life

It gives me incredible solace and a sense of contentment to realise that I’m finally at that phase where I am seeing and living through evidence of changes that I have so far only desired and dreamed of bringing into my life. It has been a long and winding journey, and for probably the very first time, I am at a point where I can really see all that has changed, how much of what is, was not to be just a few weeks and months ago.

It is thrilling to experience this transformation as it happens, and it gives me goosebumps on a daily basis, of late. This is the stuff that was mere dreams — that frankly felt impossible — some years ago.

There is a sense of one phase ending, and being on the cusp of something, once again. I am feeling a palpable sprightliness and upbeat energy that comes from the freshness of birth and beginning.

On the one hand there is the undeniable energy of oneness and coming together, of loops closing, of open ends finding a logical settling, of the chaotic ebb and flow having found a natural rhythm, now gathering some steam and churn. Of a slow emergence, as it were.

And of course that also comes with a sense of an ending. The subtle ache of time finally catching up. Of finally, really having to let go of so much that was, so much that has been a comfortable way of being. Everything that has brought me this far. And so, I also carry a little listlessness. A downward energy that makes me want to slowdown even more, sit, mope a bit. Revisit again and again all that I am slowly handing over and moving on from. All that I used to be, and all that I am leaving behind.

Physically — within me — as well as in the things happening in my life I feel a sense of endings and beginnings playing out simultaneously. On the one hand I feel a churn of some impending change that will spark off its own set of movement. And on the other, this deep desire to stop, not move.

This is a slow process, and today I realised that maybe this is just it — this is my process and it takes time. I have only just become aware of this — what I have always passed off as too slow, time-consuming and belaboured set of events and done my best to avoid — is actually the process, the work, at work. To be born again means to take space anew, after all. It means that which once took up all the space, must scoot over to allow for the new to emerge. For the new to become. And there is no way for this to happen fast, or on autopilot.

It’s the strangest dichotomy. And to live it and feel it in my body the way I have been — in a swinging push-an-pull sort of way — has been so fascinating to witness.

One year ago: Turning 32 and the salt water theory
Three years ago: Acts like summer and walks like rain

35

This has been a pretty significant year for me. But quite unlike significant times in the past that have had an unmistakeable flourish, this has been a quiet sort of significant year, with flecks of change, the tiniest shifts and movements flowing in, unnoticed. The sort of change that mostly only I and the people I am closest to know about or will likely notice.

For far too long I’ve been very shy about admitting how much I love my birthday. But the honest truth is that I love having a day dedicated to me, to look back on how far I’ve come, to give myself a good pat on the back, and to take stock and feel optimistic and really hopeful about the future. I’ve been fortunate to have this happen every single birthday thus far. So, even though I haven’t really admitted it in as many words, my folks, my sister and my husband already know how only too well, how much I love this day. To the rest of the world, I’ve always played the omg-it’s-just-another-day-it-doesn’t-matter act pretty damn well.

So, today is that day again, and I’m off to the beach to celebrate how grateful I am for the gift of another birthday, another year to travel around the sun.

I’m grateful for all that this past year has been — for the lessons it brought, for making me see that growing up sometimes requires looking back, accepting transgressions, grief, hurt, difficulties, but absolutely looking ahead and making amends gently, slowly.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to temporarily disengage from the forced cohabiting arrangement of marriage, and for all the realisations and insights that came out of this experience. It’s been quite the game-changer this past year, enabling me to stretch myself and come into my own. I’m so grateful for VC’s understanding, support and acceptance of this and all that came, and continues to come out of it. I really cherish and hold close his ability to accept me as I am, as much as the woman I am becoming (which I am sure sometimes feels like not at all the woman he married hahahaha), and the constant state of work-in-progress that is our lives at the moment.

I’m grateful for therapy that has so wonderfully tied together the various threads that currently bind my life and being, in a way that no amount of conversation with friends or family can, no amount of reading the best books has, and no amount of trying to figure this out on my own could ever have.

I’m grateful especially for my body. In the past year I have seen what happens to it when I deliberately, totally let go, allowing it to balloon and flourish in surprising ways. I began to notice age in some places — in the way the suppleness and flexibility I took for granted now resists when I push it, the way the skin on my face doesn’t spring back as easily as it used to, the way my digestion has visibly slowed, the tiger stripes that really stand out now, the way getting back to exercise was a bigger uphill task than I ever imagined it could ever be.

