Slow and steady

It’s been a rather flip-floppy week and I’ve floated along feeling unanchored for the most part. First the extended weekend and the extra day spent at the beach. It took me a whole day to recover from that and get out of the holiday blues and back to work. Just then I had the blow out with the client. I felt all loud and fierce in the moment when I stood my ground, but a couple of hours later I began to feel really sad about it. Not for what I said or did, because I was in the right, but just about yet another disappointment. Human beings are just so disappointing and it felt like a last straw.

So I turned to good old carbs for comfort. With a side of a Sri Lankan cinnamon and burnt star anise infused G&T at my new favourite pizza place. VC was only more than happy to take me out and so I binged on a meatballs on focaccia starter followed by a pepperoni pizza.

Today though, I woke up feeling quite rudderless because it dawned on me that suddenly a large chunk of my day is absolutely free and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Work does give my day structure and purpose and I’m back to the drawing board about where to go next. All of this is especially floaty in Goa where my days are long and lazy, and I’m technically in this limbo between holiday and regular life, not sure which way to go.

It could have been another floaty, aimless day but thankfully by now I have figured out my go to fixes that anchor me and bring steadiness to my days. I’ve dragged my feet with exercise this week, thanks to sleeping late so many nights in a row and all the indulgence in terms of food and drink. I’ve flaked and fudged a workout or two, even though I caught an hour long beach walk/run with R every morning that we were away.

Today I just knew I needed to not give myself any excuses. So I kicked myself to workout in the morning and forced myself to finish it strong, in a pool of my own sweat. I was finished, totally wiped, by the end of it but I felt so good. It’s like every single day, I forget how this is just starting trouble and that just seven or eight minutes in when I really break into a sweat and begin to feel the burn, is when the endorphins happen and I begin to thank myself for not allowing another miss.

I went to the nursery again this past weekend and got some new plants for the house. I’m afraid it might have become my new retail therapy, considering I’ve decided not to buy any clothes, shoes or accessories for at least another year.

After my workout I spent a good 20 mins tending to my plants. Don’t ask what I do and why it takes so long but I just enjoy pottering about, digging here clipping there, moving pots around. I don’t believe I’m very good at it but it is extremely satisfying and warms my heart.

I’ve also figured I don’t do well with just being cooped up all by myself for many days. I’ve been especially lonely after VC leaves for work this week, and the lethargy has made my enthusiasm to plummet. So today I got out and decided I should get out every few days, even if it’s just a supermarket run. I’m no longer the homebody I used to be when I lived here, going for days on end without stepping out at all. An hour outdoors was all it took, stocking up on groceries and stuff for a BBQ dinner VC has planned tomorrow, for me to feel steady and like I was back to being myself.

I came home, put things away listening to John Mayer and cooked myself a simple lunch. Dal, millets, a sabzi of sprouts and ate it with leftover kheema. Later, I watched Brene Browns new Netflix special and I ended up doing a couple of card readings for peeps.

This is pretty much all it takes to bring steadiness back to my life. A rhythm of utterly mundane tasks. Some days are just like this, steady and normal, as S said just as I was going about my day and she coincidentally texted me at the very same time telling me how she went about her plain and simple day and how it grounds her in ways nothing else does.

The benefits of having a routine are seriously underrated and I realise this is just what my parents talked about all along when I was growing up. I’m just living and experiencing the wonders as an adult.

Watching Gully Boy yet again in bed tonight and already looking forward to the beach tomorrow morning.

This is joy.

One year ago: The times, they are a-changing
Three years ago: Go far, they said

Advertisements

Postcard from staycation – 2

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

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

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

Hashtag blessed, I guess?

More tomorrow when I can put my thoughts down coherently.

One year ago: Remind yourself, nobody built like you

Postcard from staycation – 1

Salt water, sea spray and soothing sand therapy – that’s what the weekend was about.

We were meant to check out and bid the family farewell today. Because we were so sure a day was all we’d be able to take of this organised fun. But I suppose there’s space now for new surprises.

We’re staying a whole extra day. And I’m not even complaining.

We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year.

***

Three years ago: Satisfaction

Goa vibes

It just dawned on me that possibly one of the reasons I’ve been in an easy frame of mind and just so happy is I haven’t had any work to do since the start of the month – hahaha. I realised it this morning, as the work for the month began trickling in.

