Nourish

Feed your desires.

Keep your heart warm.

Stay grounded. Grow. Thrive.

These pictures were taken sporadically, across last week. I like when the picture reel on my phone tells me stories when I look back at it on a lazy Sunday evening after a busy week.

I see in this triptych, for example, this sequence that is a pretty accurate summation of what I have been feeling and staying with. The need to cocoon, go inwards, to listen closely to the whispers of my being, and tend to the heart of it all with unfussy basics. Vitalising food, plenty of water, any thing that takes me to my roots.

It’s been such an up and down week, but the weekend was utterly fulfilling and has me brimming over. Winding down today with a light hum of gratitude reverberating within me.

One year ago: Running updates
Two years ago: Walking high on the wire
Three years ago: What coming home feels like: making friends edition
Four years ago: Down and up again

Upside down

There’s so much happening below. On the ground beneath my feet.

I’m seeing it all.

And more than occasionally, these days, I take time to look up.

And I soak that in too.

One year ago: Silent and still
Two years ago: Not invited, but I’m glad I made it

The hidden life of trees

So, I decided to break my boredom with home workouts and desperate missing of the gym, by braving the outdoors and resuming running again.

It’s been three days and one whole day of severely sore legs, but I feel so good.

It’s more than what running does for my body, which in itself is a whole other story. But I’m also beginning to see why being outdoors in an enveloping tunnel of trees, that are overwhelmingly old and large, surrounded by eye-hurting green views, even as small and limited as they are in a city park, does for me.

It’s a reminder to keep growing. To keep going. Of how strong roots are the key to talk trees. Of age and wisdom. Of a silent judgement-free witnessing. Of the cradle of mother earth. Of the place that energy and the elements have in giving life. Of fertility even in times of destruction. Of survival and enduring.

On Sunday, practically my first real long run since March (because I’m not counting the two failed attempts in May and June), I had a mini cry behind my mask even as I had just entered the parking and started my run. I just felt overwhelmed to be outdoors, for one. But I was also just taken by these large, old trees. Just standing there, watching the world go by, as they have for years now. I also felt a surge of endorphins, and while they’re usually known to induce extreme highs interpreted as happiness I have noticed that they heighten whatever emotion I am allowing myself to feel. That day it was overwhelming gratitude and aliveness.

I have not appreciated trees enough in my life. And that day I realised I have probably not appreciated the trees in Bangalore enough in my life.

They’re becoming reminders for me. Of life and growth. Of swaying with lightness and tenderness, while being powerfully rooted. Of grounding. Of joy and life. Of air and breath.

In the inimitable words of Mary Oliver, who I have realised has woven beauty in words for every goddamn experience, it’s simple.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Stay. Awhile.

One year ago: Brain noodles
Four years ago: Wandering, right here at home

Happy in my belly

It’s been a little over a month of going over the edge, letting go fully and enjoying it fully for what it was. Eating all the things — and I mean allllll the things — guilt-free, without rules, without any restrictions; and allowing for little routine as far as exercise goes. It was great while it lasted, and I have fully recognised my need to go off the bandwagon every so often, as a very vital part of staying on it for the greater part. I can only sustain something, if I have the window to let go now and then.

But, now it has begun to show. On my skin. On my energy. On my sleep. And so quite naturally, as it always does, my body has brought me back to the middle path, by simply asking for what is needed. Cleaner food, a little discipline and regular exercise.

So, I have turned the corner again. Bringing back into moderation that which I had let run amok, quite deliberately for a while.

It’s been a week of just simple changes and returning to some old habits. I feel so rewarded, with the ability to listen to what my body is asking for — whether it is to let go the rules, fearlessly, knowing that I will be guided back when the time is right — and doing what’s needed, giving my body what it needs and is asking for, and watching it respond so quickly. With wellness, with balance, with centredness.

That I have been able to flow with this, in and out, without effort, just through listening in keenly and being in tune with my body and the cues it’s gives me all the time, is a true gift.

One year ago: Mush
Two years ago: Slowly drifting, wave after wave
Three years ago: What coming home feels like: Sunday lunch edition
Four years ago: Like Nike, but better

Life goes easy on me

There are currently fewer things that really, and I mean reallllly, hit the spot for me than

  • a day with no plans
  • cooking an utterly barebones meal
  • and sticking my hands in mud first thing in the morning

Today, I hit the jackpot, because even without intending or planning to, I waltzed through all three things, spontaneously today.

