Day 312: While the world plays for our pleasure

It’s been two days of being completely at home, because the help around here took some time off for Diwali. It meant staying with the puppies full-time, which I was  fine by me because my work has been mildly shot to bits with all the frenetic running around. So I was happy for the excuse to be housebound and glued to my laptop.

The pups make for great company because they mostly, well, just sleep really. Nineteen hours yesterday. I counted. Waking up only to be fed, immediately after which they did a splendid job of pulling that face like they’re starving little homeless runts or something, while I tried to eat my lunch. There has been an incredibly peaceful vibe and I’ve felt an ease and unencumbered sort of energy that has energised me.

It’s been a good taste of the days to come, of the extreme luxury of entire days to do just as I please. I’ve enjoyed leisurely breakfasts, working in my night clothes thru the morning, throwing together quick meals convenient food-for-one to shove down my gullet. Generally, it has been tender and easy — taking one hour at a time without rushing around like I have been for so many weeks now.

I got a surprisingly good amount of work done, and I managed to read in the afternoon, and catch a nap before walking the dogs later in the evening (which is more exercise than I give it credit for). Evenings have been about sitting and chatting with VC, who is suddenly pulling a volte-face about his feelings of my going away. In Bangalore he was all I-think-I’m-going-to-be-too-busy-to-miss you, but that has quickly changed to I’m-really-going-to-miss-you. We’ve been turning in by 9.30 pm, which gives me ample time to read for a good long while before sleep hits.

And that’s pretty much my idea of a perfect day. I have had two such days. And the promise of an undecided number of such days ahead of me thrills me no end.

Gratitude today, for this life of absolute luxury. For the power to choose this while the opportunity presented itself. For D who opened her house up to us, complete with space in a cupboard, access to laundry, and so many many hot fresh meals and the company of the puppies to boot. I cannot imagine getting our flat ready while living out of suitcases or in a hotel. For VC who always has my back and encourages me to slow down.

Title from lyrics of this goooood track that came back to me like a flash from the past:

Two years ago: Day 312: Holiday mornings

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Day 305: October

Find another day, with all the changing seasons of my life

I’m writing this from the balcony of our home in Goa, that VC and I are setting up yet again. It’s been a week of intense flashbacks thanks to being back here, not on holiday. I’m mega excited about having one foot in Goa and the other in Bangalore, with VC living here and me heading back home. I am raring to get ahead into an unknown and honestly blank future. I don’t know what lies in waiting for me, but for the first time ever, that uncertainty is sweet and promising.

It is a fitting time to be here, watching as parts of my being are being rekindled, flames of old memories gently fanned to life again every time that I see or do something that triggers a flash from the past. A past from that life I once lived here.  I say it like it was aeons ago, but in truth it was not so far gone. It’s just been a touch under two years. And yet in so many ways, given the transformations that I have experienced, it feels like an absolute lifetime ago. I almost do not recognise that version of myself, and I’m finding it hard to connect to the memory of who I was when I lived here.

Driving down the same streets, revisiting bits of my routine, my haunts have all brought back memories hauntingly close to my mind. And from where I am now, that feels like a sweet, innocent, soft time from the past. Every step of the way, I find myself revisiting how far I’ve come since this journey of healing and spiritual discovery began exactly 2 years ago, right here. Through therapy, making breaking and remaking friendship, umpteen conversations and lots of reading, some self-help and a whole lot of help from around me, active restructuring of my life work marriage and everything in between, it’s been two consistent years of seeking to find my centre again. A centre and a solidity that comes from within, that isn’t attached to any of the trappings I lean on to around me — not my friends, not my family, not my spouse, not my work, and not even to a city. And so it is even more fitting, this state of limbo, of floating between worlds not knowing where or how I am supposed to move ahead, because it is testimony to this very journey. Of finding a centre so deep, of filling it myself up to the brim, of feeling enough, of knowing it is enough.

Of realising that not every one of life’s puzzles needs immediate solving. That there is space for the unanswered questions, for answers that are slow to come. And to make space for the unknown, and to be willing to find comfort in sitting with the questions alone.

***

I spent most of October (and September, for that matter) in a mad dash. October was meant to be about recovery and recouping. We returned from our vacation at the end of September looking forward to some peaceful regrouping as we pack up parts of our lives and set off to begin again on new shores. But as things turned out October was anything but what we’d set ourselves up for. It’s been the most hectic month of the year this far.

