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Tag Archives: Love and longing

I get by with a lot of help from my friends

25 Apr

Honestly speaking, I’m all into this mindful seizing of day, living in the present business. I really am. For the most part. But for the longest time now, I have literally felt like I am existing in-between. Like I’m passing through a conduit of endless waiting. In limbo. And it has meant enjoying the present is a tough ask. It has tested the absolute life out of my capacity to stay still, to remain present without racing ahead of myself with dreams of the future or being stuck in a loop of lamenting about the past.

It’s been painfully slow to move, this time of transition between one phase and the next. And the pain started as a smidgen of dissatisfaction with what had become of my life. Feeling limited in the littlest ways, and that longing to go beyond — at work, in my city, with people around me — constantly clawing away at me, in tiny nibble-sized chunks. A little minuscule molecule of dissatisfaction in a period of almost 24 months morphed into a burgeoning restlessness that rumbled on endlessly, just beneath the surface. And when I was unable to decipher and deal with it adequately, it festered. Gently at first, a very covert sort of twist and churn, making itself seen and known in small, but shocking ways. Eventually, the churn got bigger, noisier, and the made its presence felt in painful, alarming ways, more often than I cared to be reminded of it.

But that was just it. As I busied myself with convenient distractions in the form of the pursuit of over achieving, outrageous professional goals and what not, the rumble continued to make itself known, nudging me to stop filling my everyday life with distractions, and instead look at the bubbling cauldron of pain I was in. I saw the signs, and I took every one of those events as an affirmation that the pain I was feeling was real. But I just didn’t know where to go to begin to fix it. To find my way out, I had to stop and acknowledge the situation I was in, and accept that I couldn’t and didn’t need to do it alone.

But everything has a tipping point. Over time, the fuzzy restlessness turned into a distinct surety that my time here was done. And that was really hard to wrap my head around. I mean this is where my life is. It’s where adulthood really began. In Goa, in this phase of my life.

It was in Goa that I landed quite by surprise, and then cobbled together a home with the man I love, built little every day experiences and got through eight years together, ploughing through an assortment of situations — good, bad and ugly. t’s here that I trudged through expanses of most no work prospects and yet carved out a flourishing career in a manner that made sense to me.

This is where I’ve made, nurtured and lost friendships, relationships, associations of all kinds. This is where I found other sides of my identity, and it’s also where I shed them. This is where I learned to appreciate solitude, the bliss of silence, where I stumbled and fell multiple times, picked myself up and gathered myself time and time again, where I truly embraced the slow life.

This is where I hit my stride and became the adult I was waiting to be. This is where I discovered sides to myself, found my feet, explored hobbies and chased experiences I wouldn’t have had in my other life if I had continued the way I was going in 2010,

This is where the naive decision to pick up our lives, wrap them in 13 little boxes, and a car and get going came to fruition. My life since has been full of experiences. Enriching, enlightening, eye-opening, humbling, and so much more. This blog, more than anything else, is testimony to the changes we went through, the various milestones and setbacks we hit along the way. There has never been a more transformational time. This is where I had the best years of my life.

To go from near-eight years of that to a sudden, but very rapidly consuming limbo was all sorts of painfully incapacitating. For a while now I’ve felt this building up of everything to a very pregnant point, this growing ennui has gone on so long. It has only kept pointing me closer and closer to all the little, seemingly insignificant aspects of my life that I was ignoring (some by choice, some by sheer ignorance itself) because it would mean facing difficult questions, difficult choices and difficult conversations.

For the first time, I realised what having a empty life was like. While I was consciously and unconsciously filling my days with all that I thought needed my time and attention, life was doing it’s best to pare itself down, so I would just focus for a moment, on that which needed it the most.

In the bargain I stripped my life down to the bare minimum. The friends I have left will affirm this. Only a handful know what’s really been going on with me. I found it impossible to expend even an ounce of energy in explaining any of it to an audience just because they were curious or concerned. It’s not like I chose to alienate people, but it is what happened as I sought the company and conversations of folks who cared to check on me, understood when I explained, and kept conversations from going back to talking about themselves. With work already taking up a fair bit of my mind space, I had very little left to spread between therapy and those few who did get my pain. Fewer still were the number of people who realised that my needing some time and space to myself was not a reflection on them, and therefore no reason to take offence.

In many ways the experience of the last 2 years has been a large filter, holding a mirror up to the quality of interactions I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s been a slow withering away of those that existed at the fringes, held by weak ties, and pulling those I hold close, even closer still. Without much effort or doing, it became exceedingly clear the friends I was clinging on to, many of whom, ironically, weren’t close to me in proximity. Spread between Bangalore, Bombay and even as far as Singapore and America, they’re the ones who stayed. Pitched in when they had advice to give, insights to share or answers to those 12 am questions. And sometimes even when they didn’t. They’re the ones who had the constant reminders to not be hard on myself, to take my time.

For the absolute first time in my life, I realised what it was to be lonely. I fully fathomed the pain of longing for the company of folks you love, because they get you, and are so far away.

Despite the distances, though, pain has a strange way of bringing those you need the most closest to you. In a late night call with N one day in March, she reminded me of this really pertinent snipped from Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior.

…we think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often — because we all have the wrong job description of love. What my friends didn’t know about me…Is that people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.

It was the kind of conversation that clicked something into place in my head, and set off a ripple effect of things that were just waiting to happen. It set the wheels in motion, in a way that wouldn’t have happened without the push. And just like that I felt like the vacuum that was the two-year limbo suddenly released, making way for movement again.

I’m grateful for the timely reminders.

I’m grateful for the kindred spirits and the uncanny commonalities we discover in our lives.

I’m grateful for the company that blurs distances and erases time zones.

I’m grateful for the gentle nudges and the wholehearted pushes.

I’m grateful for my tribe who has consistently sat quietly, holding space, sometimes in helpless vigil, to my pain.

I wouldn’t have realised my pain, and made the effort to move through this two-year limbo, without them.

It finally feels like I’m at the start of something new, rather than wasting away in the dregs of something old, done and dusted. And I’m so very ready to get going.

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Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with

23 Feb

(AKA things a man friend will likely not be good for)

The effortless way in which we can go into collective raptures over anything from this delicious Instagram account to why Hidden Figures was so amazing.

The absolute ease with which I can ask to be listened to every time I need to vent/bitch/rant/froth at the mouth, because I know I will not be judged.

The obscenely granular level of detail we can go into while discussing everything from saree weaves we love to the exact nature of PMS.

Virtually no topic is off the table, not farts, not poop, not body parts, not the abysmal lack of decent underwear.

No matter how shitty I’m feeling, or how much I’m beating myself up describing the serious levels of fail I think I’m hitting, they’ll always make me feel like I’m actually amazing.

Constant, heartfelt reminders to stop being hard on myself.

They listen. Even when they don’t have the answers. Especially when they don’t have the answers.

They know when to just stfu and let me vent, because they know what it’s like to just need to voice some thoughts – no solutions offered, no explanations given.

They’ve made opening up easier, taken me closer to honesty – with myself, with them.

They make literally everything fun. Surprise trips. Holidays. Holidays. Holidays. Whatsapp groups. Conversations. Gossip. Long distance friendships. The whole nine yards.

*****

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This isn’t just a post-Hidden Figures high talking, but watching the movie last night I really came home feeling grateful for having a bunch of women in my life with whom I have found the space to live my belief in genuinely rallying together through thick and thin, propping each other up, and always creating space for the kind of intimacy we’ll never find in our relationships with men. Several times in my life, I believed I had it – but nothing comes close to where I’m at now in terms of having relationships that are grounded in trust, transparency and utmost comfort. This is all kinds of liberating. Yes, it took upwards of three decades to get here, but I’m so fortunate to have found it.

*****

I used to be that girl who was really surrounded by boys all the time. Who believed having women friends was laborious and tedious. For a long time I honestly believed that maybe I’d just encountered the wrong kind of women. I was the wrong. It wasn’t the women I encountered – it was me. Somewhere down the line, life happened and #3 from this amazing essay kicked in. So I was so incredibly choked up to see it articulated in such simple honesty here. I don’t know how I’ve missed sharing this already, but it is the truth, it is life. I could start quoting the many things I love, that spoke right to me, reached out and grabbed my heart, yadayada, but I’d essentially be quoting the whole damned piece, so do yourself a favour and read it.

And then go tell your girlfriends how much they mean to you.

Protected: Because I want to remember

22 Jan

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Work. But also life.

19 Jan

I started 2017 with a couple of mini work goals. One, to send out a minimum of 20 pitches every week. And second, to just consistently do it without losing heart or feeling wasted.

I did the former fairly well, but semi-sucked at the latter. It has to be noted that the second half of last year saw me rolling way back on the effort to find new work. With everything else going on I was consistently only just doing enough to keep me going, and stay in touch. So I kind of began January with a clean slate that needed to be filled from scratch. That’s a scary place to be especially when your bank balance is slowly diminishing and there are bills to be paid. So my restless self began to despair just one week into January.

