Reunited

It’s been a long day of two bodies — in what is suddenly feeling like a rather small house crammed further still with boxes and suitcases and bags — rummaging, unpacking, sorting and settling through much of our meagre belongings.

In the midst of it all, my plants arrived. Battered and a bit bruised. But mostly alive. My day was instantly made, being reunited with these babies again, and it caused a major distraction in what was otherwise a smooth unpacking operation, causing me to take much, much longer than anticipated. And still didn’t finish. VC left for a recce and a meeting in the afternoon while I pottered around some more, trying to get through as many boxes as possible by myself. Instead, I somehow landed on a little shoebox (of a pair of sandals I owned in 2008, I’m pretty sure) I don’t remember putting this motley collection of things into. But there I was shoebox in hand, but about to go down an abyss I didn’t know I would. It was a box full of letters and postcards and greeting cards from friends and family I’ve loved over the years, and there were also cards and appreciation posts from one of the only jobs I really loved and hated leaving. A shoebox of words of unending love and gratitude. From lots of people no longer in my life, but also some utterly lovely samples from my sister, both my grandparents and a friend who proclaimed love for me in ways I was too daft to understand then but reading the letters yesterday flicked a big tube-light on in my head.

It was a good trip, taking me back to days of yore and reuniting me with parts of myself I have somewhat lost that connection with.

It was a good trip, and the timing felt serendipitous.

All this to say, I’m still not quite back to normal programming and therefore the delayed and disjointed, rushed post. All this to say, this will probably persist for the rest of the week. Because I haven’t paused life to get my home in order. And I haven’t gotten my home in order, because, life.

One year ago: Maybe I’ll get it right next time

Diwali

It’s that time of year. And I can say that because every year since leaving Goa, I’ve found myself back in Goa in time for Diwali. Playing cards. That’s three consecutive years now.

Interestingly, while Diwali was the one time of the year that invoked the desire to be around family and do family things, in all the years that we lived here. And while I tried to drum up the enthusiasm to cook something and do something between the two of us, I always felt the lack of a larger family to celebrate with. So it’s super ironic to me that every year since moving back, for the last three Diwalis, I’ve left family behind in Bangalore to come here. And somehow I’ve always had a welcoming bunch of people to celebrate with. Also interesting to note that it’s always at D’s home. I wonder if this has become something of a tradition without us even knowing it. Some Diwalis ago, I wrote about yearning for tradition but also wanting to make it relevant and my own, and look what’s happened.

I’m losing sorely today. But making up for it in sangria and small bites.

I’m grateful for festivities that begin early. For homes away from home. For friends that turn into family quite effortlessly.

That’ll be all.

One year ago: You and me, we come from different worlds

October

October skies are back in all their madenning glory. (I just realised I wrote a sky post on this same day two years ago too.) October skies are a thing, in case you’re wondering.

Such a delight to wake up to real sky-blue skies, with fluffy waves of clouds streaked through, even after a night of torrential rain. The sun is bright, the heat is picking up. It’s October alright.

90 days to the end of the year and I’m feeling all kinds of thankful for 2019. It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been pretty damn close. And I say this taking every misstep, every downer, every emotional landslide, every challenge and every single thing that I would otherwise count as forgettable, within.

I count it all as near perfection. Just like this October morning Bangalore sky.

***

Today, I’m grateful for sunlight. For whatever it is that has motivated me to get up and get to the gym this past week. And for the joy and fullness that has come from spending the day with S today.

***

It’s my grandfather’s birthday today. He would have been 91, and I find myself thinking about him with much adoration and nostalgia today.

One year ago: In the nick of time
Two years ago: What colour is your sky?

Step up

I’ve been discovering how much of my modus operandi when faced with a challenge swings between extreme energy and force to move forward and fight, and retreating silently — and all variations of these two extreme states.

Recent experiences that have felt like the universe sending me invitations to explore this area (which for all of us, goes back to how we’ve faced even the smallest trauma in our childhood) in the form of situations ranging from the overwhelmingly demanding kind like facing a bully insistent on raining on my parade, the very interesting difficulty of meeting an authority figure from a place of my own power, to the very simple like demanding peanuts on my noodles that were supposed to come with peanuts rather than meekly making do with none).

It has been a journey of slowly owning my own power, stepping into the very exciting and overwhelming area of knowing my full potency. I realised recently that I am at an interesting crossroads in my journey of self exploration and moving forward is going to be impossible unless I own my own power fully, and for that I absolutely must step into my potency. This requires the simultaneous growing of a healthy, resourced part of myself that I have felt pulsating and slowly coming to life, and consistently leaning on her as I meet old traumas. It means knowing and owning the safe, compassionate and strong haven of vulnerability I carry within myself. And the more I do this work, the deeper I walk into these murky waters, the more I find the willingness to stay with difficulty and distress. As I am. Where I am.

The more I do this, the more I see the old modus operandi of fight and flight slowly fading away (but not without a fight). The more I feel that old urge to run right after I have been very vulnerable and naked, slowly lose a grip on me.

It has taken going to places of extreme vulnerability. At many levels, in front of audiences, in spaces I consider impossible to be vulnerable in. And when I expected these experiences to make me shut down, what has emerged is the urge is to stay and not lose what I have come for.

I have tasted a tiny nibble, a drop, a touch of what “strength in vulnerability” is and I see how crucial it is for me to deepen this experience. I feel willing and capable of doing this, as I see clearly the difference in how I am now operating from a place of resource and strength rather than the unconscious triggering of old trauma.