It was so busy. I was so busy and when I wasn’t busy, I was preoccupied about being busy. I was running through lists and lists in my head — work lists, packing lists, purchase lists. And that’s just how the entire month seems to have gone by, without so much as a whisker of catching my breath. It wasn’t the ideal way we’d have liked to send VC off, but I cannot complain because I found help in unexpected quarters, empathy and acceptance from near and far, togetherness with both my families, visits from dear friends, a superlative culmination of my course that added a flourish of a finishing touch before we jetted off on our drive to Goa — me by car, VC by bike.

***

In a few days I will head back to Bangalore alone. It is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, and in my life together with VC. It certainly has all the makings of a shiny new adventure, but at this point from where I am right now, I’m sitting snug in the comforts of a chapter about to close.

Since being back in Goa, I’ve ended every single day with a heart filled with gratitude for how help has come my way in these last two months, right up to here in Goa when our lives are in a flux with all the balls up in the air. For family and friendship. For this inexplicable fullness of life. For a future that’s wide open and up for the taking.

It is nice to finally be in a space where I am not fighting life, or vice versa. Things are in a gentle flow. There is peace when I go to bed at night, knowing just how much I am looked after. There is comfort in knowing I maybe walking this journey on my own, but I am far from alone. And there is an immense joy and a deep sense of contentment with knowing I am exactly where I need to be.

***

It has been a month of low, weak writing given how impossibly preoccupied my brain has been. So I’m not attempting to make much sense of my posts this time around.

That post-holiday snap back to reality that was the only day of repose we had. My sister fell violently ill and while it thrust me into action-mode that didn’t wane for the rest of the month, it also threw up moments of pondering about surrender, family and togetherness.

There were many days when I was so filled with thoughts, overcome with emotion and dying to let some of it drip over onto a page, but I just couldn’t find the words. Then the #metoo storm hit, and everything was grey for a bit. We lost Leo and that hit me harder than I expected.

Mid-month we began to consider this move, planning for it and I got a felt a bit overwhelmed at what it means for me, to consciously live apart from VC. To be living this dream of being in two cities at once. There were interesting turn of events with an unusual calm even in the face of this frenzy, a clear indication of change in the works, a glimmer of hope with small victories sparked by brave women speaking up.

The unusual calm seems to be here to stay, and feels like it means more. And finally, just when I allowed myself a mini breather, I unravelled and fell ill. But there was work to be done, goodbyes to be said. And a rather special journey together to Goa was embarked upon. Leaving one home, to come to another home. Our own home is WIP, and I’m gradually feeling equal parts envy that VC gets to have the new home, and excitement at returning to my old home for a newish life.

As always, there is gratitude. For ordinary, everyday miracles. For the abundance friendship has brought to my life these past 2 months. For the unseen gifts even in the hardest moments of my life. And for the incredible, generous offering that is a future into the wild unknown.

***

One month ago: Day 284: September
Two month ago: Day 246: August
Three months ago: Day 219: July
Four months ago: Day 184: June

Five months ago: Day 152: May
Six months ago: Day 134: April
Seven months ago: Day 92: March
Eight months ago: Day 60: February
Nine months ago: Day 32: January

Two years ago: Day 305: Light and life

Day 299: Kind of morning that lasts all afternoon

We’re home. More on the journey and other miscellaneous thoughts, soon.

See pictures of this same spot taken on previous journeys, here and here.

One year ago: More Goa postcards: blue
Two years ago: Day 299: Book quandary

Day 298: Getaway, you know it’s now or never

The last time I drove long distance mostly by myself, was when the boys cycled to Wayanad and I tagged along in the “support car” with all their supplies. Today, I drove halfway to Goa mostly by myself. I say mostly because I was in the car, all alone, but I was driving alongside (not literally) VC who is riding his bike to Goa.

With a car stuffed to the gills, and a bike strapped to the back, it really felt like a fugitive-on-the–run kind of scene this morning as we set off. And yet, it just doesn’t feel like goodbye. It’s the strangest, strangest mixed-up, turnaround of emotions that I just did not anticipate.