Why won’t people respond soon?

Why can’t my emails just be acknowledged, even if it is to politely reject my idea?

How long should I wait before I move on?

Maybe I should try something else.

Consistency has never been one of my strengths. I have the attention span of a housefly most days, and the patience to stay with something even when it seems like nothing is moving comes in bursts and spurts. So I hoped that this would be an exercise in gaining some chill. And getting it to stay

Additionally, the ups and downs of last year, the number of weeks I took off from work has meant that the motivation to keep writing has also been sporadic. Even though I did write something every single day, turning it to work is another thing entirely.

I’ve had numerous instances of giving up too easily, way too often. I really want to change this. To eork hard in the true sense of the word. Not only when I have a deadline having over my head. I want to taste the sweet success that comes from slow, but persistent consistency. I don’t think I have ever focused on cultivating that with my work. 

I was hoping to give this a shot by focusing harder on making a daily habit of pitching. The idea being that in order to do this successfully, I’d have to work on having a lot more ideas in the bank (which would mean having my thinking and working caps on even when I have no assignments on hand) and working doubly hard on turning accepted stories in (assuming they’d convert faster!) on time, to keep the ball rolling.
After one week of what felt like thankless pitching, I was disheartened when I didn’t receive as many responses as I’d expected. Maybe folks were still surfacing from the holidays? Maybe my emails weren’t good enough? Maybe they got lost in the slush-pile? I don’t know what it was. But I got no bites. Just a lot of crickets.

I took the weekend to regroup and decided I need to really, truly just chill out, and for once in my life focus on the process, trusting it wholeheartedly, doing the task at hand with sincerity and intention, without lusting over the results, or obsessing about how fast or slow they are to come.

And that right there was the hardest part. Not the idea generation. Not the writing of numerous LOIs. Not the combing the internet for contacts. Not the actual pitching. Just the pushing aside of all thoughts of why and how, stomping down on that imposter syndrome that is constantly trying to make a comeback, waving away the self doubt and fear. And just. keeping. my. head. down. and doing. it. day. after day.

Several days later, suddenly, smack in the middle of the week, I landed 4 stories in 2 days. Including breaking into another international site that’s been on my wish list for ages, one Indian glossy (it’s a really small piece, but still!), one international print mag, and one essay — and this last one has been the most satisfying conversion of this week. It’s an excerpt from a memoir I attempted to write not so long ago, but gave up on after much deliberation. For a year now I’ve been wanting to pick bits of it to turn it into publishable essays so at least some part of it sees the light of day. It took me one whole year to get cracking believe I can do this. And surprisingly just 2 days to land the story. Remind me again, why I didn’t do this sooner?

I think the hard work that went into keeping calm is what is at play here. I’ve been consciously spending significantly lesser time on all platforms of social media. Well, to be fair, I only use fb and instagram. I’ve returned to meditating and I begin every day with a big dose of affirmation. For this, I have A to thank.

I took up simple bullet journalling to keep track of my pitching, daily todos and wish lists and goals for three month and week. 

There’s the gratitude journaL, which I know is making a huge difference to my general state offer mind. I try and consistently stay positive, and be thankful for what I have and where I am and believe that it is enough. Part of this means I’ve further cut down the noise – sticking to my routine, being goddamned adamant about not missing my workout, and meeting only a select few friends in whose company I feel uplifted and happy. It takes a little being selfish, and isn’t always easy. But it pays. 

Most importantly, I think it was the deliberate effort to brush aside negative thoughts that spark laziness, self doubt and the inevitable spiral of apathy that makes my motivation turn to a sorry trickle, that boosted my confidence. 

I know I’m a creature of habit. I need a vague framework of routine within which to play. I like having a plan most times. And I’ve been a firm believer in daily habits. So, if the mindful and deliberate effort to bring this all back to my life is putting some basics into place, I cannot complain.

Is this what mindfullness really is? I’m not sure. 

I have to also say though, it’s not all me. I gather an immense amount of confidence boosting motivation from my virtual writer friends. Even as a silent spectator privy to a host of discussions, being exposed to an amazing variety of work, being a fly on the wall in so many discussions about ethics, professionalism and the right/better way to approach situations I thought were rare, I’ve gained a lot.

Despite the spotty year I had, I was a bit amazed when I realised how much work I’d gotten done. Today too, I realised that from feeling motivated to aim higher, to do better and to expect to be paid more, from learning to deal with rejection to never giving up on my ideas, from going about this in a nice-to-have kind of fashion to turning it into a practice for my daily life, I really couldn’t have done this on my own. So much of my will to keep at this without giving up, comes from the inspiration of others who have surged ahead, and been there and done everything that I am now doing. Their unabashed and absolute generosity to share, with zero insecurity is refreshing. It has taught me to open myself up, offer help even when it isn’t asked for, and basically never hold back if I can help it.

Sometimes I feel like writing is just the medium. What I am working at, what actually gets bigger, better and sweeter in the process, is life.

For all the help I get, I’m so grateful.

Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read

12 Jan

You know you’ve been off the grid and out of the work force for far too long when you feel the need to prep for a skype call. I still take my appointments seriously. Half an hour in advance, I decided I needed a cup of tea. I figured ten minutes before the call would be a good time to make it. So I did. And then I made the evening snack choice, grabbing the entire bag as opposed to the usual, taking a small portion in a bowl. It was a new client, and I wasn’t sure how long this call was going to be. I didn’t want to be stick on a call, tethered to my system, snacks just out of my reach. So I set myself up. Snacks within arms reach, mug of tea close at hand, I was ready for the call. Only to realise it was a video call.  And the only thought I had was, fuck the snacks, I need to wear a bra.

So much for prep.

*****

Battle scars. It’s what I call them. The scars I don’t notice. The scars I’ve resigned myself to perpetually bearing. Honestly, it’s because I don’t register them when contact happens, because I’m usually too involved in boomboompowpow to register it happened. But a few hours later, the bruise tells a completely different story. And I only realise something is wrong. Usually when I’m standing in queue at the checkout line in the supermarket and I see the group of aunties behind me staring strangely at my arms. Or when I go waxing and the parlour waali inquires about the bruises that to her shifty eyes look suspiciously like marks of domestic abuse. Or when I go from one class to the next and people ask really what happens in my other class. So I just say, battle scars.

*****

Early this week I felt major pangs of missing my friends. Like proper, tugging-at-my-heart feelings that I’ve felt only for boys I loved. The kind of intensity that has in the past made me abandon everything on the spot and rush to be with them. I think it’s the first time that I can remember it has happened with my friends. I told them as much. I said this feels like we’re all in a long distance relationship, we need to reunite soon.

So we’re working on that.

Hah.

*****

I’ve started a wee little habit. Gratitude journaling. Inspired last year by N, who mentioned it several times, and even did a month long challenge on more than one occasion. Then I did it briefly when I took on a 10 day abundance activity. I found it surprisingly revelatory, because it forced me to really zero in on the tiniest things that I am happy about and grateful for. In a year when I felt a lot of discontent, scarcity and unsettledness, this helped build a solid base of positivity. I now know what it means to operate from a place of abundance. It’s a state of mind that has helped me coast through many a low day. So this year I’m attempting to do it for as long as I can. I considered doing it online, in the name of being accountable. But seeing as how I’m working towards completely stopping all social posting, save for work updates, and this blog, that plan was quickly abandoned. And I went back to a good old journal.

Red ink <3 yellow light. Handwritten.

Twelve days in, I can safely say it’s the best ten minutes of every day. No matter what the day has been like.

Have any of you tried this? Any insights for a noob?

2016

5 Jan

So it’s done. What I’ve called the most forgettable, shitty year, time and time again, is over. It’s true that last year I had more than a fair share of lows. But it’s also true that in bouncing from one low to the next, only keeping my head above water, occasionally remembering to thwack my limbs and move towards the closest object for support, I’ve often needed to remind myself that I’m still alive and breathing. Which is a convoluted way of saying, a lot happened in between the lows that really wasn’t bad at all. But I have been so occupied with just barely staying afloat that it’s felt like I’ve been mostly stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. The bad has a way of eclipsing the good, and painting a picture so dismal, you wonder why this is your life. Which is why I’m thankful for forced stops in the infinite loop of time. We put a date to the end of the year, we decide it’s a time to reflect, and I’m glad we have this opportunity to lay out all the cards, pick which ones to fold over and put away, and which ones to take ahead.

There is such a difference in looking back cursorily, because all I can see is large spans of time spent lying in bed, unable to move, just staring out the window, and looking back one day and month at a time. Broadly, I feel like I spent way too much time wondering why this is happening to me. This, being the thick and heavy fog that consumed me. But, it’s only when I combed through my archive that I realised I was diffident, cynical, exhausted from the get go. I entered the year in a terrible headspace. Maybe it set the tone for the year? Maybe I was a fool not to see how things were hurtling towards an inevitable crash right through 2015? Maybe this was all just a necessary intervention in the making? I don’t know.