I am still caught off gaurd by moments of doubt and fear, but the difference is immense. Even as I feel fear and doubt, I also feel a readiness to go forth, to explore and find a way to move, not shrink away as has always been my pattern. It has never come naturally, of course. Flight has always been my preferred alternative. But no more.

Every day, as I wake up and breathe, I feel a strong invitation to step up and in. In every single way.

One year ago: Some things will never change
Two years ago: Back to base

Eleven

There was a moment some time ago, in a conversation (with someone whose opinion I hold very close) about the wonders of living apart from one’s significant other, when I was asked if the need for space and distance meant that maybe I’d left my marriage in some manner during this past year of living apart.

The question really stumped me, hitting me like a misguided pellet right between my eyes.

The thing is, I have been generally so absorbed with discovering myself and been so involved in all my own personal pursuits, that the thought hadn’t occurred to me. The decision not to uproot my life here and follow VC to Goa last year had come very naturally. At a time when I had come to realise that this part of my journey was important for me, it was also increasingly clear I needed the space and solitude I could only get in a somewhat “unpartnered” state. So when the opportunity to live apart found its way to us, we’d both said yes.

So to be asked if maybe this had caused me to leave actually made me stop in my tracks. I had to really think hard if that was true. Even in some measure.

I pondered about whether there is such a thing as too much space. Whether growth in such separate (and immensely impactful) ways might have each of us blindly hurtling towards an inevitable future apart rather than together? I pondered the difference between growing together and growing apart and which of the two I have witnessed. Was it one over the other? If so, which one?

It’s hard to pick, honestly. Because it has been a little bit of both. At different times. The time apart has enforced in equal parts some essential separations as well as some important intimacy.

I thought about whether this steadfast individual focus on myself, with minimal obligations to my marriage had possibly triggered a solitary life that there’s no coming back from. It took me a few days of quiet discomfort and much silence to accept that a lot of all of this is true, in varying measures, at various points of time this past year. And yet, in some very fundamental way, it isn’t entirely true.

So much of getting to know myself has been about digging out a pure sense of self by peeling back the layers and making space for the authentic self that lies deep within. And it has been impossible to do this without looking at myself in the context of every one of my relationships. This has brought with it a fair bit of push and pull, changing dynamics, uncertainty, loss and disappointment. Many relationships haven’t weathered this turbulent time, and yet some others have. Many haven’t lasted the test of seeing the whole, true me as I am discovering myself and learning to step forward in a that new way.

Except, for VC. Who has consistently been the only one standing by me. When the fog has lifted after a particularly uncertain phase, when I’ve been slowly walking through the nebulous parts, and come forth in all my unsettled glory, I have always found him right there. Seeing me just as I am.

This past year, the journey to knowing my true self has been a lot about really seeing who I am, and allowing that version of myself to be seen too. I have only very recently realised that this is an impossible space to navigate unless one has a sense of safety, kindness and compassion. Both from within as well as from the most important relationships one holds.

And in that sense, I have time and time again come to realise that this is my safe space. More than enabling the physical reality of this life, my relationship with VC has held emotional space for me to journey on. To take chances, to flirt with uncertainty, to push boundaries, to make new ones. Even when things have been somewhat fluid and shaky ground, I have always felt confident that there’ll be a way for us to find togetherness. Despite everything that emerged for me and for him. All the changes that we have been pushed into, and pushed ourselves into, and all that it has demanded of our relationship.

I only realised recently that this is a sense of safety and of coming home.
Of acceptance, of peace.

Of having the unfettered support of someone sees me, with an open heart.

Of being seen with complete kindness and love.

Like feeling deep in my bones, this belief:

I see who you are today,⁣
I cannot wait to see who⁣
you become tomorrow.

And so today, eleven years since we got married, nearly thirteen years of knowing him, I feel a renewed sense of love and gratitude for what I have with VC.

Eleven years ago, on this day, we took a pretty naive leap of faith into the wide open uncertainty of a future together. From where I sit today, I feel a sense of tenderness and love for the young people we were. So in love, so happy, so confident at the prospect of a life together, without having even the slightest inkling about what life would bring or how it would mould us, separately and together. And what an exciting, challenging, fun ride it would be. Or if we would weather all the change that would come our way as a result of it.

It’s the kind of leap of faith only the very young can take, I think. Because all I really felt in that moment at that time, was blind faith and a deep gut feeling. Faith that whatever life would bring, it would be better to do it together.

And it’s exactly that same feeling I rediscovered this past year. The space to face anything, safe in the knowledge that whatever life brings, it will be better to do it together.

It’s what has allowed me the wings and the springboard to fly from cradle, knowing fully well that when I return, I will land right back into the lap of safety, peace and complete acceptance.

***

So at the ripe old age of eleven I’m going to make a sickly sweet public display of affection usually only characteristic of young love.

To appreciate all that my marriage has brought to my life this past year. I’m grateful that when the need for space arose, we were both able to see it and take a chance quite effortlessly. To have two homes, in two such varied places, offering me the best of both the coupled and uncoupled life to shuttle between, to find a new normal, is a privilege I am present to, and grateful for, every single day.

The ways in which it has shaped we have moved, grown and evolved individually, and how we have re-shaped ourselves as a unit, has been special.