Few things make me feel like my father’s daughter like long drives and road-trips do. Today, all by myself, I felt it even more so. Maybe it’s so deep in me, this ease to get on the road and get going, we’ve done this so much growing up that I don’t give it much thought. I just agreed when VC asked if we could split the driving. 24 hours ago though, I was suddenly not so hot on the idea. A massive resistance to pack and get going came over me. I put it down to everything — PMS, the very full moon and even just the strangeness that has been this entire month. But it was too late to back out anyway.

So here we are. Thankfully, I had a really good drive. It was punishingly hot and dry, there was an inordinate amount of traffic getting out of Bangalore, but even so, once the road opened out and my playlists kicked in, I felt like I had slipped out of the funk and into a new energy.

Skimming the road, keeping an eye on VC either in front of me or like a dot in my rearview mirror, I enjoyed my music and solitude, the frequent chai breaks, the oranges I ate peeling them with one hand. It was a long and exhausting drive today. Strange, considering it’s only half the journey, and we usually do the whole 670 kms in one shot. I’m super glad we decided to break our journey, and so I get to post this from the comforts of my hotel room, where I am under the covers as I munch on pakodas and chugging a Coke, waiting for room service to arrive.

Driving alone means you usually have just your thoughts for company. And I had plenty today. Music-related thoughts, Bangalore thoughts, and thoughts about the twists and turns life has made this past year. Maybe some of them will make their way into subsequent posts. Maybe, maybe.

I’m determined to slow down the hectic energy that has consumed me in October, reminding myself to just keep flowing, just keep flowing. If today — it took us twice as long as it usually does to finish this leg of the journey — is anything to go by, things are on track to slowing down for sure.

One year ago: Postcards form Pondicherry
Two years ago: Day 298: Weekend snippets

Day 296: You and me, we come from different worlds

Reading this post from exactly one year ago sent me down a rabbit hole, going over how the last twelve months have really brought the “at home in both cities” dream to fruition.

Sitting here, on the brink of my better half moving back to Goa, while I exercise the privilege and the dream of living here, and enjoying the luxury of also going home to visit him there for the foreseeable future, I’m amazed at how what was a mere distant thought is today an unbelievable reality for me.

This year I had umpteen opportunities to visit Goa and with each visit the realisation that some part of me will always feel at-home there has grown. And so focused all our intents and thoughts on making this return possible. The funny thing is, now that the move is upon us, I find an equally settled, at-home feeling has developed here too.

This morning, watching and helping VC pack, I thanked my stars for this opportunity to stay. Because I am not ready to relocate just yet. This is a wild twist of events for me: I am not ready to go away just yet. This is not a reflection on Goa as much it is on me feeling at home here, with myself.

So it must be true then, when one door shuts, open it again. It’s a door, it’s how they work. Because it’s certainly what has brought me to this unexpected state of being. At home everywhere. Ready to go. Happy to return.

This agility is such a refreshing change.

Times like this, I’m extra glad for this journal. To look back on and see how far we’ve come. To see how lucky we are. To see how much abundance I have received.

***

I’m already recovering from the throat infection. It literally caught up with me between one day and the next, skipping a the usual signs of bugs festering within. It honestly felt like I was on the mend, and it’s the only reason I let go and indulged in the beer on Sunday. It was R and S’s anniversary and I found my favourite Goan beer on tap so it was hard to hold back.

But taking yesterday off reminded me that I’ve had wheels on my heels this entire month. Pretty much since the day we returned from Europe. There have been slow days spent at home, yes but I’ve been in charge and in fight mode in my head ever since the start of the month. It’s amazing how our bodies have this capacity to get up and run, endlessly, when the time calls for it. To stretch endlessly on and on, swallowing all signs of usual fatigue or time-outs. But everything has a threshold I suppose. And if it weren’t for illness, I probably wouldn’t have known to shut off that fight mode, which is honestly not needed anymore. My sister is all better, my father is back at his home, we’re slowly packing up. I don’t need to rush around.

It wasn’t until Friday when I drove an hour across town to spend the day with N at her home, that I realised that it was the only day I had to myself this entire month. I’m grateful for it. We had a good day of conversation, a walk about her unbelievably green colony, a really good meal and chai and banana cake to end it all. I delayed my departure by a good three hours over what I had planned. And I do not regret it.

