So, yeah I missed the best, coldest winter days because they passed when I was in Goa. The first week of January saw lows of 9-10 degrees, I hear. I was so jealous.
Thankfully 12-13 degree lows we’re having no are pretty cold. My home and Amma’s too, while well-lit don’t receive too much direct sunshine. There’s plenty light but no spots in the sun to sit in. So I’ve been in full sleeves clothes and feeling my fingers go cold and refusing to co-operate when I try and type.
I may be revelling in the dregs of winter a little more dramatically than I need to, with:
The ten minutes of snuggling in my blanket, that I allow myself after getting out only to turn the fan off
Resuming yoga and breaking into a sweat even when it’s 13 degrees out
That scalding hot bath after, putting on two layers of clothes when my body is still warm, and trapping that post-bath warmth within
Sharp, long sunny winter morning shadows
Shawls, stoles and sweaters in the day
Socks in bed at night
Hot sugarless coffee with breakfast, after lunch, at teatime and sometimes after dinner
Soaking my feet in a bucket of salty water as I’m sitting by a candle writing my journal for the day, right before bed
Things that have suddenly kicked back to life, despite this half-life existence, during this WIP time in Goa:
The will to cook full goddamn meals. I mean complete with dal, dabzi, curry and the works. And I mean the urge went beyond that two-day surge of inspiration.
The self-imposed WhatsApp shut-down. Bliss has returned. I cannot wait for this to be the norm again.
The urge to go running. And I’m kicking myself for not carrying my sneakers with me.
VC got me a portable speaker for the Goa house, days before I arrived here. Sure, I asked for it really politely, but the fact that he obliged without so much as a counter-question kind of surprised me. You see, VC is the kind of freak who finds music to be a distraction in most spaces. And I’d include a club or lounge too. This has significantly affected my music listening patterns. I choose earphones more often than not, and even though I manage, it just isn’t the same, you know?
Our home in Bangalore saw a minor resurgence of music. And that further blossomed once VC moved out last month. When I’m alone with nobody to feel bothered and hassled by the music, it was expected I suppose. But it’s been over two weeks in Goa and I have to state for the record that we’ve been listening to a lot of music. Everyday. And yes, it’s a we, because VC is yet to object or protest or ask me to turn it down/off. He’s living on the edge by tolerating music that I turn on the moment I wake up, and since this is a much smaller house it’s not even like he can hide himself away somewhere and escape it. I’d go so far as to say he’s enjoying it, maybe? Because he’s asked about some of the music I played, downloaded some of my Apple playlists too.
I don’t know what has changed, but I like it.
Here’s what I have had on loop of late:
This album rushed back to my conscious mind after we heard it at the pizza bar, sitting under an awning of inverted baskets with lights embedded in them, casting the best glow. Listening to it while I cook works best!
I don’t know how it happened that I missed this entire album. I guess there’s something to be said of how quietly and consistently JM keeps churning these extra tight, powerful, moving albums. Just banging them out relentlessly, it’s hard to keep track. Turns out I’d heard a couple of tracks of it, but didn’t realise they were from an entirely new album. This track particularly hits me in the feels. It’s just so tight.
I’m late to the PK party. I’m almost ashamed to say I really liked this song because I’d hitherto dismissed him as repetitive and monotonous, whiny music for heartbroken desi millennials. And maybe that description will ring true in a while. But this track, and this album, has stayed I keep waiting for when it’ll get annoying and it hasn’t happened yet.
And just like that, we’re more or less done. Yeah, still only more or less. I’d say about 95%. I’d like some more plants — indoors and out. Art and photographs on the walls and some more essentials in the kitchen. But for now, this will more than do.
Gratitude for the privilege that is a second home. In a second state. By the beach. For all the resources — monetary and otherwise — that came our way at the right time in getting this home up and going. For my folks who’ve cheered us on right from the word go when we put in our down payment on this home. For friends who pitched in all along in so many, many, many ways — I can’t even count the ways. For VC my rock. For VC my fellow-nester. For VC my all-time partner in crime who has more or less indulged my every whim as far as this home goes.
We spent all day today — all day except for a break for lunch and a snooze — in our night clothes and unbathed, painting furniture.