Mostly I want to to appreciate the gentle, kind and loving man that VC is. He gives me much to aspire for in this regard, and I’m only now getting to a place where I can see him for who he is. As he is, without that desperate burning desire for more, for something different.

The way in which he sees me. The way in which I felt seen this past year.

It’s taken a long time, but this year, I want to remember that I have learnt this from him — the ability to be grateful for and to wholeheartedly love what I have, as it is, exactly as it is.

So to answer the question I began with; no, the choice to live apart hasn’t been a leaving of my marriage in any manner. It has been instead, a stepping stone to coming home again.

One year ago: It’s just the nearness of you (ten)
Two years ago: Nine
Three years ago: Eight

***

Past anniversaries: ten, nineeightsevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

Gratitude fix

Grateful for the great weather we’ve been having. Sweaters by night, sunshine by day. Crisp early beginnings, the beginnings of winter sunlight that frame every new day and make me forget all that’s wrong with the world for just that little bit.

Sure, it’s made waking up as early as I am used to a tad harder. Actually, scratch that. The waking up happens rather easily, I’m afraid I’ve hacked my body clock to open eyes at 6 am. It’s the leaving the bed and getting out from under the blanket bit thats much, much harder. I end up snoozing the alarm for upwards of 40 minutes and have pushed my start of day a fair bit.

Grateful for the festivities of the weekend. After many years I had the opportunity to indulge in more than just the partaking of the feast — which is frankly the most interesting part of Ganesh Chaturti, amiright? I enjoyed wandering about shopping with amma, and doing my little bit to cook parts of the traditional meal we’ve been accustomed to eating for all these years, and that I realised I have a special fondness and affinity for.

I’ve indulged in about three times the amount of food I consume on any given day over Gowri and Ganesh, taking seconds (and thirds in some cases) of all my favourite foods, unabashedly. All my restraint and restrictions have fallen to the wayside almost as easily as they have been imbibed, and I’m observing how natural and easy to give in and slip back on track it has become of late. Is this what eating intuitively is?

Grateful for the burst of life that festivals bring to my neighbourhood, literally transforming the place. Traffic is a bitch, but we got out on foot, in the middle of the day and in another time I might have been hassled and bothered. But I enjoyed it, the sights and sounds suddenly appealing and sweet, touching a hitherto untouched part of my heart almost.

This is V and we’ve reconnected after about 10 years. It’s only been a handful of times that we’ve met, but every time that we have, it’s been lighthearted, easy, full of laughter. I almost forget we are adult versions of the people we were when we used to be broke teenagers in college who resorted to hanging out on park benches because we had no money to go anywhere else. And yet, somewhere in between the rambunctious laughter over the silliest things, I see how far we’ve come, how grown up we are. I’m grateful for the many reconnections I’ve had. It’s brought variety to my friendships, loosened me up and brought a much-needed lightness to my life that allows for unabashed day drinking.

There’s been something of a throwback theme going on with me. Last week I caught up with S after more than a decade, and at Koshys where we met, I happened to glance around and notice my English Literature professor sitting at a table behind me. She’s literally the only teacher from those three godawful years in college, who I cared for, who made an impact on me, and who I remember enough to go say hi. I looked straight at her, dead sure she wouldn’t recognise me. In my head, I look nothing like I did in college, especially with the shorter than ever before hair. But she looked straight back at me and went; “Revati!”

We engaged in a full on conversation and she seemed to remember every little detail about where we left off — which was 2006 — when I graduated! My interests, the professors I disliked, my resistance to Shakespeare and my love for Eliot, alike. And I have no idea how, but she knew I lived in Goa. She expressed such joy when I responded to What are you up to? with I write.

I can’t tell you how happy that made me!

Extra, extra grateful for public transport more than ever before. The more I think about the little ways in which I can reduce putting a car and four wheels on the road, the more I think about the implications of spending so much money on something as basic as getting about town, the more compelled I feel to make the effort to take the metro whenever I can. And it’s a delight to see it pay off.

I’m grateful for N who has stayed like a silent, strong force holding space for all that has been unfolding for me. Even with our infrequent meetings, I’ve found a space where I can increasingly be me, in all my different states of togetherness of the lack thereof. No filters, no adjustments. It is a real privilege, relief. And joy. As I make sense of so many little and big things as they unfold and churn up a world of emotions and realisations within me.

One year ago: August

35

This has been a pretty significant year for me. But quite unlike significant times in the past that have had an unmistakeable flourish, this has been a quiet sort of significant year, with flecks of change, the tiniest shifts and movements flowing in, unnoticed. The sort of change that mostly only I and the people I am closest to know about or will likely notice.

For far too long I’ve been very shy about admitting how much I love my birthday. But the honest truth is that I love having a day dedicated to me, to look back on how far I’ve come, to give myself a good pat on the back, and to take stock and feel optimistic and really hopeful about the future. I’ve been fortunate to have this happen every single birthday thus far. So, even though I haven’t really admitted it in as many words, my folks, my sister and my husband already know how only too well, how much I love this day. To the rest of the world, I’ve always played the omg-it’s-just-another-day-it-doesn’t-matter act pretty damn well.

So, today is that day again, and I’m off to the beach to celebrate how grateful I am for the gift of another birthday, another year to travel around the sun.

