Another milestone. Another year on walking this planet.
Another year obsessing about all the things that you do. Another year living in that fully committed single-mindedly focused way that you do.
Another year of simultaneously infuriating me with our polar opposites and softening me with our fundamental likeness.
Another year of inconveniencing me with unnecessarily heavy luggage all for another year of stunning pictures and memories from our travels.
And yet, I suspect this year will be a touch different. So as you step into the new, I wish for you a year of just enough surprise of magic and just enough comforting familiarity. A balance of enough challenges and the right amount of easy wins, too. A year of flow and ease, peppered with opportunities to stretch yourself. I wish for solidity and harmony as you continue to take life by the horns and grow from strength to strength like you have this past year.
The sadness of a really good time, of the sort that uplifts and nourishes and fills you up, coming to an end hasn’t hit me in literally years. The last memory of such a deep post-good-time of this degree sadness is from when I was a young child and my favourite aunt and uncle would visit us once a year, leading to endless bunked days of school and just too much fun all round. So much fun that when it was time to leave, even as young as 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, I remember feeling abject sadness and finding it difficult to slip back to normalcy and function as usual once again. It always took a few days to get back to the regular rhythm of life.
And that’s the degree of sadness that hit me yesterday once S had left. Thankfully, I had a meeting with S in the evening to soften the blow of the hard knock it could have been. And today, I met S for drinks and brunch at mid day which is always uplifting, and certainly helped fight the gloom that I would have inevitably felt if I was left to my own devices.
Talking to S this afternoon, about friendships as we always do, I realised for all my complains and cribs about disappointments and dissatisfactions about people, especially in a year like this one that has seen the most upheaval and shaking of the ground beneath my feet, I have also received the best and mellowest gifts of love, affection and friendship. I am not very quick to notice it for what it is, and that is something I am trying to change.
The last week spent with S and VC was life-affirming in that sense. And I want to acknowledge the many ways in which it was so good for me.
It gave strength and validation to my deeply held belief that friendships that are based in simple truths and genuine connection don’t take work. They work beyond distance, infrequent meetings and all else. And they have that wonderful ability to rejoin and pick up exactly where we may have left off, even when either party has undergone massive transformation in the time spent apart.
I realised S and J are amongst the handful of people (that I can count on one hand) that I have this absolute and utter privilege with. They honour me with a kind of friendship that some of the relationships closer home that I have struggled to keep going haven’t. That ability to cut through the fat and come straight to the heart of the matter. A high degree of respect and space for vulnerability, even as we hold space for the silliness and laughter. A genuine warmth and being excited for the best in the other.
These are folks I talk to maybe 3 times a year. It’s only in the last six odd months since we started a whatsapp group between us (yes, it took us that long) that there is some form of frequent banter. But otherwise it’s restricted to the timely wishes and brief catch ups on each others birthdays and new year, at best. And yet, somehow, by hook or by crook, we seek each other out at least once a year. Making plans to meet somewhere or the other, dedicated time to spend catching up and reliving the old days. This, is not something I have with literally anyone else in my life. The effort and the follow-through on this, year after year. And today, I realised I really love that we do it.
This past week, I laughed harder than I have in a long while. VC admitted he enjoyed our company more than just being the third wheel he usually makes himself feel like. And I came away feeling like we are grown up versions of ourselves from 2012-2014, with something at the heart of it all, intact. To have each been through some seriously diverse experiences, some transformative times, and still find it’s possible to connect. And connect long and well, and enjoy every moment of it, is special.
So, when I got home in the evening I dug out pictures that pock-mark the many years of our friendship. There are folks who have lifelong friends. I haven’t had that luck as yet. But here, I see solid potential of being stuck with each other for life. OOPSIE – hahahaha.
I realised I have a picture for nearly every year since we split ways, and that we’ve met in six cities and four countries in the years gone by. Again, not something I see myself going out of my way to do with too many people.
