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

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Ammama vs me

I had a regular Sunday yesterday, which, going by the last ten days was no different from any other day. I spent it in what is fast becoming the race to run out of content to consume online. But. There was one surprise event, that was easily the highlight of the day weekend. Actually, the entire week.

Ammama has just upgraded her old phone to a smart one some months ago and has started to use Whatsapp. Yesterday, she video-called me!

Ammama: What’s happening in Goa?

Me: Nothing much, I’m just…er…chilling.

I say the above sheepishly, because chilling idly for er, what – two weeks now? is kind of demonised in my family. Ammama would not be pleased and would have definitely frowned at me, if she had fully registered the extent to which chilling meant doing nothing.

First of all, look at her. Hair combed, bindi in place, in crisp clothes at 11 m on a Sunday morning, while I was clearly still in night clothes, still lazing about in bed.

I awaited the minor lecture about why I wasn’t up and about as yet and further questioning about “work” to come at me. But she totally sidestepped my reply and proceeded to unconsciously throw shade by telling allllll that she has been up to. Not just on that day, but the entire week. It included every little happening from what was cooked for dinner last night (vegetarian and non vegetarian menus in full detail, even though she’s vegetarian), what she ate and enjoyed, to where she went, whose boring company she had to endure at which unnecessary social gathering, what’s happening to various members of my extended family and who is up to what shenanigans.

And then she told me she was recovering from a bad sore throat and had fever until two days ago.

Man, way to make a lazyass girl who has done nothing for 14 days straight feel bad.

Nah, I kid. I was just thrilled and it literally gave me life listening to her ramble on and on excitedly, giving me all the scoop in such excruciating detail. To have that much zest for life at 84 is what I’ll aim for, and if I get to even half as much energy, I’ll be happy. But, truth be told, the prospect (going by current states of sloth) isn’t looking very promising bahahaha…

***

Speaking of sloth, it took about two weeks of not doing much by way of really making progress on packing up for the move, to finally getting going. And completely true to form, we’ve managed to get everything going on the last two days before we leave. I sorted out and tended to my plants a couple of days ago, finally emptied out the fridge today, took all our perishables over to D to use, figured out what else we’re taking and how much space it would need. Then, finally the movers arrived, and the pest control blokes promised to come tomorrow. It only took three calls to each of them and waiting over four days.

The good news is I get to take all my plants back home with me, and I’m over the moon at the thought. The bad news is there’s a suspected return of the cyclone, which might set us behind by a few days again.

This trip, like no other, has tested my capacity to throw well-laid plans to wind and see what happens. I have so far fared extremely well, if I may say so myself. But this last bit seems to really be testing me to the max.

One year ago: Ain’t it good to know, you’ve got a friend?
Two years ago: Hotel hangover
Three years ago: Invitation

For Kashmir

Two weeks of Rohail Hyatt being back in the freshest season of Coke Studio Pakistan, and there’s already so many reasons to get back and be hooked.

  1. Rohail is back producing it
  2. Zeb is back
  3. Atif Aslam looks and sounds like he’s grown up
  4. The season features Fareed Ayaz, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sanam Marvi
  5. It’s already sounding like it’s full of the old, peaceful vibe of the old CS Pak days
  6. It’s raining
  7. Did I mention Rohail Hyatt is back?

I’d lost interest in the show once he exited his position as producer because he brought in a certain perfect aesthetic that no producer ever after managed to even come close to matching up to. And there have been oh-sooo-many producers and directors after him, not a single one could level up. In all the many seasons after his moving on, there have been so many misses more than hits that I’d gotten used to cherry picking the good tracks I could weed out of the trash and consoling myself about having to make do, when what I wanted was a whole seasons worth of music to fill to my hearts content.

Eventually, I skipped the last three seasons because the experimentation just got too much for me. To poppy, too noisy, too loud, too out there, just not tight, just not together, just not melodious even after a point. There’s a space for experimentation and fusion, but it can’t come at the cost of pure melody and aesthetic. It can’t replace music with noise, and unfortunately the last two seasons have been just that for me — noise.