What followed was a lot of indecision and confusion that really chipped away at my confidence and left me on very shaky ground. Pretty much the entire year after has been spent trying to regain that solid ground beneath my feet. Whether it was putting my confidence in myself and my work back together and resuming in a direction that made sense to me, but scared the shit out of me, or opening myself up to honesty of a different kind, running all my relationships through a sieve and keeping only the most important ones close, learning to distinguish between an inner and outer circle, basically redefining the very notion of love and friendship, or regaining some bit of pride and a sense of self and identity that I’d lost sight of — everything about 2016 was an effort towards building something in me that 2015 had broken.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to write a post a day, because looking back has helped me see that while 2016 was far from fantastic, it sure was eventful. It was shitty in many parts, challenging in ways I have not previously known but omg, you gaiiis, so much happened!

Mostly, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering honesty. Of coming to terms with many things I was either not seeing right, or turning a blind eye to. It all started with the decision to take some time off. To regroup and clear my head out. I had a breakdown at the end of 2015, that made me realise I was overworked, confused about my priorities and sorely needed some time out. My inability to be honest with myself was pushing me into a cycle of repeated losses that had left me very, very tired.

So, I planned to spend 5-6 weeks unwinding and doing the things that gave me joy, in the hope that it would make room for some clarity. I read and wrote. And that’s not counting my work. There was some drawing, some haiku, and an exercise regimen, all in the interest of building a routine that enriched rather than depleted me. With all the mind space to introspect, it wasn’t long before the truth, or rather the lack of honesty emerged strong and loud.

I don’t mean honesty in the sense of truth-telling. I mean honesty in so many different ways — the inability to break through my denial, my stubbornness in not admitting to seeing things as they were, the fact that far too many people in my life had more to take than give me, the false belief that the work-life pattern I had unconsciously fallen into was necessary for success, my misplaced conviction that it was what I liked and wanted, when the truth couldn’t have been farther from it.

I’d begun to realise a need for a deeper honesty in my friendships. As it happened several of my closest friends found themselves in a bad patch at the start of the year. It involved unravelling, together, and being there for each other and made me realise just how much I valued openness and vulnerability, even in or maybe especially in hard times, as a measure of authenticity of any relationship. I suddenly saw how I was surrounded by relationships lacking in it, even though I considered them to be the solid, long-term ones. I backed away from many that seemed to exist in a perpetual state of hiding behind convenient veils of passive aggression, demanding more from me than I could give, or they could ever give back to me.

This has meant being alone a lot more, staying with solitude and embracing this part of me wholeheartedly. This will always be the year I made peace with my introvert tendencies. After a hectic 2015 chock full of socialising, putting myself out there and pursuing things I never imagined I would have, giving the hedonistic life a shot I realised my place. It’s indoors, with myself, away from the mindless din of connections and networking. I much prefer the loud camaraderie of a few I call my tribe, even if we choose to exist in absolute silence.

This too, required honesty. In laying the tussle between the virtually-social and actually-solitary, to rest. On the one hand, I live what many call a “social” life, especially thanks to frequent and frantic social media posting. And on the other hand, I was trying to teach myself boundaries, to say no, to protect my personal space and energy. This tug-o-war between sharing my life has given many observers a sense of false camaraderie that often oversteps the virtual lines that separate me and them. I began to see through social media veneers, and was disappointed by people on more than one occasion. I found myself wanting to dig deeper and find within myself the strength to accept the differences that these are just virtual interactions, while saving my energy for the solid core of authentic interactions I have in real life. Even when it meant accepting the truth that was far from pleasant, realising that seemingly normal people sometimes display unacceptable behaviour, or that I myself had untowardly let some folks far deeper into my life than was needed.

The need for this honesty came with a price. For one, I let go of the steady promise of work that I had in hand to make room for the work I wanted to pursue. Second, I had to consciously let go of a couple of friendships that I had assumed were easy-going and probably for life.

What I gained, though, was immeasurable. Because the time and energy freed up from it, was channeled into all that I wanted to put my mind to, but had failed to in the years before. I will always remember this to be the year I moved closer to finding myself, and my voice, professionally. The decision to quit a steady, decently-paying gig with scope for growth, to dive fully into the erratic, unpredictable world of full-time freelancing was a pivotal one. A lot of it happened because I had to own up to the fact that clinging to a safety rails was only going to get me that far. Yes, I’d have a salary in the bank at the end of the month, but the hours spent earning that salary was definitely keeping me from expanding my repertoire, aiming higher and going wide and deep into the kind of writing I want dip into. If I were to be honest with myself, and I was, I needed to be brave. Or at least pretend like I was. It was not without its moments of extreme imposter syndrome, but I know I am better for it.

There were moments of immense frustration. A steep learning curve that I didn’t particularly enjoy at all times because let’s face it I wasn’t feeling positive and upbeat for a large part. The long waiting periods, systemic inefficiencies, blatant unprofessionalism made me cynical and under-confident. Incidentally, it was the year with the most number of unsavoury professional experiences. But while navigating the doubt and incertitude with heaps of scepticism, I did manage to get a whole lot of work done. It’s funny how the haze of unpleasant experiences has clouded this reality that. Ironic that the shittiest year is the year I had several work wins that I am proud of. Like this, this, this and this and this and this. I never imagined I’d write essays worthy of being tweeted by the UN Women’s handle. I didn’t think I’d see myself published in The Telegraph. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d find myself in a publication dedicated to science and technology.

I even managed to throw together a website and a portfolio that I should have done a long, long time ago. Much of this had to do with trying very, very hard to unlearn my obsession with perfection. Of quitting the terrible habit of waiting for the ducks to get in an absolutely straight line before making a move. In accepting that well begun is half done, I may have taught myself a thing or two about what is possible when you accept what works for you and hold yourself to slightly more realistic goals and ideals.

One of the best things I did was write and write and write every single day. Whether it was the for the stories I worked on, daily posts on here, scribbles, ideas for stories, half written posts — I made sure I did a little writing every single day and this is a habit I don’t want to lose. I am a little astounded at myself for seeing the daily post habit through to the end of the year, even though I fell off the wagon and frantically caught up again, sometime. Even with all that writing, I have so much more to express and share. So I started a newsletter. Admittedly, it’s taken a break so soon after it was launched but I hope to be back this year. 2016 marked the completion of 10 years since I started blogging. I wrote 318 posts this year having blogged every week, which feels like a fitting way to mark a decade of rambles.

On Day 1, I decided it was going to be a year to move more. In addition to upping the ante with training by joining, pursuing and loving kickboxing, I let the husband get me a cycle. It transformed the middle parts of this year in ways I can’t explain. Unfettered joy and immense satisfaction have been had from the hours spent pedalling through Goa. Cycling changed the way I experienced what could potentially be my last monsoon here. I even finished my first ever 100 km ride.

Part of the reason I caught the cycling bug was the undeniable urge to get out and get out. In the open. To travel. It’s something I’ve denied myself the pleasure of indulging in, for various reasons in the past few years. I travelled back home more than I ever have since I have moved out. Cleartrip sent me an email calling me a Happy Tripper today, for the 18 flights I’ve taken. There was a trip to Chettinadu, KeralaThailand and Coonoor. There were a few mini vacations right here at home too. I turned 32 in the company of these lovelies who came down to celebrate over a weekend of beach time, with me. And it reaffirmed my faith in certain inalienable truths about why some relationships endure and others don’t. It’s the one year VC and I haven’t taken a holiday or travelled anywhere together. And no, we’re not complaining.

The other big change I made this year was I kicking myself back into the reading habit by getting myself a Kindle. It has made all the difference and  finished the year with 29 books read, a high for me. While I’m looking at numbers, it seems a good time to look back at this post where I detailed the few things I want to see myself doing through 2016.

  1. Read a little everyday – check, post-August
  2. Write a little everyday – check, check, CHECK
  3. Give in to the urge to draw/doodle as much as possible, don’t put it off for “later” – check, for as long as the inspiration and urge lasted
  4. Avoid multi-tasking at all costs – yes and no
  5. Wear a saree at least once a week (any more is a bonus!), and don’t wait for the “right” occasion – ditched
  6. Call ammamma more often – check
  7. Meditate every morning, consciously remember to slow down – check for the first half of the year, then abandoned
  8. Go to the beach more often, even if it is for a stroll or to catch the sunset – check, check, check (run a search for “beach” to see how)
  9. Actively avoid clicking random links that lead to news on social media – CHECK!
  10. Whenever posting something on facebook, ask myself if the post would annoy me if I were looking at it posted by someone else – check, followed this for the most part, but slipped a lot, now correcting it by slowly deleting all fb activity from all of time
  11. Generally, avoid oversharing on fb – not every thought needs to be telecast to the world on fb, do it here instead, in longer form – check
  12. Keep phone away from bed and sleep-time – failllll!
  13. Sneak some more kisses – CHECK!
  14. Choose things, make decisions with purpose – CHECK
  15. Make the most of Goa, get out, breathe, watch, listen, do – CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK, cyclecyclecycle
  16. Reclaim stillness whenever it happens, and when it doesn’t, create it – this is WIP
  17. Fuck perfection – this is WIP

Speaking of WIP, one of the best things I did for myself in 2016, was take myself to therapy. When the cycle of breaking down, finding my footing, stabilising, coasting and only to slip again recurred three times in a span of 8 months, I knew I was in over my head. Again, it called for a kind of honesty I didn’t have, but so desperately needed to find. To accept that I cannot navigate this alone, that I need a fresh pair of eyes to see things differently and help me work my way through, rather than away from this. It has been the best, because it brought to the surface things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. It made me reclaim myself, discover and strengthen crucial aspects of my identity that were slipping away form me. Much of my newfound peace, focus and positivity is a result of this, and I know that every day I am making progress in facing up to and loving my imperfect self.

