Acceptance is a small, quiet room

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

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

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

Illustrating my point exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe he expected me to say I was visiting.

“I live here now,” I said, instead.

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

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

“You left Goa to come to this?”

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

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

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

And yet my answer was a simple “yes”.

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have embraced public transport and I barely drive anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Same time, last year: Day 319: Homeward bound

On going solo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

Same time, last year: Day 298: Weekend snippets

When one door shuts, open it again

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

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

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

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

I’m happy for the opportunities. Period.

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

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

Same time, last year: Day 294: Link loving

Postcards from Goa

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

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

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

Looking at everything anew sometimes makes all the difference.

Same time, last year: Day 293: Stuff

Things change

You have to know by now that the change theme is likely to be a recurring one in the foreseeable future.

Speaking of change, it has to be recorded that I used to be a homebody. In the last few months before I left Goa, this peaked. I’d pared my life down so much that I really went nowhere. With the exception of the gym and the supermarket and sometimes the odd coffee or drink out, I spent most of my time cooped up at home. Because that was where I felt good. Sane. Safe. It meant also avoiding people. Losing some friends. Missing out on social outings and some work opportunities. But it was all very deliberate. A conscious choice. So I’m not complaining. Merely recollecting how it used to be not so long ago.

And then I moved to Bangalore. And while the homebody in me still exists, I’ve surprised myself with how I’ve turned 180 degrees. Now, I sometimes find myself willing to brave traffic, rain, crowds, people and everything I thought I could never tolerate again, to get to places I want to see, to meet people I want to hang out with and do things I didn’t think I cared much for.

Case in point: I went to Nasi & Me on a day when it rained cats and dogs. Most uncharacteristically, I agreed to drive thru peak hour traffic, all the way across town, because I was told if there’s one Asian food place I absolutely had to try this was it.

***

For a few weeks now I’ve had the feeling that I need to get out of home to get into work mode. Such a swift turnaround from life in Goa where for the most part, writing in my guest room was where things worked best. But never say never and all that, this week, I tested out alternstives. And to my surprise, it worked.

***
Just when I was making peace with the slower, stiller life. Possible new definitions of productivity and the like. Looking at accepting a life less “busy” than the one I knew and the one I thought I was made for, things have happened.

Today I had not one but two meetings. And both took me outside of home, which meant  encountering the worst morning and evening rush hour traffic getting to and back from them meant. I had more work telephone calls today than I have had in a long, long time.

I felt terribly busy all of a sudden.

On a long day like today, when I got home at 8.30 pm and still had to send out e-mails that can’t wait till tomorrow, I stop and ask myself — omg who are you?!

Things change all time. All things. Everything. Us included.

Same time, last year: Day 285: Shifting gears 

What coming home feels like: Revisiting old haunts II

Quite a bit of the comfort and solace I find in being back in Bangalore comes from seeking pockets of familiarity. Whether it’s the closeness of meeting people I want to be with, or or the intimacy of spaces that once held a special place in my earlier life in this city, or going through the rhythm of acts, actions and rituals that lent a sense of comfort then. This old haunt has already become so oft frequented, I feel like furniture again. Some days, it’s like I never left.

This comfort overwhelms me the most, every time I find that there are still many little things that haven’t changed, even in the face of the sea-change panning out all about me.

In some ways it has been super hard for me to deal with and digest the change I see, since I was away for exactly those years that saw the most exponential change. This Bangalore I have returned to, is not the Bangalore I grew up in for sure, but it isn’t even the Bangalore I left. But it has its ways of wooing me. Especially when I find those pockets of comfort that seem to exist just as they did years ago. It’s so endearing.

Visiting Scottish Pub (that I frequented when I was in college) after more than a decade, to find that aside from retro cool coloured chairs having replaced the plastic bucket ones, the addition of an awning (so the rain doesn’t interrupt your drinking) and some really (accidentally, methinks) cool mood lighting, literally nothing else has changed. It has the same eager waiters, the funky house made, dodgy wine that you can’t stop having, watered down draught beer, a super non-indulgent, fuss-free menu that’s ended before you can say w-i-n-e and that same amazing chicken pakoda.

I spent a few hours there last week while it rained batshit crazy outside, and for those few hours it felt like I had gone back in time. Slipped back into the comfort of that familiarity of a memorable haunt that once was. Cut away from the metamorphosis that seems to have swept through everything that lies just beyond.

Yet again I realised, the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. And I find that oddly comforting.

Same time, last year: Day 284: Escape

A good life is a life of goodness

I’ve been talking in clear and indirect ways about wanting to get away. In June I declared to VC that the next thing I’d like to do for myself is to take a solo trip. The yearning has been bubbling within for a while now. But between my phase of not working, and VC getting his start-up off the ground, I have felt like this is not the best time for me to up and go.

So, I’ve dreamed about (and considered) holidays that I can’t take at the moment. I’ve worried about why I’m feeling the need to go away when I’ve done nothing to deserve the break. A break from what exactly? My busy schedule chockfull of introspection, navel gazing and self development? I’ve pondered about changing streams, looking at new avenues of work and stumbled at the very beginning, because I don’t know where to make a start. I’ve longed for openness, greener spaces and fresh air, every time I have wanted to get out of my home, even when I’m headed out for a coffee. I’ve articulated how much I long for a life that is mobile, agile, nomadic.

And suddenly, I’m sitting at the brink of two back-to-back opportunities for exactly all of the above. Opportunities that landed in my lap out of the blue, and that took minimal effort to bring to fruition. Opportunities that bring together exactly all the things that I’ve been dreaming about. To get away, be in green, wide open spaces, travel, do some new work, get some time by myself, take that solo holiday.

Opportunities that could be the start of something new.

***

Did you read this fabulous piece in the NYT? It hit so close home, I read it four times over the course of yesterday, and every time I had a different takeaway.