Until this year suddenly my attention was piqued all over again because I heart Rohail Hyatt was back. I’ve been hooked, good and proper, since the premier three weeks ago. Atif Aslam has had a growth spurt, he’s singing well, he’s making sense. The general set isn’t OTT. The overall music production quality is sane and soulful again. The collaborations have been coming out of musicality first, and everything else next. There is a general sense of respect for the music, primarily, that is so palpable in every track so far. And I’ve only had a meh reaction to one out of seven tracks so far. That’s a bloody good conversion rate compared to the last few seasons.

I’ve been properly addicted, tuning into the BTS previews that release on Wednesday, and getting hyped like crazy in the run up to Fridays, when the episodes release. On Friday, there’s a dramatic countdown that happens on the video as it premiers live across the globe. And it has been such a rush to witness the release of these tracks along with other fellow junkies all shouting Rohail for president! and other versions of this in the comments as the song is slowly being released. S and I have been tripping cross continents, hyping each other and getting psyched in anticipation, on cue every single week.

I already have a season favourite.

The BTS, if it’s possible, is actually as good as the song. This is a song by Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoon who was called the Nightingale of Kashmir. In this she laments her beloved who has gone missing, for not returning to her, and keeping her waiting. It’s a comment on conflict and loss of life and love.

And I cried when I watched it. See for yourself, if you’d like. It’s worth it.

They couldn’t have timed this better even if they tried. And Zeb’s bright, twinkly eyes, the perfection in voice, and her heartfelt attempt to embody the spirit of Habba Khatoon, and her despair in missing a loved one, just did something for me that day.

The day the song released, the comments section was a celebration of love. There were loud comments harking freeKashmir! literally in thousands. Watching that, sensing the hope and optimism in those words really did something for me. Of course, I cried some more.

In the words of Zeb herself, “If we put aside what is right and wrong, the truth remains that in places where there is trouble, our loved ones are sometimes separated from us. This idea of missing someone when you don’t know where they are, it’s so relevant to places that have turmoil and that has been the experience of Kashmiri people now for centuries.” And it really hit me then, for centuries we have only heard stories of conflict, politicised stories that benefit nobody but those in power. Especially now, more than ever before, I’m suddenly curious to know more — what of the culture of the people there? What do they sing? What do they read? What do they eat? What are their celebrations like? What is it like beyond the face of turmoil and anguish that’s presented to us? Especially at a time when Kashmir is in a state of a blackout, I ask myself again and again, who will tell their stories?

It is so easy to get caught up in the right and the wrong, in the political angles. They’ll always exist, of course. And to choose one or the other will always put us in places at opposite ends of the spectrum. But what we’ve lost in all of this is basic humanity, a sense of basic rights, and this is something I’ve been sitting with silently (seeing as how this is not something I can discuss out loud, in person anywhere in my immediate surroundings) ever since the abrogation.

Thankfully, there are some people at work. This video needs to be seen.

[Trigger Warning: Violence and Bloodshed in the video below]

Is it possible to look at the humanity? At Kashmir in the context of conflict and it’s effects on people? Is it possible to put the justifications and political ideologies to the side at all?

I don’t know. And not knowing makes me very, very sad.

***

I’m grateful for music today. For poetry and the power to express such deep emotions through words in ways that can cross generations, centuries and touch hearts long after they were first penned. I’m grateful for artists like Rohail Hyatt and the entire Coke Studio Pakistan team. I can’t believe I’m going to say it but I’m thankful for Coke, else I don’t think I’d have accessed this goldmine of music ever.

I’m grateful to live in times of peace in my part of the world. For stability. For love and life as I know it.

One year ago: October
Three years ago: Diwali 2016

Seaside blues

What you didn’t see in yesterday’s pictures, and what I missed to reflect on, given that I wrote the post in my post sea-swim bliss, was how strewn with trash and how awfully filthy the sea was. Thanks to the combined effects of the sea being in full churn, from ten days of cyclonic, stormy weather — many red alert days — and a full moon, there was trash just everywhere.