It certainly helps that it is a gorgeous morning here, with dappled light, a steady drizzle, with the promise of more rain. So gorgeous that it inspired me to indulge in that rare occurrence –breakfast. And chai on top of it.

And then I began sorting through my plants. Repotting some stuff, putting some babies that I’d propagated too long ago into soil, cutting and pruning some, and snipping off a large bunch of new babies, and making a giant mess in the bargain. I didn’t realise it, but three hours just passed by this way.

Thankful for the gifts my little balcony keeps giving. Literal and metaphorical today, because I was moved to tears seeing the root growth on a wee spider baby plant that I have ignored for longer than I intended to.

I’ve been easily moved and emotional lately. But the comfort with the emotions welling over isn’t always uniform. Sometimes there is extreme ease, and sometimes I feel taken by surprise and quickly begin to analyze where it may be coming from. Invariably, I conclude that it doesn’t matter. What matters is to feel it out, one way or another. I know that writing is one way for me to feel, but I have been trying to choose less fixed, cognitive, obvious and “presentable” ways to feel in recent times. Watercolours, watching the rain, gardening, sitting in silence. And I wonder if this has made it easier still, for the emotions to flow, without reason. Filterless and free.

Life goes easy on me today.

One year ago: Pause
Two years ago: You’ll be a good listener, you’ll be honest, you’ll be brave
Three years ago: What coming home feels like: light and life
Four years ago: June

Friday feels

Can’t get over, or enough of, the brilliant weather we’ve had this past week. Consistently moody skies, pleasantly refreshing drizzles in the day and nourishing downpours by evening.

I’ve taken it easy this week thanks to getting my period, but also the fact that it occurred happily right when the weather got so good. I’ve wanted to do nothing but stay in, so I took the readymade excuse that was offered up on a platter.

I had a mini catch-up session for my course, mid-week, but my mind was entirely elsewhere this time around. Amongst the rain laden clouds. The glistening wet streets. The cool air, beyond. In thoughts of picnicking somewhere outside Bangalore. With being in the hills elsewhere. Amongst this random dream of a cottage with a farm where I’m growing my own veggies.

That’s the only spot of work I managed to get myself to do. Readings have been going on, and they don’t tax me or demand a lot out of me at the pace at which I’m operating currently. So it doesn’t even classify as work. There are a few plans or side projects I have that I could get going with — logically this is the right time — but I haven’t been able. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait like this for the right moment but it feels like the only thing I can do right now. I can seem to only push myself this much. Going against the grain and pushing through in the name of “getting shit done” just because an empty spot of time opened up is not only hard, it feels impossible now.

Today after cleaning chores, though, I shuffled things around at home. In anticipation of our new living room furniture that’s arriving soon. We decided to break the rule and not get a set, or a couch, but two single armchairs instead, in the hope that it opens up our cozy, tiny living room up. I bathed my plants and moved them around. I took the babies that have been inside outside, and brought some new babies inside.

The whole time it drizzled. And I cleaned while listening to Continuum, which threw it all the way back to to yonks ago, to a time in the years when I had just started to drive in Bangalore. When listening to my best music, driving around in the rain, with no plan or agenda, was a legit thing to do. Most times, I didn’t even need company.

This whole album is GOLD. And perfect for the rain. And is loaded with all the feels. It was a serious trip today that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I can’t believe another week has just whizzed by. I feel like I’ve been horizontal for the most part. I can’t complain, but I am just in shock at the pace at which time seems to be moving, even with deliberately doing so little. And just like that another weekend rolls along. The days are certainly blurring, weekday/weekend, nothing seems to matter anymore and I’m just floating through the continuum.

One year ago: Stay in
Two years ago: June

Nesting

It’s been gloomy all day. Spend the day under a blanket kind of weather. And that’s just what I did. Getting out only briefly to help VC make lunch. He made us steaks with a creamy wine and mushroom sauce today, with sauteed garlicky beans on the side.

I’m happy for days like this, somehow. And I said to VC, how different this whole time might have been if he or I or both of us had full time jobs that took us outside.id have definitely missed this opportunity for nesting in the way that we have.

Something about the luxury of that has meant cocooning some more. And it has been very good for us.

One year ago: Reflections
Two years ago: I wouldn’t change a single thing

Things worth remembering (part 2)

There’s more where this came from.