It explains why it’s just Wednesday morning, but I’ve watched  five Hindi movies already. I managed to get in a pedicure and a foot massage a couple of days ago. I have worked out and cooked meals, every single day. And despite it all I have been mostly chilling, relaxed at home. I’m aware I cannot exist like this forever, my inner Type A is always lurking close behind, egging me on to do something, be useful. And so I’m glad for the little bit of work that I have. It keeps me going, my writing muscles in use, gives me just enough of a purpose without taking over my life, and while it may not be adding to a huge amount of my savings, it helps pay my bills.

That said, I’m glad for this unexpected downtime. It feels like events converged to make this happen, at a time when I least expected it. I would not have been forced into submitting to this week of distraction-free life if I hadn’t uprooted myself so suddenly to come to Goa. I’m reminded again that Goa slows me down. Something in the air, compounded by the fact that I live so far out without not much of interest in my immediate vicinity, plus just a quintessential simpler life here makes me slow down.

This time, I have only three food wishes to tick off my to-do-in-Goa list. A trip to Burger Factory, one to Melt and a round fo sushi with D. Eating out in Goa — unless I’m scoping out something truly unique that I wont find back home in Bangalore, like a Goan taverna or a local food haunt — just doesn’t hold as much of an lure as it did when I lived here. I’ll just come out and say it — eating out in Bangalore is better. So I’ll take this time as a great way to kick things up a notch with my efforts to eat clean.

***

When I wasn’t really thinking a few months ago, I accidentally agreed to spending a weekend with 30 members of VC’s family (his cousins with their families) in Goa. That weekend is coming up in 2 days, and suddenly I’m wondering what I was thinking when I agreed to this. I am gearing up to feel a whole lot of feels — from isolation to anger — but for now I’m trying to just let myself take things as they come. Maybe this will be a chance to be just the way I am in Goa, on my turf, a side of me his family has never seen. Maybe I won’t have to straddle the two worlds, maybe I won’t have to force myself to be a girly-girl and discuss shopping and make up or gossip about the extended family any more than I truly can or want to. Maybe I’ll just hang with the boys and let them deal with dealing with me being the kabab mein haddi. Let’s see.

The truth is, so much has changed within me, and for me, in these past few months. And because chances of extended interaction with folks from VC’s family are so rare, I don’t know what this fresh set of variables will bring. There’s also the bit about a large number of members being people I have actually never interacted with. Let alone their spouses and kids.

I’m partly curious to see how this plays out. But I won’t lie, I’m also partly inclined to just and stay home to stay safe from putting myself in unnecessarily abrasive situations that will make me feel vulnerable. Ideally I’d love to just be a fly on the wall than an active participant.

On the upside, we’re checking in to a resort by the sea. And it is just a matter of two nights and a single day. If all else fails, I will just spend longer than usual hours at the beach, swimming in the sea and burning myself to a crisp. When I’m done doing that, I’ll hide behind my shades and keep a stiff drink for company at all times. Either way, it promises to be a time for a lot of observation, people-watching and figuring out the games they play. All of which I love to do.

So. Let’s see.

***

It also just dawned on me that today is Day 100 of posting this year!

One year ago: To the gypsy that remains

Happy days

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Home

What coming home feels like: Finding home within

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three years ago: On being average

Chance encounters

One of my big fears about coming back to Goa used to be facing some of the people I left behind when I moved. I say left behind because it’s what I did. My moving cities coincided with a gradual moving away from certain people. It was an inevitable, gradual shift in my mind, but I can see now how and why it must have seemed to them like an abrupt kind of abandoning. And so every time that I am here, I wonder about what it might be like to meet them again. Goa is a small place, and thanks to my workplace, my freelance work, the gym I went to my circles were all very mixed and I was in a social space where everybody knew everybody (that in itself was too much for me, and a big reason why I just wanted out). On past trips here, I’ve been unusually stressed about possible encounters, getting riled up at hearing about things they’ve said about me post my leaving, and such. But I underestimate myself, and the capacity of enough time having passed and the wonders it can do for growth.