Not ideal, but one anticipates this sort of filth on the beaches more popular amongst tourists. When we moved here nearly ten years ago, local friends would tell us to go beyond Anjuna — which was something of a cut-off point — to find quiet, cleaner beaches. That imaginary point slowly moved up to Vagator. Few years down it went even further up north to Ashwem. I remember one summer, perhaps it was 2014 or 2015, we went up to Ashwem expecting to find some peace and quiet, and found literal busloads and hoards of picnicking tourists trashing the beach. For two years after, we went all the way up to Arambol whenever we needed a beach day. I was really shocked and deeply saddened yesterday, to find Morjim in much the same state.

It’s not just the filth on the beach. Something about the vibe up north has changed. The approach to the beaches, the streets, the stores and outlets, the quick and disturbingly unplanned way in which buildings and settlements are cropping up — everything feels different. And of course this means more people, more trash, more noise, more desensitisation towards the place around us.

I watched it with my own eyes when I accompanied VC down the beach where he wanted to take some sunset pictures. Morjim felt like Miramar, and if it wasn’t for the stunning sunset, I might have come back really sad. I was so tired of dodging piles of shit and rubbish. And VC was already clicking his tongue thinking about how much filth he’d have to clone out of his pictures. He said this on Instagram too, recently.

I know Goa’s garbage problem has almost touched the point of no return. And I feel a sense of helplessness when I think about where that will take us from here on. The load on the land isn’t reducing any time, systems don’t seem to be at all keeping up with where things stand today, or prepping for the future, and it just makes me wonder with worry about where this will end. And if there’s a way in which it will end even remotely prettily?

***

That aside, it was a wonderful getaway. The fact that somehow, I have spent the last three Diwalis — every one, since leaving Goa — not just back in Goa, but in close proximity to and in the company of D and UT, dawned on me earlier today. In another day it might have felt like a chance coincidence, but three consecutive years is a bit much to ignore. On our first trip back here since moving, at the same time of year, we came to Morjim to spend a day and a night. And it was only the first of oh so many, many trips back to Goa where we stayed with them for extended periods of time, ending in a whole month spent with them, babysitting the puppies, while we got our flat ready for VC’s move last year. I know I’ve always said this about sharing space with them, and having a sense of home here. But I think it is as much about a sense of home in them as people, as it is about having a space to come to.

Given the number of friendship lessons the past few years has thrown my way, the difficult realisations, the betrayal, the disappointments, the pleasant turns and coincidences, I am grateful for (and I don’t think I flip this around on it’s head to see the other side often enough) all the people who have remained.

We had a really chill 24 hours. Slowness, sessions for gabbing, silences, swimming, saltwater, squids, sleep — lots of sleep. VC and I might have gone away for a day somewhere on our own before we left, but we ended up staying only because it’s easy in the company of D and UT. Plans melt, have tos get bent, must dos are forgotten. I’m glad we made the trip away. It felt like a satisfying send off from Goa, for now, before we begin packing.

One year ago: Quiet movements where I can find

A little bit of this, and a little bit of that

If there’s one thing the incessant rain has ensured, it’s a quiet Diwali. I don’t remember Goa being too big on noisy fireworks to begin with. In all my years here, I haven’t ever faced the sort of noise levels that I did, and one continues to face, in cities like Bangalore. But this wet, wet, wet Diwali ensured that even the little that usually happens, probably didn’t. We didn’t hear a peep, or see any signs of festivity up until yesterday morning. City centres, away from us, probably had their fair share of Narkasur shenanigans with the whole hog. No rain will ever really dampen that spirit, I suspect. But it was a nice quiet weekend for us.

I’m constantly underestimating the niceness of people around us. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t expect it, that I am surprised so often. Our neighbours came over bright and early on Saturday morning, looking bright eyed and bushy tailed, all freshly bathed and in crisp new clothes, wit three boxes in hand. One with hot, homemade gulab jamuns, and two others with some traditional poha-based sweets they apparently make here in Goa.

