And so it’s done

Came to Goa feeling quite like this three weeks ago.

Bright, spiffy and sunshine-y. Sparkly. Ready to cool off.

Njoyed lyk nething. And then some.

This has been one of the most memorable few weeks here in a long, long time, for VC and I. We set up a new home. We reconnected with old friends, in our old stomping grounds. We cooked together, laughed together, watched a lot of TV and movies together. And I developed an irrational interest in watching him play PUBG — another thing we did together. We barbecued for two to bring in the new year. We painted furniture. We ran away to stay at the beach for a weekend. We ate out so much.

Embarked on a new year. New life.

Finally, this party’s over. And it’s time to go home.

One year ago: Happier: perpetual WIP
Two years ago: A hazy shade of winter

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Changing seasons, changing reasons

Feeling the feels and thinking lots of thoughts about death of a phase, moving on to new horizons, finding new ground and growing into new skin since yesterday.

Maybe it was the massage I had yesterday that set of this feeling of having shed something. Or maybe it’s the energy of the first week of the new year that still feels like the dregs of the old, leaving on its last legs. I have actually been feeling this energy of something finishing since the last big full moon of December. Or maybe it’s the near end of this trip — that has in so many, many ways been life-altering — that makes me feel like something new has been set in motion.

Nothing confirmed it — this inner knowing of what was one young and tender, having grown, and what has grown and fulfilled its purpose eventually meeting a logical end, this feeling of the continuous cycles that keep finding their peaceful completion — like this splash of pink and white that’s taken over a curry-leaf tree whose time is in sun is clearly done.

This overgrown burst of colour that’s brimming with the kind of audacity that only be found in youth. The loud, look-at-me-flourish vibe that overshadows and drowns out what once was a wee little pot-sapling no higher than my knees, forced me to see what is.

Today, I went back to visit an old neighbour and dear friend, and quite by surprise found a parking spot right next to where it has grown into flourishing tree in it’s own right.

I’d planted that little sapling in the ground in the home I last lived in, in Goa. And something about witnessing this transformation, to see the blossoming tree full of life in all its glory, hit home today.

One year ago: Day 8: I’m just too good at goodbyes
Three years ago: Day 8: On waiting

Boombox updates

Things that have suddenly kicked back to life, despite this half-life existence, during this WIP time in Goa:

  1. The will to cook full goddamn meals. I mean complete with dal, dabzi, curry and the works. And I mean the urge went beyond that two-day surge of inspiration.
  2. The self-imposed WhatsApp shut-down. Bliss has returned. I cannot wait for this to be the norm again.
  3. The urge to go running. And I’m kicking myself for not carrying my sneakers with me.
  4. MUSIC.

VC got me a portable speaker for the Goa house, days before I arrived here. Sure, I asked for it really politely, but the fact that he obliged without so much as a counter-question kind of surprised me. You see, VC is the kind of freak who finds music to be a distraction in most spaces. And I’d include a club or lounge too. This has significantly affected my music listening patterns. I choose earphones more often than not, and even though I manage, it just isn’t the same, you know?

Our home in Bangalore saw a minor resurgence of music. And that further blossomed once VC moved out last month. When I’m alone with nobody to feel bothered and hassled by the music, it was expected I suppose. But it’s been over two weeks in Goa and I have to state for the record that we’ve been listening to a lot of music. Everyday. And yes, it’s a we, because VC is yet to object or protest or ask me to turn it down/off. He’s living on the edge by tolerating music that I turn on the moment I wake up, and since this is a much smaller house it’s not even like he can hide himself away somewhere and escape it. I’d go so far as to say he’s enjoying it, maybe? Because he’s asked about some of the music I played, downloaded some of my Apple playlists too.

I don’t know what has changed, but I like it.

Here’s what I have had on loop of late:

This album rushed back to my conscious mind after we heard it at the pizza bar, sitting under an awning of inverted baskets with lights embedded in them, casting the best glow. Listening to it while I cook works best!

I don’t know how it happened that I missed this entire album. I guess there’s something to be said of how quietly and consistently JM keeps churning these extra tight, powerful, moving albums. Just banging them out relentlessly, it’s hard to keep track. Turns out I’d heard a couple of tracks of it, but didn’t realise they were from an entirely new album. This track particularly hits me in the feels. It’s just so tight.

I’m late to the PK party. I’m almost ashamed to say I really liked this song because I’d hitherto dismissed him as repetitive and monotonous, whiny music for heartbroken desi millennials. And maybe that description will ring true in a while. But this track, and this album, has stayed I keep waiting for when it’ll get annoying and it hasn’t happened yet.