For far too long we’ve been peddled the incredibly restrictive definition of what success and achievement is. Especially in the context of the average middle-class Indian who is a product of the regular education system, the weight of making a living and/or finding a higher purpose in life is heavier than it needs to be. I have many thoughts about this, especially given how I have been a peddler of the there-has-to-be-more-to-your-life spiel at one time. Enough time, experience and age has shown me that this isn’t necessarily true, and not a tenet for everyone to uniformly aspire for. But I’ll save that for another day.

For now, read the piece. If you are a person, woman especially, stumbling through your days constantly looking for ways to downsize everything in the pursuit of simple things, it will definitely speak to you. I’ve written too many things about ambition, success and how I often feel like I am happy with less — whether it is less hard work, less people, silence, less consumption, minimalism, and even less money if it is the logical outcome of the above — too many times before. And this piece brought it all together, while also beautifully pitting it against a current generation of social media bullshitters who seem to be creating a new aspect of that same age-old theory that of aspiring for more — more money, more clothes, more travel, more work — automatically means more successful, thriving and full life.

Having idealistic aspirations is, of course, part of being young. But thanks to social media, purpose and meaning have become conflated with glamour: Extraordinary lives look like the norm on the internet. Yet the idea that a meaningful life must be or appear remarkable is not only elitist but also misguided.

I almost feel like some of the curated social media lives are a front that we need in order to justify so much of the evidence that we are all just pursuing the very simple, basic joys in life. The ones we all want and deserve. Simple joys that we’re trying so hard to give higher meaning to, because it might mean we’re not aspiring for a higher purpose. How on earth could we settle for less?!

Because how can our lives be just a collection of completely vain selfies one after another, or an selection of exorbitantly priced dress, a day of make up for no reason at all, a well-cooked meal, an utterly messy home, a badly behaved tantrummy child, a meal of maggi and grilled cheese, unless we somehow tie it in with a spiel that talks of something higher. Like, say, a superficial feminist message. A lecture on living an organic life. A whole lot of excessive consumption pretending to be a lifetime’s dedication to sustainability.

I ‘ve often looked at posts of the kind this piece describes and winced at the extreme elitism that they exude. Sometimes my mind boggles at the complete lack of awareness of their privilege too. 

Maybe part of growing up and creating this pause, stepping back and re-evaluating things is also about realising that a lot of my own idealistic aspirations from a younger time no longer hold true or serve a purpose. It is sobering and humbling to be able to recognise that and rework them. 

I’ve come to believe this inescapable need to be extraordinary at everything — whether it’s in your job, being a homemaker, a mother, a keeper of pets, or any bloody thing at all — is an outcome of growing up on a steady diet of the message of achievement and purpose being shoved down our throats. So much so that we’re now uncomfortable with the simplest things that are actually enough. And so we cannot admit it to ourselves, unless we package it in a shimmery wrapping of a “higher purpose”.

Heck even our selfies are now statements of a higher purpose.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant against vanity or self-indulgence or even presenting every little detail of your life on social media. I love it when people can unselfconsciously post pictures of themselves and their lives, and I really admire an unbridled dose of that kind of vanity. I just wish more people would be 100% true to it, and admit it.

I say admire, because even given my very high frequency of posting pictures on Instagram, there are have been far too many times when I’ve stopped myself from posting some specific things. Part of it is because I always question if what I am about to post is something I really want to share. But it is also because I realise I don’t possess that perfect balance of vanity and more importantly, true self-assurance, to present a completely authentic side of myself. A side that is at times vulnerable and feels inadequate.

It’s work in progress. And no, the goal isn’t likely to be being able to post an unselfconscious selfie, but rather, to decrease how much I subject myself to the lies, instead surround myself with authenticity.

I’ve unfollowed a crapton of handles that are increasingly feel like forced, hyper-curated display that uphold wholly unrealistic standards of purpose and achievement under the garb of glamour. It wasn’t because I wasn’t able to see or digest it anymore, but because I am beginning to see right through it. And I feel terrible about the kind of unrealistic pressure it unconsciously contributes to audiences unable to see through it.

***

To come back to aforementioned dream opportunities that I am on the verge of embarking on: It’s taken a lot of unlearning, and rewiring to recognise that I am already privileged. And that I have enough. I am taken care of. I am blessed enough to probably never be in a state of despair where money will be hard to come by. That I do not have to work hard or be famous or necessarily find a higher purpose to make my life more meaningful. That it’s okay to want less, it’s okay to be looked after, it’s wonderful to revel and find joy in small simple things without attaching the pressure of finding a deeper and higher purpose to everything I do. That I am not letting myself down by changing what I want from life. That surrendering and accepting this truth does not make me small, lazy or useless.

That it is completely possible to live a meaningful life even without any of that. That the pursuit of goodness is enough.

You don’t have to change the world or find your one true purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness — and that’s something anyone can aspire to, no matter their dreams or circumstances.

How liberating it was to read the last line of the article.

For far too long I have bought the largely inaccurate theory that as a modern woman I can and must have it all. To aspire for anything less would be a let down.

I have only recently learned to tune myself to the abundance I already have, despite wanting, and doing, lesser to chase after is. It exists in intangible places and forms that I cannot always touch or describe. And it bubbles over as gratitude.

My life is and always has been full of this kind of abundance. I have failed to see it because I’ve constantly been looking for the very staid, predictable and downright cliched markers of achievement, success, purpose, call it what you will. Turns out most times it isn’t in the form of money in the bank, or a dream to change the world, or a life of overachieving.

Some times it is in the form of magical opportunities that crystallise almost as an answer to the meandering, disconnected thoughts I’ve had over a period of time.

I am getting closer to being completely okay with (and so extremely thankful for) that.

Same time, last year: Day 281: A picture

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

I’ve been in this floaty in-between space, I call my extended time of transition, for so long now. First I was transitioning from Goa to Bangalore, then from my parent’s home to my own. At some point I realised this transition wasn’t just physical. In some ways I was transitioning from the 2016-me to the now-me (for a lack of words to explain this). And somehow, the process doesn’t feel complete. A trail remains, and I’m gliding along slowly.