Rainy Bangalore evenings. Still not nearly as many as I’d have liked, with nearly not heavy enough rain for my preference. But it’ll do. I’ll take it. Even prefaced with sultry pre-rain mornings, tantalisingly grey afternoons finally turning to pregnant dark skies that only break in the evening. So, so, so Bangalore. So much love. Of course all this overflowing love is because there’s no chance of getting stuck in post-rain traffuck situations. So much nicer to enjoy this from the safety of my home where it seems I’m going to be for the rest of the year.

If there’s anything that tops a perfectly rainy day, it’s a tea-time production complete with snacks. I have become quite the tea-time glutton through this lockdown. I cannot seem to have my evening chai, the only cup I consume on any given day, without a snack of some kind. VC has been watching me with amusement and adoration, turning to mild worry these days hahahahaha.

The three of us are up to no good. Something is brewing and it has made us make a record number of calls late into the night because we’re managing time-zones across two continents. So long after my neighbourhood (and husband) has gone to sleep, I sneak out of bed and get on the phone. In no time at all, I’m giggling. No matter what we talk about, I find myself in splits.

The day before therapy last week, I gave myself a session of therapy by mindfully making myself this stack of egg (omelette), ham and cheese sandwiches, grilled to a perfect gold, under the careful guidance of D, who also very, very kindly provided the ham. The best ham the city has, I think. Sometimes this is what self-care looks like.

Sat down one rainy afternoon for a little session of sound painting. My sister is doing these Ways of Seeing sessions, and they’re such a great way to sneak in an hour of quiet, self-involved, downtime while playing with colour — whatever you’ve got handy. Open to people of all ages — young and old. No prior experience or skills needed. I would so totally recommend this if you’re inclined to just spend some time with yourself, exploring, expressing. Quietly, without anyone having to judge, see or understand what you’re doing.

One year ago: Simple
Four years ago: Begin

Things worth remembering (part 1)

The last two weeks were an emotional landslide, to say the least. I constantly felt the undertow tugging at me, dragging me down and asking me to slip and slide and go under. I was torn between giving in to it and letting to, or flapping my arms around to stay afloat. I did bits of both — neither with very much success.

At some point last week, things began to turn ever so slowly. Then the weekend came and I noticed an observable, significant shift. Yesterday, I felt anew again. I’m getting better at witnessing the natural (and maybe necessary?) ebbs and flow in my emotional energy. I also see how, often, the movement is aligned with either the moon, or some planetary movement that’s on the cards. I just notice, there’s nothing to be done. But it helps be lighter and easier when the shifts and slips and slides come, as they do. And it helps mark the moments when things aren’t spiralling and feeling well isn’t so entirely out of my grasp. Moments when I can breathe deeply and fill myself with life-giving air. When I can smile softly, subtly. When I can stretch myself and take up space fiercely. When I can enjoy life’s little gifts, however minute. I like remembering those moments.

Cooking and allied kitchen/domestic activities have taken me through the last three months of uncertainty. Giving me that window of groundedness and familiarity — predictability — in a time where things are anything but predictable. And after consistently leaning on this habit for over three months, my hectic schedules the last two weeks meant planning, shopping for, cooking and consuming wholesome meals was the first thing to fall to the side. This was the first proper meal I cooked after cleaning out my fridge last week. Mixed veggie stir fry in oyster sauce with broken red matta rice.

Been stalking these critters twice a day, everyday, for the last 10 days or so ever since I spotted them. Watching their every move ever since, as they are fast growing out of the gutter where they were birthed. Also exercising massive amounts of self-control to keep from giving in to my own achy heart that wants to take the dusty brown one in, and also VC’s incessant chatter about this spotting of puppies is the last in a string of “signs” that we should get one.

A surprise Sunday morning video call with the nugget/rosogulla/dumpling/firecracker of a new niece. It’s all kinds of surreal, yet somehow acceptable, that I have barely any smidgen of an ongoing relationship with so many of my cousins, but one of them has a baby this cute and suddenly I want to video call them?

The “new normal” featuring a live Kunal Kamra show via Zoom. It was more like hanging out in a room with a comedian and a bunch of random people, listening to the comedian talk about a realllllyyy random collection of things and being funny some times, and less like a live show I’d catch on stage. But it was interesting, and I stayed up later than usual for it, and I laughed a lot.