One year ago: Day 4: Going by the book (and all that I read in 2017)
Two years ago: 2016
Three years ago: Day 4: Love letters

Inhale. Exhale.

And just like that, we’re more or less done. Yeah, still only more or less. I’d say about 95%. I’d like some more plants — indoors and out. Art and photographs on the walls and some more essentials in the kitchen. But for now, this will more than do.

Gratitude for the privilege that is a second home. In a second state. By the beach. For all the resources — monetary and otherwise — that came our way at the right time in getting this home up and going. For my folks who’ve cheered us on right from the word go when we put in our down payment on this home. For friends who pitched in all along in so many, many, many ways — I can’t even count the ways. For VC my rock. For VC my fellow-nester. For VC my all-time partner in crime who has more or less indulged my every whim as far as this home goes.

I feel like I can breathe easy now. Just like I did nearly two years ago. And five and a half years ago. And nine years ago.

I know this familiar feeling. And last evening, I was so grateful to have the house all to myself to just soak in it and let it creep into my bones. I’m home.

One year ago: Day 3: What is life
Three years ago: Day 3: Reminders and notes to self

Food and friendship

When the kind ladies at The Lookout Journal wrote in to ask if I could write a feature on food and how it forms such an integral part of documenting vignettes of my life, I was flattered. But also mostly shocked. That a) my blog interested someone enough to ask me to write for them and b) the angle they’d taken in talking about food was quite a refreshing departure from most things I’ve seen food-documenting in a while.

I didn’t end up writing the essay. What with being smack in the middle of travel, moving cities, setting up home, and continuing to work through it all. So they were kind enough to turn the opportunity into a Q&A with me instead.

I was deeply touched by how insightful the questions were, moving away from the most obvious and usual extension of food — nostalgia. Particularly inspiring for me to get down to answering their questions was the fact that really to got the heart of the place food occupies in my life especially this year — facilitating friendship with others and with myself. 

So here it is if you’d like to give it a lookie and a read.

***

It’s true. Food is such a vehicle for normalcy and finding grounded-ness.

This is the first meal I cooked at the new home in Goa and immediately I felt at home in a way that only cooking a full meal can make me feel. Even though it was just khichdi and aloo-fry. 

VC had been eating take out for over a month since he moved in. I had to buy a pressure cooker to begin with. But I went a little extra and bought a set of idli plates, a hand-mixie too. And I stocked up on a lot of masalas, which I’d been avoiding thinking VC is not going to ever cook an elaborate meal that will require them. Soon enough I realised the stupidity of that thought process. This is my kitchen too. I’m going to be visiting often enough. As soon as I gave myself the space to settle in, spices, pressure cooker and all, I immediately felt at home.

We have since had idlis and chutney, dal rice and anda-masala, aglio olio with mushrooms and sausages. On New Years Ever we even managed a barbecue for two — VC outdoing himself with a malai chicken (which had no malai hahaha) and paneer skewers. I tossed together some buttered veggies to go with it. It was simpler than I imagined, and we had a quiet, satisfying evening of it by ourselves.

***

Somewhere in the midst of it all R came to visit, and it happened to be the eve of VC’s birthday. So we bought our favourite chocolate cake for old time’s sake to surprise him with. And then on the birthday we had dinner at a quaint little “pizza bar” in North Goa.

I’m really enjoying exploring the food here. I didn’t do enough of it when I lived in Panjim, especially in the years just before I left. So I’m glad for the opportunity to be closer north. And for friends who’ve arrived bearing enthusiasm to make me get out and about. 

One year ago: Day 2: Gratitude. That is all.
Three years ago: Day 2: Love

Taking it slow

We spent all day today — all day except for a break for lunch and a snooze — in our night clothes and unbathed, painting furniture.

Deliberate, painstakingly slow, I realised only at the end of the day that it had been quite an exercise in relinquishing control — for VC, of the rush to get the job done, and for me, of obsessing over and being ring leader to make sure it’s a “neat” job.

Waiting for paint to dry meant what we thought would be a 3-4 hour job took all day. But that was the beauty of it all. It took an unplanned activity that we got into without much thought, to make a day of it.

When these chairs came home, I assumed I’d be doing this paint job on my own. Obviously, I assumed it wouldn’t interest VC, let alone hold his attention for an entire day.

I love that day 1 began with a pleasant surprise. And a lesson for me to allow myself to be helped. Even without asking.