Some part of me knows this is WIP, and perhaps not a start-stop kind of event that will ever end. This is a transformation of sorts, a shedding of what was and stepping into what could be. And I say could be because I’m not sure as yet where I’m going. I am sure of the lack of surety, because I see the signs that tell me not to rush, to wait and to allow things to settle in their own time. Because the process, and what’s happening now, is crucial.

I need to sit with the quiet. I know that much.

I have been in a funk with work. For many reasons, and that is the stuff of another post, should I choose to ever discuss it. C put is so perfectly yesterday when I was whining about this to her.

“I can’t stop thinking about writing. And yet I can’t seem to get myself to write. For work.”

So it’s what I’ve done. I’m only quietly pursuing a few opportunities that landed in my lap, and not aggressively going after anything. I have enough, and yet it feels like a lot. What I am doing, I am really struggling to keep up with.

On the home front, I’m semi-interested in most things. I feel like I could do with a project and there are so many up for the taking, but I don’t seem to want to actually push myself into investing time and effort into any of them. I’ve been doing the bare minimum to get by. The house is not always spic and span, the laundry tends to get ignored for longer than is ideal. Our meals are a far cry from what they used to be — sticking to basic stuff now that my diet has given me permission to scrap all the fluff.

Socially too, I’m not over-eager, neither am I cutting myself off or anything. I’m doing what feels easy and doable. Much like work, there’s a lot I think I want to do, but I realise maybe it’s just the idea of doing those things that excites me, and not so much actually going out and doing them.

I’ve considered travel several times these past few weeks. It just seems fitting no? To go away, be with myself while this shit works itself out. Especially given how I’ve unlocked new reserves of patience I didn’t know I had. But again, same issue — half of me is willing and the other half doesn’t want to budge. I just want to remain and watch as things happen.

I’ve discussed a hypothetical Europe plan with J and S three times this year. Finally semi committed to dash off to Singapore. And discussed numerous desirable weekend getaways with S and R. I stalked Goa airfares for about eight weeks before actually booking ourselves on the trip last month.

So yeah, maybe you get the drift? Have you ever felt like this? In limbo, on all fronts? Ennui-like and just happy to be afloat?

***

And then when I returned from Goa, it occurred to me that virtually, social-media-specifically too, I seem to be in the same headspace. Nothing compels me. Work was the only reason I would frequently visit facebook, and now with that fading, I don’t check in nearly as often. I am not feeling the burning need to respond to every notification or do anything else while I do check in. I’m only frequently posting on Instagram, because I still love picture-making and rambling on. But there too, my follow list has been pruned and transformed so much. I’m surrounded by art more than anything else. My interest in watching people and their lives has nearly died. Much like it did for food, clothes, cakes. But the icing on the cake was finding myself indifferent to whatsapp too.

Could it be that the quiet is creeping deeper than I thought it could?

Right now, it feels like there are several moving parts that are making small, almost non-existent movements to come together. I feel the movement ever so slightly. It is only some times overwhelming, but mostly tantalising. And yet I am only still waiting. Watching. Patiently waiting, quietly. To see where it is all taking me.

It is really beginning to feel like this is going to be a year I should write off to WIP, transformation and about enjoying the process while I get to where I am headed.

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

As for the title, it’s another quote from my favourite Glennon Doyle Melton. I read this somewhere a while ago (and I really wish I knew where it was) because it came back with resounding alacrity on one of our evening walks in Goa last week, as I watched this amazing sunset, wondering about exactly this. This limbo, and what I need to do next.

Time and time again these past few weeks wait and watch keeps coming back to me. It is the next right thing to do.

***

Speaking of limbo, I chatted with S last night after what felt like absolute aeons. I don’t think we’d actually properly caught up, giving updates on all that is happening in our lives, since we met in Bangkok last year. That is a long, long time for us. Listening to him tell me about his very own kind of comfortable limbo, in a world so different and remote from mine, I still felt an affinity. I could relate. In as many ways as our worlds and experiences are poles apart, that feeling of being in a comfortable limbo, in waiting, is so, so familiar. We spoke for an entire hour before I realised we were all caught up.

Literally all of this year we have made plans to catch up, promising to call each other as soon as a window frees up. The weekend, after work, when I’m back from my trip, when I’m feeling better — and somehow the right time just never came up.

I don’t know about him, but for me it was a lot of avoidance. I didn’t want to have to give updates about things I wasn’t fully sure of myself. Maybe I was worried I’d be judged? Maybe I was too shy to admit I was downsizing my amazing Goa life to a seemingly-less than ideal one in Bangalore? Maybe I just didn’t want to have to explain everything that had happened in the run up to this transition because it felt like just too much to have to talk about on the phone? I’m not sure. Maybe it was all of it.

But it felt like I needed to get out of my hole and call him last night, as it has for a few weeks now. The wonderful thing is that once I did call, it was just so easy. Conversation flowed, updates happened, all the things I thought I didn’t have the words for, suddenly articulated themselves. It helps when you have an eager, earnest person on the other side, genuinely concerned and interested in knowing what you have been up to.

It didn’t feel like an effort at all. It didn’t even feel like we were catching up, merely talking.

And then there was the kindred spark — the mention of that limbo. The only too familiar feeling of being comfortable while I wait and watch. And boom, i changed the conversation for me.

I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner, really. With S, I have a really special bond that has time and time again made it spectacularly easy to pick up where we left off, with barely any effort. There is never any awkwardness or the need to fill gaps and silences. It’s not something I have with too many people, and I realised last night how much I really, really cherish it.

As I drifted off to sleep, it dawned on me that actually, I have had this with a lot of people off late. With N, who I chatted with at length last week — catching her up on the amazing, life-changing experiences I had in Goa that I absolutely knew she would relate to. With P, who I had sworn I would never have anything to do with again, but with whom, time and time again, I have relevant, insightful and meaningful conversations that matter. With D, who came into my life most unexpectedly, but with whom conversation is rarely just that, and almost always impacts me in deeper ways.

I went to sleep with my heart brimming over. I have said this so often off late — that I don’t have much to show for on paper, when I think of what I’ve done/achieved this year. Yet, my life, even in it’s utter slowness, with the pregnant pauses and tantalisingly slow trajectory, feels so goddamn full.