Next week, though not entirely free, promises some quiet. I’m looking forward to it. I’m going home, after all.

Day 292: Come if it feels right, now is the time to be

The past few weeks gave been an odd combination of active and passive states. Active in the sheer energy and happenings in flow about me, yet passive in how I have been able to just surrender to the situation and how it has consumed me.

I had returned from Europe with grand plans. There was a blog reboot project mushrooming in my head, that I was going to launch into. I was all set to dive right back into work, I wanted to get back to yoga or some sort of exercise (that has dropped to a deathly silent nil in the last few months) and I wanted to spend the last few weeks I can share with VC here doing things around town — eating out, taking walks (our time in Europe made VC and I realise how little we indulge in walking as a standalone activity beyond just getting from one place, at home) revisiting favourite spots in the city and generally giving Bangalore a fitting goodbye (even though I’m not the one leaving just yet, I can’t help but feel a part of me is). But none of that was to be.

There is a lot happening, but none of it earth shattering. And for the first time in a while, I realise this is stasis. Things moving at their place, slowly. No real high peaks or low troughs. Just chugging along. This has been a year of so much activity and movement, mostly in my head. The giant leaps I have felt myself take, the long strides I am always forcing myself to take. I feel I have moved huge distances even as I have tried to sit still. And after almost a whole year of actively seeking that, things are suddenly at a very comfortable plateau. This feels like a time for sitting, sinking, marinading in the work that has been done. A time to sit back, let things unfold as they need to, and enjoy the gifts of my labour.

I’ve been so used to always pushing myself to do better, be better, seek better, seek more — whether in my experiences in Bangalore (because I’ve always felt like my time in this city has been finite, like I’m on a deadline), or my personal self-work. I have been in constant seeking mode for so long now, and the more I have sought and reached out, the more I have received. The more I have received, the more I have filled up, and filled myself of. Finally, things have come to a head. I felt this quite literally last weekend at the closing workshop, when I said my goodbyes and felt physically filled-up. I didn’t sign up for the following workshop. I felt full.

I have sought so much, received so abundantly, and taken in all in so hungrily, now I want to slowly digest it all.  This feels like a time for a resettling. And as much as I have acknowledged that I haven’t done all that I wanted to, I haven’t written as much or as well as I have felt things, I haven’t done any reading, I haven’t been out, it hasn’t been with regret or a longing or a feeling of lack. I feel content with things as they are, even though they haven’t worked out to plan.

I realise even more now that this is stasis. It feels delightfully okay. This is such a new kind of contentment for me.

Things are okay. Nothing overly positive to report, nothing alarmingly negative dragging me down either. The time for striving and achieving more seems to have passed. I want to settle and be still. And it feels just about right.

One year ago: Postcards from Goa
Two years ago:
 Day 292: Love, loss and what we ate

Day 290: Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world

Today, I slowed down. I didn’t cook. I didn’t work. I napped. Twice. I drank multiple cups of tea. I nu see my itchy throat. I had long, enjoyable freewheeling conversations. With Niyu and VC. I had take out Chinese for dinner. I slowed down. Like the flutter of the dragonflys wings when it’s time is done and it’s setting off on a new u charted territory in an renewed shape and form.

Something is abrew. And I am waiting.

Day 289: I been moving calm, don’t start no trouble with me

I can’t believe we’re just over two months away from the neat year. Two thousand and freaking nineteen, for fucks sake. What? Wasn’t it just January some time ago? I feel like we only just returned from our New Years weekend at Coonoor. And yet, I can’t believe it’s going to be a month since we left for Europe. It’s been over two weeks since we’ve been back, and the reason time has zipped by like this is because it has been one thing or another, non-stop, for us since we got back. Between the illness, hospital visits, finishing up my course, attending the last workshop, and keeping the people at home fed at regular intervals (which meant having a kitchen up and functioning more than it has in all the months I’ve used it), I’ve been packed up to my gills with activity.

Time does this funny thing where it shrinks and expands unannounced. Both, when the days are packed to the hilt and I don’t know if I’m going or coming. Like it has been the past few weeks. I feel it in my brain, with the lack of words to share.