I’m grateful for all that this past year has been — for the lessons it brought, for making me see that growing up sometimes requires looking back, accepting transgressions, grief, hurt, difficulties, but absolutely looking ahead and making amends gently, slowly.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to temporarily disengage from the forced cohabiting arrangement of marriage, and for all the realisations and insights that came out of this experience. It’s been quite the game-changer this past year, enabling me to stretch myself and come into my own. I’m so grateful for VC’s understanding, support and acceptance of this and all that came, and continues to come out of it. I really cherish and hold close his ability to accept me as I am, as much as the woman I am becoming (which I am sure sometimes feels like not at all the woman he married hahahaha), and the constant state of work-in-progress that is our lives at the moment.

I’m grateful for therapy that has so wonderfully tied together the various threads that currently bind my life and being, in a way that no amount of conversation with friends or family can, no amount of reading the best books has, and no amount of trying to figure this out on my own could ever have.

I’m grateful especially for my body. In the past year I have seen what happens to it when I deliberately, totally let go, allowing it to balloon and flourish in surprising ways. I began to notice age in some places — in the way the suppleness and flexibility I took for granted now resists when I push it, the way the skin on my face doesn’t spring back as easily as it used to, the way my digestion has visibly slowed, the tiger stripes that really stand out now, the way getting back to exercise was a bigger uphill task than I ever imagined it could ever be.

And yet, I’m grateful that with a little work, my body still does the things I want to do — whether it’s working my way up to a 5km run again, nailing push-ups again or doing a cartwheel on a whim. Yes, still got it.

I’m grateful for the awareness that all of these changes have come gently, slowly, with little to almost no panic for a change. There has been a very conscious awareness, yes, and it’s made me prioritise taking care of myself and my body in a way that feels very intentional. I’ve always had an eye for eating well, a penchant for fitness and staying fit and healthy, but somehow this feels very different from before when I held many fantastic (unrealistic) notions about my body.

I’m grateful that the rush has died down some. The rush to get somewhere, do this, be that, do more — that constant buzz in my head reminding me of time rushing by and there being so much left to do is dormant for the most part, and I’ve figured out how some tricks to shut it down, when it tends to get active from time to time.

This past year, I re-discovered deliberation. It’s brought a certain slowness and a calm, an ability to move with intention, that has really been another game-changer. It’s made me free-er in choosing which way I want to go, more open in accepting everything that has come my way, and just light and easy going in embracing it all.

A younger me might roll her eyes and scoff at me for turning soft. Maybe she’d balk at how little I hold on to anymore, and how fluid I’ve become. But it is what it is and it seems to work for me.

***

Just one birthday ago I wondered about whether I’ll ever really feel my age. For most of my life I haven’t felt exactly my age. I’ve always felt extremes — either too wise and old beyond my years sometimes, or just so young and naive for my age. This was mostly brought out in situations where I had other people my age to compare with. I’ve lived a large part of my life feeling like I never quite fit right.

This is changing, ever so slowly. I realised recently, that thanks to this newfound comfort I have begun to feel over the course of this past year, I have truly begun to feel my age. Not that I miraculously make myself fit, but that I am comfortable just the way I am, whether I fit or not. And so more often than not, it does feel like I fit.

Nothing feels out of sync, things don’t stick out and irk me as much, differences don’t hinder my experiences. I hold desires for doing more but the desperation to get there fast is slowly fading. I’m re-learning patience all the time. I’m comfortable in my skin, in my body, in the way I am, and the way I feel for the most part.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age or growing up, but I’m keenly aware that my time here is limited. So limited that I feel a strong need to make the most of it. Which is not so say I’ve drawn up a bucket list of impossible things like scuba diving and bungee jumping or visiting 10 countries in the next 10 years, I must tick off. I want to focus my time in spaces that matter to me, on things and people I love and am drawn to. I want to try and always say what I absolutely mean, be more honest, articulate and truthful in the relationships that matter, and try more and more to tell those people just how much they really mean to me.

I’m being constantly shown how often I need to redefine the many catch words that I hold on to — markers of things that are important to me — Peace. Success. Happiness. Care. Love. Strength. Joy. I’ve also learned that happiness and joy is not, and never needs to be, linked with perfection. Or success. Of any kind.

I am mostly bumbling along and stumbling over myself along this journey, but if there’s one thing I’m truly proud of, it’s how much I have been able tame that inner perfectionist in me. I’m grateful for having learned that it’s okay to change my mind. I’ve embraced softness as far as possible, in every area of my life that I can — softness with people, towards myself, with my body, with my dreams, with my emotions. I don’t see the need to be the kind of strong or hard that I once aspired to be.

This past year I relinquished control over the grand plans, a lot. Life has become so much about living the small everyday things, cheering myself on for the little wins, revelling in mundane daily happinesses and the utter smallness of it all. I’ve really been feeling this is where that joy — that I’ve so long believed lies in chasing the grand plans, the big picture, the distant future — is at. Right here. Now.

The nowness of life hits me on a daily basis, and it stays and lingers in a way that has made me feel very, very secure and steady. I put this down entirely to the course I did last year that altered my compass, pointed me closer to my true north. It’s made me see things so very differently, shifting my very perspective on everything, on life itself, 180 degrees. And there is just no unseeing it, no turning back. It has been like opening the curtains on a view I’ve known all along, but suddenly everything is brighter and beautiful.

Year 36, I’m so very ready for you.

Past birthdays: one year ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago.

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

Learning to let go

I held myself back because I thought that’s the only way to meet heartbreak.