***

And so I continue to wait, basking in the overwhelming gratitude for where I am, the people I am surrounded by, the connections I have and those that come back to me even when I’m not making the effort, and for everything moving along until it finds it’s place.

I wait because it just feels like the next right thing to do.

Same time, last year: Day 279: Sticky trash

What colour is your sky?

I’m still coming back to life in Bangalore, seeking rhythm and grounding in the mundane habits of my routine. It’s been an effort trying to find my pace again, while my mind is still in Goa at least 50% of the time. And I find myself wondering about perfection. Not the pursuit of it in action and practice. But magical picture perfect sequence of events. Like sunsets are for me. A performance in perfection of time. Like vignettes suspended mid air, the world on pause, waiting for you to notice.

There is something magical about sunsets. Especially like this one. When it feels like moments of perfection playing out before you. And you can’t help but wonder about the massive movements in space that are responsible for it. How much synchronicity must it take, for every little molecule and particle to find its place, align itself and move in sync, cushioned by the entire universe guiding the show, gently nudging things on so this plays out.

What decides the moment? When does the sky know it is time to put in a show? What goes into that one little move that clicks this rapid, vibrant, staggering play of light into motion?

Just how much churning energy does it take to create moments of perfection? And when you’re standing there, witnessing this, what colour is your sky?

Same time, last year: Day 277: 109 kms done

On letting go of what is meant-to-be, and enjoying what-is

This was my view on a rather magical, blissed out Saturday, this past weekend.

The sky was on fire, putting on quite a show just for us, on a completely shack-free Morjim beach. Fishermen bustled around and we walked up to the sea not sure what to expect. The tide was drawn far back, giving us what felt like miles to go before we could kiss a wave or two.

I stayed on shore, though. Watching the magic as it unfolded above and all around us. Glorious golden magic on one side, and a cool, icy blue on the other.

It was a weekend quite like nothing I’ve had in the last six months in Bangalore. It was the kind of weekend I had a lot of when I lived in Goa. When in all of ten minutes, a short drive or a longish walk, I’d plonk myself in one of my three favourite beach spots near home. Either sipping a beer or a G&T, book in hand, or simply staring into space.

It was a weekend quite like nothing I’ve had in Bangalore. And immediately it brought back the yearning for that simple life I’ve temporarily swapped for my current one. But, I was too consumed in enjoying the present, to wallow in the what could have been. What struck me the most was how it was such an easy, comforting, comfortable time. A bit rushed, but no complains, because it meant that we managed to squeeze in some pool time, a morning swim at sea, lots of great conversation, considerable bellyful laughter, and two outstanding meals of two of our most favourite cuisines. My belly was full of course. But my heart, even more so.

And so, with new memories, we returned to Bangalore early this week, and I said to VC that as much as I have surrendered and made my peace with the purpose and my time in Bangalore, the short trip back to Goa has rekindled that longing. Making the contrasts, the pros and cons of both sides so very apparent.

“I don’t get you. How can you change your mind so soon?!” he said, a little exasperatedly.

I haven’t changed my mind.

I am still very much at peace here in Bangalore. In the now. What I was probably missing was a taste of all that I had drawn the curtain on when I left, and the week gone by gave me just that.

I realise I can choose to feel positively about both places. Both states of mind. Both my homes. I don’t have to choose one at the expense of another. I can have both. I can long for both. I can appreciate and loathe them both, equally.

In yet another instance of letting go of the old and being more open and accepting of the new, I realised that the idea the way things are meant to be is often restrictive and just so limiting. I rewired this in my brain this past weekend, making room for accepting what is, and how it is rather than being hung up on what is otherwise just a utopian and frankly sometimes just unachievable notion of what is meant to be.

Life never happens in a linear fashion. It comes us at in waves. Gentle lapping ripples sometimes, that give us the luxury and privilege to ease ourselves into it. Sometimes, it is in painful shocking shards ripping right through us. In both situations, I’d like to learn to let go of the controls. And take things the way they are, opening myself up to what is, and how it is more often.

So I’m back home in Bangalore. My other base. Oddly liberated from the preconceived notion that I have to choose one home. Freer still from the idea that it is how it is meant to be or vaguer still, that life is meant to be everywhere else but where I am now. Richer from a weekend of sea salt, sunshine and solidarity. And best of all, rejuvenated after having relived Goa as a visitor, brimming with optimism with a new goal to work towards. One of moving closer to a life that allows me to split my time between both places. Never having to choose.

Same time, last year: Day 272: I am eager

Go Goa Gone: End of My Sunshine Dream

I moved to Goa restlessly in search of a new turf. I’d always dreamt of a life full of travel. But after eight years, Bangalore is the home I have chosen to return to.

The rain has always reminded me of Goa. In all the years that I was there, I steadfastly maintained that it was best experienced in the monsoon. So sitting in my home in bone-dry Bangalore – where I have just returned after eight long years in the sunshine state – watching my Facebook and Instagram feed replete with images of liquid skies, has made the bittersweet nature of my decision suddenly very apparent.

The street outside my bedroom window is packed with people, quite like an inescapable matrix. The chaos is palpable, the diametric opposite of the silence in my study in Goa, where the large French windows were the perfect lookout for the rain. I spent the bulk of my time there, mostly alone, with just my words for company: a simple, still, and satisfying existence. In fact, it was finding a room of my own, complete with a sturdy writer’s desk right beside a day bed and a view that really made Goa my home. And yet, Bangalore is the home I have chosen to return to.

Home. The word has such a sense of finality attached to it. Finding home, coming home, returning home – they all seem like such swift movements in a single direction. It has always evoked a sense of having to choose something, one way or another. A city, a house, a place to forever swear allegiance to.

I came to Goa restlessly in search of a new turf. I’d always dreamt of a life full of travel. Drunk on the idea of independence, charting my own trajectory, being forever unbound… coming to Goa was a ticket to escaping a reality I didn’t want to make my own.