When the frenetic up and down from the hospital died down, we all breathed a sigh of relief. It has meant lazy days together, afternoon naps sometimes, meals eaten leisurely and all of that. But even so, I realised today that I haven’t given myself much time to unwind. I have missed catching up with friends. I haven’t had my weekly breakfast out in about a month now. And I have missed doing little things with myself. I didn’t read much on holiday and swore I’d get back and right into my kindle again, but I haven’t so much as touched it.

This is a strange turn of events for me. I haven’t been this busy in forever. The upside is the house is functioning on clockwork — something I’ve longed to put in action only for like everrr now. I’ve found hidden reserves of mojo to cook meal after meal and not tire or feel bored of it. As yet. And in between it all I’ve managed to get some work done, albeit a little past my deadlines. And we’re juggling planning the move of about half our home back to Goa next week.

Today, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by it all. Next week we’ll drive down to Goa again. This time with half our life packed in boxes trailing along. I will then set up house with VC, where he will reside, spend about 2-3 weeks there over Diwali and beyond, and return alone.

I’m overwhelmed. And excited. And unlike before, neither of the two seem to be bubbling over. Today, I realised despite the stress, the sheer overwhelm from everything that has to be done, the finality of VC moving, the lack of space and pause, the complete absence of stillness, I have quite unconsciously and easily kept myself together. This is new. This is different. This is totally unexpected.

This time around, I know what has changed.

Day 285: They’ll be making sure you stay amused

Grateful for friends today. This week has shown me abundance in friendship like never before.

Rekindled connections, restored conversations, grown up versions of the camaraderie we once had.

New friends who I’ve found unexpectedly. New friends who visibly feel a sense of kinship through the experience of the work we shared and make no bones about wanting to stay in touch long after.

Friends who lead by example and champion causes dear to us. Friends who will always be the torchbearers for me to look up to.

Friends who relentless stay in touch and more even when I completely fail to.

Friends who send me food. Always, friends who send me food.

Two years ago: Day 285: Shifting gears

Day 284: September

Heaven, let your light shine down

I’ve thought long and hard about how I can sum up September. I’ve written, re-written and written again, this post collating all that happened in the month, and yet the right way to put it together has eluded me. Continues to elude me. It’s odd because so much happened in September. I was busy, the days were long, I was out and about, and then I went away on what can easily be called one of the best holidays of the last decade for me. Somehow, I’ve been lost for words.

This morning, I realised that perhaps it’s okay. That perhaps I must post this anyway, without neatly tying everything up with a bow. September was over-stimulating. September was snappy and brisk. And yet, September has left me silent. September has made me sit down and be still again.

For far too long now I have been seeking this stillness within. The sort of stillness that steadies me even in the midst of bustling action. Suddenly I realise, September was all about that kind of stillness deep within. Stillness that anchors, steadiness that fills a space. Somewhere, unbeknownst to me, that steadiness has crept in making space for a quiet assuredness that makes it possible to rest without my fingers fidgeting to hold something, to flow from one thing to the next without always knowing how or what or why, to be busy on the outside and calm within all at once, and to let go of the answers knowing that I can sit still with the questions swimming within.

Uncertainty, quietude, surrender, unsettling — there has never been a time in my life that I have enjoyed any of this. And somehow, here I am today doing exactly that. So here goes.

***

I had a shit ton of work last month, and the added pressure of finishing it all before I went away. And in classic fashion, I procrastinated a helluva lot before I eventually got it done.

Despite that, there’s been that stillness I mentioned. Peaceful, easy days with emotions running high, thoughts astir.
I feel a deep sense of contentment for where I am right now and all that life has brought for me, especially this past year.
I pondered about inclusion and what it means to evolve and think back wistfully, to older versions of myself.
On distraction and my relationship with screens.
Thoughts on social media, as a result of unrestricted screen-time I had.
Writing every single day this year has been not just exceedingly joyful, but also beneficial.
I’ve also found a new dimension of friendship that fuels me.

HAPPY days of love in September included the Supreme Court decriminalizing homosexuality in India. And our tenth wedding anniversary.