It is my tendency to protect myself when I feel vulnerable and my insecurities are exposed, and so in the past I may have done things like measured and calculated my wandering within Goa in the hope that I do not encounter someone I do not want to meet. I didn’t realise when this phase had passed, because on day 1 here, I didn’t even think twice about walking to VC’s office and waiting at the entrance for him. This was unthinkable last year. I was engrossed in an email when a friend from back in the day approached me with a tap on the shoulder. I turned, and when I saw it was her, I instantly expected a wave of panic and rage to come over me.

But it didn’t come.

We chatted, exchanging mundane pleasantries. And then she said those dreaded words.

Let’s catch up sometime.

Again, I waited for the polite response to make its way out with extra faked gusto: Sure!

But it didn’t come.

In its place was a measured, polite It’s alright.

And maybe I was saying that more to myself than her? It’s alright to be me. It’s alright to be honest. It’s alright not to put myself in a place I know will not make me feel good. It’s alright not to want the company of people I have chosen to move away from. It’s alright.

I’m grateful for whatever it is that’s happening with me that has suddenly brought forth this ability to put myself first. Even if in little, seemingly minor ways. I’m enjoying cutting away a lot of the unnecessary politeness, that stemmed from wanting to be seen and known in a certain light, fall away. I am grateful for the openness to discover this confidence to be seen as I am.

Sometimes distant. Sometimes impolite. Sometimes aloof. I am all these things sometimes, and it’s been freeing to let these sides be seen too.

***

With VC, I feel like I’ve come home to a whole new-old person. Does that make sense? Do you know what it’s like to know someone, deep in your bones and be so familiar and used to it that when a big change strikes it sweeps you over and knocks you down just like the charm you felt the very first time you met them? Maybe he’s changed as much as I have and I needed to be here to really see it. Maybe I’ve changed and I had to be here to see how it all plays out and what possibilities it now opens up for us? Maybe this is the beginning of something new and there was no way to unlock it than to come here. I’m grateful for the visible changes. I’m grateful for VC. I’m glad I came.

***

The very next day after I got to Goa, I visited A who has suddenly taken very ill. Last week, I sat in Bangalore, worried sick, helplessly wondering what I could do to make a difference. Distance is such a bitch at times like this. I’ll be there in two weeks. I’d said to JC then, feebly, feeling so inadequate and hopeless for not being able to be around when they’re dealing with so much on their own.

I guess it was just meant to be because here I am two weeks ahead of plan, and A got out of the ICU and came back home the same night that I landed. Which meant, I could see her immediately.

I know I went there for her. To be present, to offer support, to check in on her. But it was oddly fulfilling for me. There is an openness and welcoming nature she has that always, always makes me feel so warm and happy. I think even if 20 years go by and we meet again, I will feel this again. As I often worry about friends in Goa and having to start over in a pool that is already small, made smaller still by my very efficient first round of selection, I’m grateful for people like A who make me time and time again feel that it will be okay.

***

Of course I also went to visit D, Olive and Lego on day 1. The pups greeted me with exuberant jumping and many licks, hyper sniffing and loud demands for biscuits. All of this lasted much longer than usual. I am tempted to say it was the doggy bag of tandoori chicken that was parcelled in my bag, but I also want to say maybe it’s just that they remember me. And they are always so unabashed in showing that they remember, and welcome me back home. As per the norm, D and I chatted on and on and as per the norm, I caused her to miss her siesta again.

I like that we can pick up from wherever, whenever. Despite being emotionally all over the place in our own respective ways of late, I like that the prolonged silences do not get in the way. I’m truly grateful that I don’t have to pretend, or make extra overtures to bridge them. I can be what I am, the way I am and we still have a world of things to talk about, or sit in silence together, equally.

***

I know why I resisted coming here sooner than planned so much. It’s because the circumstances brought out these latent fears full force, and I was just not ready to face them. But today I think maybe I needed this. As much as VC did. Because it’s been just a few days and, I felt it the very next morning. I felt like something very fundamental that I was missing in the last few weeks has suddenly been found.

In many ways I feel like I have come full circle, and I feel today, like I did one day two years ago when I finally made some sense (and peace) with moving to Bangalore.

I just had a strangely serendipitous conversation with VC about how sometimes one has to really go the distance to learn something very basic. It seems like an unnecessary journey, and sometimes the upheaval seems disproportionate to the truth learned, but it is how it is.