Deliberate, painstakingly slow, I realised only at the end of the day that it had been quite an exercise in relinquishing control — for VC, of the rush to get the job done, and for me, of obsessing over and being ring leader to make sure it’s a “neat” job.
Waiting for paint to dry meant what we thought would be a 3-4 hour job took all day. But that was the beauty of it all. It took an unplanned activity that we got into without much thought, to make a day of it.
When these chairs came home, I assumed I’d be doing this paint job on my own. Obviously, I assumed it wouldn’t interest VC, let alone hold his attention for an entire day.
I love that day 1 began with a pleasant surprise. And a lesson for me to allow myself to be helped. Even without asking.
They say what you do on the first day of the year sets the tone for the rest of the year. And if the contentment we’re feeling right now is anything to go by, this has been a good start. There was pleasure in having head, heart and hands all in, intimacy in working together and chattering through it all, camaraderie in the occasional laughter non-stop music. And all this while creating things that will go into making our home a little cosier.
Goa a second time around has been special. This trip, especially so. Something about making a home, our own home, has triggered a lightness about me. It has freed a little bit of me in an inexplicable sort of way.
I never want to forget what it feels like to be this free. This happy. This absorbed in building a life that fits and makes sense to me. And us. This interested in scribbling little anecdotes that will become slices of memories in the album of my life.
What a ride it’s been this year, all the wheels and various moving parts of my being moving to nurture a mind that works for me and with me. A mind that has the ability to stay when everything about my body (and brain) wants to flee. A mind that has a capacity for joy. A mind that has tasted strength in vulnerability and wants so desperately to let that creep under my skin. A mind that has come so very far, and is longing to go the journey ahead. A kind mind to call my own.
I’m grateful for all the minds and hands that have gone into making a home from the shell of a house we came to some time ago. It’s taken time, and it’s been all kinds of trying, but we’re finally almost there.
I think back to how things were nine years ago when we first came here, with just cartons full of shoes and clothes and absolutely nothing to make a home with. I remember how hard it was being in a new place where we didn’t know anybody at all, figuring out places to buy essentials, not being able to afford furniture, feeling totally at sea and all alone. And I think of how this time around our experience has been completely the opposite. The sense of familiarity and homeliness in Goa aside, this time around, we’ve been surrounded by overtures of help, friends who handed down furniture, surprise interventions of the right thing showing up at the right time. And it made me realise how little of the stuff that’s gone into it is our own. It’s a product of mostly people’s kindness and generosity. Only the marginally better ability to receive it is our own.
That little makeshift kind-of settee is actually a baby bed that my aunt S didn’t want to let go of after her babies had outgrown it. So she offered it to me to keep just when we needed seating in the new home.
That teak-wood book case belonged to my great grand father, and after many years in our old Goa has finally found a forever-home in this one.
Those curtains were the first thing that went up in this home. D helped me one morning, and it was one of the first moments I felt this house had potential.
Before VC moved in here, he (and I for a bit) were camped out of D’s home for a whole month. When VC eventually moved, he took the liberty of taking a comforter and pillow with him. To use on the mattress D had passed on to us. Along with a set of side tables that made the only furniture VC has had for a whole month. Last week D handed down an extra double bed, complete with a set of side tables, completely changing over our visions of slumming it on the floor for at least 6 months before we felt ready to buy ourselves a bed.
The jute chairs in our terrace are about as old as I am, and came to us from my parents. They’re sturdy and great for sitting outdoors, but are in need of re-stringing and I hope to do that myself next week.
Our entire kitchen and bedroom wardrobes were made by an efficient, creative and very, very polite carpenter in Bangalore. My father designed and instructed him, while he built it all in Bangalore, then collapsed it all, neatly packed it, transported it to my home there, stacked it in storage. I then arranged a transporter, had it all packed and sent to Goa. The carpenter then landed up in Goa a day after I did and got to work, assembling it all in a record 2 days. Achieving this would have been unthinkable in Goa.
That dinette was my father’s idea and it trumps our idea to stick a table in such a small kitchen-living-dining space.