They say what you do on the first day of the year sets the tone for the rest of the year. And if the contentment we’re feeling right now is anything to go by, this has been a good start. There was pleasure in having head, heart and hands all in, intimacy in working together and chattering through it all, camaraderie in the occasional laughter non-stop music. And all this while creating things that will go into making our home a little cosier.

Goa a second time around has been special. This trip, especially so. Something about making a home, our own home, has triggered a lightness about me. It has freed a little bit of me in an inexplicable sort of way.

I never want to forget what it feels like to be this free. This happy. This absorbed in building a life that fits and makes sense to me. And us. This interested in scribbling little anecdotes that will become slices of memories in the album of my life.

One year ago: Day 1: Onwards and upwards
Three years ago: Day 1: Move more

Day 360: I just want the realness

A day that begins like this can only go well. And today was that kind of day.

One year ago: Warm sound

Day 358: Relax, take it easy

It’s probably a combination of end of the year lethargy and dealing with the chaos that has been getting the house set up and hanging with friends and dealing with things that are coming up for me in therapy. But the result is I’m feeling that taciturn energy-saving mode again. There are things to say, I’m writing furiously in my journal. But I also want to just stay with it and keep it within for just a bit. Just let things be and marinade in it slowly. Witness it and see what happens, for a change.

I’m feeling like I might abandon this post-a-day habit just short of the finish line that’s just next week.

I’m also not going to finish my reading challenge for the year. Just a few books shy of the nice round figure.

There are times in my life when I have chased goals and round figures and taken great joy in producing (to myself) a report card at the end. This is not one of those times.

Two years ago: Day 358: Home is where the yellow roses are

Day 357: Let the water lead us home

Gratitude: Goa homemaking edition.

I’m grateful for all the minds and hands that have gone into making a home from the shell of a house we came to some time ago. It’s taken time, and it’s been all kinds of trying, but we’re finally almost there.

I think back to how things were nine years ago when we first came here, with just cartons full of shoes and clothes and absolutely nothing to make a home with. I remember how hard it was being in a new place where we didn’t know anybody at all, figuring out places to buy essentials, not being able to afford furniture, feeling totally at sea and all alone. And I think of how this time around our experience has been completely the opposite. The sense of familiarity and homeliness in Goa aside, this time around, we’ve been surrounded by overtures of help, friends who handed down furniture, surprise interventions of the right thing showing up at the right time. And it made me realise how little of the stuff that’s gone into it is our own. It’s a product of mostly people’s kindness and generosity. Only the marginally better ability to receive it is our own.

That little makeshift kind-of settee is actually a baby bed that my aunt S didn’t want to let go of after her babies had outgrown it. So she offered it to me to keep just when we needed seating in the new home.

That teak-wood book case belonged to my great grand father, and after many years in our old Goa has finally found a forever-home in this one.

Those curtains were the first thing that went up in this home. D helped me one morning, and it was one of the first moments I felt this house had potential.

Before VC moved in here, he (and I for a bit) were camped out of D’s home for a whole month. When VC eventually moved, he took the liberty of taking a comforter and pillow with him. To use on the mattress D had passed on to us. Along with a set of side tables that made the only furniture VC has had for a whole month. Last week D handed down an extra double bed, complete with a set of side tables, completely changing over our visions of slumming it on the floor for at least 6 months before we felt ready to buy ourselves a bed.

The jute chairs in our terrace are about as old as I am, and came to us from my parents. They’re sturdy and great for sitting outdoors, but are in need of re-stringing and I hope to do that myself next week.

Our entire kitchen and bedroom wardrobes were made by an efficient, creative and very, very polite carpenter in Bangalore. My father designed and instructed him, while he built it all in Bangalore, then collapsed it all, neatly packed it, transported it to my home there, stacked it in storage. I then arranged a transporter, had it all packed and sent to Goa. The carpenter then landed up in Goa a day after I did and got to work, assembling it all in a record 2 days. Achieving this would have been unthinkable in Goa.

That dinette was my father’s idea and it trumps our idea to stick a table in such a small kitchen-living-dining space.

Starting last month, this has been a testing period — more for VC who actually lived in a non-home for the most part — in trying to get shit done. It’s holiday season and finding workmen is getting increasingly hard. And even in between much complaining and cribbing on my part, things are shaping up.

I’m grateful for all the help I got, and that I continue to get. It has been such a massive blessing as we begin again.