Moving there eight years ago was my massive “fuck you” to city life. I wanted out from the endless cacophony of big-city noises, a hectic life consumed by work and commuting to work, that left me with no mind space to do the things I really wanted to. I was earning well, but constantly fighting to create time and space to enjoy the rewards of the hustle. Twenty-four years was too soon to be plagued by questions that define a quarter-life crisis – shouldn’t there be more to this life? Is wanting a simpler, smaller, quieter life really such a bad thing?

Quitting seemed like the best answer at the time. As a city, Panjim was refreshingly different. Everything about it felt wonderfully welcoming and I found a balm for every single painful sore memory that had driven me away from Bangalore. And then there was the monsoon – four full months of it.

Never, not even in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I’d give it up to go back to the bustle of Bangalore.

Quitting city life at 25 to go live in a beach town wasn’t all idyllic and romantic. It meant being the trailing spouse. It meant stepping out of the corporate race entirely, a choice that had life-changing consequences for me. It meant opening myself up to the unexpected and unpredictable ways of a small town. And I was going to have to embrace a domestic life I had no experience with. The introvert in me was going to have to start finding new friends.

Having never lived outside of Bangalore, and knowing absolutely nobody in Goa, I tasted a kind of anonymity I’d never known. Free and far away from social, familial, and professional commitments gave me large doses of alone time. All that quiet meant that I had to learn to befriend solitude, embrace it, and pretty soon I learned to love it. I began to write for myself, testing waters in a new craft. I started reading entire books again. I even did what I thought was unthinkable and discovered a love for cooking.

I became a homebody, feeling like I’d finally found my feet, grown into myself. I’d found the safety of a home that allowed me to be me. And it sparked the start of many good things. A hermitic existence, ensconced in peace and quiet, close to nature, away from the disorderly rat race, Goa was home because it’s where I began to thrive.

I dug my heels in and bound myself tightly to the new-found belonging. In its fixed, firm foundations I found myself anchored. Over eight long years, the gentle ebb and flow of creating the life I wanted not only helped me find myself, but also redefine what home really is.

And yet, as soon as the transition was complete, I found myself wanting to pick up and go again.

I realise now that my sense of home is rooted in specific things, rather than a city or place. Home is any safe space in my head. Sometimes it is a process – like it was for me, a period of transformation.

Sometimes it is the satisfaction of tasting freedom, of leaping into the unknown. Sometimes it is the acknowledgement of my privilege, the security of knowing that I can to lead a life based on my own choices. Sometimes it’s in accepting that home is just a word. It isn’t a single place wrapped in the foreverness we attach to it. Home doesn’t have to be an end.

Home is – as I realised when I craved a change of pace again – very often just a means to an end. It needn’t be weighted down by the heaviness of roots. Sometimes, it has the lightness of agility.

Home is a state of mind. And it can be anywhere or any place you want it to be. Home needs space, to grow, to spread itself out and open its doors to newness. Homecoming then is not about going somewhere you necessarily want to be. It is going somewhere you need to be.

And so, I did the unthinkable. I left the near-perfect simple life of Goa, to dive straight into the chaos. I came back to the Bangalore. It’s overwhelming, it’s grotesque, it’s oppressive. And yet, I’ve once again made it my own. I am at ease.

(This essay first appeared on Arre)

Same time, last year: Day 258: This morning

What coming home feels like: making friends edition

When I was preparing to move to Bangalore, I wondered about feeling lonely and isolated in a city of nameless faces. I didn’t particularly fancy the thought of making friends all over again. Nor did I want to continue my streak of people-less-ness. Much of the urge to get out of Goa was bolstered by the promise of new people. I’d grown rather jaded of the company I kept and was seeking a fresh energy and some new faces. And yet, 33 isn’t the most appropriate age to venture out into the school yard, to scope cliques and meekly gauge which one to attempt to break into.

I felt at sea in matters of people-ing because it’s just been so long since I had to go out and make an effort in this regard. Specially since the last decade or so I’ve had things just happened — people have come and gone from my life, connections were effortlessly made and lost with equal ease — without any active pursuing on my part. Not to make friends, and not in keeping them either. I’ve let a lot of people just go. So making friends felt daunting.

Wh is friendship in adulthood such an intimidating proposition?

However, in yet another unexpected turn, things have been strangely easy on the people front. Ironically, while I still continue to struggle to come to terms with many other things about this city (including some aspects that I thought would be a good change) it’s the people who have been pleasantly warm and welcoming.

I’ve already said coming home gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that I’d sworn I would never go back to, and how comforting it is to just be in the same city as the best of my friends. But that apart, there’s a third set of people-ings that I’m so happy to have stumbled on. It’s the new and unexpected friendships I’ve made. Through friends, through older connections, through people who know people. And happily, so many of these connections have brewed over home cooked meals. I’m more than grateful for these folks who just easily opened their homes up, invited me over and cooked some splendid, memorable meals.

There have been multiple such events. With D, I thulped Goan sausages and bread like it was my last meal ever. A cooked me this stunningly simple but high on flavour Andhra meal, from recipes of her very own cookbook complete with a spicy and heady bone broth that kicked my cold out of the way. With N and D I ate baingan bhartha, chapaties laced with carrots and some gluten free bread because I’ve been off carbs lately.

Each that I’ve shared a meal, hanging out over hearty hot food, huddled around a table, cross-legged on the floor crouched over a plate laden with goodies — something opened up for me.

This past weekend I ate what will go down as yet another incredibly tasty, beautifully put together meal, at yet another table in the home of someone I didn’t know just a few months ago.

It was a large, painstakingly out together array of Andhra food. And again, I felt grateful for the opportunity. For the warmth, the openness and the joy of sharing a meal.

There’s something about honest, homely food cooked straight from the heart, that reaches right inside and touches my soul.

Same time, last year: Day 257: Down and up again

Finding life again

So much of becoming the person you are, requires you to let go of all that you imagine you are, and all that you’re convinced you should be.