I held myself back because it helped me cope and (feel like I can) move on from the pain.

I held myself back because it made me (feel) big, strong, capable. And grown up.

I held myself back because was honestly just easier to close my heart up and withdraw.

I held myself back because I thought it would help digest and dissolve all the difficult feelings within myself.

I held myself back because I thought I’d be too much for people around me.

And now I’m trying to learn to let this, too, go.

What makes you hold yourself back?

***

Had a severe oh-ffffff moment hearing that Mary Oliver has passed on. And immediately remembered her through one of my favourites. Which, ironically, sums up what all of last week was like for me.

I did think, let’s go about this slowly.

This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn’t.

— Mary Oliver

One year ago: Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Two years ago: Work. But also life.
Three years ago: Hope

Day 365: December

Eyes wide open

On the first day of this year, I wrote a post that was meant to be a low-key, low-expectations, chill sort of post with things I wanted from the year. I look at it now and think wow, that’s really not low key. But I also look at it and think damn, a lot of that happened and got done.

I wished for more honesty. Of myself and of with people around that matter to me. I think this happened in some measure. More with myself than with people around me — that’s still learning process for me.

I wished for more vulnerability. This happened, in waves and troughs. It had it’s peaks and dips. Thanks to the course and now therapy, I’ve become aware of how much more I want of this and am keen to go deeper.

I wished for the ability to deliver my promises, on time. I think this was specifically related to work, which I didn’t know then was going to be the least of my priorities this year. But the little I did, I was fairly good about. Deadlines were met more often than not — this was kind of a big deal for the eternal procrastinator that I am. But best of all, slowing down on work and trying new things gave me some clarity about the kind of work I am now willing to put my mind to, and the kind I absolutely don’t want to do for some time to come.

So I didn’t swing back smoothly from yet another hiatus like I’d wished. The hiatus saw an unexpected extension. And then a detour. I didn’t pitch a single story after February. I changed course and did different kinds of writing, but yes, I did deliver better first drafts, quicker. Unexpectedly, I’ve become a little more aware of how to work smarter instead of harder.

I wished that VC and I move ahead in our business plans with alacrity and focus. And this happened too. Just not in the manner I imagined at the time I wrote the post. Life happened, and business followed in entirely different ways.

I wished for courage to break out of patterns I have with friends, to break old patterns that keep me from digging deeper and giving (and receiving) a higher level of kinship. Oh jeez, this one was a toughie. 2018 saw more people in my life than I have ever had in many, many years now — I reconnected with old friends, I made many, many new ones. And the best part — not all my friendships were alike like they once used to be. I have entirely different friends for a range of different activities. I know this happened because I’ve opened up. In some ways. But I’ve also realised in what ways I haven’t. I’ve realised why I still feel a deep loneliness that cannot be filled by numbers, despite how much the people landscape has changed in my life. I hope to sit with this and understand it better in the coming year.

I wished for simplicity. In the smallness of my day to day life as much as in the bigness of the things I chase. This wasn’t entirely true for me this year. If anything, I let go and lived big, thrilling in extravagance and all things an older me would deem unnecessary. And maybe a lot of it was, but from where I am now, I see it as a necessary step in the curve in getting to the point of realising and being honest about the fact that my life is anything but simple. I am privileged as fuck, and simplicity is a construct I crave for. A construct that makes my life look like something it truly isn’t. I hope to crack this one some, in the coming year. Finding some balance and a middle-path to a life that is simple, mindful and eco-conscious, while also being realistic and real about the inherent privilege that allows me to even have this train of thought and make this an aspect of focus.

Ending the year in Goa has set the wheels in motion towards this.

I wished for a little more travel. Not just holidays, but chances and ways to experience life outside of the set patterns that we know and exist in. And this happened. Oh how this happened. 11 out of 12 months featured travel this year, going west as far as Europe, east to Thailand yet again and closer home as near as Goa many, many times over, each trip so different from the one before. It opened our hearts up, it tore me up some, it made me desperate and it settled something in me too. And it contributed a fair bit to VC’s and my decision to live apart.

I wished for just a little bit more discipline in terms of daily habits. This was a big fat no. Very early on I gave up trying to be rigid with myself about this because I realised it wasn’t going to be a time of any sort of curtailing, but of flowing with the flow. I hope to regain some balance around this, and it’s interesting to see that the habits I want to inculcate in the coming year are things I didn’t even know I’d want to do 12 months ago.

***

If this is a post measuring all the ways in which I’ve grown this year, I have to say bullshit to everything above this line. Most of all, this year I realised that my need to measure and make goals and projections, no matter how well-intentioned, is also a manifestation of a much more deep-seated tendency to over-achieve. This plays out in everything I do, from making myself write a post every day (and I did it without missing a single day this time around – ho hum) to finishing a reading challenge, to wanting control over my home and routine and sometimes that of VCs too, to hyper curation of everything. This year, quite unconsciously and unknowingly, slowly parts of this began to fall away until in December I was left wondering what there was that I could hold on to and how I could measure this year. I was looking at nothing tangible. Absolutely nothing.

Only experiences. A whole treasure chest of them.

And suddenly, I no longer wanted to open and revisit them in a look-back post. I just want to let them be. I want to slow down and just be. With no finish line in sight. This year, I did a lot of things under the broad umbrella of working on myself. What I didn’t know I was also doing in the bargain was laying the foundations for this already.