One year ago: A life of stranger things
Three years ago: Busy bee day

Same lessons, new me

This is my fourth trip to Goa in just six months, and every time that I come here — to this second home, to VC, to this old space I once called home — I see the little things that have changed for me, within me. It’s like seeing an old world with new eyes. And what a difference that makes.

It’s usually small, subtle things. Minor shifts in the way I feel about some of the things I encounter in Goa, and how I manage them. This morning though, it felt like something fundamental has shifted for me, in just the time between my last visit and this one.

Yesterday, I frustratedly chuckled to myself about how the perfection lesson has come back to me yet again. I often think I’ve “cracked” something, in my mind there’s a neat little tick box with a green tick against it. But even more often I am reminded this is not a one way path with to-dos to tick off. Even as I may grasp at and internalise some level of improvement in one area or another, it almost immediately opens up space for more work to be done in that very same area.

I realised I have loosened my grip on the pointless pursuit of perfection in some areas of my life, but I am still hung up, hopelessly caught up and wound up about getting it right, in these other areas of my life that now need looking at. Re-looking at, perhaps.

Even within myself today, I see a sudden shift between the way I’ve been the last two weeks and the way I suddenly am feeling this morning. I’ve carried around a knot of bubbling anxiety/fear in me for nearly two weeks now. I can call it anxiety now because I only just figured out what it was yesterday. Until then I had no clue what it was, where it was coming from or what to do about it. It made me feel knotted up, but also waffly and floaty like I was slowly dissipating with nothing to hold on to. That knot has dissolved, and in its place is a solid whole, filled-up space. I feel solid again, not shaky. I can stand, and I can walk knowing where I’m stepping one foot in front of another.

All it seems to have taken is an honest acknowledgement of the truth about what I am really feeling. Deeply afraid and unanchored.

Ironically, my post from the same day last year talks about something similar  –embracing all aspects of emotions equally and giving them a space so I can hold them in equal honour.

When I consciously or unconsciously turn away from that which I cannot or do not want to accept, it only grows larger and begins to feel like a menacing dark cloud chasing me around. When I consciously acknowledge it, give it its place and sit with it, it begins to feel like a part of me returning to find it’s space within me.

In many ways, this completes me and makes me whole, so I can stand again.

As I stand here this morning, feeling a different kind of whole from the way I’ve been feeling these past few weeks, a different kind of me than I’ve been on recent trips here, a new me from the person I was even just yesterday, I begin to see everything that is just the same, look entirely different. And what a refreshing change it is.

One year ago: Out here without a shield

Going the distance

I don’t know if there’s a better picture than this one to aptly illustrate just how much I am being pushed and tested to let go of all the perfect endings and neatly laid plans I have in my head.

Time and time again these past few weeks I have been shown that it’s important to just go the distance, even if it isn’t all the way till the end line I imagine, or even if the route to getting there isn’t the one I’d have chosen. What matters is giving it my all and going as far as I possibly can in that moment.

To actively work towards hitting 5k in under 35 minutes and nearly make it, only to be stopped just short, by a pre-timed treadmill that’s trained to shut off at 35 minutes was serendipitous today. It made me laugh hard at the gym today. It felt like a small scale version of what happened yesterday when it felt like my life, that was moving happily along, was forced to come to an abrupt grinding halt. And there was absolutely nothing I could do but to go with it.

I’m headed to Goa, two weeks ahead of schedule. And for the first time in perhaps ever, I’m not thrilled about it. After more than a day of fretting and stewing silently, I now feel a little bit at peace with the acceptance that I don’t have to force myself to feel kindly towards what’s going, but I can still do what’s needed and what’s asked of me.

It isn’t perfect. But it’s far less worse than it could have been. And for now, it’ll do.

One year ago: March

Home away from home kind of feeling

It’s been the strangest, nicest stay in Goa this time around. Unlike every one of my visits over last year, where I had an agenda and work to get done — whether we were on shoot, or I came down to help get the house in order and done up — this time around I had no plans. Nothing to occupy me except my own whim. I also got a lot of my own work done ahead of game this month, so I had plenty of time on my hands.