For a variety of reasons, ranging from plain comfort for my ego to accepting the path of least resistance, cleaving to convenient labels, titles, roles, and imagined ideas and notions, has always felt like the ideal way to work towards being a better version of myself.

Things look so neat, so permanent, and good on paper when I can declare “I’m independent!”

“I’m a feminist.”

“I’m self reliant”

“I’m a full-time freelancer”

“I’m an introvert”

and so on and so forth.

A label feels like a declaration. So cutting and final, it removes the need for me to ever revisit. It’s easy. It removes the need for inspection, introspection and self-reflection. And so, it’s also true that I’ve been fiercely (and sometimes, unnecessarily?) fixed to these words that slot me into a particular type of person. For years now, I’ve allowed them to be the labels that define who I am.

I’ve been so overly  attached to them that they’ve shaped (sometimes, wrongly?) my perception of myself. Until reality kicks in, as it so often does, and makes you see that evolution and growth are not points in a scale, and transformation is seldom a straight line moving in one direction.

So much of becoming the person you are involves going back. Re-examining the comfort of old labels that no longer hold good. It involves reclaiming once forgotten labels you shunned. Most often it involves letting go of all that you imagine you are, and all that you’re convinced you should be.

It’s difficult to stay stuck to these labels when so much of my very existence is in relation to, in context to, in close proximity to, people around me, the various roles I play, my work, my experiences and how each of those shape me. None of those contexts is fixed, permanent. They change all the time, throwing various situations my way, testing my ability to either flow through it, or be held back by a previously held perception of myself.

I’ve realised that these are all smaller aspects that form a larger me. They’re very prone to changing, depending on the situation.

My story, each of our stories in fact, is riddled with phases in which one label or another stands out. For the last two years of my life, for example, I was convinced I was an introvert. It felt right, it resonated, it rang so true, it was comfortable. It was what I needed to escape the cacophony of mindless noise I needed space from. Today, I don’t think I’m as much of an introvert anymore. My current life, context and the headspace I am in demands that I get out and be more outgoing. This is not introvert behaviour. So it struck me the other day that perhaps that phase is over. After some resistance, once I accepted that I must go with the flow, I found myself doing it with ease.

And it go me wondering if maybe many such phases have come and gone, but in being so caught up with hanging on to notions of myself, I’ve forgotten what it is to flow?

Maybe I have been far too attached to singular aspects of each of my stories. When actually each of my past selves wrap together neatly to from a wholesome me.

The effort these past months has been to try and recognise them all, peacefully accept with as little resistance as possible, to look at every phase and every self with a little less seriousness, and then try and integrate them.

I am at times a wife, a sister, a co-worked, a colleague, a writer, a freelancer, a daughter, a friend. I am at times lazy, sometimes over-zealous, sometimes shy and reserved, sometimes the life of a gathering. I am a feminist, I am a homemaker, I am unemployed, I am self employed. I am child-free, I love children, I am married, I am my own person. I am all of these things at different times. I play all these parts, and yet no single label defines me completely. I am a sum of all these parts.

Re-learning this fluidity, letting go of the rigidity has been all kinds of liberating. And in doing this, I have witnessed the death of a yet another phase in my life. I’d like to think the tumultuous period that was the last two years are over — their purpose served. I’ve felt myself be pushed into a new time and space. I’m undoing so much from the past, closing open loops, fixing broken things, revisiting abandoned ideas, letting go of baggage, rebuilding fresh ideas that work for me now. In this death, I see vibrant, fresh life blossoming. The ease and comfort this time round has been astounding. Slowly, but surely I find myself content in these pockets of realisation.

So much of becoming the person I am has required me to let go of the labels and stories I am anxiously attached to. To kill what is old and no longer holds true, and make room for the now. The new. It’s required me to re-imagine who I am, and look at everything with a little softness. Minus the shame, minus the guilt. Minus the hate and self-loathing. Minus the notion that to change is to somehow let myself (or an older self) down.

It’s been a constant effort to remind myself that nothing is permanent, nothing stays the same. Not even me.

And so, I must keep flowing.

Same time, last year: Day 256: Lines and dreams

Nine

Nine. NINE! VC, it’s been nine years. I remember writing this post, overwhelmed that we’d hit the half-decade mark, like it was just yesterday. And this morning, I pointed out that today we’ve officially entered the double-digits. Next year it will be a decade since we got married.

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. It’s a old and overused cliche, but I can’t think of a better way to describe what it’s like being married to you. The change bit holds only too true for the past year. 2016-17 will go down as the year everything changed. Our professional paths, the painful changes in the run up to accepting that we’d have to leave Goa, moving back to Bangalore, figuring stuff out in the city once again, all the teething issues – physically and emotionally, setting up your new business — never before have we experienced such a huge quantum of change in such a short span of time.

You know what else changed this year? Our communication. I’ve always taken solace and quiet comfort in the knowing that we’ve always had a healthy level of honesty and good communication, but with everything that happened last year, I feel like we were thrust into a whole new level of brutal honesty that we didn’t know existed. I’ll admit it gets very tiring sometimes being the one to initiate us on this path, and constantly be the one digging deeper to find out what lies beneath the surface — our feelings, our opinions, our desires, our dreams — but I’ve realised there is no other way I’d rather have it.

I’ve seen far too many examples of marriages falling apart of late, where the fundamental reason boiled down to the inability to either face and voice the truth, or to accept and embrace it. So I’m extremely grateful for the space we share between us, where pretty much nothing is taboo. I can’t think of too many other relationships that give me this sense of safety. This space for extreme honesty is so, so, very cherished, and you have to know how much you (unconsciously, perhaps) have done to encourage me to speak nothing but the truth. Even when it was to finally realise and admit to myself, and you, that given the way my life has traversed this past year, I do feel that maybe we married too soon.