I spent a large chunk of the month in Europe and I posted every single day. Sometimes with words, sometimes without.
Enroute: Day 0
Paris: Day 1: Hello Paris, day 2: walking about, day 3: more aimless wandering, day 4: in love with the city of love
Brugges: Day 5: rainy welcome, day 6: all is forgiven, day 7: lessons in uncertainty
Amsterdam: Day 8: sensory overload, day 9: catching sunrise and sunset, day 10: last day reflections

Gratitude, as always.
For choosing the slow, flexible life that supports my inner being.
For the abundance that has come my way in recent times.
For love: in strong friendship that has grown unexpectedly, for family that comes through against all odds.
For friendship across continents, timezones and life spaces.

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***

One month ago: Day 246: August
Two months ago: Day 219: July
Three months ago: Day 184: June

Four months ago: Day 152: May
Five months ago: Day 134: April
Six months ago: Day 92: March
Seven months ago: Day 60: February
Eight months ago: Day 32: January

One year ago: Things change
Two years ago: Day 284: Escape

Day 283: Wandering through life will love come home to you

Lessons on becoming come at me from all sides. Sometimes loud and crashing, toppling carefully curated beliefs, forcing in freshness. Sometimes gently, softly, like comforting words whispered in confidence.

As I contemplate a time of solitude, with a deliberate focus on my becoming — that little bit that’s begging to turn that will only turn when I am alone — I find solace in the ways in which these messages show up at me. I realised earlier this month, that it was in September 2016, when I first sought therapy for what felt like a spiral into a depressive state, that I began this journey. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. And since then, it has been a slow and steady process of peeling back the layers, cutting the fluff, removing all excesses, shedding all that no longer serves me, in order to move closer and closer to what lies beneath. An inner sense of knowing, intuition, a soul’s calling — whatever you may choose to call it.

This year especially, there has been something very steadying about finding my centre again — a centre that’s not attached to work, to my spouse, to my family, to a city, etc. And yet, I am still seeking a little something more. I can’t really explain it, but I feel that little bit that I am still seeking, I can only find in solitude.

I’m fortunate to finally be in a place in my life and in my marriage where this is a viable option. It has taken time and effort to get to a place in our marriage and relationship where VC and I feel safe and secure to deliberately stay apart. Not because of logistics, but out of the need to exercise the choice of wanting to stay alone for sometime. He deserves it as much as I do — to live our own selves into being. It has taken considerable shedding fear and uncertainty. But here we are. I’m so excited to watch this unfold and see where it takes us.

Day 274: Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity

Reporting from the comforts of my home. With over twelve hours of sleep under my belt, three cups of filter coffee, an entire meal with dal and veggies included cooked by me, two loads of laundry done and the extreme luxury of a bum-spray in the loo. I am truly home now.

It was a whirlwind of a trip, to be honest. Not our usual laid-back, unwind kind of beach holiday. We’ve clocked some crazy kilometres on our feet, seen every sunrise and sunset, and used every mode of public transport available in these cities (ferries included!) over these past 12 days. Such a far, far cry from our usual beach holidays. It wasn’t just the walking that I’ve mentioned so many times before. There was something very different about the energy on this holiday — the keenness to get out and explore, to see things, to push ourselves rather than settle for the usual wind down, find a spot on the beach/on an island and not move till the end of the holiday.

It’s also the holiday we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones. Took buses instead of flights. Chose hostels instead of hotels. Did things I thought I was done doing — sharing a room and loo with complete strangers. But it all worked out, and I’m a bit chuffed at how it did. This has clearly been a time for discovering unexpected things about ourselves. Yet again.

As a result, it’s also been a bit emotional. I’ve had a world of feelings surface. From overwhelming excitement, incredible wonder at little things I observed about city life and people in Europe, to touch of regret about how little of it we see back home, a realisation that I have quite a bit of harboured shame about being Indian, and a rekindled urge to live overseas. Some more regret about not having chased that dream sooner too. And a heart burst open with the realisation that it’s not too late to do it over now.

However, the overarching emotion has been a lot of love and gratitude. And nothing sealed this more for me, than coming home after a 12 hours (with over 24 hours of no sleep), when I could have been very crabby and cranky, but I returned happy and content. Not all holidays end this way, you know.

There’s always the usual blues I feel even just coming back from Goa. But to have a full heart and to actually look forward to being home again, said a lot about how fulfilling the holiday has been. I feel like I had the best time I could have possibly had. I got a lot from this holiday — expected and unexpected. And it was just so satisfying.