It hasn’t been an easy year to live with me. Every break down has brought with it several emotional outbursts, thoughtless spewing of anger and frustration, violent mood swings, long periods of demotivation. But through it, VC has been my constant. Constant everything. Punching bag, sounding board, friend, foe, confidant, co-homemaker, support, voice of reason, strength and solace. We celebrated our eighth anniversary. Ironically, it was a year that made me fully understand how relationships that nurture are the ones that help you growing together, separately, rather than collapse and grow into one entity, and completely turned my beliefs about marriage around, that somehow also brought us much closer.

I find myself feeling a little sheepish about how much I have bashed 2016. It had so many sore points, so many weeks and months I wanted to just wish away. So many events and incidents I wish I didn’t have to go through. It all felt so damned shitty. And yet, when it all stacks up and I look at it in retrospect, it was rather eventful. Memorable, even. But most of all, transformative. They say things sometimes need to get really bad before they can begin to get better. Maybe my bad bits were peppered right through 2016. But right there, in between the bad events, things were already beginning to get better.

This year I just want to build from here. Make some goals, shut up about them, work hard, live big, laugh loud, love hard, breathe deep and smash them to the sky.

*****

Quick guide to posts in 2016
Monthly recaps: APostADay
Bheja fry, since this year had so much of it
Work and writing
Books and reading in 2016
Travel and photographs
Cycling and exercise
Music

Day 358: Home is where the yellow roses are

23 Dec

VC is not usually one to feel the need to state the obvious. He sees no need to tell me he misses me, or that he wishes I was around. For one, he assumes it is understood, and doesn’t need constant repetition. He doesn’t find it endearing. So the only two occasions this year that he explicitly stated the fact that he missed me, I knew there was good reason for expressing himself. This time, I was away for longer than usual. It felt even longer so, with all the hopping travel and transit through multiple modes of transport. While I was enjoying my time away, and at home in Bangalore, I was suddenly told I was being missed. And that I should perhaps lay off on the travel and just “be with me” for a bit. Hein, yeh kya hua? I thought to myself, but brushed the thought aside almost immediately, thinking VC was yanking my chain, or being unnecessarily dramatic. It was only when I landed in Goa at 10 pm last night, and was picked up by VC who came bearing a bouquet of yellow roses, that I realised just how serious he really was. This year has seen one heck of a lot of travel. For both VC and I. Separately. Which has meant a fair bit of time spent apart. It has been altogether wonderful. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on my own, home and away, and I know VC has too, I think it has allowed us an opportunity to really miss each other again. And even though I cannot actually remember the last time VC gave me yellow roses, for no damned reason, I haven’t forgotten what they mean. 


Day 357: Cutting the fat

22 Dec

If there’s one unifying theme that ties all my travels, in and out of Goa this year, it has been the spontaneity that kicked all plans to action and the unbelievable effortlessness right through every one of them. Well, that’s if you discount the effort it took to find enough cash to carry in hand before we hit the road last week – *eyerollllll* – but that aside, effortless. And it has a lot to do with the kind of people I was surrounded with, on each of those occasions.

Of course when I think of effortlessness, actual instances of smooth, near-flawless and easy planning and events come to mind. But really, it’s so much deeper. It’s been so long since I have experienced this kind of light, clear and direct quality of relationship in my life that I have come to value all that it brings with it. A large part of which is this effortlessness. The easy way in which personalities, no matter how disparate, plans, people, just fit. And by fit I mean, making it work, without necessarily getting enmeshed or tangled.

I realised this with astounding clarity as S and I were quickly calculating out expenses on the return leg of our trip, over hot filter coffee at the A2B we’d stopped it. The entire exercise was a good reflection of how most of our trips, and some others that I took, have been this year. No loud haggling, no complains, no mismatched expectations, no effort. Very quickly and simply, we knew what we’d spent and how it was to be divided and who owed who what. Done and dusted.

Perhaps it is the slowing down of time, being free from routine and allowing time to empty out your mind that makes room for mini epiphanies like this. Earlier this year R, S and I had a conversation about why some combinations of people work better than others, and all three of us agreed on the high premium we placed on effortlessness and a complete distaste for drama and passive aggressions. Increasingly, I find myself gravitating to effortless people with whom I have an effortless equation. So much so that I notice the daunting, weighted and complex relationships have withered away rather, well, effortlessly. Without trying too hard. Earlier, I would be het up about it. Now, the aftermath is effortless too.

I’ve learned this from VC a long, long time ago – trimming the fat in all my relationships – and on returning form this trip I felt rather pleased to realise it’s become an unconscious, effortless part of my life. I don’t know if this makes me lazy, but it’s not that I want to stay away form putting in an effort or investing in relationships. It’s more about investing in less drama, more honesty and clarity. And I’m extremely glad and grateful I am finally in a place in life where I am surrounded by people who feel the same way, understand and respect it as much as I do. It has made a lot of the events in the last year less painful, less intense and less demanding of emotion and heartache. But most of all, I’m glad I have started to parse people and tell the genuinely effortless relationships apart from those that inevitably leech. I’m better for it.

Day 312: Holiday mornings

7 Nov

There’s cute. And then there’s Bangkok cute.


There’s peace. And then there’s wilderness peace, the way VC likes it.

Day 256: Lines and dreams

12 Sep

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Trace a new pattern,
connecting the dots
where you end and I begin.

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I reach out to touch
things of dust and dew,
a mirage that bursts to life.

Day 252: Eight

8 Sep

VC, it’s that time of year again. This day wouldn’t be complete without me saying it feels like we only just got together yesterday. Like I’ve done so many times before. But we know the truth. It’s been a decade of knowing you, and in fact the enormity of that truth only sank in only a few days ago. Suddenly I realised we’ve been doing this for an absolute age. A whole damned decade, eight years of which have been spent trying to perfect this marriage thingamajig.

But you know what?

perfection

PC: StarvingArtistFilms

It’s been a far from perfect year, since our last anniversary when I waxed eloquent about how comfortably predictable things had become. This year there was many an oddball. It was anything but predictable. There have been so many heavy discussions about where to next, which came with a huge set of pros cons and our respective opinions, desires and dreams to juggle. There was a home loan in the mix this year, which has put a fair deal of pressure on us both. Not that you ever showed it, but I always know when you’ve been worried about it. There was a lot of angst about what to do next — for you and for me, as individuals and as a unit — and which way to go from here. It seems like this semi-charmed life has maxed out on it’s levels of near-perfection (when you discount the shitty roads and spotty internet, I mean) and that has time and again pushed us into a corner, begging us to ask ourselves some hard questions and consider some difficult options.

And so we did. It’s been a year of tremendous opinion-sharing between us. I can’t help but feel that the more rounded and formed our personalities get, the more we dig our heels in and stand up for what we believe in. Many times, we don’t believe in the same things. This year, more than ever before, we’ve sparred over things, small and big. From your smoking habit that I truly wish you’d kick, to a potential move beyond Goa, we’ve battled it out with loud exchanges of words, lots of confusion, plenty of tentative guessing and jumping to conclusions, a fair amount tears and the two instances when I left home and drove off into the night. Old me from about two years ago would say I’m not proud for what I did, or what pushed me to it. But I’ve learned this year, more than ever before, that it’s not important to agree and always see eye to eye. In fact it’s important not to agree, and it’s important to always have the room for that. I’m so glad that even when we’re in the throes of a belligerent rage, one of us has the sense to calm the other down and remind ourselves to make space for one another’s opinions.

I love that we have this healthy battle ground. Where we can spar, constantly remind ourselves to keep it civil, but not polite; honest but not rude; real, but not sharp. This year more than ever before, I have enjoyed fighting with you. Until last year, I always wondered if there was something the matter with us – our fights and disagreements were few and so far between. This year, I proved myself wrong and we’ve more than made up for the lack of disagreements in our lives so far.

I believe everything happens for a reason, and that this transformation came with a reason too. Because, I no longer fear fighting with you (and anyone else I hold close, for that matter). I’ve learned that every healthy relationship must have space for healthy disagreement. It’s become a marker for the authentic relationships in my life, across the board. It’s taught me that learned that sometimes one has to squash one’s ego, agree to disagree, and just hug it out. I’ve also learned that no matter what the outcome, it’s always a good idea to say sorry.