Starting last month, this has been a testing period — more for VC who actually lived in a non-home for the most part — in trying to get shit done. It’s holiday season and finding workmen is getting increasingly hard. And even in between much complaining and cribbing on my part, things are shaping up.
I’m grateful for all the help I got, and that I continue to get. It has been such a massive blessing as we begin again.
Before I look back on last month, I want to remember last weekend.
My favourite kind of experiences are those that flow organically, forcing you to go in with no expectations, but emerge with so much more than just the experience. This past weekend was kind of like that, for me. Last week, when I found I had finished up all my assignments for November a week ahead of time, I decided to sign up for 3 days of participation in D and K’s practice module on a whim. Until then I was quite sure I didn’t really need to go, and so my inclination was low. But what I experienced, was far bigger and better than anything I could have anticipated. It was yet another instance of being guided into the right place at the right time, finding myself representing parts that resonated with my own position and patterns in life, prodding me on to look deeper at things I am unconsciously resisting seeing. More than one aha moment occurred and completely unexpected was the impact they have had on me. So deep that I have begun my Monday with a bang, acting on three things that have been mere ideas in my head, very very quickly this morning.
Besides the experience itself, I absorbed, with wonder and humility, yet again, how this work is the gift that just keeps giving. When Im not looking, when I’m not even anticipating it. There is healing and then there is this kind of healing that comes in gentle, timely doses that I feel so blessed to be a part of.
Then there were umpteen, endless conversations with D & K of course. I sometimes wonder when we will run out of things to talk about, and how it is that we always have so much to talk about.
There was also lots of little happy making events. An MTR thali, another opportunity for a whole day in a saree, pani puri, two evenings of enjoyable whiskey drinking after such a long spell of feeling completely not inclined to drinking, greasy Chinese take out, fresh fruit and mithai and eating together.
Early on Sunday morning, D and I went for a long walk again, increasing our pace and distance by a notch. Topping it off with idli-vada and hot coffee makes it worth leaving home that early on a Sunday morning. The rest of the day was spent completely relaxed, and in the evening we caught Bohemian Rhapsody, finally. What a complete treat it was. And once again, it touched me in a way I least expected it to. I thought I’d be entertained, yes. I didn’t think I’d be moved. Moved by the sheer mammoth powerhouse of talent that Freddie Mercury is, and the entire canon of his poetry and art. It’s a beautifully made film, that captures the energy just spot on. In fact, it’s left me feeling like I need to watch it again. Somewhere in between there was coffee in an elephant mug, and mutton mince samosas from Albert Bakery.
I had a good weekend that has filled my heart up. And something tells me there is more to come.
It’s hard to believe we’re almost at the end of November. Though my mind seems to want to defy that passage of time, within I’m feeling a slow churn like the wheels beginning to warm up and whir. It’s been many months of slowly taking one day at a time, walking through the disorienting I-don’t-know-ness of “future plans”. I’ve been waiting for a sign. Some indication from within or around, rather than a preconceived and fixed idea about where I ought to go next.
This has been time off from doing, and suddenly when the time to do something has come, Ive felt stumped and a bit caught in the headlights. It is so easy to slip back into these old patterns. Even so, I find myself still calmly moving. Without a plan, but with intention. Without a routine, but with a method to the madness.
At some level, I’m beginning to believe there is no other way to get closer to ones most authentic self, than to let go of the controls and commit to a slow life. I feel like this journey would have been incomplete without these important everyday-living lessons in waiting, patience, acceptance and surrender.
There is an incredibly freeing kind of joy in taking things slow that I never knew was possible, or that I could enjoy.
That said, I’ve sensed a shift these past few days. Like a pregnant buzzing pause before new beginnings. There’s some thoughts brewing about projects, new interests to pursue and some journeys to take. Fitting, as we’re fast approaching the close of the year. So even though my mind tells me it can’t possibly be the end of November, deeper within I know this has been a long time coming.
[Goddamit, WordPress has gone and changed something around and everything looks different. WHY?! Why do you have an issue with things that work well staying the way they are?!]
With that out of the way, and while I try and figure out how to insert pictures *eyeroll* let me tell you about Auroville (and I’m going to quickly run through this).