I imagined this would free me up to be out and about a lot, but on the contrary, I’ve spent a most of my time on my own. At home, and outside. But on my own. I’m once again in a very inward state of mind, and being free of external encumbrance has meant that I have been still a little more, staying more.

Consequently, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone even when I did step out. I went to the beach alone, I haven’t done that in years. I caught up with C over breakfast and then a couple of hours sitting in the sunshine in the municipal garden. I spent entire days with A, something I have probably unconsciously shied away from these past few visits, I wandered around my neighbourhood, I drove to the airport and back to pick VC up, I spent a weekend with VCs college buddy and family mostly entertaining and being entertained by a 2-year old who was 100% more interesting than any of the adults.

At home, I’ve caught up on reading, I’ve watched way too many terrible Hindi movies (I’m embarrassed to say how many — some days I watched more than one a day) , I’ve cooked most meals at home (we’ve only eaten out twice since I got here!), I’ve managed to get more exercise than I usually do when I come here (though the last week was disappointing in this regard), and still I haven’t felt that restlessness I usually do when I come here. That restlessness to get shit done — to tick things off my wishlist, to go places, to meet people, to garden, to paint chairs, to fix shit or whatever else — has found some stillness.

I’ve just stayed put for a change. I didn’t plan this. It didn’t take deliberation. It has happened mostly because, for a change, I’ve listened to the cues and followed them, I think.

***

Staying always has incredible advantages. When the rumble of life comes to a slow whir, and my breathing normalises, when there is an almost-uncomfortable silence about me, is when some unshakeable realisations happen. These are moments when I least expect them to happen. I’m learning to welcome them, without having my world temporarily fall apart because of them.

There’s been a fair number of those.

Thoughts about Goa. About home.

Thoughts about friendship. Of letting go.

Thoughts about where to next?

Thoughts about change. And growth.

***

Gratitude, today, for the opportunity of this time. For the solitary state of mind Goa inspires in me. For all the forces that have worked at unearthing things within me that have brought me this far, to this milestone.

One year ago: I still remember, when we did not have the answers

As Goa as it gets

I have an internal map of Goa in my mind. And it is riddled with pins dropped in every nook and cranny of the state — places that dot the landscape of the entire memory I have of the place. Not just physical spaces, locations, but places that evoke feelings, feelings that bring back memories, memories that draw out faces of people I knew and know. And because I am sentimental, that map is alive and thriving, getting updates in real time. Even when a memory is sometimes somewhat hazy, it takes very little for it to jog itself back to the fore, brightening up like a bulb turned on suddenly. A mere mention of that fish thali, a faint passing recollection of that one monsoon 100 km cycle ride, an aching memory of the countless Sunday evening G&Ts at my favourite sunset spot, the joy of that urrak smuggled from the neighbourhood restaurant — and just so many other things — all come rushing back to life.

For the entire duration of the two years that I have been away, I haven’t been able to conclusively decide where I belong. If Goa was a home that I have left, or if Bangalore was always the home that I have returned to.

My life in Goa (and every single thing about my experience here) is so key to my sense of self and who I am, even after all that has happened and after two years of living away, that I sometimes feel I’m split in half. Rendered perpetually torn.

The real-time map in my head makes me feel like I know Goa like the back of my hand. And I do. It’s here where the streets are wide open, the coconut trees stretching over to meet, the salty breeze and muggy air that is so quintessentially special to here, that I’ve roamed around so much all by myself. Driving to faraway beaches, scoping out eateries in distant nooks, seeking out stories and interviews with people doing interesting things, visiting friends in places all the way down south, staying alone on assignment in strange and fascinating hotels, and so much more. I took most, almost all, of these trips alone. They’ve contributed to who I am. And the map is a reminder of all that I’ve been and felt in the years gone through.

There are the parts that signal the newness. A decade old bittersweet semi-excited, semi-shitting-bricks euphoria. My first home, the store right outside that refused to deliver milk to my door, the pao-bhatti that I frequented ever so often. There is the drive down Miramar to office to work. My first workplace in Goa that would be the longest I’ve ever been employed. The days of trying to walk back home in an attempt to get some exercise again. Stopping at our favourite bars on the way home and making last minute plans so everybody would congregate. Endless meals of greasy Chinese and too much consumption of alcohol and other narcotics.