This was taken on this summer trip that I documented, but several day trips and wanderings — way way too many to count because we’d go out literally every weekend — that probably went undocumented. When we weren’t out and about, we lived out of each others homes. We shared way too many common loves — for movies, music, art, travel — that made us converge on more things than not.
In fact, I cannot separate my association with monsoon listening of Coke Studio from S and J at all. I write about it here. I shared my most impactful professional year, the one that had more far-reaching consequences that I knew, working with S. We’ve cooked way too many meals together and shared way more beers for our own good.
S left Goa in the end of 2013 and moved to Bombay. He visited us in Goa again in 2014, but apparently we took more pictures of the food we ate and absolutely none of ourselves at all.
In 2016, S flew in from Singapore to Bangkok to catch up with me. Many shenanigans ensued, and ended with this very drunken picture that was taken at 2 am in a bustling street market.
Somehow, we missed meeting in 2017, as S reiterated today with a “WHAT HAPPENED IN 2017??” when I shared these pictures with him. I was caught in the landslide that was moving to Bangalore and the year zipped by without any big travel.
In 2018, we made it to Paris where S now lives. And he and J plotted to surprise us, with J flying in from Hamburg.
Again, way too many shenanigans ensued. And I’ve written about the ways in which I felt so filled up from it all here and here.
Last December, we caught up in Goa, just months after we had returned from Europe.
And then, a whole year later we connected in Bangalore, making a trip to Coorg together. I have a new picture to add to this collection — the first one in the post.
I want to say this is fate or destiny or some such, but I think it isn’t just that. It’s also a lot of deliberate intention, and sincere keeping up of our word and following through on the things we plan to do. That is a deeply cherished aspect of friendship I have coveted for years now.
It’s not too late to acknowledge that for all the knocks and falls I’ve had in the last few years, and especially this past year, as far as people and friendship goes, I am still one lucky girl, for all the love and connection that has stayed and found it’s way to me, despite it all.
Currently severely feeling the sads since S left this evening. The house got extremely quiet and lifeless for a bit. Thankfully I had a meeting in the evening to run off to, but when I got back home there was no escaping the full force of a plunge into deep, deep melancholy at a superbly fun and nourishing few days coming to an end. As all good things eventually do.
Niyu and amma made some sheera and sent it over so I ate a big bowl of it to feel better. Yeah, I’m that level of sad and feeling the post-holiday blues.
Two nights of feeding a fire to keep it going long enough for us to stay snug and warm, talking intimately and candidly huddled around it, listening to the best music is what it took to end a year of massive friendship lessons on a positive and love-filled note.
There was warmth in the silences. Life in the conversation. Fuel in the feelings shared. I am mildly changed by the three days I have spent away in the company of VC and S.
Something fundamental has shifted as far as my perspectives on adult friendships go. And after months of not knowing what, this trip away illuminated that something for me.
I’m just sitting in the afterglow of it.
I’ll say this again. I’m grateful for those who left, almost as much as I am grateful for those who remained.
My journey back to myself has been pockmarked with several points where I’ve questioned and examined belonging. Belonging is a theme I visit often, as I heal parts of myself and make efforts to integrate them — to really belong to myself fully again.
In recent times my focus has shifted from beyond myself to the world around me — both immediate and extensive. I have been asking What is my place in the world? Where do I fit in? What is my purpose? Where and how can I belong? And I find myself deeply disillusioned and let down by the ideas of belonging that crop up around me. Wishy washy, idealistic notions that sound pretty in words but are very difficult to put to life. Lip-service by the rich and privileged who cleave to feel-good ideas of connectedness and togetherness but think nothing of putting their support behind acts and bills that scream disharmony and throw entire sects of our people under the bus. Religious ideas of love and togetherness that they otherwise hold close are rendered null and void when the same mouths and brains that do things to tell me they’re backing the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.
I’m sick of the hypocrisy.