VC and dragged himself out of bed to get the door when they came a knocking, and then dragged me out — braless, teeth unbrushed and still in our night clothes — to come wish them and say thanks. Late in the morning, THE SUN CAME OUT, FINALLY. And it was really interesting to see how it instantly gave me life. I sprang into action, setting the house back in order like I usually do immediately after I arrive here. A day or sun also meant I could finally get out into the hitherto out-of-bounds terrace and tend to our plants that are now in varying stages of flourish. It’s super fascinating to see how they’ve grown, some literally since babyhood from nearly a year ago, and others from different heights and stages of fullness. We got out and shopped for groceries, brought ourselves mithai — the only thing we did to mark Diwali here at home — and ate a home-cooked meal of dal.

Finally it felt like Diwali by yesterday evening as we drove over to D and UTs, Goa was lit up, and we got to an absolutely resplendent home that was aglow with lights. Another night of cards, food and cheer ensued.

The kind of night that’s gentle and easy, but so fun, things got a bit blurry. For humans and doggies alike.

***

As of today the skies have officially cleared, the neighbours all have their Diwali lights strung out finally. The sun is doing its October magic. The street dogs around are making themselves heard again. The pao wala is zipping by twice a day, after not making an appearance ever since we’ve arrived.

The house isn’t in a state of being taken over by soggy, musty laundry, perpetually wet bathroom has had some respite and the kitchen is inviting again. Life as I know it here has resumed. And it has been particularly chill, easy, with flow, than ever before.

I was telling S this morning, that for me, the realisation that I must really slow down has been such a central part of this transition. Even after slowing down so much over the past many months, there seems to be more to do. Getting away from normal life in Bangalore seems to really enable that for me. I’m not surprised at the timely getaways now. And I am getting better at noticing what’s being asked of me — to be with the slowness and the now all the time — and allowing myself to take the liberty.

***

I have been sitting with some latent fear that’s constantly making its presence felt, in the subtlest way. It’s strange to be witnessing it, without it having a grip on me. I began writing about it one week ago, and I am aware I have avoided going back to the draft to finish it ever since. I’m watching even as the desire to articulate my thoughts comes up and goes even before I can act. I’m observing how I’m not sure if this is also a part of slowing down and letting go of the need for perfectly pickled, framed, articulate insights — I really don’t need them as much as I used to — or if it’s some sort of avoidance and denial. I’m interested in holding this space for things to just come up and flow out in their own time, when it’s right, while my need to rush in and do something about it abates by leaps and bounds.

Gratitude for S today, and the numerous chats we’ve been having constantly. It has been such a relief to have someone on the same journey as me, doing the same learning, traversing such a similar path, that they get exactly what I am on about when I share and express myself. God knows this has been much needed companionship during this time when I have felt even more distance from most of my closest friends simply because beyond a point I can’t explain what I am going through in a coherent way. Except with someone who has shared that experience closely, and journeyed with me.

***

Two years ago: More Goa postcards: Yellow
Three years ago: Soloism

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

Rainy Goa

Hello from Goa where, absurdly enough, we arrived in the midst of a full blown cyclonic weather change. It’s pouring bonkers cats and dogs. And the forecast for the restof the week isn’t looking very promising. I’m usually a big fan of the rain but this time, I wanted some sunshine. We’ve got work to do, I came prepared to go to the beach, and unlike all my other trips this year, this one is going on be shorter.

Anyhow it was an almost treacherous drive all the way home, with the setting sun, super overcast dark skies and the rain just angrily lashing down. So I did what I do in the rain in Goa. I listened to Coke Studio. All the way home. And felt a super duper longing for life in Goa like it used to be in the years between 2011-2013.

The first thing I did as soon as I walked into the house was check on our plants. They’re THRIVING! The second thing I registered was how I always feel so delighted and at ease to have a home here. There’s quite nothing like it — coming home, from home. And like VC mentioned when I shared this with him, there’s something special about this one — our first home together — that makes it fit.

The rest of the week promises to be interesting.

***

Gratitude for the luxury of flying that just transports me quite literally from one place to another. Even with all the challenges flying has these days, it’s a luxury and a privilege I don’t take lightly.

Two years ago: When one door shuts, open it again
Three years ago: In with the new

Good juju

Yesterday was such a good day. It started off extra emotional. Happy, but I was feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of emotions that was bubbling up, and I was feeling every little thing so intensely. A day of deep work and learning somehow released the heaviness of those emotions and left me feeling light and energetic.