Two years ago: Day 357: Cutting the fat

Day 355: All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise

I was initially quite unsure about living so far away from Panjim. From civilisation and amenities, and the comfortable life that I had created for myself the last time around. My life depended a lot on accessing the things I need the most, after all. It still does. But five days into being here, three of which were spent driving around all day in the far north, have made me realise that the kind of things I depend on (and would like to make a part of my life in Goa) now have changed.

Second chances come for a reason. There’d be no point in re-creating once again, my life as I knew it back then. And yesterday, I realised I’m happy for this chance to be away from Panjim.

For one, from the few times I drove through, it feels unliveable. It has all the chaos and claustrophobia of Bangalore, almost. And it’s slowly losing its quintessential charm, which breaks my heart.

Second, I’m closer to the beach. Given the snarling traffic jams and multifold increase in traffic, I’m pretty sure living in Panjim would have meant close to no beach visits. I’m hoping that will change with the easy access I now have.

Three, I’m feeling far more inclined to the idea of Goa as a different life from the one I have in Bangalore. I’ve been wondering why the quiet life in Goa attracts me, and I realise all the reasons I list are of things that are so unique to being away from Bangalore. It’s futile for me to come here and lament the lack of, or try and recreate a little bubble of city-life conveniences. Yes, life here means driving out on my own for every little thing. It means precisely 2 restaurant delivery options. It means spotty Internet. Maybe that has a place too. In many ways the struggles of getting this home up and going have taken me back to the way things were when we first moved here. When Panjim itself was far less fancy than it is today, when it presented far fewer options, and everything took much more effort and involvement than it would have needed in a big city. It was partly stressful and partly annoying, but I know how that played a role in softening me some. In building some resilience and patience. And I’m beginning to think this second chance is actually a chance to do-over those parts of myself too. To brush off the city-slicker cynicism and get my hands dirty and in touch with the roots again.

***

All of the above thoughts inspired and festered on a day-long jaunt in North Goa yesterday.

S and I caught a blissfully lazy, late breakfast. Much like we used to some weekends from a life in another time.

Of course that meant we had to lazy around, drive around and kill time to make space for the large and satiating late lunch that followed.

And then we finally made it to the beach. Which was just lovely.

As always with S, there was music. Lots of good music.

And as always with Niyu, out popped the watercolours.

I could get used to this again.

Two years ago: Day 355: Too much nature ho gaya

Day 354: Find my direction magnetically

It’s fitting to be in Goa as I head to the end of the year, because everything always slows down for me when I’m here. Even in the midst of ongoing house work, despite the hectic journey here and now entertaining visiting friends and the like, there is a slowness about being in Goa that I have come to appreciate and crave.

I spent a fair bit of time just writing last week. Not working. Not blogging. Just writing. Pondering, imagining, living words about what I feel is to come in 2019 and broadly which way I’d like to move. Very organically, subtly, I’m being led towards a path I didn’t know was just around the corner, even just one month ago.

Some weeks ago, I heard someone say:

Where focus goes, energy flows.

and I see now, what it means to “put my energy” into that which I want. I always imagined that state to be one of toil and hardwork. But it looks nothing like it from where I’m at today.

I always ask for my new year to be “well done” but this year, I feel I’d like 2019 to be only medium-sized rare. Tender, juicy, soft at the heart. With room to build all kinds of flavour.

Two years ago: Day 354: Old and mighty

Day 353: We got soul food in the house

Within mere hours of reaching Goa, I came down with a massive cold. A combination of the drastic spike in temperatures between Bangalore and here, and spending upwards of an hour stuck in a non air-conditioned bus and then plane, breathing a cocktail of germs while we got through the inordinate delay in taking off from Bangalore international airport.

The dust from the carpentry work at home hasn’t helped. It’s day 3, and today, finally it settled. After a chilled beer, beef fry and a bigass mackerel fry.

Day 352: I kinda feel like I saw the light

Hi, Goa.

It’s nice to be here with with a palpable absence of the anxiety and cold feet that I’ve had on the last few trips I have made.

There’s many things about this trip that ought to have sent me into a tizzy. But far fewer things are. And the tizzy is only just a small flutter.

I am looking forward to the downtime with VC, despite carpenters crawling around my home with no place for me to even sit.

As with every consecutive trip I make to Goa, my heart breaks a little bit more to see things changing so rapidly. I’m not coming from an idealistic place of believing nothing should ever change. But I do feel the price we’re paying for all of these changes is far too high. And I feel like not too many people seem to be seeing it that way.

Day 324: I’m feeling outshined

I wanted to write about the weekend, the food we ate, why we walked so much and the thoughts about community living that I’ve been having swimming around in my brain. But cleaning up my WhatsApp media just now, I saw these pictures and felt the ache of a big twitch in my heart.