This year, you’ve taught me the value of saying sorry, even when it is the hardest thing to do and my mountain-sized ego will not allow it. In the number of instances that you plainly and easily said sorry, at the end of an argument, or when you thought you’d disappointed me, or when the truth about the numerous patterns of oppression women face in a typical Indian family suddenly dawned on you in its immensity, and you suddenly woke up to it’s existence in your own family, you apologised for it. You took responsibility, even though you’ve never behaved in a way that was oppressive or discriminatory. You apologised on the behalf of everyone else who never will. You have no idea how immensely liberating that has been.

This year, I’ve learned empathy from you. I’ve learned to tone down my judgement. To live and let live, in the truest sense of the term. Together we’ve turned many of our perceptions about a lot many things and people around. It;s reminded me that there is always have scope to grow, and I feel glad every time that we are able to acknowledge where we were wrong, and we try and correct our thoughts. I like to think we’ve turned into more self-assured individuals with firmness where it counts. I find you perfectly straddle being strong-willed, but soft-hearted where it matters. You’ve displayed conviction, with a rare kind of softness that I find immensely attractive. It’s a balance I still have to learn.

But most of all, this year will always be remembered as the year you helped me rediscover myself yet again. I don’t know if you realise the influence you have had on me. As the only person privy to all my thoughts, feelings, ups and downs of every aspect of my life, you share in my angsts and joys equally. And this year your only steady advice has always been to put a premium on myself. To always raise the bar, demand more, settle for nothing less than the best. Whether it has been at work — when demanding a higher fee, not settling for shoddy work relationships, or in my relationships with people — cutting off toxic friendships, prioritising my time, being uncompromising with the quality of friendships and focusing on myself and my self development.

You’ve been the sound voice, constantly dinning into my head the need to put myself first. It’s how I’ve bettered my work style and engagements. I wouldn’t have re-learned discipline if it weren’t for our many discussions about how to get better at this game. I wouldn’t have cracked so many pitches if we hadn’t worked on my emails together. I wouldn’t have come to believe in myself if you hadn’t backed me up every step of the way.

This year, we’ve completely soaked in the spirit of being quiet. You were always the quiet one, but this year I realised I have some quiet in me too. In learning to be still, I’ve understood myself better, sharpened my focus, fine-tuned my ability to be by with myself. As individually-focused as that sounds, it has changed my relationship with you. For the better. I understand you better. I respect you more. I honour you for the individual that you are, completely, with fewer expectations than before. As much as there’s been hectic chatter and loud disagreements, we’ve had our fair share of silence too. It’s one of the things I love the most about us. The way in which we can exist in a companionable silence, for hours on end, without having to engage. This year, I’ve learned there’s more than one kind of quiet, and I cannot wait to discover the rest. With you. Even though this was also the year we took off on our own respective tangents.

It’s the first time I saw in us, the patterns I see with my parents. In being starkly individualistic people, with completely different goals, diverging in entirely opposite directions, yet somehow making ends meet, and finding a way to let go, live and love, all at once.

I travelled by myself this year, more than I have ever before. And it was because conversations I had with you rekindled the hidden desire that I have let remain forgotten for all the years we have been together. You bought me the bestest gift of all times – a bike – that has triggered something deeper than a quest to cycle, in me. You’ve reminded and taught me how important it is to chase those things that are fundamental to our happiness, outside of amassing money in the bank and buying things. And you’ve done this by example. By taking off on your own path of self-discovery, traversing cycling, film and new areas of work – areas I am completely removed from. That has been your journey to take, and I’ve watched from a distance, with such pride.

This year, more than every before, I realised that being together has little to do with being together. Not to take for granted how wonderful it is to have a roomie to come back to, someone to hold at night when the fear of the dark envelops me, someone to lean on when I’m scared or lonely, someone to share a laugh with in a way that only we can understand. But I realised that growing old together involves taking routes that aren’t always going to run in parallel, or end up in the same place. It is possible to be together and yet give each other the space to be apart – in what we do, in where we go, and in how we blossom. And for the first time in all our years together, and my vehement stand on long-distance relationships, I have opened myself up to the idea of living apart. It will mean spreading our wings in different directions, and I don’t mean that just literally. I hope we explore it someday, because I think it will only take us a step up from here.

I look back at this year and it looks so pock-marked, dented and imperfect, riddled with the weight of learning. It’s been a heavy year in that respect. But we’ve towed the line rather well, picking up when the other left off, holding each other up, and being the stoic, steady person when the other needed to waver for a bit. In you I’ve had the best friend and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner on this ride.

We’re still often met with this picture perfect notion of marriage, complete with the kids and the car and the giant home. We’re still asked when we plan to have children, and shocked reactions that prod deeper and wants to know why that’s not on our agenda. I understand now, where it’s coming from. It’s because that’s what it works for many people. But there is room for us. And for us, it has always been about doing it our way. Keeping our eyes and minds open, bucking the rules, bending with time and circumstances, flowing the way we choose to, changing as per the need of the hour and playing by our own rules. And you know what? That’s never going to be a pretty, picture perfect journey.

I’m ready for more.

Just to change this up, here’s a picture that represents us pretty perfectly.

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Happy 8th.
I love you.

*****

Past anniversaries
Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

Day 250: Finding my people

6 Sep

This must be what they call kinship. This overwhelming sense of gratitude for the people in your life. It has so little to do with bloodlines, proximity, or commonality, even. Once I gloss over the basic matching of wavelengths, increasingly I’m seeing how it plays a smaller and smaller part in my connections with my people. I’m slowly getting to understand what Meredith and Yang meant when they called each other their person. I don’t have a person. I have my people. And this is a big deal for me, given I spent a large part of my life telling myself I had 3.5 friends.

This has been a year of realising who these people are. It’s been growing over the last couple of years I suppose, along with clarity and my own ability to articulate what I look for in people and who I hold close. I’ve let go of some aversions, become slightly more accepting of anomalies and I’m consciously making an effort to be less judgemental.

Today, I think the number of people I call my own is a direct outcome of that. It’s true what they say about keeping your heart open. I’ve had a hectic few weeks of guests — friends and family visiting — right from the week I decided I needed to relax a little, across my own travels to Wayanad, to friends traipsing in and out of Goa. I’ve scurried around to meet some, and I had a whole super chill weekend with S, and just as she left my dad is visiting and it’s been an altogether busy time. And it isn’t over yet. I realise how much has changed this year. As much as I have turned a little anti-social and a bit introverted in my life here in Goa, I realise how much I still thrive when I have people I love, over/staying with me.

Hosting family and friends I love always brings these feelings to the surface. Our days have been packed with venturing out exploring, eating out, and even when we’ve been home we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time together just chatting talking about everything from the state of the country to my father’s dream farmhouse that is in the works. These are the folks I can do this with. No expectations, no hangups, no Hanging out with folks I love always brings feelings of contentment and gratitude to the surface and today, I’m filled with thankfulness. For the people in my life, that I count on. I’m saying this as I think of my father who’s been with me for a week now, and my mother who is several continents away, and my sister who is in the neighbouring state. But I also say this bearing in mine the growing tribe of friends-turned-family that I have, cheering me on at all times. We’re all separated by distances small and wide, our lives diverge in so many different directions and yet, when I think of them all, I feel a silver thread that binds me to them.

So I am grateful. For the love, the honesty and transparency I’ve discovered in these relationships this year. For knowing that they can withstand the quiet and busy times, alike. For the lengths that they go to, to accept me as I am. For the immense patience and the wide swathes of time and attention we can give each other. For ensuring that virtually no topic of discussion is off the table. For resisting the urge to resort to passive-aggression, to dig deeper and come clean, with the faith that our relationship will overcome.

For giving me so much to learn from each of them – strength, resilience, an uncompromising zest for life, a fearless appetite for adventure, a spirit that refuses to be put down, a silent voice of reason – these are just some of the things I have gained from them.

For always reminding me what I am worth, capable of and for teaching me to believe in myself. For never failing to rally around and provide the chuckles when I need them the most. For calling a spade a spade, and telling it like it is.

For the endless generosity I have received, in action, in gifts, in time spent and for just the presence in my life. For being the sunshine, the moonlight, the fireworks; the silence and the excitement; and the mirror that constantly reflects the person I am, back at me.

I started uploading a series of pictures of said people, but there’s just way too many good ones to include. So I stopped. The words will have to do. My people, you know who you are.

Day 244: 10 reasons why I’ve taken to cycling

31 Aug

After a very long time, it’s been an opportunity to get into and be excited about something VC loves and is enthusiastic about. Given our very divergent interests, we suddenly have something to share again!

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It takes us far, it takes us deep.

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It has forced us into the kind of groups I wouldn’t have otherwise willingly put myself in to. And that has been a very revelatory experience. I’ve mostly turned into a one-on-one and small-groups kind of person, happily avoiding social occasions and gatherings of anything more than 3 people at a time. Cycling is the only activity I don’t grudge doing in large groups.

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I’m finally exploring nooks and corners in Goa I’d only heard about, and hadn’t bothered venturing out to even in a car. The irony!