As is becoming habit now, I hung out with D who very graciously kept me company for best two hours after class. We played around with my tarot cards, as I had time to kill between class ending and dinner with these two monkeys.

A birthday dinner two days too late, but a good birthday dinner nonetheless. There was of course as always such joy and kinship in spending time with S, but there is something so reaffirming about hanging out with a bright and engaged child. U, with his long-winded stories (some that will have to be finished the next time we meet!), his hyper-observant yet childlike insights, and his cute face of course.

On the way to dinner, I watched the just-released Coke Studio episode, tearing up in a shared cab. Tearing up from the joy of the good music, from the live chat I was having with S parallelly discussing the new tracks with such energy, and for the instant sense of nostalgia Coke Studio evokes in me for my friendship with S and J from Goa and the things we used to do together. I missed them both so very much yesterday.

***

I’m grateful for all the love I have in my life. I receive it in so many different ways from so many different sources and places, it’s amazing how fulfilling that is when I stop to think about it.

One year ago: Come if it feels right, now is the time to be
Two years ago: Postcards from Goa
Three years ago: Stuff

Where love and wonder meet

Grateful for the (travel)partner I have in VC. As interested in the world as I am, but in a wholly different way, with a very different outlook and eye with which he sees things. Eager but rooted, curious and childlike, he is the steady to my floaty and the sense to my whimsy.

It’s only in recent times that I’ve discovered the need and place for both and the deeper need to find a balance. And I’m only just learning to make space for the two to coexist.

In VC, and in being and journeying with VC I have learned where (and how) love and wonder can meet. I have learned of the spaces between us, the give and take, the push and pull. And how love ebbs and flows inbetween, not in the evenness and the plateaus. This is a feeling I have sensed and known for many years now but have resisted, holding on tightly to my very limited knowledge and sense of self that sought comfort in sameness.

It’s only now, as I have loosened my grip on myself, and I’m learning to live a little, am I able to see the unbound joys of flowing where life and love take me. And I’ve only just found the words to articulate this old, old feeling that has always bubbled just beneath the surface, guiding me on silently, even when I wasn’t ready to pay it any heed.

Three year ago: Silver linings

All heart

23 kilometres run this week.

An important, excellent therapy session.

A morning dipping my toes into authentic movement and expressive arts to explore what’s held in the body.

Ten hours of extremely satisfying practice and study with S and V.

A day spent with S.

VC is home.

An afternoon at Koshy’s by myself, writing letters.

It’s left me feeling fresh and pulpy perfect as a greener than green slice of avocado. Light as a balloon ready to set off floating aimlessly into the clueless sky. Open like a just bloomed sunflower chasing the sun obediently.

Happy, like me.

***

Happy and so grateful for the metro today. I know I’ve said this a lot lately, and S joked saying I should be the poster child for the Bangalore Metro, but it has been a truly life-changing shift for me. To go from thoughtlessly jumping into a cab, to now always making sure I have fifteen minutes extra to make it to the Metro, more often than not, has altered a lot for me these past few months.

One year ago: It’s just another ordinary miracle
Three years ago: Sticky trash

Eyes that see, eyes that speak

I’m at such an interesting juncture — a point where enough healing and self-work has given me new eyes to see the world differently.

I’ve become so present to just how much the way I see has changed. The way I see the world, what I take in, what I am willing to let slide, and how I react even without words.

It’s in the eyes. Those same eyes that are more able to see difficult truths, than avert it. Eyes that are soft and willing to be shown when I am wrong. Eyes that are porous so things can seep in, come and go, slowly. Eyes that are sharp and unafraid to call a spade a spade, but benign in the face of love. Eyes that speak louder than before, eyes that hide less behind them. Eyes that are vessels of as much information I take in, as I now allow to be put out. Eyes that are flexible and always ready to be surprised.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.

— Mary Oliver

***

Today I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn. The means that have been opening up for me. Technology, and how much it enables through providing channels, connections, communication over distances and so much more that I have leaned on so much this past year to buffer and bolster my learning.