We ended up staying with S in Paris for one night. It wasn’t even remotely part of our plan. And then J flew in from Hamburg to surprise us. And suddenly our time in Paris changed dramatically, unexpectedly becoming a reunion that stoked a warm fire of forgotten memories as we conversed endlessly, laughed and gossiped. There was also so much wandering wherever our feet wanted to take us, picnicking in parks, lounging on street corners, eating wherever and whenever we pleased, some pub hopping and LOTS of wine.

I had a moment when I realised that I’ve known these boys for almost a decade now. There are few people I think of reconnecting with the way I do with these fellows. In the years since they left Goa, and we did too, we’ve all gone wildly different ways. They’re not people I actively stay in touch with. No social media means I have to make the effort, and I haven’t been very good at all with that these past few years. I might send the occasional text, J relentlessly sends me postcards from his travels, but that’s about it. We’re not clued in on the little ins and outs of each other’s lives anymore like we used to be. But it always happily surprises me when time and time again we manage to snatch chances to catch up. It’s nearly not as frequent as we’d like it to be. But we do manage it, and when we do, time rolls back and slips effortlessly right back to the way things used to be. Distances diminish, boundaries collapse, timezones melt down and we’re the same four bodies drinking and eating and listening to good music and having a laugh all over again. In fact, this was the fourth continent that I have caught up with S in. Over our third bottle of wine and an elaborate snack plate at S’s on our last evening there, I actually told them this — there’s not a lot of people I have the liberty and good fortune of doing this with, but with them I know it will always go back to being easy like we know it, and that’s what makes me want to do it again and again.

I ponder over friendship a lot. I have a lot of different kinds of it in my life at the moment — a whole varied assortment of friends — but even so I am a bit raw about recent experiences in this respect. And this realisation — of what we have with J and S — was soothing like balm. That afternoon, I might have healed a long sore wound and filled up a little emptiness in me.

VC is easily my best travel mate for a range of reasons, but mostly because of his keen sense of curiosity and ability to go all out to get what he wants. It means if he sets his mind on something — a spot for his evening shot, or a particular cuisine we feel like eating, or finding the most uncommercial things to do — he will go all out to make it happen. This compliments my low-key, go-with-the-flow attitude completely.

The rest of the trip had VC going a bit batshit with the photography. You can see his pictures from the trip on his Instagram page. All the aimless wandering certainly helped, and if it weren’t for him and his obsessive commitment to getting all the good pictures, I might not have explored these cities the way I did with him. Ever so grateful for that. Ticking off museums and sights wasn’t on our agenda, so we just took every day as it came, deciding in the morning what we felt like doing, which direction we wanted to wander in, with no real fixed agenda.

It was my second time in Brugges too, so things felt a bit familiar up until them. Amsterdam, on the other hand, was a whole other story. A massive cultural onslaught that smacked me in the face. I thoroughly enjoyed, for obvious reasons bahaha, even though it felt like an odd mix of Bombay and Goa at times which disoriented me in the beginning.

Of course, I’ve left a piece of my heart each in Paris, Brugges and Amsterdam. But I am also feeling so content. I’m so full of love for the experiences, gratitude for how everything worked out despite minimal planning, and I am most thankful for how much the holiday has triggered in my mind, pushing me to get out of my head, and the amount of fodder it’s given me to move ahead from here on.

Two years ago: Day 274: For every down, there is an up

Day 272: Say, say, say, hey, hey now baby

Amsterdam. Day 3.

It’s been ten whole days since we left India and finally I’m craving a good hot frothy sugarless filter coffee. Even though the frothy hot chocolate I’ve been having everyday (sometimes twice!) Has been excellent. I could also do with some veggies that are not lettuce and tomatoes. The food has been stupendous on this trip. We’ve had everything from local favourites wherever we stayed to fancy Italian and picnics in the park, overstuffed cheese platters, Lebanese, Asian and even so much dessert! I can’t think of a single meal that disappointed me, honestly. And that’s not just my easily-satisfied side speaking. Even so, it’s time for some veggies, I think. And some cold home-set dahi. Those are the basics. And I guess I’m that person who will in cliche fashion want those basics after ten days in a continent that loves white flour.