And yet, I’m grateful that with a little work, my body still does the things I want to do — whether it’s working my way up to a 5km run again, nailing push-ups again or doing a cartwheel on a whim. Yes, still got it.

I’m grateful for the awareness that all of these changes have come gently, slowly, with little to almost no panic for a change. There has been a very conscious awareness, yes, and it’s made me prioritise taking care of myself and my body in a way that feels very intentional. I’ve always had an eye for eating well, a penchant for fitness and staying fit and healthy, but somehow this feels very different from before when I held many fantastic (unrealistic) notions about my body.

I’m grateful that the rush has died down some. The rush to get somewhere, do this, be that, do more — that constant buzz in my head reminding me of time rushing by and there being so much left to do is dormant for the most part, and I’ve figured out how some tricks to shut it down, when it tends to get active from time to time.

This past year, I re-discovered deliberation. It’s brought a certain slowness and a calm, an ability to move with intention, that has really been another game-changer. It’s made me free-er in choosing which way I want to go, more open in accepting everything that has come my way, and just light and easy going in embracing it all.

A younger me might roll her eyes and scoff at me for turning soft. Maybe she’d balk at how little I hold on to anymore, and how fluid I’ve become. But it is what it is and it seems to work for me.

***

Just one birthday ago I wondered about whether I’ll ever really feel my age. For most of my life I haven’t felt exactly my age. I’ve always felt extremes — either too wise and old beyond my years sometimes, or just so young and naive for my age. This was mostly brought out in situations where I had other people my age to compare with. I’ve lived a large part of my life feeling like I never quite fit right.

This is changing, ever so slowly. I realised recently, that thanks to this newfound comfort I have begun to feel over the course of this past year, I have truly begun to feel my age. Not that I miraculously make myself fit, but that I am comfortable just the way I am, whether I fit or not. And so more often than not, it does feel like I fit.

Nothing feels out of sync, things don’t stick out and irk me as much, differences don’t hinder my experiences. I hold desires for doing more but the desperation to get there fast is slowly fading. I’m re-learning patience all the time. I’m comfortable in my skin, in my body, in the way I am, and the way I feel for the most part.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age or growing up, but I’m keenly aware that my time here is limited. So limited that I feel a strong need to make the most of it. Which is not so say I’ve drawn up a bucket list of impossible things like scuba diving and bungee jumping or visiting 10 countries in the next 10 years, I must tick off. I want to focus my time in spaces that matter to me, on things and people I love and am drawn to. I want to try and always say what I absolutely mean, be more honest, articulate and truthful in the relationships that matter, and try more and more to tell those people just how much they really mean to me.

I’m being constantly shown how often I need to redefine the many catch words that I hold on to — markers of things that are important to me — Peace. Success. Happiness. Care. Love. Strength. Joy. I’ve also learned that happiness and joy is not, and never needs to be, linked with perfection. Or success. Of any kind.

I am mostly bumbling along and stumbling over myself along this journey, but if there’s one thing I’m truly proud of, it’s how much I have been able tame that inner perfectionist in me. I’m grateful for having learned that it’s okay to change my mind. I’ve embraced softness as far as possible, in every area of my life that I can — softness with people, towards myself, with my body, with my dreams, with my emotions. I don’t see the need to be the kind of strong or hard that I once aspired to be.

This past year I relinquished control over the grand plans, a lot. Life has become so much about living the small everyday things, cheering myself on for the little wins, revelling in mundane daily happinesses and the utter smallness of it all. I’ve really been feeling this is where that joy — that I’ve so long believed lies in chasing the grand plans, the big picture, the distant future — is at. Right here. Now.

The nowness of life hits me on a daily basis, and it stays and lingers in a way that has made me feel very, very secure and steady. I put this down entirely to the course I did last year that altered my compass, pointed me closer to my true north. It’s made me see things so very differently, shifting my very perspective on everything, on life itself, 180 degrees. And there is just no unseeing it, no turning back. It has been like opening the curtains on a view I’ve known all along, but suddenly everything is brighter and beautiful.

Year 36, I’m so very ready for you.

Past birthdays: one year ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago.

Acceptance

It’s been nearly a month since I made a sudden, unplanned departure and came to Goa. It has been an interesting, sometimes challenging month since, for VC and for the both of us. We’ve been mostly going about life, letting things unfold and pass in their own time. There have been some tremendous changes for me, during this time, and it has been interesting to see evidence of old patterns fall to the side, making way for new ways of being. As individuals, of course, but we’ve also seen how much that impacts what we bring to the table as a couple and how our relationship can change for the better. The biggest learning for me here, is how much work I have to do in taking him as he is, for the person he is, knowing where to let go, understanding what is not in my control, and that so often my love and adoration (no matter how well-meaning) for him cramps his style.