There is the spot that marks fond memories of barbecues past. Of jumping into pools with my jeans on. Of gathering 65 bottles of beer when we were done.

There’s remnants of memories from that daily beach running that eventually wrecked my knees. Of finding a gym that made me fall in love with weights. Of discovering kick boxing and finding true love in my trainers there.

There’s the years spent writing and writing and writing. Blogging. Professionally. Reviewing restaurants. Food blogging. Home baking. Cake selling. Full-time freelancing. The whole nine yards.

There were three home changes. Each home giving me a set of special things to love. Th smallness of the first one matched perfectly with our cluelessness. The open green field view in the second. And priceless neighbours and a promise of the hidden recluse in me in the third.

There was the brush with learning to salsa, jive and bachata. There were innumerable different groups of acquaintances and some friends. Plenty more people I met and knew through work. And the inevitable clashing of all circles and the world closing in.

There was angst about the ex workplace. There was angst about knowing too many people. There was angst about running out of work. There was angst about inadequate internet speeds. There was angst about having to work too hard as a writer reporting in Goa. There was angst about being the lonely isolated writer in my den.

There were the silent noise parties in Palolem, the projector parties every monsoon, the rooftop movie marathons, the holidays bhaang parties and the office Diwali parties. There were the Friday morning visits to Mapusa market, the Sunday morning fish market jaunts, chasing the sunrise at Divar, cycling to save my life all over Goa.

There was so much. Each phase, each year, each stage a page in my Goan chronicles. And in so many ways I feel I’ve lived in so many different Goas. The map in my mind, is very real. It’s as Goa as it gets for me.

***

Today, I had a quintessentially Goa day. A thali for lunch with A, some aimless wandering in our old haunts, window-shopping for export rejects and fighting a nap because we had too much to talk about. An unexpectedly extended evening there also meant another round at the market. I always feel crippled by nostalgia there, seeing the fisherwomen with their baskets laden with fish lined along the streets. So wistfully I stepped towards one of them and pulled out my phone to snap a picture fully expecting her to smile. Except she rolled up the newspaper she was reading and swatted me on my shin, startling me completely. I nearly dropped my phone in shock and had to make a run for it.

Serves me right for making like an annoying tourist.

Even as I was startled, it was such an endearingly hostile move. It made me grin wide. That’s just such a Goa thing to happen! I thought. And it might have been the highlight of my very Goa day, if I hadn’t wound up at the carnival square where the red and white dance for the year was about to begin. It’s carnival week here in Goa and I didn’t anticipate I’d head to the thick of the action, eat beef croquettes, fish cutlets and drink Urak out of a Thailand-style bucket, all while listening to Maria Pitache.

Two urraks down, laced with slit green chillies, lots of lime and a good dash of salt, and a grilled beef wrap in me, I think this entire day, today, is as Goa as it gets.

That map just stretched itself a little bit more today, and wrapped itself around me.

One year ago: Hit the road, Jack 
Two years ago: Kitchen soup for the homesick soul
Three years ago: Why Facebook just feels like a lot of noise

Open

I sit with this fresh, new feeling
like my heart is in my hands
pulsating to a new beat
and like my soul is finding new shape
with every word I speak.

I’ve just sown some seeds of newness, gently
there. With love and care
and now it’s time I wait.

There’s no scraping this this up again.
No sewing up old crevices,
or digging in too deep
Now it’s time to just be.

And so, I wait.

For the sapling ripe with new life to burst forth
to grab a foothold, find new ground,
send tender little baby root deep within me
locking shoots with my bones,
digging deeper beneath the surface,
embracing that part tucked away within me,
gently nudging it to wake.

I wait.

For a season of springtime, of play to bloom
to be touched by the morning dew of mirth,
feeling the kiss of giggles and laughter
in the gentlest caress of the evening breeze.

For the tendrils of oneness and belonging
to twist around my little finger,
to keep me up.

For the bright green, baby leaves
of the child I used to be
to find space within this big old body
of the woman I am today.

We are the same after all.

I wait,
for this newfound comfort in the tenderness
fragility and delicateness of it all
to become me.