Easy love. In three simple steps.

Irrevocable, irreversible, love. I’m grateful to have received this and have it touch me in a strange and unexpected way.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that in the emotional department, humans have nothing on dogs. In my next life, I want to be a sausage doggie in a home that will keep me well.

Day 318: I have tried in my way to be free

Things that haven’t changed (and probably never will):

  1. Last minute panic. Despite weeks of planning, spreadsheets and lists, and being in Goa for three weeks now, the bulk of all the work to be done with setting VC up in our new home happened in the last three days. And since this was largely due to reasons out of our control, there was no option to even be frustrated about it. With nobody to point fingers at and nobody’s door to place the blame on, we’ve had no choice but to go with the flow. Right up to the very last minute. Which means I have to leave home at 8.30 tonight to make my flight back home, but at 4.30 I’m in the house (which now, in addition to the other work going on here, has a hole where the main door lock used to be) waiting for work to get done.
  2. New beginnings in a new home with the same old tradition of getting locked out. So, for three weeks now as I’ve been slowly getting things in order, we’ve waltzed in and out of this flat with ease. Today we finished some major bits and D and I lit a little lamp and laid out a few cards to honour and invoke new beginnings and good luck, and just we wrapped up and locked the door, it has refused to open again. It took my (very new) neighbour to valiantly climb out of his balcony adjacent to mine, teeter on the edge and climb into my home and enter through a thankfully unlocked balcony door, before he could open it from the inside and let me in. My parents have had this utterly strange phenomenon where almost every home they’ve moved into, they’ve been locked out of at an auspicious moment. I guess I’ve continued that tradition perfectly and I’d like to think of it as good luck. Phew.
  3. It’s still horrifically difficult finding a handyman or handy-people to do odd jobs here in Goa. It’s largely why everything has come down to the wire in the last three days. Goa is Goa is Goa, I suppose.
  4. While it has been largely easy to swallow the hiccups and resign myself to the slowness of this situation, I think the stress of these last few months has finally started to show on me. And as usual, the first thing to be shot to shit as a result of internalised stress, is my skin. Its so apparent this time around, with my face looking and feeling really, really crappy. Oh well, back to square one and getting things back in order once I’m back.
  5. We’re far from done, and the house is still so bare but as usual, just the sight of curtains and dappled light makes everything feel homely. Immediately.

Things that have changed:

  1. VC has surprised me by being the worked up, easily hassled and frustrated one of the two of us this time around. Every time that we’ve been in a situation like this in the past, with life up in the air and very little control on what’s going on, I am usually the first one to cave. This time around we’ve reversed roles and I’m pleasantly surprised.
  2. I’m excited to be nesting again. But this is the first time we’re doing in a home of our own. The energy has been so different this time around. I’ve always thought I’m the sort who likes to daydream about homely spaces, and be in love with the idea of a lovely home, more than I actually have the will to act on it. Every time that I have felt a burst of inspiration to do anything around the home, it fades immediately after bare minimum is achieved. Perhaps this is because none of those spaces ever felt fully like my own. I’m noticing how much free-er we are able to be with decisions and spending money on the things we want to believe we deserve now that this home is for keeps. I’ve watched amazed as we’ve taken swift decisions and extended ourselves in uncharacteristic ways, with all things to do with the home, these past few weeks. There’s been a lovely sense of permanence about this that is so new and enjoyable. I’m almost envious that VC is the one who gets to enjoy this new space all on his own before I ever will!
  3. Maybe it’s for the same reason that I’ve also felt far more connected with this home. And it’s the newness of it all that spurred me to do this. I’ve never been one for rituals. Especially if the house warming sort. But something has shifted in recent time, making me create rituals of my own. Little acts of faith, grounding and sincerity that probably have no place in religion, but mean something far more to me than my supposed religion ever will. And so I lit a lamp, and gathered these cards in the name of prosperity and celebrating new beginnings and sent out a wish to the universe to bless us as we do this. This song and dance of nesting that we’ve done so many times before. And yet this time it seems so very different.
  4. After largely being emotionally in tune for the most part of the last many many months, I’ve been front a bit frayed these past few weeks. A sense of loose ends, everything up in the air, an unsettling front of everything around me building up to something but having absolunk idea what, and the stresses and strains of thisove have left me quite beside myself. I have felt disconnected and it’s shown on more than one occasion. All of which was revealed in this card reading for today. I long for some time to root myself again and the coming weekend promises just that.