I broke down momentarily in therapy when I came to this realisation, because I expected to feel the predictable sense of regret. But to my surprise tears made way for relief. I felt so oddly free to be able to see what I had just articulated for what it is, and immediately I knew I was absolutely going to be able to share it with you. I know and believe and feel so thankful to have the kind of relationship with you that enables me to speak this, right to your face, no words minced. And to have us look at the fact with enough distance that is needed to learn the lessons in here, but enough keenness to know what to do with this awareness, and where to go with it. And that’s just what we did, it’s how we embarked on this most unexpected turn of events that has landed us in Bangalore. I do believe this is just the beginning, though, and that a change in cities has so little to do with the city itself, but that we have been presented an opportunity t dig even deeper.

This year, I feel stronger, more whole and at peace than I have ever before in my entire life. Therapy (with all the upheaval it brings in its aftermath), through which you have stood by me like an absolute rock, turned me into an absolute blithering mess at times. I talked nine to a dozen, rambling, losing the plot many a time, voicing and airing a lot of rubbish on the way to finding my clarity. Even as I was going through many of those sessions of verbal diarrhoea, I remember wondering if it might be painful to be at the receiving end of this all the time. It didn’t stop me, though. And it didn’t make you stop me either.

I’m where I am largely because you supported me entirely in getting here. I said last year that much of this exploration began because I was able to give myself the permission to do so. I allowed myself to let go of so much, because you constantly reminded me how important it was to put a premium on myself and do whatever I needed to, to feel whole again.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hope you never muddle your sense of responsibility towards me and this marriage, to lose sight of your personal goals and dreams. Which is why I want you to know that my wish for us this year, and going forward, is that you remember all those things you keep telling me. And I wish and hope that I can be there for you, like you have for me.

This year, I see you at the start of your journey of self-exploration, similar to the spot I was in a couple of years ago. I hope you’ll remember that I’ve always got your back. I may not bring home the bacon, but I’ve really, really, got your back. You can lean on me. I’m here for the talk as much as I am for when you need the silence of comfortable companionship. I’m here for the ride as much as I am for when we need to stay still. I’m here for the plateaus as much as I am change.

I want to go back to one little thing I said on our anniversary last year. It was a liberating, life-changing realisation then. And it holds true even today.

I feel like today, more than ever, is a good day for a reminder.

This year, more than every before, I realised that being together has little to do with being together. Not to take for granted how wonderful it is to have a roomie to come back to, someone to hold at night when the fear of the dark envelops me, someone to lean on when I’m scared or lonely, someone to share a laugh with in a way that only we can understand. But I realised that growing old together involves taking routes that aren’t always going to run in parallel, or end up in the same place. It is possible to be together and yet give each other the space to be apart – in what we do, in where we go, and in how we blossom. And for the first time in all our years together, and my vehement stand on long-distance relationships, I have opened myself up to the idea of living apart. It will mean spreading our wings in different directions, and I don’t mean that just literally. I hope we explore it someday, because I think it will only take us a step up from here.

Happy anniversary my superstar. I haven’t done a very good job of being around the last few weeks and months since we moved to Bangalore. But I want you to know you’re a champ, my absolute trooper and I can’t wait to see what the months ahead hold for you.

As for the ride taking you there, I’m all in.

You’ve got me. I’ve got your back.

I love you so very much.

***

Same time, last year: Day 252: Eight

Past anniversaries: sevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Brain noodles

It dawned on me this week that growing up doesn’t have to happen at the expense of the child inside of me. That a major part of the self development piece involves acknowledging that child/younger self without feeling guilty, ashamed and afraid to admit to the person I once was or the things I have said, believed and done in the past. Owning up to some of these past versions of myself has been difficult. And yet it has been strangely liberating.

***

Four weeks into the six-week shred I’m on, I did four full nose-to-the-ground push ups. The thrill of watching progress and improvement as it unfolds right in front of your own eyes is unparalleled. When I began, I was hopeful and confident because of the changes I’ve already experienced with my body. But nothing prepared me for this kind of drastic, visible transformation, possibly the fastest and most impactful I have ever achieved on my own.

This time around there is the added discovery that I can be self-motivated beyond what I’ve assumed to be my natural or innate capacity to push myself through the grind. I didn’t think I could ever go off white rice. And yet, here I am four weeks in, not missing it, and potentially tossing up the idea of giving it up for good.

***

It was Teacher’s Day yesterday and I was asked to make a list of ten mentors/teachers/people who have impacted my life positively. It was strange how not a single actual teacher from my years in school and college came to mind. My list included abstract things like *life* and *marriage* and at the very end, just when I was finishing it off, I thought it D and A who have taught me so much about how to look at life by looking within. And then. Thought of B and R who have permanently altered the way I look and feel about my body. These folks didn’t come into my life as teachers. But they’ve hugely impacted the way I have understood and explored the strengths my mind and body are capable of. I am eternally grateful for the experience – especially of the last 3-4 years. My life wouldn’t be the same without it.

Same time, last year: Day 250: Finding my people

Bangalore: a graphic novel

I don’t know the first thing about graphic novels, but I feel like getting myself down to the launch of the Bangalore graphic novel, where I got to watch and listen to some of the good folk who contributed to it makes for a decent start into the genre.

The only artists I was already familiar with are Appupen and Prashant Miranda, because I’ve followed their work in some measure these past few years.

Also present were some of the younger contributors, for some of whom this was the first time being published in print. Their excitement was so relatable. I was particularly inspired by Ramya Ramakrishnan who spoke simply and cheerfully about her process and how the story came to be. When someone asked if she was open to freelancing, she ended with a little fist bump, proudly declaring “I’m a full-time freelancer!”
*Sigh*

It was my first time visiting Goobe Book Republic which is not as serious and officious as the book republic bit of he name makes it out to be. For a tiny, seemingly non descript hole in a basement on Church Street (that currently can only be accessed by crossing over a mini canyon) it has a whole lot of heart and good, good energy.

It helped that despite the god awful rain and feeling mildly marooned on Church Street (it had turned into a literal river) by the end of the evening I even got to eat the Andhra meal had my heart set on. And I came away with some choice book recommendations too.