So this is yet another appreciation post. For VC. For many, many things — and I don’t want to go into listing them. But mostly for his mammoth levels of patience and acceptance of me, in taking me just the way I am. In all my ever-changing, ever-growing glory.

For as much as I chide him for being impatient, in a rush and for how he never gives anyone a proper chance in life in general, somehow, with me he is this gentle, patient being, with an immense capacity to just let me be, and watch from a distance while also always having my back.

Everything that I have been going through on my own has not all been easy for him, or on him. Not immediately and certainly not in the moments as they happen. So I like to take pauses like this, to pull back and to really acknowledge the goodness in him that makes so much of being me possible. If today I believe I have the space t be this version of me, it is because he has absolutely made space and accepted it. And for this, he has had to grow in slow and silent ways on his own too. I love you, VC. I don’t know how you do it, but time and time again, you do.

One year ago: Looking back, over my shoulder

Unfurl

Summer has its own version of lush around here. I see it most glaringly in two things — mango trees that are vibrant and bearing over, crouched and groaning under the weight of the season’s load of mangoes, full of big bunches of bright, neon green freshly unfurled leaves; and bougainvillea that begins to excessively bloom in profusions — everywhere. Bougainvillea has this amazing tendency to show up, erupt almost, in the dustiest most barren spaces, and is there anything that says summer more than mangoes?

The highway outside my home is being constructed, its a dusty old mess and a serious eyesore, except you’re driving down this dreary stretch of nothingness an concrete and suddenly, at regular intervals your eyes find repose in eye-popping burst of bright pink, dusty orange, white, mango yellow and ashy bougainvillea that now punctuate the barren drive.

It is such a pleasing sight. And this sort of life being seen against all odds, making its presence felt in the most impossible places, screams summer in Goa, for me, like nothing else does.

My “garden” is abloom — and I mean that literally and metaphorically. Perhaps the two are linked. I begin my days with my plants, watching every new leaf unfurling slowly, tracking buds as they slowly open from one day to the next. And I’ve been quietly witnessing with a beating heart, how coming into life is such a delicate, tender process that needs so much attention and love, yet takes its own time. Everything in it’s moment in sunshine, not a day more or less.

It feels like my own experience of coming to (new)life, unfurling, stepping into a new season, growing, flowering seems is reflected in my plants too. The sense of a blossoming, supported by an essential grounded-ness, a standing up tall and seeing the light, facing the gusty evening breeze, feels as wonderful within me, as it does to watch in happen in the little pots that line my terrace.

Within and around me, I feel a visceral sense of a determined new life, claiming its time and bursting at the seams.

Despite the punishing afternoon heat, I got out yesterday to celebrate a milestone by having lunch by myself. I drove around a really pretty part of North Goa, almost transfixed by the verdant views all around. Have things been this lush for a while and am I only just noticing them, I wondered. Or has something changed?

It’s beginning to feel like a really wild celebration of love and life. Much like the celebration within me right now.

One year ago: Bad news never had good timing
Two years ago: In-stages
Three years ago: See Lanka

Routine

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

Beachy things

Here’s all the times I have been out to the beach, had so much fun and told myself I need to do this “more often”. 2012, again in 2012, and again in 2012 — makes sense, because this was the year I quit full time work. Then it became a sort of ritual to do one big trip, go away for a weekend or more, in 2013, 2014, 2016 and again in 2016. And this is just counting the few posts I remember writing about more than a day being spent by the beach, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the number of posts in the archives that I can’t remember, or the number of times I’ve been out for just the day, or the evening to chill by the sea, drink or book in hand, to just be — I had an almost-weekly routine of doing this and recall mostly taking either S or VC for company, when I didn’t choose to go by myself.

All this nostalgia and rewinding time to say this trip, I feel like I have been bitten by the beach bug good and proper. There was last weekend spent entirely by the beach in the water, which made me immensely happy to the very depths of my soul. I have not enjoyed the sea this much in a long, long time, such that I was unwilling to leave the water, sunburnt shoulders and nose be damned, until the sun had well set. If I count beginning the day at 6.30 am with a run with R, sometimes splashing through waves, it takes the average hours spent at the beach up a notch. All of this inspired the same old feels — a promise to get out and do this more often. (You can see VC’s recent pictures from these trips on his Instagram.)