I dropped the need to hustle. I rewired the part of my brain that believed the hustle added value to my life. I allowed myself to change my mind over and over and over. I allowed myself to choose the easier path without feeling like I had somehow failed. This was wildly new.

I chose to do the quiet work of building on myself. The work that brings in no bucks and has no visible results to show.

I became comfortable with the idea of giving myself to the business of I. So it was a lot of me, me, me 100% of the time.

I finally realised this was entirely okay.

I learned that not everything has to — or will — turn out matching the projections I may have imagined. Some journeys don’t have fixed destinations. Only milestones that keep changing as I go along. I learned to observe how the journey has contributed to me. This doesn’t render the effort or time spent useless. These are not small steps. These are all big, important parts of the journey.

And this, while difficult to learn and digest, has been precious.

I became willing to open my eyes wide and keep my heart open more often than not.

I found myself a little bit. Outside of being a wife, sister, daughter, friend. I got addicted to learning and growing into me. And I realised this journey will only keep teaching me how much more I have yet to learn and grow.

One month ago: Day 338: November
Two months ago: Day 305: October
Three months ago: Day 284: September
Four months ago: Day 246: August
Five months ago: Day 219: July
Six months ago: Day 184: June

Seven months ago: Day 152: May
Eight months ago: Day 134: April
Nine months ago: Day 92: March
Ten months ago: Day 60: February
Eleven months ago: Day 32: January

One years ago: Crossing over
Two years ago: Day 366: December

Day 364: Expand your mind, take a look behind

Next year, I’ve decided I’m going to ditch the GoodReads challenge, stop obsessively compiling a to-be-read list and just pick up and read whatever catches my fancily, on the go. Organically. The hyper-curation has made my to-be-read list so long and unwieldy, it’s almost intimidating. And I’ve missed out on reading things as and when they’ve cropped up and struck a chord. By the time I get to said book in the list, the moment of inspiration has passed and the impact is lost.

Things that didn’t go to plan this year: finishing 40 books, finishing every book I started (I abandoned and/or didn’t read continuously about 5 books this year — including the one in this picture) reading on holiday (I read nothing in Europe and nothing this time around in Goa). Things that did: read more fiction. Which further tells me to let go of the plan, in general. And flow with the flow.

That’s my plan what I’m looking for next year. But for now, here’s a list of all the books I read this year. A list like I did last year and the year before last. I’m aware this is still a reflection of an obsession for completion making me do this, but I also do this for myself and for anyone else who might want to pick a book up from something they’ve stumbled on somewhere in this blog, but it’s impossible to find at a late date.

Here goes.

  1. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson
  2. I’ll Give You The Sun, Jandy Nelson
  3. Ravan and Eddie, Kiran Nagarkar
  4. Eleanor Oliphant is Absolutely Fine, Gail Honeyman
  5. The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
  6. UsDavid Nicholls
  7. The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy
  8. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
  9. The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte
  10. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
  11. Reasons To Stay Alive, Matt Haig
  12. Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
  13. Still Writing: The Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro
  14. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
  15. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay
  16. What I Know For Sure, Oprah Winfrey
  17. An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
  18. Standard Deviation, Katherine Heiny
  19. The Language of Baklava, Diana Abu Jaber
  20. Ballad for a Mad Girl, Vikki Wakefield
  21. Landline, Rainbow Rowell
  22. All the Good Parts, Loretta Nyhan
  23. Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals That Brought Me Home, Jessica Fechtor
  24. Not That Kind Of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned”, Lena Dunham
  25. Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney
  26. Barbara the Slut and Other People, Lauren Holmes
  27. The Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, Tishani Doshi
  28. French Milk, Lucy Kinsley
  29. The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
  30. All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
  31. Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books, Cara Nicoletti
  32. Cyber Sexy: Rethinking PornographyRicha Kaul Padte
  33. A Room of One’s OwnVirginia Woolf
  34. Born a CrimeTrevor Noah
  35. Gachar Gochar, Vivek Shanbhag (Translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur)
  36. Normal People, Sally Rooney
  37. 60 Indian Poets, Jeet Thayil
  38. Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain

All the books: 2016
All the books: 2017

Two years ago: Day 364: Redemption reading

Day 363: Would you rewind it all the time

I’m definitely not finishing my reading challenge for 2018. Which is kind of a pity because I pledged to read 40 books by the end of the year, and I came so close for a change. I had such a good run, with a super good ratio of fun, enjoyable books too. But for various reasons I’m not going to make it to the “finish” and I’m trying not to psych myself into finishing it somehow, as I am known to otherwise. Anyhow. Here’s what I read last.

Gachar Gochar, Vivek Shanbhag (Translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur)
I gobbled this book in under 24 hours on my weekend away in Auroville with A.

It is such a good book — one of the best I’ve read this year. And it’s probably a sign of the banging translation job on this one that it made me wish I could read the original in Kannada. Just so I can get a deeper sense of the regional, colloquial nuances. This is a story of a middle-class family reeling in the aftereffects of sudden monetary success in newly liberalised India. Set in an old Bangalore that many of us have known some elements of, this was all kinds of heartwarming, nostalgic and riveting. If you have a penchant for Indian writing this is a must-read.