***

Im most surprised at not getting any reading done. I knew this was going to be a high activity, lots of getting out kind of trip. Even with all the walking, I’d assumed there’d be lots of lazy spaces and pockets of time — a day in the park, some hours ago a coffee shop, an evening by the sidewalk — where I could read. You see, that’s typically what I do on holiday. But this one has been so dramatically different. And in such a refreshingly new way — to be out and about in three different countries in such a short time — I’ve observed, internalised and learned so much just from watching. And like I said before, I’ve been so full with the experiences that I haven’t felt the urge to reach out or need a change of pace.

***

We have walked so, so much. That was a given when we planned this trip. Even so, the amount of traversing we finally have done has been overwhelming. We bought day passes for the trains, buses and trams everywhere and virtually took no cabs. This is a first for us.

The other thing I’ve watched with amazement is how we’ve so easily skipped one me everyday. Either breakfast or lunch depending on how we’ve felt at the start of the day. This was done for no other reason than that all things edible here come in such generous portions, the meals we have eaten have been large and sumptuous. Even with all the walking about we’ve eaten two big meals a day and felt completely fine.

***

This trip has really rekindled the explorer variety of travel that I thought I was done with. I was definitely in a space where all holidays were about winding down and relaxing, but this time I outside my own expectations of myself by exploring every place we went to. Doing it on foot probably added to the experience, because there’s something about getting a grasp of the place on foot that’s unparalleled.

This has also meant a lot of wistful longing for my 20s. Seeing my friends in Europe, with the life and opportunity for so much we can never dream of in India made me really think about how I might do my 20s over if I had the chance. Seeing them reminded me of dreams I’ve let go of and just pass me by as inaccessible because of the way life has come to me.

I have a deep longing to fulfill some of those forgotten dreams of travel and living. But on the other hand, getting out like this without a plan and seeing how easy it has been to navigate the place On my own has also infused me with a new excitement that maybe I will make up for lost time in my 30s.

This is movement for me. And it really made me warm and fuzzy with new eye and virgin excitement, like the world is my oyster right now. The months ahead literally have so many options open. VC has been throwing very tempting life plans at me, planting multiple seeds of possibility and I’m stunned at how longing for lost time quickly becomes excitement for the time I have. This is definitely a movement towards a healthier space.

Two years ago: Day 272: I am eager

Day 271: Walk with me for a while

Amsterdam. Day 2.

Amsterdam Blues. And how. The good weather streak is back.

At first hit, Amsterdam Centraal felt like a mildly sophisticated Bombay. The inner lanes we wound or way through felt like Baga. And then we went down to China Town and had a noodle lunch. Listening to the restaurant staff chat away in what sounded to my ignorant ears like Chinese gave me a proper mind-bending WTF-am-I feeling, because suddenly I felt like it could have been Bangkok or Singapore.

Or it was just that Amsterdam air kicking in good and solid.

I’m amazed by these buildings, the incessant cyclists and how is the prevalent form of transport here.

I’ve been on VCs holiday schedule these last few days, which is to catch the sunrise and sunset everyday and work everything else we want to do around that. It’s settled into a nice rhythm and I realise there’s no other way I’d probably ever wake up this early on holiday and walk about a new city so much on my own. This has been a fun new thing to do. And a great way to explore the non essential sights.

And when the city and skies look this good, it’s worth it.

One year ago: On letting go of what is meant-to-be and enjoying what-is
Two years ago: Day 271: Control issues, part 2

Day 270: One night to speed up the truth

Amsterdam. Day 1.

We’ve gone from great blistery weather to impossibly cold weather back to really toasty crisp weather again.

I’m really getting used to this layering business and find myself illogically drawn to staring at people’s extremely cool sneakers and catch myself daydreaming about building my own collection.

Riding the metro in, I realised that this wasn’t part of the plan, but happily so, we’ve experienced three wildly different cities with wildly different cultures and entirely fresh vibe each.

I didn’t anticipate how freeing this mingling with people would be. It’s been a proper sensory overload and my brain hasn’t been able to do much else.

My loaded up Kindle lies untouched, my notebook has 2.5 entries. My days are going by in a haze of thoughts, contemplation and happiness. And lots of walking and wandering.

Okay, Amsterdam. Let’s do this.

Two years ago: Day 270: Control issues