A few weeks ago I complained to more than one person about how I feel there’s nothing to do in Bangslore except eat and drink. I’m slowly eating my words. For now. I have since joined a reading club, stumbled on this book launch (and actually made it to watch) I’m off to a cookbook club potluck lunch this afternoon. There are good intentions to watch a stand up act next week and take a weekend trip away some time in the next month too.

It’s tricky managing the balance between retaining and reclaiming time I want for myself and also making the effort to get out there and do some of the things I actually want to. It’s far easier to slip into hermit mode, specially once getting out in Bangalore has been quite overwhelming on more than one occasion. But for a select few things and with the right company, I hope to be able to push myself a little bit every time an event or performance or something catches my eye.

Back to the book — Bangalore, A Graphic Novel — it’s independently published, has a really good selection of contributors from Appupen and Prashant Miranda to Zac O’Yeah and several other comic book creators, illustrators and artists that I hadn’t heard of but am so happy to be introduced to.

It’s the second production by Every City is a Story, a city-centric story telling initiative. They already have a Hyderabad graphic novel out there and a Goa one in the works!

Same time, last year: Day 211: Interwebzy things

What coming home feels like: Sunday lunch edition

I firmly believe we have entered a time of being grotesquely overfed and unnaturally preoccupied with food. Nothing confirmed that for me as much as moving to Bangalore did. I realised very early on that meeting people had to involve a restaurant or pub. The number of events and happenings in the city revolving around food boggle me. A visit to some of the happening hubs in town make my head spin. Take 12th main road in Indiranagar, for example. I cannot get over how dazzlingly chock full of restaurants and night clubs and pubs it is. Each one seemingly bursting at the seams, and most of them running full house on weekends with business roaring.

I’ve been conflicted about this lately. As I think of alternate ways to engage with people — a walk in the park! a play? a concert? meeting over tarot cards? book club, anyone? I find that despite the largeness of a city like Bangalore, and the variety of opportunities to engage with the culture one might imagine it to present, to service the varied interests of this people-infested place, I’m struggling to find avenues that don’t revolve around food.

So in these times of overfed everything — from our instagram feeds (I’m so over the here’s what I ate for breakfast/lunch/dinner updates :-/) to the fetishization of meals we put in our bellies, it feels a bit self-indulgent and vacant to say food brings people together. And yet to not state it, in the manner I mean it today feels a bit fraudulent. Because it’s true what they say, food brings people together. At its most fundamental level, so many of my memories are bound by flavours, and nostalgia stirs when certain aromas or remnants of events surrounding food are evoked. It could be something as simple as the baby food I’d wait for my 6-month old sister to waste so I could wallop, or it could be the ginormous indulgent buffet i ate for five days straight over my honeymoon, or my grandfather’s very own mutton stew. Food memories have preserved my sanity on more than one occasion.

Flying out of the proverbial nest gave me wings in more ways than one, and one of the bittersweet joys of being away was creating my own set of traditions and rituals — many of which were around food. Festival sweets, Sunday breakfast eggs, nuts to start the day, supaari to end the day. And I’ve missed the grounding and centering effect of many of these simple habits and homely traditions, followed almost too tediously, week after week.

These are the same rituals I sometimes resisted participating in, many times when Iw as young. And stupid. But I was too naive to fully realise how much lingering over a shared meal, letting conversation unravel sometimes, or disappearing into comfortable pockets of silence, mindfully eating the complex outcome of someones thoughtful, deliberate labour, played a role in keeping me grounded, together.

Growing up, our Sunday lunch at home was one such event. It was where the stories of the week were shared. Where sneaky giggles, tired sighs and everything on between came together, in long belaboured detail, for everyone to chew on. The meal itself wasn’t necessarily large and sinful. Sometimes a simple khichdi, sometimes an egg curry with fluffy white rice and a naked salad. But sometimes, like today, it was a leap of faith into a previously untouched cuisine. It was larger than usual, felt fancier than the familiar fare we were usually fed. But no matter what it was, it has always been the heart of Sunday afternoons in my home.

Post lazy oil-bath mornings usually spent tidying up or hurriedly ticking thru homework, after a tiring dance class, there was nothing I looked forward to more than a meal with my folks and sister.

A meal is a magical thing. So much a labour of love, putting together a meal is an energy sapping activity. And yet, when it is done and finished, it is only the memories that linger as aromatic evidence. I realised this on Sunday, as I sat at the table we dragged out into the terrace garden at my parents home. I’m beginning to like that peaceful feeling of acceptance that washes over me, like like telling me I-told-you-so, every time I notice I’ve come full-circle. And it happened again the other day, back at the table on a Sunday afternoon. Even though our family is larger by almost-two and life has taken us all in such divergent paths. We’re louder about some things, clandestine about others. And yet, when we come together, the laugher, the noisy munching, the clinking of spoons against bowls and plates and the hearty fullness of a shared meal remains much the same.

Same time, last year: Day 194: Pedalling again

What coming home feels like: light and life

The monsoon has hit Goa with all its might and fury and my social media feeds are filled with envy-making pictures, videos and words that are doing nothing to make me feel better for being so far, far away from the best time to be in Goa.

Last year I had an inkling it was to be my ultimate monsoon living in Goa and even though part of me felt like I was inching closer to the reality of it, a larger part of me wanted to remain blissfully unaware. And in denial.

My facebook memories have been brutal in throwing up images and blog posts from all of last year and monsoon nostalgia has taken over me considerably this week.

I miss Goa terribly. I’m hopelessly and inconsolably homesick for Goa.

But. There have been small joys. Silver linings, if you will. Moments of pure surprise or happiness. Everyday realities that have grown on me unconsciously. Until suddenly I woke up to see the light.

After living in west-facing homes for literally all my life, I’m now on the other end of the spectrum. Enjoying 6 am wake ups thanks to the burst of light that no curtains can keep out, loving how the entire home is always bathed in a soft, gentle yellow, and low-key obsessing over watching day-long shadows as they morph on the hour. The sunlight is doing wonders for the plants we got and I’ve gone over six weeks without killing anything.

Daily surprises happen with fair consistency. I’ve got to start looking and acknowledging them more often.

Same time, last year: Day 187: June