This makes it very hard for me to belong to groups that I ought to belong to by default. My family, my neighbourhood, my state, my country.
Today, I question where I belong. And I’m constantly looking for a spark of some signs of belonging in people around me. But it’s getting harder and harder to find.
I am the great granddaughter of staunch Gandhians. My great grandmother spun khadi at home, and she and my great grandfather marched with Gandhi in many acts of civil disobedience. My grandmothers older sister even went to jail for it. And yet, those same Gandhian values that I’ve grown up being dinned into my head, are altogether washed out today. My family is mostly unrecognisable when it comes to politics. They’re supporters of the fascist forces that celebrate Gandhi’s assassinator. I simply don’t understand it.
How then, can I say I belong to this? When I have nobody to converse and dialogue this with? When ideas of respect and politeness are conflated with dishonesty.
I can no longer be dishonest so I’ve chosen silence for too long now. That silence is slowly snapping.
My building is filled with upper-caste, patriarchal Brahmins who have displayed their displeasure of our unbrahminical ways more than a handful of times. I definitely don’t belong here. But I shut the door of my home and I make do.
I have for very long now questioned how I feel about belonging to India. The truth is, I don’t feel it at all. I have resented being Indian since 2014.
But something interesting happened this week. Over this week at all the protests I went to, though, I felt a surge of belonging. Like I had found my people. Like all is not lost and we may have just not sold the country to a majority of hate-mongers.
There is something incredibly softening and nourishing about finding this kind of connection. In receiving it, I realised it s something I have been missing it for way too long now. I have walked around feeling like an alien in my surroundings, around my family and everywhere else for just too long
So what I felt this week, I’d like to think is a start of something new, a new wave of healing yet another part of myself that has been deeply hurt and excluded.
Registered my protest today by beginning to read BR Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. Woefully late in life, and just a quarter of the way through this is essential reading for every Indian (every human really), in a country that’s being fast made to forget the very idea of India that birthed our constitution and our identity as a nation. Essential reading for people being lulled to sleep slowly in a hateful frenzy. Essential reading for a staggering number of people in my immediate circle who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
I can’t do much to change people around me, I think. As always, I realised today again that I can only work on myself. If what’s going on in the country today means anything to me, I can only inform myself and solidify my politics. I can only show up more often. I can only do everything it takes to put my entire being behind knowing exactly what I am talking about when I say,
I refuse to buy this hatred that insists on making me believe that I don’t belong in my own country.
I can keep speaking my truth. And I can keep consistently choosing love.
Because without truth and love, I’m going nowhere in this search for belonging.
Thinking of Mary Oliver, on The Journey, today. This past week has been ike coming out from underwater, taking big chest-fulls of air, filling my heart with a soft light and breathing normally again. I’m on an upswing and around me even though nothing is different, everything has changed.
This is what moving through and forward – through the joys and pain alike — is like, I suppose.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Unlearning lifelong patterns and choosing to honour oneself over everything else is a deep, slow, long and often painful process. It requires being a little selfish, which has been easier said than done for me. Because in the doing, it has meant confronting the hardcoded people-pleaser in me, shocking the side of me that believed I was always my own person, and now contending with the possibility that I will be seen as selfish, unkind and self-serving.
As I move through this, without willing or wishing it away, and accepting this part of the journey in its entirety, I am deeply aware of how people close to me may at times feel hurt, shunned, abandoned or rejected.
I can see how relationships are shifting from one day to the next, how some have ended altogether, and others are having to find new ground — not always swiftly and easily.
There is a shit ton of grief and sadness, guilt and fear at all this changing, at letting go at a lifelong comfortable way of being. Of being okay with letting people go. Of facing temporary bouts of despair and loneliness. Of having to grow a new skin, and feeling utterly vulnerable until that new skin appears fully.
There have also been moments of doubt, when all of this has been sometimes too much to take. Moments of questioning if this was worth it? Moments when it all do terrible, I wonder when it will feel right again. Moments that make me want to stop feeling at all.