For when this spring comes,
with its fragrant freshness
it will take me,
sweep me up in its sweetness.
Filling the endless expanses of my being with
a seductive joy.

It will crack through my bones,
trickle through and beneath my skin,
erupt in loud lovesongs,
waft through in every breath that I exhale,
fill every square inch of my body with playfulness
smudge little bits of love on whatever I touch.

And so, I wait.

***

Still basking in the post-workshop glow, the desire to process, make sense, and even revisit everything has found this strange new quiet. I feel energetic, but the energy high seems contained. I find I’m not veering to my typical tendencies to either distract myself with a burst of activity, neither am I losing many hours to the deep, deep sleep that usually comes after I’e done a piece of this kind of work.

It has helped being alone here in Goa at this time. This is a nice kind of alone time. For a change, there is that familiar loneliness again, but this time unlike the usual why-me-why-now thoughts that come with it, there is an unusual, but very pleasant settling. Of just sitting with it. And to my surprise it hasn’t caused any eruptions, like it usually does.

Is it possible to feel this cut wide open, vulnerable, tender, yet free to leave it be, and yet also find a peaceful containment, like this?

I feel a ferocious urge to claim what has opened up for me at the workshop. But with it, is this deep, deep pause. To wait, not to act in impulse.

So, I sit, making space for these thoughts and feelings.

In some ways it’s like I’m meeting this part of me for the very first time.

One year ago: The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself

At ease, at home

No matter how hard I tried to get most of my work done before I got here, there’s that little tail that’s lingering, and only two days for the month to end and for me to tie up the loose ends. The reason I worked my ass off ahead of time, this time around was because I know what happens to me when I get to Goa. I slow down, and I got into a mental shutdown, holiday-like mode, for no apparent reason. So here I am, making difficult choices. Much like I did yesterday. To research a new and wildly fascinating aspect of septic tanks again (please sense my sarcasm, please sense it), or watch the Oscars? To finish that scintillating post about the economics of sanitation or to binge watch This Is Us that I didn’t even know has started again?

Decisions, decisions. Anyhow, you’ll be happy to know I spent 75% of yesterday binge watching Trevor Noah, before I decided to get down to work. And somehow, I managed to finish, and meet my deadline before the end of day, while simultaneously cooking us some pasta for dinner.

Speaking of binge-watching, I have been watching a lot of TV since I got here. I watched Period. End of Sentence. last week — it’s possibly one of the most beautiful documentaries I’ve seen on menstrual health in India, and even though it’s a topic that has the potential to be dismal depressing, it made me just so happy watching it. OH, and it won an Oscar yesterday!

I watched Stree last week, and as much as I love Rajkumar Rao, I think this one was lost on me. I just didn’t get what the big deal was. On the weekend, VC and I re-watched Befikre (Ranveer Singh makes this one worth it for me, again and again and again) and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (surprisingly, I enjoyed it this time around, which makes me think the company of the opinionated twats I watched it in the first time had coloured my experience). After we watched Gully Boy last week and having our senses smacked in, I’ve been guzzling any video related to it. So I decided to rewatch whatever Zoya Akhtar films I can get my hands on, just for the heck of it. I recently watched Dil Dhadakne Do, only for like the fourth time around, so I might give that one a pass.

I’ve managed to sneak in exercise almost everyday, and mostly cooking all meals at home. This time around, things feel a lot more settled, and I even though there are places I want to go to, I’m tempted to stay in and just be. On Sunday night, though, VC and I went out to dinner to a charming little restaurant in the garden of a home in the neighbourhood. The music played off an old Macbook hooked up to a Altec Lansing tower speaker, the furniture looked like it was dragged out of the home itself, the lady of the house chattered away on the telephone to her grandson loudly while we stifled giggles, and the power went off three times dashing our hopes of eating the lasagne because their oven went out of commission. The joys of living in a village, the chef/owner said to us. And I agreed. It was a joy to eat in the mostly silent ambience, with just the sound of granny chiding her 15-year old grandson who is in Bombay and refuses to learn Marathi or Hindi, and the crickets, with no lights in sight for miles. When the lights did come back on, there was this.

This week though, I plan to drive myself to Panjim to meet A, And C. I also want to go to the beach again. VC’s friends get here on the weekend and we’re going to be socialising and back at the beach, I anticipate. I also want to eat at at least one of the places on my list of restaurants I like to visit whenever I am here, but I’m having trouble deciding which one.