What I didn’t think would happen so soon is yet another day spent at the beach. When D invited us to join her and the family (Olive too! And when I saw how happy she was on the beach, it made me miss Leo and Lego oh so much) at a beach in the South, I hesitated because we had planned a barbecue for 12 people that we had to prep for. But both VC and I decided in literally two minutes of discussion that we should go — that’s how much we’ve enjoyed the sea this season. So we rushed through preps the previous night and off we went the next morning.

Post full moon magic is real, you guys. The sea was magnificent. Giant rockers perfect for wave jumping and sea salt immersion, complimented with the gentlest bouncy bobbity waves perfect for just lolling about, with white froth and salty breeze in the air. I really soaked it in, coming out only to have a beer and eat batter-fried calamari and fries. We had landed up at the most random and uninviting shack, but were thoroughly surprised with how great the food was. A giant meal was had, and while we all balked at the quantities we had ordered at the start, I noticed we’d done a decent job of wiping most of it clean by the end.

BIG love <3

Again, we came home close to 4 pm burnt to toast and crashed for a whole hour, waking up only in time to do all the last minute things we needed to before folks began to arrive for dinner.

Yesterday evening, we went off to Chapora Fort. I hadn’t been back since 2014, and VC since 2012 or so. And boy, o boy, the place has changed. For the worse, I’m afraid. It’s got a Baga vibe, chockfull of tourists recreating their own Dil Chahta Hai moments — we saw a group of girls singing along to some DCH song and trying desperately to get it right and on video. They eventually did in what seemed like the 23rd attempt. To make things worse we didn’t realise it was Sunday so of course it was going to be packed. However, we found a spot to enjoy the seamless, vast views of the sea that remain, thankfully. It is still one of the best spots to catch the sunset.

Today, VC is in Mumbai for a meeting and I briefly entertained the idea of going to the beach in the morning, before giving it up in favour of gardening some. Phew. I’ll save it for the weekend.

The sea still remains one of the top things about Goa that I miss when I’m away. Sigh. It’s heartening, and I feel so very lucky for having had this luxury for so many years. I think of all the evenings, weekends and entire days spent under the influence of the sea and it truly makes me feel so grateful for this experience that I have really exploited. It’s undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to access healing, calming and humbling stimuli around here. Just walking on wet, solid sand watching the moisture stretch away under pressure beneath my feet, or having a wave completely submerge you, or getting that timing right down pat when I’m able to skim the surface of a giant wave and let it buoy me over than drag me under, it is just such a thrill.

Im approximately four shades darker from all of this — a colour I love, and haven’t had in many years now– and my shoulders have proceeded to peeling, painlessly this time thankfully. But on the inside, I feel so good.

One year ago: Doesn’t mean I’ll stop
Three years ago: Stop

Postcard from staycation – 2

It’s been an extended weekend staycation by the beach. This time around, I have realllly indulged and maximised the time in the sea and pool, spending an average of 6 hours everyday between both waterbodies.

I’ve returned exhausted, burnt to a crisp (so burnt my shoulders hurt) but feeling really (surprisingly) fulfilled. I was super sceptical, borderline worried about this trip and was on the brink of chickening to stay home on the eve of it. But it has surprised and satisfied me in ways I will have to slowly unpack for myself over the next few days.

The best part? When everyone else was leaving, lamenting the end of the holiday and the crash back to reality that flying into Bangalore will be, VC and I drove 1.5 hours back home, still feeling the holiday feels.

Hashtag blessed, I guess?

More tomorrow when I can put my thoughts down coherently.

One year ago: Remind yourself, nobody built like you

Thank you, Bangalore

Couple of things I’ve been missing sorely:

Running on a treadmill. I’d built my way up to a decent pace and distance. And it was only going to get better with consistency, but running on a treadmill came to a grinding halt in Goa because I do not have access to a gym. I could run outdoors but I live just off what used to be a rather pretty highway flanked by villages in either side, that is now just a royal mess with massive road construction in progress for kilometres on end. It’s not only dangerous for me to try and run there but also just such a displeasure. The home workouts have been a blessing, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss the sheer rush of a good even-paced, speedy run on the treadmill.

Seeing Amma everyday. Most unexpectedly, I’m really missing Amma. I say unexpectedly because this is the sort of trip that’s happened many times before. We’re constantly travelling and not seeing each other for bouts of time. I wonder what has changed this time around?