One year ago: It doesn’t matter, put the phone away
Two years ago: Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home
Three years ago: September

Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you

I had a brief exchange with someone a couple of days ago that brought up in full force a latent feeling of hurt and disappointment with people. Specifically of a set of people I felt used me during the Goa years of my life. People I mostly knew online, but who slipped from the virtual into the real in the name of shared interests. People I mistakenly called friends. People I opened my home and life to so (maybe a touch unnecessarily too) willingly. People I realise now preyed on the usefulness of knowing someone who lived in Goa. People who picked my brain effortlessly — for work, for contacts, for information, for inspiration, for help, for connection, for friendship. People who took it all so easily. People who have benefited from my hospitality, my openness, my willingness, my warmth.

People who needed me then, more than they do now. People who dropped me like a hot potato when that phase — and the usefulness — of my life ended.

Because, what use am I now when all I do is blog about a largely personal journey? Only speaking in vague circles. Not posturing at an audience. Not sharing details of any particular interest to anyone. Not giving enough meat to build a steady voyeuristic habit on. Not possessing much coolth by way of social media currency or giving anyone any reason to engage with me. None of the above.

The exchange, and the hurt that followed, didn’t leave me pining for the oddly confused/lost connections (as such situations once did), as much as it made me feel sorry for the naive and simply trusting person that I have been. For being at the receiving end of this, too often for my own liking. For mistaking my own loneliness and need for diversity as the right receptacle for new connections. For mistaking some of those new connections to be something real connections. For trusting. For being used. For feeling hurt.

I’m glad that exchange was quickly followed up with a solid day spent (in a saree!) with S. I chatted with her about this, blinking back tears at one point. Because it reinforced so much about where I’m at, what kind of connection I want and will welcome, and just how impossibly ungrateful people can be. And even as I feel my world expand, my heart open wide, there is a simultaneous bitter truth about the number of people who make it in to that inner world getting smaller and smaller.

I feel grateful for the friends I have at this point in my life. Close friends, acquaintances and everyone else in between. I’m grateful for what I have learned from experiences past, and the ability to now call shit like this out. Even if to myself, even if in retrospect. For knowing what I simply will not stand for anymore.

The more I see how shit people can be, and the ways in which they have exited my life, the more I appreciate those that have remained. Those with whom my relationship has evolved and strengthened. Those who have given me room to be who I am, through the ups and down. Those who watched me go and grow through the last two years either silently from the sidelines, or cheering me on front and centre. Those who have made me feel I have the space and liberty to take as much as I give. Those who allow me to take, even when I don’t have much to give. Those with whom the relationship is larger and way beyond what I am good for or what I have to give.

***

I was talking to S (a different S ahaha!) yesterday and telling her how even though I am in a phase where I feel solid physically and mentally, I seem to be at my most “unproductive” best. My reluctance to do anything at all has reached an all time high, and my inclination to work (actually, to do anything at all beyond the bare minimum required of me right now) is at an all time low. And she echoed it — telling me how her experience was exactly the same during the time of this same course that I am in the thick of.

The more I think about, the more I feel glad for a life that allows all of this. The luxury of staying off work commitments, the choice to dip in and out of family commitments knowing I have their support and backing, a roof over my head that I don’t have to hustle for, a structure and routine that has my space and solitude at the heart of it. It’s enabling a lot more than the obvious.

***

Ran a smooth, steady 7km in the park today. A good pace, a new route, bumping into S after 7 months since I trained with her last. To have her look at me and immediately notice OMG, you’re running! and then to take off and run with her for the rest of the time. Such a good start to my day. I’m grateful for the park, for bumping into S (that’s yet another S! I realised recently that I am surrounded by them!) who took my run from a regular run to a milestone run. My longest outdoor run yet that ended at 7.1km.

One year ago: Warm days filled with sunshine
Two years ago: Boooooook post
Three years ago: 109 kms done

Wander

It’s been many, many days of the good homebound life. Lots of home-based things, so much so that even the odd urge to go out midday hasn’t seen itself to fruition. In a week, it’ll be a month of this. I am quite loving it. Falling into a good routine of exercise, cooking, and going the extra mile in the kitchen on many days, nesting and resting, basically, has been very timely and very good for me this past month.