Three years ago: What coming home feels like: Bangalore sky porn
Four years ago: Kursi ki peti

Monday Tarot Messages: Rest, in a culture of busyness

I am a product of the “grind culture” that demands, glorifies and rewards a work ethic that equates unrelenting productivity with passion and hard work. It has taken me years to realise my instinctual attitude to work is actually quite different. When I allow myself to listen, I can be productive even when I work less, slower and in short, focused bursts. When I allow myself to listen, I realised my idea of ambition is quiet and self-sufficient, more internally-focused. And that it includes the value of having ample time to rest in ways that I please.

As a result, it has been hard to find a place and fit-in to the working world. This was so difficult to digest for so many years, early on, as I bounced from one workplace to another, trying to find a fit where I could rest easy, knowing that I’d be valued for the work I did during work hours, and where I didn’t have to feel guilty for wanting and having a life outside of work. My self-worth took a severe beating, because i constantly equated it with how productive and driven I was in the workplace. And very often, I didn’t really feel as “driven” as my peers.

Only recently, I realised that everything that I believe about work, success, hard work, passion and ambition (and conversely, rest) is a construct of a capitalist, patriarchal framework. That favours work over rest, teaching us that rest is to be earned thru hard work, and that unplugging will put us behind in the race.

So we devalue rest. And we oversell the hustle. But this is unsustainable. As most current studies on this will show. Everywhere you look, a culture of relentless work has made us physically and emotionally unhealthy. With the accent always being on doing, we have forgotten to pay attention to our being.

Examine your relationship with rest today.
What is your natural pace?
How much permission do you allow for it?
How comfortable is it to rest?
Do you feel guilt, shame or like you have indulged, when you rest?
Or do you feel renewed and alive?
Is zero work-life balance masquerading as loving your work?

Most of us, women especially, carry shame around resting, feeling useless and eroding our self-worth every time we choose rest over productivity.
Today’s card is a call to reset your natural relationship with rest. To begin to release the shame around resting.

The needs of the body are a good place to start. Pay attention to your body, notice if it is asking for more sleep, or gentle tenderness, or a calming practice of some kind. Maybe tend to your sleep cycle, get some hygiene in place. Or perhaps tune back into natural rhythms — the moon, seasons, weekends — as markers of tuning down, turning in.

Remember, you don’t have to wait for permission to rest. You will not fall behind. You will not miss out. You will not end up with less. You can rest.

One year ago: Within me
Two years ago: Come on, keep me where the light is
Four years ago: The good in us

Things that happened today

I got out of home and looked up. And I caught a view that wasn’t the same one I have been seeing outside my balcony for three months now.

I went in for an in-person therapy session today. My first in three months. And when I stepped out of my home to walk down to my therapists’ I had this surreal, never-felt-before feeling of excitement. I was a bit giddy, walking down with a spring in my step. Such strange, unforgettable times, where the idea of meeting another human being, sitting in (safe) proximity, sharing an intimate space, gave me that mix of excitement and wonder.

It was my first real “outing” that’s not for shopping, which is the only other reason I have stepped out since March. This is the first interaction with someone other than VC, my sister, my neighbours and building staff, since March. I know things around are opening up and moving back to normalcy, but I still feel a bit stuck and safe indoors. I have yet to go out and meet another human being in the way that I did today.

***

I realised that even the outings for shopping for supplies have been so limited, that I had to almost reorient myself to being out in the open again. It was so, so strange.

I desperately want to be out some more, and meet people. But I am also feeling so tentative about who I am feeling drawn to reaching out to. And that is such a strange feeling.

***

 I woke up with an intense urge to be elsewhere today. Travelling, in a cafe drinking a frothy cappuccino, in an homestay or a hotel in a new city, in a different country — anywhere. Just somewhere else. It felt like such a deep, physical need. Almost like wanting to leave this body.

I’ve been nursing this desire to “get out” since the weekend. But it’s not just physically getting out of this home and these self-imposed restrictions. But something else, I am not able to put a finger on it. Again, it feels like a need of some sort, and I can’t figure it out.

I’m ready for life, in its fullness and in a different flavour and form again. Something has got to change and I feel ready to venture out and figure it out.

***

Insane amounts of sleep. I think the three days of being in class, even though online, triggered it. It seems the therapy can have the same effects as it does when I am in class or in a workshop. I experienced the same full-body exhaustion and the need to do nothing else but stay horizontal. Extra long naps, yesterday and today. Despite which I was knocked out cold at 11 pm last night, only to wake up bright and early at 7 am today with the intention of finishing a host of chores before therapy, only to staying horizontal and in bed, cancelling all plans, till it was time to go to therapy.