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Forts! Islands! Forests! Short city rides! It has really turned venturing around and exploring my home state on it’s head for me.

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Because of how exposed and vulnerable it makes you, cycling forces you to look around and really take your surroundings in. It makes you look down, not something I do very often. It forces you to notice the littlest things. An earthworm you do your best to avoid, a delicately fuzzy mongoose run over by a speeding car, a just-shed piece of snakeskin.

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It’s rekindled lost and found friendships.

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Despite being around folks, having them with you to share every gruelling climb, every exhilarating downslope, and the rest, it is such a beautifully individualistic activity — just you, in your saddle, pedalling away, refusing to stop till you reach where you need to. You have to try it to know what I mean.

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It’s putting all my fitness focus to the test. I’m able to see how much my stamina has improved and it puts my endurance and muscle power to the test. Clearly. Or else I wouldn’t look so happy lugging my bike up a flight of mossy rough stairs overgrown with weeds.

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It’s making me a calmer, happier person for all the endorphins, and exposure to clean air and eye-hurting green locales.

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Was that ten things already? Okay, here’s an eleventh.
Because, going out on a bike makes you extra observant and watchful. It makes you  notice things. And because, yellow flowers.

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Day 239: Friyay 

26 Aug

Interrupting my long weekend of girlfrand time to note that we have become those people who go to the beach in Goa, drink multiple glasses of pineapple juice (instead of cocktails or beer, I suppose) and dig into greasy, oozy cheese garlic naans. 


Okay, don’t write me off just yet. There was a prawn curry rice meal to round it all off. Complete with crisp bleached white rings of pungent onions, a squeeze of lime and many diced green chillies. 

Day 228: Sunday

15 Aug

The last day of a summer holiday was when I’d grudgingly pack a bag full of shiny new books, with freshly stretched glazed brown paper that gave them unwieldy, poky corners. It was a very demanding kind of Sunday evening. A starched uniform needed to be ironed, a pair of shoes — always one size larger than I was previously used — to lay waiting to be laced, there was the constant reminder to get it all done well before bed time that was suddenly advanced by an hour. And suddenly two months worth of memories of fun and frolic collapsed into a jumble, a little blob that would forever be wedged deep inside my brain only to be pulled out when bouts of nostalgia about the good old days hit me.

What stayed above the surface, always accessible, well into adulthood was that palpable sense of gloom. The last say of summer holiday was almost always a Sunday and it brought with it that special brand of end-of-summer-holiday gloom. The hazy uneasiness of grappling with time that passed by too fast, and time that will hit me too fast the next day. Thoughts of the next day only brought an unbearable, overwhelming feeling of intimidation. Next day would be a new day. A different kind of new. A new week, a new year. Just. Too. Much. New.

I liked the old better. Languid summer afternoons spent lying on cool mosaic floors, looking up at a fan spinning so fast, having absolutely no effect on the trickles of sweat making its way through the folds on my neck. Sunday evening gloom always made me want to stretch backwards and hang on tight to the weeks and months that have gone by. That’s where the comfort always was. Is.

Like a lazy nap. And it suddenly ends. Abruptly. A power cut makes the fan go off, or I’ve suddenly heard the violent cacophony of birds cawing their way back home. The din always makes me stir and if I’m unlucky, it is a touch past sundown. The sky is that odd shade of magnetic grey. Everything looks touched with a shimmery blue-grey hue. Silhouettes shine, but not in a resplendent, bright way, but like they’re tinged with the light of that strangest time when the last rays of the sun fight to stay alive. For just a minute more, even as the overpowering black of night swallows it slowly, inch by inch. Unwillingly, finally the day gives into the ebony might of the night. And I’m just left, stuck in that limbo with the play of light. That familiar gloom hurls itself back into the pit of my brain. Separating the bliss of the nap, from the Sunday evening gloom wafts above.

It’s like twilight. With the dusky rays meeting the night. Like something good ended too soon. Like the credits of a movie that touched my deeply, rolling on. I know I should be walking out the movie hall, but I want to stay and watch them right till the end. Just a few minutes longer. Or a book that had me by the scruff of my collar, gripped and unrelenting, that I rushed through so rapidly, the inevitable end leaves me bereft. Lost, confused, not knowing what to do with myself, or how to make time stop.

Sunday evening gloom is such a stark part of my childhood, I find it impossible to shake off the feeling even today.

home-sunday

This time back home, I had not one but two Sundays. That same afternoon nap had ended. That same murky twilight lingered outside. A wonderful week, a beautiful holiday had ended. There was a cup of hot tea being had, much later than I normally would have. As I sat in the kitchen reading, watching amma cook, familiar smells of dinner filling the kitchen around me. That same feeling of a good time coming to an end washed over me.

I waited for that heavy thud of finality to hit me. It’s usually like gates slamming behind me, something pushing me ahead as I drag my feet on, dejectedly. I waited, but it didn’t come. Suddenly I realised Sunday at home, as a grown up, felt pretty damn good. It had the glow of good times, the promise of more to come, and the wonderful embrace of a home that was and always will be, and the home that is, that I will go to.

Day 224: Wayanad things

11 Aug

I’m not very high up, altitudinally-speaking. That’s not a real word. I made it up to refer to the fact that I’m not that high up in terms of altitude. But I am high enough to see some clouds beneath me, and around me. I’m high enough, at the very top of this hill I’m on.

rain

PC: Niyu

The end of this estate that covers most of the hill itself, in this property, this house that is at the farthest edge, at the very top, with nothing but green as far as the eyes can see.

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Around me, the rippling undulating land is covered chockfull of groves of poker straight, slender supari trees that stand rigid, unrelenting, reaching up into the sunlight that’s weak, but there. Their barks are grey – silvery, taught and rough. The rows of these rigid towering trees, interspersed with the lax and soft green tree tops. The leaves tinged with grey, soft, cottony tufts that look like a giant green bouncy castle that I want to throw myself on to.

They’re rubber plantations, my father tells me. These trees so distinctly different from the supari. yet, evenly drenched as the wispy rain comes in. One moment the golden rays of the morning sun slant, struggling through the thick cloud cover, and the next, there’s dark layers of clouds rushing towards us. Needle-like drizzle coming down in buckets.

Of course, Niyu made a picture.

picture

There’s a lone papaya tree where I’m sitting, much closer to my outstretched feet. I’ve been here long enough to listen to the subtle rustle every time a pair of bulbuls and green bee-eaters visit. Taking turns, sharing the luscious fruit that hangs from below the fronds. They’ve eaten the papaya inside out over the course of the three days I’ve been watching them.

The cats have learned our smells and tangle themselves up at our feet, making infinity signs between them, every time we arrive at the door. They’re a quiet couple, mostly interesting in licking themselves clean, and only once in a while casting an eye over to check what the other is doing. That kind of peaceful equanimity that I want, at some point.

And then there’s Julie the smelly, but most adorable dog, who surveys the land like the matriarch. Her slender limbs, hold up a shapely, rugged body. She’s the queen of everything, as far as her eyes can see. Turns out what she’s interested in is a squirrel scampering on the tree below. Frantic, one moment shes on the balcony, head sticking out over the edge veering over to catch a glimpse of it, and the next she’s darting out to catch it before it rushes off. Back and forth, this goes on for about thirty minutes. Some tenacity, she has.

The jungle sounds are eternal. In the day its birds and the frequent peacock calling, and at night it’s crickets and assorted suspicious noises that suddenly change the atmosphere around. The warm, sunshiney, rainy welcoming outdoors by day, turn ominous after sundown.

The peacock/s sound like they’re awfully close. The cook tells me it likes to dance in the porch of one of the homes on the property. On the morning the calls get particularly loud, we trudge off, silently, phones in hand, because picture, or it didn’t happen, right? We were met by one of the plantation workers happily ambling by, walking towards us a pleased grin on her face. It was there, dancing, she said. I saw it. How content she looked. And the others back home, were content just to hear it. It happened. And no, we don’t have any pictures to show.

When all the sitting around lazing, inhaling my books and taking in the views, listening to every little creak around me gets boring, there have been walks.

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Everyday. All the days.

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The view from the other side. Niyu had network!

Somehow, despite all the endless hours staying still, I’ve clocked more steps than I have in a long time in Goa. The walks – up and down, up and about, through squelchy slush, shin-high weeds and grass, trundling through the wild, dodging dung and with salamanders slithering over my feet have jolted me back to a time we did this so, so often.

PC: Niyu

PC: Niyu

It’s been forever since I’ve been out like this, and I realise for the very first time how this, what once used to come so naturally, now takes such effort. Living in Goa has made me soft.

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The nights are pitch black, like a curtain comes over the spectacular view that faded to black only hours before. The stars are overwhelming. Too many for a pair of eyes to feast on.

The meals are simple, delicious and full of flavour. The fish is small, thick and full-bodied. So different from the sea-fish I’m used to. The papaddams are puffy, blistering into bubbles that flake when you pop them.