All the non-stop running around since 1 September had really left me feeling very exhausted and in need of some deliberate, organised downtime. Outside my own home, removed from the urge to potter around and tidy up and generally keep myself needlessly busy. I have been longing for some time to just sit, be, slow down, empty my head, breathe easy. I wanted to go away somewhere — not fancy where I’d be tempted to sightsee — where I could wander aimlessly, or choose to sit with a book (or two, or three!) uninterrupted. Some likeminded company would have been good, I thought. In a wild, wild coincidence I happened to discuss the idea and the sudden urge to eat at the Solar Kitchen (in Auroville) with A, exactly when she was plotting to go over there on the weekend, by herself. So of course I just tagged along, in what she called our separate “alone trips”. But not without some overthinking of the fact that I would only just be back from Goa less than 48 hours before taking off again, that I have been feeling travelled out and should probably chill. But really, it took a split second to realise two days wasn’t going to change much. So I quit the overthinking and just went. With the express intention of accompanying A to eat at the Solar Kitchen.
As much as I like elaborate holidays that require planning yada yada, I am oh so very happy with this kind of quick escape, with absolutely no plan whatsoever. We picked a spot to stay within walking distance of the Solar Kitchen. Because, priorities. And allowed the rest of the nonexistent plan to work itself out around that. Which it did, organically, spontaneously and rather beautifully for our liking.
What ensued was two days of mostly wandering around on foot, interspersed with lots of reading and eating. Yeah, basically just that.
The cyclone scare meant the weather while humid and sweaty, wasn’t exactly blistering and painfully hot as it could have been. We had pleasant-ish weather most of the way, which encouraged us to get out a little. We walked a total of 11 kms on day 1, despite spending most of it sitting around reading or eating. We hit the Solar Kitchen, the Auroville Library (which is oh-my-god delightful, and an ideal place to spend many uninterrupted hours, if you enjoy books and silence) and neither spots kicked us out in a rush. So there was much lounging, pulling out our books wherever we were plonked, and proceeding to lose ourselves.
Then we took a loooong one-hour walk to the beach to catch the sunset, making stops at the Auroville Bakery and Farm Fresh to stock up on Auroville goodies, followed by a super-early pizza at Tanto’s before heading back home.
The great thing about eating at sunset means one still has a couple of hours before bedtime, which we of course spent, surprise surprise, reading, and still slept early enough to rise just after sunrise the next day. We walked upto the MatriMandir, which wasn’t too far off from our guesthouse, but of course we weren’t let in. No amount of referring to the sweet security dude as “uncle” seemed to help. The rest of the morning, post an excellent breakfast of muesli and yogurt with fruit and hot chai, was spent lazing in bed, you guessed right, reading. At lunch time we headed back to Solar Kitchen and hit the Visitor’s Centre to shop for some more goodies before walking back home again. When the sun went down a bit, we hit the beach again — earlier this time — to take in the evening sights and the sunset. A chai stopover later, we were back home to catch yet another dinner and lots of bedtime reading again.
You get the drift right? We were very, very focused on the eating and the reading, strategically planning all our wandering based on where we wanted to stop to eat and the moment we settled in a quiet spot for longer than five minutes, we’d whip out our books and ignore each other. Somewhere in between all this we chatted too, somehow. Lots and lots of chatting, some gossiping, lots of giggling. It was just the weekend I needed, and it couldn’t have panned out better.
We meant to book ourselves tatkal tickets to return on Sunday night, but a slow Internet connection, a two minute delay in catching the window and a large dose of not caring too much meant we missed our chance. And so we ended up staying an extra night only to leave on Monday. Which actually worked out excellently because it meant I got to finish three entire books, have an extra breakfast at the guesthouse and I always prefer leaving fresh on a new day than spend a whole day in anticipation of leaving at sunset (which is always so FOMO-inducing).
Things I enjoyed the most:
A train ride after yonks! And unreal excitement about cooking and packing dinner to eat enroute. Train journeys are all about the food for me.