I am getting good with cancelling well laid plans. So good that VC commended me on it today!

One year ago: Here you are   
Two years ago: I wrote a letter to my love

All of me

Last weekend, I got VC to shear my hair off. Yep, shear. Because I asked him to take his trimmer and just go at it. No styling. No plan. Just razored it all off. Very close to my scalp. Even more than it was here.

My last haircut was in January. This is officially the longest I’d gone without a haircut, since I have gone this short. As such short haircuts need more frequent maintenance. Especially if you have thick, quick to grow hair with a life and will of its own, like I do.

Safe to say it was looooong overdue. In the interim I managed with clips and hairbands, had started using a comb after literally five years, and consuming copious amounts of shampoo, and frankly the only saving grace has been that there is nowhere to go and nobody to show my face to. By the end, trips to the vegetable vendor had started getting me strange looks. I suspect it was the beginnings of a very inelegant mullet that did that. I was contemplating just pulling off the entire lockdown until my hairdresser returns (she’s stuck in Imphal!) and I was even looking forward to this being an excuse to grow it out a bit and do something different. Something I never get to doing because I don’t ever let it grow long enough.

But no. Something snapped last weekend. And it was an entire production, quite unlike the easy-breezy job I had imagined it to be. Partly because my hair is so goddamned thick, but also it was actually much longer than I had realised. We hd newspaper down all over my living room, with me sitting right in the centre, at VC’s feet, while he sat in a chair and systematically worked on mowing the entire mop of hair on my head down. It took over an hour, and still didn’t feel like it was done. So we called it a day, and did round two the next morning.

Phew. When I looked at myself in the mirror after, I wondered why I’ve been spending so much time and money at a. hairdresser all these years. Don’t answer that, I know why. But this is just to say, I instantly felt so good, light, free.

And I also love the way I look now.

Even though I’ve had very short hair for years now, every time I have done something “drastic” going extra short, buzzing it all off with a clipper, getting the hair off the front of my face, much to the chagrin of everyone except VC and my sister, it has been when I’ve gone through something deep and transformative, emotionally.

The last few months have been a steady and slow time of deep, yet subtle and transformative shifts and changes for me. And when I looked in the mirror post haircut last weekend, it clicked. This is all of me.

One year ago: Small sadness and everyday grief 
Two years ago: It don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering 
Four years ago: Ten

Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

Babies

The only kind that interest me:

***

It’s been a quiet few days again. Meddling about the plants. Cleaning here and there. Cooking some. Sleeping lots. Reading a little again. And I may be getting eerielt comfortable with it all.

The silence. The aloneness. The containment. The sufficiency of it all.

One year ago: An opportunity and a gift
Two years ago: We keep this love in a photograph

Monday Tarot Message: On desire (and listening in)

There is something so compellingly hopeful about Aces, signifying new beginnings, ripeness of potential, fresh inspiration, new journeys. All Aces, but especially the Wands, speak to me of the fire in my belly. It reminds me to tune in to my desires, of all kinds.

Two things can happen with that energy. When we’re accustomed to listening to our own voice, we may run with it, fuel the fire and stoke it till it consumes us and changes something elemental about us. If we are governed more by external voices, we run the risk of dousing it completely. Usually for fear of failing, or not feeling gratified, or displeasing someone, amongst other things.

Desire is often looked at as “bad”, for making us “self-serving”. But it is worth becoming curious and interested in them because our desires are our inner voices showing up. When we listen often enough, we begin to get good at telling which desires to put energy into, and which ones to let slide.

Rules, expectations and externally perceived ways of being usually feed our conditioning and socialisation, teaching us to quell our desires. Those “bad” things that make us stray from what’s best for the greater good. And so we avoid focusing on ourselves, we stay within the lines, play safe. And in that way, we minimise our desires and our bypass intuition.

Our real work though, is to get intimate with desire, with the heart of our inclinations, the inner throbbing nucleus unmet aspiration. So we can discern what makes our spirits shine, heats sing and fills us with life. And then we can run with it. When we engage with our desires in this way, we build the capacity to chase what is good for us. What brings harmony and alignment, and feeds our soul.

How does it feel to just listen to your desires? Even before you act on them, can you just listen? Without speculating. Without labeling or judging them. What do you need, so you do that without worrying about whether it is useful, productive, efficient, realistic, prestigious or lucrative enough?

Desire can be one of the greatest teachers, in meeting your true self. Can you listen?

Two years ago: Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Four years ago: Fairy lights