I’ve wanted to turn this around many times over. Shut all of this that I have unraveled over the past two years, back into a box where it came from. Lock it up and throw away the key.
I’ve been here many times before, and I realise that I will come back to this same place again and again. That’s just the way the cycle goes.
Each time I will question if this was worth it. And each time, that voice inside — of the soul I am nourishing and the life I am serving — will whisper yes, very, very softly.
What effortlessly-picking-up-exactly-where-we-left-off looks like.
We hadn’t met in nearly a month — not something that’s happened in over a year now. And we hadn’t really talked much either. I have been too preoccupied — and generally feeling quiet — to engage with all my attention. And it has been strange for us to be in the same city and not in touch or up to speed with what the other is up to. Especially if one/both parties hasn’t been up to the mark. And then there has been so many thoughts about loss through this process, of a bare few remaining, of moving on and leaving behind, of the grief of that loss, of the grief of possible loneliness. And a few restrained exchanges about fear of abandonment on one side and fear of not knowing where all this peeling off is leading to, on the other side. Andnsome distance between us, because of all of this. And then we met today. And we effortlessly picked up exactly where we left off.
I’m glad I’ve finally had the privilege of experiencing what this kind of friendship feels like. I know it’s something I’ve always had a longing for, without quite having the words for what it was that I was missing. And now that it is here, I feel so full from it that I know just what it is. A friendship where there is space to unravel, but also to just agree to put it all aside and have a few laughs, without the need to fill in the gaps of so many weeks of silence gone by. This kind of friendship that holds quietness and a containment in its palms. The kind of friendship with endless space, and a strong connection, both. The kind that starts and pauses and has an effortlessness about it all. I feel blessed, really.
One of the things I’ve been grateful for in the past six months is the companionship I have shared with S. As a co-learner, but also as a curious person in the world, keen to understand ones place and how to belong. It’s been an ongoing journey and I have realised time and time again what a boon it has been to have someone who shares and understands this journey so keenly. It has taken the edge off the loneliness many times, it has given me a sense of belonging too. It most of all it has given me yet another safe space to take every little nook and turn of my bumbling journey so it can be held and heard.
So many gems emerge from our ongoing sharing. On chat, in person, while we have studied, while we have worked and now, as we plan our work as fellow practitioners.
I’m not disconnecting. I’m individuating.
An examined life takes hard work.
What is being separate? And what is the bond of love that can connect even as I hold my own separately?
It’s thoroughly refreshing to share with someone who isn’t in a rush to spout intellectual, cognitive, nearly figured out answers to all our questions. Someone with whom I can throw around the ideas bouncing about in my head, and hold them as unanswered questions still. Giving space for the answers to emerge in their own time.
This is not a friendship I went into with any intention of cultivation like one does sometimes. It kind of happened and grew organically over shared experiences. In a year that has thrown so many friendship rude shocks my way, this has been such a pleasant surprise.
There is a very refined quality to this friendship that I haven’t had ever in my life. And I am enjoying it with such relish.
It’s curious that what I am experiencing since the ending of this phase of my course, plus the slow and steady ticking towards the end of the year, is actually a lot of space and openness, and yet again and again, I chose to articulate it as emptiness. Maybe it is both. Maybe it is one or the other, depending on my state of mind at any given moment. But that choice of word — emptiness — is telling and interesting.
This past week and weekend, I sat with this emptiness a lot. The growing distance and spaces between me and many aspects of my life — my slightly nebulous current relationship with work, the yawning silence I have with most all of my closest friends, my family and how I am moving differently around them, cohabiting with VC and sharing all of my living space with him again. It has been a lot to contend with, while also being acutely present to the ever-shifting minutest changes I am experiencing within.