My nearly-daily iced americano fix. I miss spending those couple of hours at Third Wave every other day, getting work done while nursing an iced americano that they’ve just mailed and that just hits the spot for me every single time. I’ve been demotivated to get working, enthusiasm flagging in the comforts of my home and loungey routine. I miss having the option to go to an “office” space.

My frennsss. Truth be told, I miss my friends too. I can count them on one hand, yes, but I miss them nonetheless. I’ve realised with alarming clarity that I am not as much of an introvert and homebody as I used to be or as I thought I am. I like the presence of people, I like making spontaneous plans, I like meeting with them regularly, I like going out and catching up over food and drink. And when I come here, all of that has a forced stop. The quiet is great, but I’d kill for some frequent, well-timed bits of action.

My therapist. Even though I continue therapy over Skype when I am in Goa, I do so miss the face to face interaction and the extra insights it brings.

Sunday walks. It’s been an unexpectedly long hiatus and it’s beginning to show, because last Sunday, I had visions of walking the snaking paths we do in Bangalore, covered by green, and the idli and vada we have after. Green space I have aplenty here, but I will never find an idli or a vada to match up.

***

I guess what I’m also feeling, on the flipside, is gratitude for all of this. It fills my life with a certain energy and richness that I feel the palpable lack of when I am away. This, I realise now. I’m so grateful for all that I receive from Amma. I’m grateful for the renewed inclination to get fit again and for all the help and resources I have to make this happen, uncompromisingly. I’m grateful for work, and all that it enables. I’m grateful for my friends, the ones who remain and who always show up. I’m grateful for Bangalore and the nature in which it shows me a contrasting experience to the one I have in Goa, because it makes me realise again and again that I am not bound to any one place, vibe or state of being.

One year ago: And I’m feeling so bohemian like you
Three years ago: Lucid

Happy days

This post is just to record present happiness levels. They are high. Not soaring high, but just enough. Enough so there’s a mellow hum in my heart, a spring in my step. This sense of everything being in its place, and a rhythm to everything that I do. There is flow, there is equanimity. There is a reservoir of calm. There is a promise of peace and oneness, a feeling of coming, being, at home.

I am not jostling for space. I am not running helter-skelter. I don’t feel like I’m spread too thin.

I’m just happy. Plain and simple, after what feels like a rather long time. (But a look back tells me exactly when I felt a similar goodness, and I realise it wasn’t so long ago.)

***

I’m happy that I’ve been able to continue working out, uninterrupted. In fact I’ve discovered I quite like working out in solitude at home. I’m glad I’ve been fighting the urge to sleep in, and have managed to get up and get going everyday. It’s a bloody good feeling to have worked out and showered before 8 am and have the whole day ahead of me to do as I please. I know that sounds like I’m raring to go out and about, but the truth is most of those days were spent lounging at home.

I’m feeling that old itch to push my body resurface. That extra rep, that whole extra set, that extra HIIT burnout round at the end — I’m feeling that burn to do it all again. Just the way that I used to. Pushing my body and seeing it achieve things makes me happy. Endorphins make me happy.

I’m glad we’ve been eating at home as much as we have, because it means I have more control over what I eat and what goes into it. I’ve been able to push my intermittent fasting up to 16 hours this week and eat low carb dinners of my choosing before 9 pm every day. This is a serious boon. Eating well, eating healthy keeps me happy.

I’m happy that for the first time in my life I’m feeling a sense of balance and the promise of sustaining this without swinging wildly to the extremes.

I’m really glad D kicked the planting bug alive in me again with just a bag full of cuttings fresh from her garden, because it really made me move my arse on the repotting and the plans for more plants that I’ve only been thinking and talking about a whole lot. I was feeling a little sad about how I only just did this whole exercise at home in Bangalore, but couldn’t stay long enough to enjoy it, but didn’t think an extended stay here meant that I could very well do it here too. So, I got my hands dirty and did the work myself, spending a greater part of Sunday doing this by myself. Sticking my hands in soil makes me happy. The smell of wet earth, the woodiness of mulch, the slight stickiness of manure, it makes me happy. Fresh green plants in the sun make me happy.

These fools make me very happy. In a way that I actually don’t have words for. Some people are overjoyed to meet their friends kids. I guess this is the equivalent of that in my world. I get the joy. Puppers unabashedly wanting endless petting make me really happy.

***

This feeling of peace and happiness even in the face of impending uncertainty is new. I’m just happy to be experiencing it.

One year ago: You’re beautiful, it’s true

Home

What coming home feels like: Finding home within

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three years ago: On being average