Walking, walking, walking. I’ve been feeling the need to move, and walking specifically, has been calling out to me. Ever since I had to make the hard decision to skip the next OXFAM trail-walk (because I’m woefully underprepared this year and in absolutely no shape to wing it) I’ve been feeling the urge to start walking in preparation for next year. Wandering on foot has been such a great way to get a hang of the areas I’ve travelled to, and creates a very different kind of connect with the space that I’ve loved and hadn’t tasted in ages
All the reading. To be able to read in silence, as much as yak nonstop is special thing to share with a friend. I’m happy to add another person with whom I can share this with, to my list.
The sense of community at AV. While there’s a confusing slightly disorienting strain to wandering around a hot and sweaty area in Tamil Nadu surrounded by white people who seem to be more in tune with the land than most of us visiting there like outsiders, it definitely triggered a yearning for community living in me. One of the things that’s really come to the fore thanks to living in Bangalore is how isolating and insulating city life can be. In sharp contrast to my life in Goa where I’ve just had the luxury of camping out at a friends for three weeks, where everything is slower and harder to get done but the process leads to uncanny conversations and surprising connections and dependencies always gives me a sense of community and connection that I miss in Bangalore where there’s a palpable dog-eat-dog energy and everyone just fends for themselves and asking for help is so difficult. It warms my heart to see people come together, in whatever form, to nourish and nurture a common vision and I hope and wish that somewhere in my future, I have the means to experience this more deeply.
Watching women cycle around with such ease. In dhoti pants, in sarees, in cycle shorts and all the gear — so was so much cycling it made me think back wistfully to my cycling days in Goa.
The ease with which I could get up and go. This was a real thrill, one that I am still savouring slowly two days after I’ve been back. This is new and refreshing for me.
The food. The food. The food.
A visible, slowly permeating shift in my own ability to connect with people one-on-one. While on the one hand I’ve been talking about and feeling a sense of needing a community, deeper within, I’ve sensed a shift of sorts in my own personal connection with people. My “groups” seem to be dwindling fast, and it’s putting me in a very different space, forging healthier, more stable, and most importantly hassle-free equations with many of those same people, as individuals. It has come with a fair amount of anxiety about something very deep and innate about me changing, the resistance to let the comforts of an old and stable pattern go, but it has also been oddly liberating and that has encouraged me to push thru, let down my guard and not worry too much about the old ghosts that rear their heads so often.
The sea. I realise I visit the beach so little in Goa, that going to the beach elsewhere is still a treat. I made a mental note to make the effort to go to the sea more often when I’m back in Goa, because it’s a luxury I don’t want to take for granted.
Back from a weekend away at Auroville with A. I’m feeling enriched and energised. It was the kind of getaway where we meant to be away for one night but ended up staying two. And even with the extra time, spent 70% of our time with our noses stuck deeply in our respective books, stopping for nothing but meals, wandering in search of meals and chatting about past and future meals for the remaining 30% of our time, all the while contorting our lazing bodies into shapes conducive for uninterrupted reading but that gave one of us a crick in the neck and another to finish three books over the weekend.
A has been telling me about the poetry of Jeet Thayil for a while now. I’m not too big on poetry but sometimes something so apt comes my way and makes me wonder if it’s time to venture into these unexplored territories. In an unexpected coincidence while hunting for what to read next, I stumbled on this absolute piece of perfection, which I have just discovered is in his recent collection.
Give me a home that isn’t mine, where I can slip in and out of rooms without a trace, never worrying about the plumbing, the colour of the curtains, the cacophony of books by the bedside. A home that I can wear lightly, where the rooms aren’t clogged with yesterday’s conversations, where the self doesn’t bloat to fill in the crevices.
A home, like this body, so alien when I try to belong, so hospitable when I decide I’m just visiting.
Of course the collection has made it to my TBR list, immediately. But it’s also worked itself I to my newly content heart where I will allow it to germinate, unfurl slowly, watching closely as this idea of home takes new form in my head yet again.
Such a joy to be home, to travel, to have this sense in two places, and yet feel anchored within too.
Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
Remembering Maria’s excellent advice from a few years ago, that never gets old and that I like to revisit at least twice every single year.