You can tell things have been so slow, and so good, when you find the time to make slow-rise pesto rolls. Of two kinds.

But that’s about to change. Four days to see this face.

And eight days to go off on vacation. We haven’t taken one in a while now. Benaras feels like it was yonks ago. And since it was a quick getaway, not the kind of leisurely holiday we try and have at least a couple of times a year, I’m not even counting it as a “vacation”.

Our last one was exactly at this time last year, in Europe. I was reading through the entire set of posts from them a couple of nights ago and even though I had a longing for that time and place and the friendship and camaraderie, I realised that over the course of this year, I have frankly not felt the need for a holiday like this.

What with the umpteen trips to Goa which, even though like going back home, have been like multiple excellent holidays. They really satisfied what little itch to roam that I have had.

These two fools video called me completely by surprise last weekend, totally turning my otherwise mellow day around, making me so very happy. They reminded me of the plans we’d made last year, sitting around S’s dinette on our last day in Paris. Vague plans to meet again this summer, in a new country with some talk of me staying on in Paris for a month after. But when summer came, I didn’t move on those plans at all. For an assortment of logistical and practical reasons, but mostly because more than anything else , life has been so challenging and satisfying that I’ve been feeling so full. It has minimised the need for escape, the need for more discovery and excitement from it.

If anything, I have felt the need to stay a while, and contain it. Things have been so slow, and so good.

VC is probably the one that needed the holiday this year, but somehow between everything that was going on and just trying to keep it together — him at work, and me with life — the year has just passed us by.

But, this time last year after that whirlwind of a holiday in Europe, we embarked on a whirlwind of a time in October, which ended with VC moving cities and beginning a new life in November. Serendipitously, we’re going to be going through the same motions this year too. Going from vacation to a busy October — wrapping up his life in Goa and moving back to Bangalore — and beginning yet another chapter in November. Full circle and all that.

However, there is a decided and noticeable difference in my being and in the way I am feeling, with the prospect of another relocation (with zero planning so far) looming large. This slowness has changed my internal rhythm and pace to such a great degree. There seems to be little rush, and utmost confidence and peace in taking things slow and one day at a time.

If this is what slowing down to grow up is, I’ll take it, thankyouverymuch. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to trickle into how we wander and travel too. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Three years ago: For every down, there is an up

It was all yellow

Even though VC made a trip to Bangalore to be with me on our anniversary, it was the most mundane, regular day we could have had.

My favourite kind of day, really. The kind I am sorely missing having more of with him, and the kind I am desperately looking forward to having more of when he returns for good.

There were yellow flowers. Of course. (Like so, and so, and so, and so.) We began the day super early, for a Sunday, at Cubbon Park. D and I, for the customary walk, and VC roaming around with his camera and pocket tripod, taking pictures. This was followed by breakfast at Airlines, post which we got back home and back into bed. to stay there for the rest of the day. I’m not even kidding, slightly.

We lazed around, chatting, watching Netflix, doing our own thing, I may have even doxed off a couple of times. We only got out of bed to fix ourselves some lunch, and eventually only at 7 pm, when we couldn’t push showering and leaving the house any later. We had dinner reservations at a hip new Chinese bar house in town that I have been dying to try. I couldn’t decide if lure was Chinese food or the cocktail menu. Maybe it was both.

Yellow seemed to be the colour of the day, really. And it gave me a lot of joy to wear a newly made blouse, in a really old saree of amma’s to dinner.

Dinner itself was a strange 50-50 combination of amazing and underwhelming. The cocktails we had were outstanding (I had a plum G&T which was OMG), one appetiser and the noodles we got were exceptionally good, but two things — one main and the dessert — were strictly meh. We giggled about how that was even possible. But I want to go back for a second shot, to assess things better. And have some more cocktails. They were to die for.

Aside from stepping out with VC and having more beer than I normally do on any given week, the rest of last week — Tuesday onwards — went by in a blur of mostly trying to fight the bug and only succeeding in keeping it beneath the surface till it fully took over on Thursday. So I cancelled the rest of the week fully, in favour of staying in bed.