Normal People, Sally Rooney
I loved Rooney’s other book — Conversations with Friends — so much that when I heard she has a new book out I got my hands on it immediately. I also read this one in about a day in Auroville (yeah we did not much else than eat and read that weekend – blissful!). This is a book that talks about regular things — youth, love, relationships, passion — but twists it all up in knots, telling a story that can be easily passed off as simple and frivolous, when actually its a subtly political and deeply tender and moving. I enjoyed Normal People almost as much as I did Conversations with Friends, and for the same reasons. The writer in me has huge respect for this artful skill of telling simple stories that cut so deep in the most casual, matter of fact style.

Sultana’s Dream, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
I picked this amazing book up in the bookshop at the visitor’s centre at Auroville, on A’s recommendation. It’s a short, quick read — a very old story, in fact — about a woman’s reverie into a veritable feminist dreamland, incredibly well illustrated by Durga Bai, a tribal artist. It was only after I finished the book that I realised the book I’d bought was merely a modern edition of an old classic. That’s how timeless and relevant this story is. It’s a great

60 Indian Poets, Jeet Thayil

I’ve never been big on poetry. I have always felt studying it (and my staunch efforts not to) in high-school and college killed it for me. But I’ve been drawn to poetry this year. A gifted this Tishani Doshi collection to me earlier this year, and then recommended this one as a good place to begin exploring Indian poetry and I cannot agree more. It’s an excellent (and large, formidable) selection, for one. But more than that it is interspersed with little pieces of text — anecdotes, interesting information about the poet, detailed bios — all across to really beef up the poem and give context. This is a keeper of a book, and one that I will keep going back to. I’ve already gifted it to three other people. It’s just that kind of book.

Title inspiration:

Two years ago: Day 363: Rewind

Day 362: Be kind to the growing mind

What a ride it’s been this year, all the wheels and various moving parts of my being moving to nurture a mind that works for me and with me. A mind that has the ability to stay when everything about my body (and brain) wants to flee. A mind that has a capacity for joy. A mind that has tasted strength in vulnerability and wants so desperately to let that creep under my skin. A mind that has come so very far, and is longing to go the journey ahead. A kind mind to call my own.

I’m just so very grateful. For everything.

Two years ago: Day 362: Time

Day 359: Lay down all thoughts

I’m taking the downtime to really put it all down. Rest my mind a little. I’m not succeeding all the time. But I’m still trying.

This year was filled with more new experiences than any other in a while. And yet, this year I came face to face with loneliness. I don’t mean that as a lack of people. I mean loneliness like this cloud that chases me around, always looming like a darkness waiting to descend. I mean really facing and acknowledging the truth about this pattern of loneliness that’s like a theme that threads through all the stories in my life.

This year, I gained weight again. And despite all the positivity I’ve felt about my body, there have been days when it has bothered me. When I felt fat and ugly.

This year, despite everything I’ve realised about boundaries and saying no, I said maybe instead of a clean no, more times than I care to admit.

This year, I worked on myself more than I ever have. In fact I’ve worked so hard at it, I cringe at the word work, despite all the good that came from it. I need a new word.

Despite all that work, right at the end of the year I’ve woken up to some pretty groundbreaking realisations about myself. The kind of realisations that have left me on very shaky ground the last few days.

I’m more self-sacrificing than I’d like to believe.

I’m not as comfortable with vulnerability as I thought I could be. In fact I’m so quick to build an armour of defence, when I’m feeling vulnerable.

I’m not as good at forgiving myself as I am at forgiving others.

I suppose the good thing is despite realising all of this I’m mostly left feeling and thinking, so effing what? 

The one thing I know for certain is I’m more open to change and growth than I have ever been before. I have that. And so, tomorrow is a new day, next week is a new year. I’ll live, I’ll try again. I’ll keep trying and I’ll grow.

One year ago: Morning song

Day 338: November

Changes are shifting outside the words

It’s December. Inside of me, I feel full and potent, about to let loose and lunge forth like the pre-monsoon sea in Goa. Ripe, bright brown and churning up, ready to burst in welcoming the gush of the first rainfall. It’s how I feel about the turn of the year. 2019 is full of promise, and I’m only making the most of the last four weeks before the curtain falls. Inside, things shake and mix, bulge and wane, noisily. Outside is where it’s oddly calm, everything lying in waiting as the energy builds up to a precarious crescendo.

As always, it is when silence takes over, that everything unfelt, or that which I have been unable to make space for, creeps in to make its presence felt. It feels fitting for the last month, of the year, to sit with all that I have not had the time or presence of mind for until now.

I have recently realised that the fear of loss and scarcity has been a huge influence in shaping my attitude to life, and while I may have made significant breakthroughs in overcoming some of it in terms of work, monetary abundance, an idea of prosperity and success, it is still very much apparent, alive and kicking, and rears its head in other spheres of my life. And when that happens, it makes me slip back into living from a place of fear. Which keeps me from living my life in an open, healthy and soft way.

The world seems hell bent on making us believe that life is not lived if it isn’t filled with hardship and struggle, but this is a lie. My experience has taught me that it is a fallacy that keeps various wheels of the establishment turning. Whether the economics of the capitalist world, or societal mores, fear is a great thing to put your money behind. Building walls, being strong, caging emotions in are part and parcel of the struggle. The struggle that leaves no room for falling apart. And this costs us the lightness of our hearts and eats away at our souls.