Things that haven’t changed (and probably never will):
Last minute panic. Despite weeks of planning, spreadsheets and lists, and being in Goa for three weeks now, the bulk of all the work to be done with setting VC up in our new home happened in the last three days. And since this was largely due to reasons out of our control, there was no option to even be frustrated about it. With nobody to point fingers at and nobody’s door to place the blame on, we’ve had no choice but to go with the flow. Right up to the very last minute. Which means I have to leave home at 8.30 tonight to make my flight back home, but at 4.30 I’m in the house (which now, in addition to the other work going on here, has a hole where the main door lock used to be) waiting for work to get done.
New beginnings in a new home with the same old tradition of getting locked out. So, for three weeks now as I’ve been slowly getting things in order, we’ve waltzed in and out of this flat with ease. Today we finished some major bits and D and I lit a little lamp and laid out a few cards to honour and invoke new beginnings and good luck, and just we wrapped up and locked the door, it has refused to open again. It took my (very new) neighbour to valiantly climb out of his balcony adjacent to mine, teeter on the edge and climb into my home and enter through a thankfully unlocked balcony door, before he could open it from the inside and let me in. My parents have had this utterly strange phenomenon where almost every home they’ve moved into, they’ve been locked out of at an auspicious moment. I guess I’ve continued that tradition perfectly and I’d like to think of it as good luck. Phew.
It’s still horrifically difficult finding a handyman or handy-people to do odd jobs here in Goa. It’s largely why everything has come down to the wire in the last three days. Goa is Goa is Goa, I suppose.
While it has been largely easy to swallow the hiccups and resign myself to the slowness of this situation, I think the stress of these last few months has finally started to show on me. And as usual, the first thing to be shot to shit as a result of internalised stress, is my skin. Its so apparent this time around, with my face looking and feeling really, really crappy. Oh well, back to square one and getting things back in order once I’m back.
We’re far from done, and the house is still so bare but as usual, just the sight of curtains and dappled light makes everything feel homely. Immediately.
Things that have changed:
VC has surprised me by being the worked up, easily hassled and frustrated one of the two of us this time around. Every time that we’ve been in a situation like this in the past, with life up in the air and very little control on what’s going on, I am usually the first one to cave. This time around we’ve reversed roles and I’m pleasantly surprised.
I’m excited to be nesting again. But this is the first time we’re doing in a home of our own. The energy has been so different this time around. I’ve always thought I’m the sort who likes to daydream about homely spaces, and be in love with the idea of a lovely home, more than I actually have the will to act on it. Every time that I have felt a burst of inspiration to do anything around the home, it fades immediately after bare minimum is achieved. Perhaps this is because none of those spaces ever felt fully like my own. I’m noticing how much free-er we are able to be with decisions and spending money on the things we want to believe we deserve now that this home is for keeps. I’ve watched amazed as we’ve taken swift decisions and extended ourselves in uncharacteristic ways, with all things to do with the home, these past few weeks. There’s been a lovely sense of permanence about this that is so new and enjoyable. I’m almost envious that VC is the one who gets to enjoy this new space all on his own before I ever will!
Maybe it’s for the same reason that I’ve also felt far more connected with this home. And it’s the newness of it all that spurred me to do this. I’ve never been one for rituals. Especially if the house warming sort. But something has shifted in recent time, making me create rituals of my own. Little acts of faith, grounding and sincerity that probably have no place in religion, but mean something far more to me than my supposed religion ever will. And so I lit a lamp, and gathered these cards in the name of prosperity and celebrating new beginnings and sent out a wish to the universe to bless us as we do this. This song and dance of nesting that we’ve done so many times before. And yet this time it seems so very different.
After largely being emotionally in tune for the most part of the last many many months, I’ve been front a bit frayed these past few weeks. A sense of loose ends, everything up in the air, an unsettling front of everything around me building up to something but having absolunk idea what, and the stresses and strains of thisove have left me quite beside myself. I have felt disconnected and it’s shown on more than one occasion. All of which was revealed in this card reading for today. I long for some time to root myself again and the coming weekend promises just that.
Today I had thoughts on going with the flow, the weird thing that social media does where the simplest everyday things are treated like massive achievements, how acceptance and surrender are probably two sides of the same coin, and how the I manage to be weighed down by the sheer lightness and transience of friendship. But I’m cheating with a picture again today. My brain has just been all over the place these last few days and I’m not up to really articulating much.