There’s an inexplicable sense of an ending with what feels like multiple open ends in my life, and yet I cannot quite put a finger on it. All I feel very aware of is the ask to stay in the present, with all that I have integrated and all that I am today, while holding space for what was once an old way of being (in similar circumstances) without feeling too drawn by it’s lure. After all, new ways of being bring with it opportunities to do things differently, hack old patterns and cycles and await delicious new outcomes. This is essentially what the process of moving from dependence to autonomy has been for me.
The changes call for me to be a new way — which the more I do, has created so much space and silence — while that same silence and emptiness constantly triggers the old narratives and old ways of being.
And since going back to the way things used to be is just simply not an option anymore (it is physically impossible), I find that all I can really do is make as much space as I can for everything that is shifting and the changes that are coming because of it. It has meant watching and listening to some of my old behaviours as they are called to the surface, yet silently let them just be. The more I sit silently, without rushing in to do something, the more the the old tendencies to fill those expansive spaces, the emptiness, the silence with activity, with doing, with unfulfilled desires, with music, with idle chatter and more, have surfaced. And the more I am able to not give in to them, they have receded to the background too.
To witness it all without acting, has been the way in which I am able to finally tell to some degree, which of the behaviours have been comfort-seeking coping mechanisms, and which have been genuine needs from within that I must respond or tend to.
In the process, I have watched as a lot of those comfort-seeking coping mechanisms have slipped away, and it has left me quite destabilized inside. imagine trying to walk again after years of having a crutch and having that crutch taken away.
There has been a fair amount of heartbreak and a lot of grief to experience. Grief for all that is shifting, and how nothing may ever be the same — with respect to people, work, my surroundings, the very fabric of my existence even. I know deep down that in all this emptying out (which currently feels endless) I am making space for something new, and I know it in my bones that that whenever it arrives slowly will be sweet, but until then there is no denying that this process has been equally fear-brewing, as it has been thrilling.
I am hyper aware of what is changing, what that newness means to me, and that for many folks in my life, this might all be too much to take. That it might be that many will leave once again. And so I sit, wait and watch, equally thrilled at how liberating it all is, as well as how horribly lonely my world sometimes feels because of it. And like S said to me last night when I shared this with her — quite rarely, I wonder if I’ve signed up for something way beyond what I can handle on my own, in terms of how much I will be on my own.
I am learning that this eventuality might very well come true. And so to hold both sides — the joy and the pain of it — equally, with grace, and honouring my needs, mroe and more these days. That’s a step up, I guess?
There were also some other small IRL heartbreaks. Heartbreak at finally accepting — after fighting this for literally months — that we won’t be walking the OXFAM trailwalk in February next year. Some sadness that despite all my efforts I haven’t jumped back on the exercise wagon as quickly and efficiently as I’d have liked to and that I might need to actually listen to my body some more. There was heartbreak at realising that I have to still play second fiddle in VC’s family and that this may never change — not for any other reason but because it simply cannot be any other way — because it’s not on me and there’s nothing I can do about it.
We spent the weekend entirely at home, chilling. I got a wee bit of work done, and we finally settled our second bedroom into a temp home office for VC. I enthusiastically cooked a whole lot more than I usually do — in quantity as well as variety. We watched some movies together, VC and I. And there was a lot of music. I dragged myself to the gym one morning and yesterday I was determined to get our Sunday walk in, despite the steady drizzle. It was such good weather to be out, and to eat a hot idli vada after. But then, I was holed up in my bedroom under the covers all day, until I couldn’t take it anymore post 6 pm.
I am really, thoroughly enjoying my home lately, in a way that I haven’t before. In a way that feels beyond and more than the last two years through which I have anyway really loved this space. There is connection and involvement of a different degree and I know this is coming from rightfully taking my place and acting from my own power and making this space mine, which is not something I have done very much in my life so far. It feels good to be beginning right here at home and feeling the effects of it so palpably.