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The vegetables grow on campus, juicy green beans, rich, luscious red leafy bhaji, sweet soft cubes of potato and fragrant curry leaves and ginger. It’s Kerala and your meal plate won’t let you forget that.

What I feel most palpably is the silence, even in the midst of so much ambient noise. The birds chirp relentlessly, the trees rustle, the peacocks are conversing, the koyals making love. This is probably what silence sounds like.

PC: Niyu

PC: Niyu

Day 209: Smoke and ashes, email trails and matters of the heart

27 Jul

In a strange and unexpected twist of events today, I suddenly found myself rummaging through old emails dating back to the very beginning of my gmail account. It’s just about 8 years ago, but frankly every time this happens, it feels like I’m going back to the start of time. It’s just an unnecessary trip to take, quite honestly. Because it stirs feelings I’ve pushed away, instances I’ve chosen to filter out and it brings to the surface a mixture of nostalgic tinged with wistful longing for a different time that is so long gone there is absolutely no trace of it to cling on to. Except when you go looking for it, in gmail accounts and folders in your hotmail account that bear questionable names. One folder in particular, called “lau” – ayyo, yes, really. That folder always leaves me happy-sad. Happy for the good times and innocence, sad for the naivety and the struggle that I was rather oblivious to back then, but I see so crystal clear now. Right there in my inbox, I traced my way down the entire life cycle of one of the major relationships in my life, right to the end where it crashed and burned leaving a trail of smoke and ashes, that still lingers even till today, evidently.

How else do you explain what I was doing in the inbox of an email account I don’t even use anymore. Why are these emails still there? Why do I still know this password? Why are some memories so vivid and some others catch me by surprise when I read about them? So many questions.

Next stop, transitioning from hotmail to gmail, of course, I was neck deep in emails from 8 years ago. Chats with friends who helped me keep my sanity intact, during my years hopping from one ad agency to the next, like it was going out of style. There were chats of serious advice, of hatching plans to escape the world, rants about work, rants about Bangalore and being a single girl finding her way to work, rants about boys, rants about my then angst ridden rebellious relationship with my parents, a lot of rants basically. But I had some good people in my life, from the looks of it. Solid folks who stuck it out with me, heard me out, entertained my constant complains, kept me afloat, and shared a shit ton of good music with me. Through good times, bad times, melancholic times, moody times – there were so many youtube links and mp3s shared in email attachments.

I landed on this one chat in particular, where this song was shared:

This is such a bloody good song. And suddenly I went right back to that day. It was a long evening working, at what was probably my third or fourth job. I had been complaining to this boy who was once a very good friend, about the auto ride to work and how I was tired of being ripped off every single day just getting to work. I was also complaining about a relationship that was dwindling but refused to die a silent death. And I spoke of the existence of another boy who I never expected to be interested in, but suddenly had been eating up large chunks of my attention (I’m talking about VC, of course). I complained about being unable to deal with it all. I complained about not wanting anything to do with any of them. I claimed I wanted a no strings, happy, fun fling (hah, as if I was capable of it!). Here was a boy being the best friend a girl could have – and I mean this in an entirely platonic way. Saying all the right things, being there and listening patiently when she was complaining, sending her lovely music that was hugely appropriate for the moment, touching all the right chords and basically being a little too awesome to be true. So awesome that for some reason, I, in what now seems like a very stupid move, casually quoted a line from this song I was obsessing over at the time.

And we should be together

I suffixed it with “dammit!” and I slipped it into an email, quite unthinkingly. It was just a dramatic line from the song, and I didn’t think much of nonchalantly, flicking it away like a just-lit match glowering and sizzling as it cuts through the air, going out with a hiss. Leaving only smoke and ashes, baby.

What followed, and what I saw in a string of emails, was a confused exchange between me and said boy. Mostly him picking up on a sign he probably saw, that I had inadvertently led him to believe was there. And in the midst of it all, was this song, embedded in an email. This was before the days of ripping any damned youtube song I want, using third party sites that turn videos to mp3s. Finding music meant looking for a torrent and using a peer to peer file sharing software to download it. It meant only finding stuff that was popular and that would be easily accessible on people’s shareable file systems. It meant not finding slightly less popular Tracy Chapman tracks with as much ease as say the latest club track. And yet, there I was, quoting this amazing song to this lovely boy, and asking him to find me the song.

Find it for me, he did.

*****

Today this unexpected, but altogether pleasant trip was triggered by the most unlikely chain of events that started here, with the discovery of this song that came out early this morning:

Just a regular catchy Hindi movie song that’s a massive throwback to only like one of the most favourite jig-worthy tracks from my late teenage years. No big deal.

So of course, I may have played the song way too many times for my own good, as I am known to do very, very often.  Except this time, I may have somehow pakaoed myself by the continuous loop. Now that is a first even for me.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was going down a slippery slope. Sukhbir, Bally Sagoo, Stereo Nation and everything in between, including the likes of dil le gayi kudi gujarat ki and laung gawacha and oh god I don’t even want to tell you what else.

And then, I don’t know why, but suddenly I was in my email account, looking at old emails and feeling too many feels for a Wednesday evening, triggered by an avalanche of music that traversed Punjabi pop and ended with Tracy Chapman.

And here I am listening to it for only the 56th time since I saw the email. Yep, it’s on loop. I don’t know how this happened. Sometimes I don’t understand how my brain works. But I know how this will go. The song will play on loop, till my light and my heat have all been spent, leaving only smoke and ashes. Only smoke and ashes, baby.

Please send help, I’m drowning in a pool of my own feels and I’ve forgotten how to swim.

Day 200: Barely moving

18 Jul

The world is well and truly imploding. Literally every single day, something horrific happens. Five instances of terror in the last month alone. Kashmir. Alton Sterling. Qandeel Baloch. The FIR against Aklaq’s family. And closer home, LED bulbs being handed out in the run up to our next election (as if that’s all it takes to buy loyalty, they conveniently forgot about the power to light those bulbs up). The death trap of a main road. Some part of me is definitely turning numb. I see it in the reactions I have. Much of this, I process silently and it leaves me sometimes tormented, sometimes numb. But always deeply distressed. And restless. I suppress the feeling, as well as the way it always makes me feel little, pointless, shitty and helpless.

And then I move on. Deliberately keeping my social media timelines free of news. Steering away from politically fueled conversations with people I know I cannot engage with. Mostly using my own thoughts and words to fight these battles in my head, in private. To make sense of everything that seems to be fast escaping the realm sense, purpose and meaningfulness.

And then I move on.

I’m still down and out, and no, it hasn’t passed. Day 5 in bed today, with a persistent fever that abated only 24 hours ago. I guess I should be happy that I’m in a situation where I’ve been forced to stay in bed for five days now. But it’s no good when haven’t been able to do much with all that time. Reading a book or watching TV was out of the question due to severely blocked sinuses that made keeping my head up and focusing on anything near impossible.

Still despite all that, somewhere between then and now, a lot of has happened. I may or may not have used the words “a pain in my ass” to describe to a client the situation we’ve gotten ourselves in. I may or may not have cried copious amounts of tears that at one point I was afraid they just wouldn’t stop. I may or may not have told VC that I want to be a housewife because I am good for nothing. I can’t be sure.

What I can be sure of is that I had a persistent temperature that remained in the shadows of 99-100 degrees for two days straight and was beginning to worry me. Then when it spiked to 102 and VC had to resort to a cold compress on my forehead, I realised it was time to worry. That hasn’t happened since I was a child. A blood test was ordered, and that hasn’t happened in over 6 years now. A half-mile long list of medicines have been consumed with more regularity than I fancy, and it’s turned my stomach raw and my taste buds perpetually coated with a metallic taste. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was ill so bad that I couldn’t leave my bed for five days. VC was like a hawk and a chowkidar hovering over me all weekend, not letting me leave for anything. He brought me all my meals, endless cups of hot tea, and my medicines. He may have snuck in a packet of Nutties and a Snicker bar too. When he began to question me every time he saw me out of bed, even if I was merely going to the loo, I revolted.

So I’ve spent a lot of the last few days just moping and feeling more miserable than I actually am. It’s definitely added to the general state of ill-health. While it may have started with an itchy throat and a touch of fever, I had a work situation that caused something to snap in my head last week. It sent me on a downward spiral like I haven’t ever before been in a long, long time now. It’s not like me to break down over work issues, to cut communication and disappear into myself. But that’s just what happened. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, be around anyone. I just turned inwards and moped. Until VC shook me out of it partially on Friday night, when I began to see the light a little bit. Whether being physically ill aggravated my work stress or vice-versa, I’ll never know. But I feel like some part of this is my body telling my mind to chill the eff out. Or vice versa. But I need to examine it and fix it. Find that balance that I had regained temporarily, and have now lost again.

I opened facebook today after three whole days, to find something my friend V wrote and posted, right up top on my feed. V doesn’t post too often anymore, but when she does it always smacks the nail on the head. As it did just now too, bang on point, neatly summarising the inner turmoil I’ve been going through for the last 5 days now.