This time around, things feel a lot more settled. This time around, there is clarity. And even though I am unsure of when and if I will ever move here again, it’s a really good feeling to have a home and the mindspace that feels like home enough for every visit.

One year ago: I’m glad that I’m alive
Three years ago: In between mouthfuls

Notes on an island

It’s really hard to put into words what the past four days have been like for me. It’s one thing to be in a therapeutic, healing space. I’ve been in several of these workshops before now. But this time around, there was something about being on an island, something about leaving life as I know it behind for four days, setting off from the mainland, to go away (it’s not too far, but even so) and be surrounded by greenery and singing birds, waking up to misty mornings, spotting bright butterflies, a pair of wobbly ducks, the gentlest dog, and having the luxury of a pool to dunk into at the end of the day, hot wholesome home-cooked meals three times a day, and a big comfortable bed to retreat into at night, that made the experience so much more than just a workshop. I can’t emphasise how much being away added to my healing experience, this time around.

As such the air in Goa always feels so rich and laden with good vibes. I’ve said it before — things slow down within me, in the best way possible. Also, given everything that has been coming up at therapy in the run up to this trip, I felt like all roads were leading me here. It was time, and I couldn’t have been more ready for it. To physically take myself there, in a space, a bubble away from life as I know it, even here when I’m essentially on holiday, felt meta!

I actually also enjoyed the company of the people in the group. It was a small, intimate, but diverse group of people, of whom I knew only D. For a change, I mingled some, and actually felt drawn to some people. I guess this is what allowing for connection is like?

It was nice to be in the midst of folks who come from such different lives and backgrounds, but have that one thing in common that had brought us all together — a keen interest on working on ourselves. It’s sometimes all it takes to break walls and build bridges. I think I bonded more with this bunch than I have with the bunch I’ve shared a whole year of learning with.

It’s strange, but I woke up on Sunday in my bed at home actually missing walking into our workshop room.

I managed to wake up every morning and get a long walk in, and also run a little. The island is trapped in time. Every time that I visit it, I feel I need to live there at some point, and this time was no different. The people, the homes, the streets, the chai tapris, the church on top of the hill — everything feels otherworldly.

In the evenings I’d dive straight into the pool for a dip, which was so, so so needed every single day. I miss having access to a pool in my regular life, I realise.

The mornings were especially mind-boggling and stunning, and brought up overwhelming gratitude and a feeling of contentment for the opportunity it was. Golden kissed air, a low hum of calm and peace within, a slowness that forced me to be even more present than I thought was possible, or that I was capable of.

I’m usually bursting with words at the end of these experiences, but something has shut down that impulse in me off late. I’ve been feeling a lack of words. Not so much a difficulty with not finding the words, but a comfort and ease with not having to go into the words to make sense of it. I find myself soaking it in, feeling the small nudges and bubbling shifts within me. There is a new quietness about this that I am enjoying.

There were tears, so many tears, and so quick and easy to flow. It was different and liberating. There was also a palpable sense of completion, of finishing a part of something I had started over three years ago. There was a sense of having turned, of having moved forward, of seeing the same world with new eyes. It’s really hard for me to put into words what the past four days have been like for me. This time was different. This time felt complete.

One year ago: All my sweat, my blood runs weak
Two years ago: Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with
Three years ago: Travel

Like coming home

It’s so nice to wake up before my alarm actually goes off and then will myself to stay in bed until the sun has come up enough for it to be light out.

I took myself for an hour-long walk/run around the island this morning. I already feel like it was the best thing I’ve done today. No map, no directions, no familiarity. Just out and about.

I am constantly overwhelmed by the beauty of divine timing and the ways in which everything happens in its own time. I have been feeling so very prepared for this workshop in a way that I know I wasn’t last year. This feels right. This feels like the time has come.

Been thinking a lot about my connection with Goa and how by unknown circumstances and by design, I find myself experiencing some of the really meaningful inflections in my life here. It feels like an old connection but a fresh one too.

***

P. L. A. Y.

F. E. E. L.

B. R. E. A. T. H. E.

One year ago: I hope you’re not lonely without me