At the lunch table with my buddies from class last week, someone asked me about a friend that has recently slipped out of my circle in just the last few months. It was a fall-out that was difficult and confrontational, yet very essential for me, because it demanded a level of strength and honesty out of me that I had hitherto not extended to very many relationships. It made me confront some “not so nice” parts of myself that otherwise remain hidden, presenting a “good” but continuously inauthentic self to the world out there. It made me sit with being the “bad guy” in that conversation and situation, and yet be the one that could be honest, take a stand and stick by it.
In many ways it was one of those pivotal events of the last six months that pushed me to embrace parts of my shadow, without which there’s no beginning to step into my full power.
It has taken me many months to accept that the cost of that degree of honesty — the cost of owning my full power — is sometimes the friendship itself. One would like to think that with enough time and healing, repair is possible. But it is not always the case. A great degree of honesty can only pay off if and when the other is strong enough to hold that honesty too. And even though I wasn’t holding out for it, the confirmation that this wasn’t going to happen, was a bitter pill to swallow. Because it meant temporarily facing the empty space that the friend has left behind. Staring at the vacuum where that friendship used to be, and wondering when it will be filled with something else, something hopefully more meaningful, authentic and fulfilling.
Even though I ponder about the coming and going of friends, how dynamics with pretty much all my friends have been altered so much as I figure myself out, every time that there is a development, it is just as bittersweet as it was the very first time. One doesn’t get to acceptance and peace without first going through the initial throes of anger. It’s difficult to reach a place of compassion and forgiveness towards oneself without first submitting to beating myself up a bit. And so I have time and again felt caught up in a loop, wanting freedom, wanting to let people from my past go fully.
And so, in the months since, every time I’ve been triggered by a memory, or a glimmer of something form the past that I have shared with said friend, I have been filled with rage for allowing myself to feel so used and dispensable, self-loathing for not seeing the signs sooner, anger for sometimes sensing them and brushing them aside anyway, regret for allowing fear to take over and for being a pushover, and for “wasting” so many years putting up with inauthenticity.
But somehow that day, for the first time, I found myself very easily, reflexively saying, We’re not friends anymore, without feeling compelled to explain those words. That truth.
Of late, I have seen that I find myself in conversations about the the difficulties of navigating friendship as an adult, a lot more than before. Every time that it comes up, a little something in me is triggered, and finds a new settlement again. That’s what happened at the lunch table the other day. Then on Sunday, N and I talked about how growing spiritually, continually and deliberately, means letting go of people more frequently than one otherwise would and how it means facing the empty spaces more often. This morning in a reading for D, about friendship, I found myself answering a question I had myself been simmering over for a while — when do you know it’s time to let go?
Coincidentally (but really, these aren’t coincidences anymore) I saw this on The Artidote’s Instagram page, that I visited after literally six months.
Forgive yourself for all of the relationships and friendships you settled for when you weren’t in your power.
I had realised earlier this morning that all of this has everything to do with feeling and owning one’s own power. The ability to face the truth, to know what you’re holding on to even in a failing friendship, to see the truth about allowing yourself to be “used”, to know when to let go — none of this is truly possible unless I am fully, feet-firmly-in-place feeling my power. Because when the ground beneath my feet shifts from asking some of these questions and facing the answers that emerge, I need to know I can hold myself through it. And not in a delusional way, but in an authentic, compassionate way that allows me to free myself from bitterness, regret and the very notion that I had made a mistake.
A big part of my journey into meeting myself fully, healing and integrating all parts of myself, has largely involved going back to parts of my childhood and revisiting events and times in my life that my conscious mind has no recollection of. Times that one usually files away in the long forgotten corner of the psyche, possibly because either there was something too frightening/painful/difficult about them to process as a child, or that they made us as children temporarily “adult”, in order to process quickly and “make it alright”.
Initially, every little discovery of even the slightest of pain or difficulty from my childhood, shocked me. The shock was almost always followed by a quick wave of denial, because 1) I genuinely don’t remember a lot of those times and 2) even when I have jogged my memory and accessed my unconscious, I have struggled to accept what has emerged because it has been difficult to acknowledge some of these memories as “painful” — my mind has a great way to paint happy all over a lot of small hurts to retain a larger picture that is “good”, presentable and most importantly, palatable.