On Sunday morning, I took myself out to a talk on What next for Kashmir. I feel a greater sense of keenness in understanding my world and what is shaping it, a desire to listen to more narratives than the mostly unidimensional ones of my very privileged world, and a greater responsibility in how I engage with my world. It was a tremendous talk that has stayed with me and left me with thoughts circling my brain even today.

Since I was feeling almost 80% better, and since the talk was all the way in town, I carried a book along with a plan to take myself out for a solo lunch somewhere, while I read. I had no plan or specific place in mind. But I bumped into S at the talk and was so happy to spontaneously have company over lunch. As usual we ate well, a shrimp roll for me and a pulled pork sandwich for her, as usual we yakked nine to the dozen, and as always I came home charged, energised and inspired.

There’s something about getting out to play, at play in my life. Slowly the pieces are coming together and things I have been making meek, small attempts at for months finally seem to be finding some direction and purpose.

I feel a greater sense of allowance, for and of myself. Quite unknowingly, I am giving myself permission to do things, to move in certain ways, to make choices, to present myself in a certain way, to allow space for expansion, in ways that I hesitated to, or didn’t think I was worth, or believed I wasn’t ready for, or waited for “good reason” for until now. Whether by way of indulging in a good meal, several mid-week beer, an extra kilometre on the treadmill, that new book spontaneously bought, a tailored dress, or whether it is to listen to my body when it’s asking for rest, spending three full days in bed if necessary without fretting, doing nothing for no apparent reason, pursuing the smallest things simply because I feel like. This is very new for me.

I genuinely feel my life blossoming because of it. This past weekend I realised this in full measure. My body hasn’t taken ill in this way in over a year, but in giving it rest as soon as it needed it and not resenting the illness like it was something to fix, I watched how I bounced back miraculously, and in record time. There is without a doubt a certain fullness I am feeling in my life, a genuine expansion and a blooming in full measure. There is so much to live and give and my cup, it runneth over. Over and over again.

One year ago: One breath leads to another
Two years ago: Grow
Three years ago: Empty

Stay and stay a while

It’s VC departure day and I’ve been exceptionally gloomy about it this time around. It’s a combination of PMS, I think, plus really being at the end of my tether with the in-between life, and really wanting to get a move on. It’s compounded by the fact that my mother left two nights ago, and with VC gone today, my sister and father leaving on the weekend too, I’m feeling preemptively morose.

You have so many people to hang out with! said VC when I complained to him last night.

And yes, while that’s indeed true, it’s just…not the same, you know?

It’s one thing finding company, no matter how enthralling, but quite another thing entirely sharing my very life and spaces with people I love. Which is the kind of intimacy I was ruing.

***

We drove out this morning, my dad, VC and I, ostensibly to catch a quick brunch before VC headed off to the airport. But driving out turned into driving all the way to the airport, and a quick brunch turned into leisurely beers (many for them, a single one for me) and a quick bite. I decided to test my throat (that is feeling much better) today with that beer, and I feel oddly better.

VC was thrilled to be headed back to his peace and quiet life, with the weekend just a day away, and the end of his notice period now in sight.

I’m happy to let him go, temporarily (especially because this is the first time in forever that I’m seeing VC cut back and really focus on the fun) but this gnawing feeling of wanting to be together again keeps tugging at me from within. I’m just sitting tight and biding time, knowing that it is in fact just a matter of time before the nature and quality of my life the past week becomes the new normal.

The most obvious antidote to these blues would have been to hop on the same flight with VC and go to Goa, seeing as how I have no commitments for another week at least. But I’m just not feeling drawn to being there somehow. There’s just so much momentum that’s drummed up with things here, with the simultaneous internal slowing down, and the surprising new ability to just lie in waiting for things to unfold as they should, without efforting any of it.

I feel like the call is to wait, not rush off.

Here, now, is where it’s at and I’m staying grounded to that hunch.

Meanwhile, it’s life in passing. Slow motion. Daily, normal, mundane and joyful to tide over the intense missings.

One year ago: I want the truth to be said
Two years ago: Finding life again

Three years ago: Lines and dreams