The belief that I must fight the lack that’s perpetually chasing me pushes me on to believe that I must work harder at everything — from a life of writing to relationships with heart. The same thing that causes me to disallow emotions to come in and be felt. But if recent experience is anything to go by, I know for sure that there is always the possibility of a life of ease, where life flows, relationships are easy, judgement fades and decision making moves to the beat of my heart. But it requires that deliberate softness, a decided focus on getting closer to authenticity, making vulnerability a habit.

It requires courage. Not in the typical sense of bravery or in big, bold acts, but simply to live life with utmost honesty and sincerity, even when engaging with the minutest, most simple and insignificant daily acts. To not attempt this is to commit to a life of fear.

Last month, I held the words of David Whyte, on Courage, close to me. And I believe it has pushed me a step ahead from the place of waiting that I have been in for so many months now.

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

And so in this last month of 2018, I’ve been sitting with that which I already know I feel, but inviting it in rather than keeping it at the threshold of my heart. I am attempting to allow it to seep in fully and deeply. To unfurl a new kind of vulnerability, to flirt with feelings very different from the kind that I’ve become used to. To turn some of my I’m-not-sures and I-don’t-knows to I-think-I-cans.

To drop the unfounded resistance and lean in to the unknown that begs me on and to cleave to the bits of me that I am slowly discovering are closest to the way I was originally made. As I near the end of the year, I’m longing for some (more) courage, to make space for all that I am unwilling to or unable to see as yet. To sit with the discomfort as much as I welcome the comforts. To cry with as much ease as I laugh. To welcome chaos once more. To walk into the light. And I wish the same for you too.

***

I spent the end of October running into November in Goa and it was the sort of open-ended trip that could extend or shorten itself depending on how things went. I drove down with VC, and didn’t have a return ticket because if you’re familiar with life in Goa, you’ll know that setting up a home there is by no means a short, quick or easy task. And so it was the kind of trip where I took every day as it came, not knowing how much longer it could go on that way. As it happened, I stayed over three weeks, feeling chuffed that somewhere when I wasn’t even looking, the ability to really go with the flow has seeped into my life.

One year ago, a trip like this wold have shred me to bits with anxiety and unnecessary stress. And yet somehow, this trip was a wonderful mixed bag with its fair share of moments of joy at where life has brought us, gratitude for the help that has come along the way, but not without a healthy dose of fear and wonder about the future.

Time always slows down when I’m in Goa. I feel this physically, my breathing grows calm and my being is more relaxed and spontaneous. We’re extremely lucky to have friends like D and UT whose home has been a second home of sorts in Goa all these months, and it made for a perfect base this time around too. From our conversations, the meals we love and share, the comfortable silence and the proximity to our own home — this time around was no different, except for the added excitement of babysitting their puppies which hugely contributed to us feeling at home and at peace, even in their absence. It was also the perfect antidote to the wildly frustrating exercise that is setting up home in Goa.

Being back in Goa also stirred up so much nostalgia, and surprisingly fear and anxiety, had me reminiscing so much about the way things used to be. There is still such a definite resistance to letting the comfort of that go, even with the knowledge of how miserable it used to be. Even when I am actively moving towards a future that has no space for the narratives and stories that ruled the old. Realising and accepting this felt like a blow to my mostly zen current state of mind and put me in a very contemplative headspace. Some days, there were no words. in which to be around the ever-present, ever-willing, I’ll-take-you-as-you-are energy that puppies bring, was a new and soothing experience for me.

There was much contemplation: about the #metoo movement and this fantastic comic. Of fresh beginnings for VC and me in two separate cities and homes, of this exciting new ground that I find myself in, of a yet another revised definition of home and a new love for poetry, of the joy and privilege of a pause before the next big change. There was also ample time to spend reading, and so I caught up on the books I’ve been ignoring.

Even as I grieved the sense of loss I felt was triggered in Goa, there were two bright sparks of friendship and belonging: a day spent with N, and a weekend in Auroville with A, that both reminded me of how much more valuable the here and now always is.

That weekend in particular brought a shift in the rushed, hyper energy that I have been carrying around for two months. Between eating healthy, earthy meals and walking for hours in the dust and heat of Auroville, I felt dragged back to reality with a sense of healing and settledness. On our last evening sitting on thr warm sand, watching the waves come and go, I was taken back to a favourite essay on the need to cultivate “Negative Capability“. The peace and quiet and time to myself meant I could empty my mind and prepare to begin again.

I came back to some great, great Bangalore winter weather that I have been enjoying in small doses. Crisp sunshiney days with a nip in the air that make it perfect for lots of walking around town, outings alone to finish work and drink lots of chai, dinners of soup and toast, enjoying jackets and stoles and shawls again. I’ve been out a lot, but I also feel like I’ve been indoors so much — my days feel longer, somehow. So much more gets done, and that means more scope for bad days and slow days. I also came home to the happy surprise of being published in an anthology of stories and essays on menstruation. A real, proper book, you guys! And all the walking  has felt like finding my feet and the love for walking my walk again.

As always, through it all, there is gratitude. For the extreme luxury that is a home away from home, for the unfettered love that dogs have shown me, and for everything that my life currently allows me to indulge in.

***

One month ago: Day 305: October
Two months ago: Day 284: September
Three months ago: Day 246: August
Four months ago: Day 219: July
Five months ago: Day 184: June

Six months ago: Day 152: May
Seven months ago: Day 134: April
Eight months ago: Day 92: March
Nine months ago: Day 60: February
Ten months ago: Day 32: January