I’ve had to go back, really way back, and meet with my child self over and over and over again. To sit with her, as she was sometimes sad, sometimes lost, sometimes confused, sometimes hurt, sometimes trying to keep it together, sometimes trying to belong, sometimes trying to understand, and really believe that everything I did — both physically/outwardly and emotionally/inwardly — I did from the place of innocence and love as only a child can do. This process has been all kinds of disorienting and distressing, before things began to make sense.
I understand now, that the shock and denial I experienced when revisiting my childhood came from believing that to acknowledge the pain, to make space for it, would be like tainting the largely wonderful, happy and harmonious childhood that I have had the privilege of. Enough years of doing this work, though, has now made me realise that this defence mechanism, to shut down and deny the pain, is also the work of a child who is and has always been deeply emotionally loyal to her parents. So to acknowledge an experience of the contrary is almost like being disloyal, or cheating on them somehow. But what a relief it is to know, as an adult with enough help from professionals whose work it is to hold our hands in navigating these complex dualities and emotions, I can hold them both — the joys and the pain, the easy and the difficult, the ups and downs — equally, without one affecting the other.
Lately, I’ve been looking at some of my childhood pictures, and I’ve been seeing them quite differently. I have rediscovered a connection I had severed somewhere along the way. A connection I had possibly pushed away, in pushing away the pain and the sorrow. An immensely important connection with that child, without whom I can get nowhere in knowing myself as an adult.
Lately, I’ve been looking at some of these pictures from various stages of my life and feeling all kinds of lost memories resurface. I’ve been suddenly seeing myself fully, as that wildly innocent, impish, bright-eyed, curious and easily excitable child that I was. And I’ve been feeling incredibly soft and tender towards her, with great levels of love flooding over.
And quite predictably (because I no longer pass these occurrences off as mere coincidence) pictures from my past have been finding their way to me through unexpected and surprising channels, even when I haven’t been looking for them. The most recent one came in last night from my cousin M. It’s not like we routinely share pictures from the past with each other, so to receive this made me feel an instantly deep, deep connection with the innocence of this child sandwiched in the middle of two older cousins she looked up to and wanted to grow up to be like at that time.
This is my new favourite picture of my childhood. A picture of a moment I have no recollection of. But clearly, I was thrilled then, I feel it just looking at myself.
Lately, I’ve been feeling very much in touch with the innocence and pure-heart that I had as a child. I feel so connected with, and fond of that twinkle in those eyes, the nimble limbs that were so alive and active all the time, the ruffle of curly hair that flopped around messily without a care in the world. And I am deeply aware that the renewed spark I feel for life today, the excitement I have been experiencing for every single day as it blossoms, and the gratitude I feel all the time has everything to do with rediscovering and revitalising this precious connection and holding it tenderly within.
It has been a good, good week. And the highlight, quite easily, is having VC back home. We’ve been like stuck records repeating to each other, umpteen times, over the last week: This last year, living apart, was the best thing we could have done. Because from time to time, we realise the little things that have changed about us, within us, and the way in which we’re being different around and with each other.
Just a week since we’ve returned, VC has already flown off to Bombay today for a bunch of meetings, and I suddenly found myself with a day to myself. It sparked so many thoughts.
On how living apart unconsciously made us experience individuating in this relationship too. How that has somehow brought us closer. How I think this might be a good thing to do every few years, if the need arises. But I’ll save that for another day. But for now, just gratitude for this here. For going full circle. For love.
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.
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.
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.
Rohail is back producing it
Zeb is back
Atif Aslam looks and sounds like he’s grown up
The season features Fareed Ayaz, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sanam Marvi
It’s already sounding like it’s full of the old, peaceful vibe of the old CS Pak days
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.
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.