The two difficult forgivenesses:
1. Your gut, for not being loud enough.
2. Yourself, for not listening well.

Let that simmer a while longer. For now, I’m barely moving.

Day 195: 100TinderTales Reveals Dating Apps Give Indian Women The Upper Hand

13 Jul

(I wrote an earlier (and much shorter) version of the story below for one of my favourite publications —  The Establishment. You can read it here.)

As an Indian woman, Tinder fascinates me. Here’s why: I think of it as a strange shopping-meets-hook-up-experience whose very basic premise is choosing.

When I stumbled upon  #100TinderTales on Facebook – a project by Indian artist and illustrator Indu Harikumar that documents the stories and experiences of Tinder users in India and Indians using Tinder abroad –one of the first things that stood out to me was that most stories featured clearly articulated likes and dislikes, sexual preferences, fantasies, and experiences. Many of these would be considered scandalous by the average Indian standards.

Indu embarked on this project to find inspiring new content for her daily art practice. Having herself used the app overseas, while on an artist’s residency in Europe, she found it was a novel way to meet interesting people. I talked to her about what it means to women contributing to the project, to have the liberty to choose partners they consider for love, sex, and some, for marriage. The very first observation Indu shares with me, is that a lot of women on Tinder seem to be looking for love. Though I have never used the app, many of my women friends have and it’s evident that using it requires women to know what they want, articulate what they’re looking for and then navigate their way through the hoards of men who may or may not meet those criteria.

It’s a strong departure  from the traditional Indian mindset towards finding a partner — a pursuit that is only ever meant to end in marriage — where even today, many women are not typically encouraged to actively play a part in choosing. While the West may have a love/hate relationship with Tinder, in India it seems to be a tool that enables choice for women as they navigate one of our society’s greatest obsessions – relationships and marriage.

About 95% of contributors to the project are women, many of whom have shared stories of how using Tinder gives them the upper hand. “In a world where women have always been judged and dismissed based on their looks, a lot of women have told me they feel powerful left-swiping when they see pictures of Tinder users,” she says.

As a woman who, like me, also dated in a time before Tinder, and admittedly, felt the lack of avenues to discuss, experiment and explore her sexuality while growing up, Indu finds that Tinder has time and again made her question her own conditioning and presented opportunities to push her own boundaries and inhibitions fuelled by social conditioning.

“Tinder helps weed out the men you’re definitely not interested in and focus on those who you think may be interesting. It puts us on a level playing field,” she tells me.

I imagine left and right swiping through Tinder to be quite a liberating act because the prevalent notion in large parts of India still draws upon the Ideal Indian Woman whose role is to look after and preen herself, arm herself with the requisite skills that will make her worthy of being chosen. For marriage. Predominant Indian culture looks down about dating,  pre-marital sex and any discussions about intimacy or the like are clandestine.

For Indu, that ability to choose has formed the inspiration for her work. “I’m very fascinated by people, cultures, language and I’d rather hear about it all from people than read about it on Wikipedia,” she says, telling me about how she was able to connect with people based on similar interests, when she was an artist in residence in Europe. “Being able to chat with all kinds of different people, meeting them over a coffee, a was lot of it is learning for me.” More recently, many a Tinder connection has turned muse and Indu recounts tales of illustrating men with well-sculpted bodies.

Maybe because I grew up in a time long before Tinder, and my own dating pool was quite literally limited to a physical circle of friends, the idea of choosing from a virtual menu of options is fascinating to me. The advent of the internet in my teens brought along with it online chatting and many of my friends and I routinely used a variety of IM platforms to communicate with a circle of friends. It opened up a whole new world to flirt with – literally and figuratively. But it also opened us up to all kinds of unsavory characters who were quite simply looking for a fast fuck. I was very aware of how quickly meeting a stranger online could go wrong, and weeding out the potentially dangerous men and choosing the more interesting and seemingly safe ones was frankly just a pain. Choosing didn’t seem like a luxury, or a privilege.

So, I played safe and dated boys I knew, first from high school, and later social circle and much later, my workplace. Every guy I have dated has been someone I either knew personally, or someone I was connected to through a friend or relative. Given that I limited myself to a small circle, the idea that I, as a girl, could go about selecting someone was not something I considered. Many girls waited to be asked out by the boys they fancied, and many like me, did the asking themselves. By the time I was of the age where I was interested in and could have been playing the field, so to speak, I met the man who would later (very quickly, actually) become my husband.

It is common practice for girls in their 20s to be primed for marriage. Of course, the person who typically gets to actively choose is the man. I devoured Indu’s #100TinderTales because it is quite simply a whole different world than I had experienced. To read about young Indian women (and men) openly talk about their experiences, from preferring polyamorous relationships and fetishes for feet, to managing in cities with a lack of safe spaces to hook up, having period sex, finding love making boring and realizing fucking is more fun, really piqued my curiosity.

I caught up with Indu to chat about her experiences illustrating the whole spectrum of stories ranging from raw and unbridled, to funny and heartbreaking; and to understand if Tinder has put a different spin on choosing, in the love/marriage game amongst urbanized Indians.

Revati Upadhya (RU): You started this project to give yourself inspiring content to draw. But it’s turned into a large project that’s gone viral. What have you learned from illustrating these stories so far?

Indu Harikumar (IH): What I like most about this experience is that the project seems to have given people a space to share their emotions. We don’t have enough spaces for that. Many times even our closest friends don’t hear us out. Or what we want to share is difficult to just open up about. A lot of the stories have been about what people felt during their experiences using Tinder. I find being able to talk about things you don’t otherwise open up about a very healing process.

I’ve read many of the stories and personally felt like I’m not the only one who feels these things. Though we share so much on social media, and we curate the way we want to come across, there’s clearly so much we don’t share. With this project, a lot of the stories were free from those perfect images you generally see. People seem raw and real. For example, the woman who likes fucking. I found that amazing because I am usually not able to talk about these things, even with people I may like or be close to.

(RU): Like me, you’ve also dated in a pre-Tinder world. What is the one positive change dating/meeting people via Tinder has brought?

(IH): The women I grew up around were very clueless about sex. I was always more curious but women I hung out with never talked about sex. Even if they were married, my age, or we were in private – it never came up. So if you start having sex at a later age, there’s so much confusion in your head. There is also such a taboo even about seeing different men. Most women I have known, married the first guy they met and settled. In my 20s, I was told that if a guy talks to you about sex it means he wants to sleep with you. That was how it used to be.

My Tinder experiences have made me meet a lot of men from different cultures and I have realised I can have many of those conversations I couldn’t before, with them.

It has also made me very aware of my preferences, what I like and what I am looking for. When men are open to ask for sex, I am not always offended – I might have been in the past. Also, I now find it easy to say no. And saying no doesn’t always mean we have to stop conversing or communicating. That has been refreshingly different.

(RU): What are your three most favourite stories from the project so far?

(IH): There is one about love and self-sabotage.

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I like this from another story: “Earlier, my refusal to ever use Tinder was supported by my belief that life is its own dating/hook up/happily ever after app. But clearly, life isn’t enough. Or maybe human nature is just fucked. Maybe human nature is fucked because life isn’t enough or maybe the fact that life disappoints us first makes even more comfortable with disappointing ourselves.”

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And I really enjoyed my Vienna Tinder experience because it made me feel that I could fall in love again, in the way I could when I was a younger person. And the guy left me with a body positive message, “Beauty Needs Space.”

beatuyneedsspace

(RU): What was the hardest to relate to and therefore illustrate?

(IH): When I started I told myself I would not judge. There are many stories where I have no personal reference and find it really difficult to relate. For some women things like how they come across when they eat a burger on a date matters, but it’s a trivial thing for me. Similarly, I may judge a man who ran away from his date because she had bad breath. I realised these maybe my own issues of abandonment coming to the fore, but I also realised bad breath is an issue and can turn off people. I was in two minds, but eventually I did put up that story because they’re real issues for people.

There are other stories of abuse that I am not ready to deal with currently and haven’t gone back to.

(RU): What was the saddest story?

(IH): This story was the saddest. It came to me in the beginning of the project and I wrote back to the person, I really wanted to hug her and I felt such a mixed bag of emotions. She told me that writing it made her feel lighter.  In my interaction with her, she said: “Life is too short and we keep postponing things.” Then I was holding back from texting someone, interacting with her gave me the courage to go ahead and do it.

For me, the project is therapeutic in many, many ways. Much as I’d like to disengage, these stories help me deal with my own demons, my own fears. One of the things I love about this project is that in most societies, being vulnerable is not okay and with so many people opening up, the lab pup in me thinks it has some company.

(I wrote an earlier (and much shorter) version of the story for one of my favourite publications —  The Establishment. You can read it here.)

(All images courtesy of #100IndianTinderTales)

Day 181: Holiday vibes

29 Jun

So much conversation!

I left a drenched, rain-soaked Goa, running on a severely inadequate amount of sleep. But I was so excited to finally be off, I couldn’t catch a nap on my early morning flight either. I was met at the airport by two bright and smiley faces, because R and S came to fetch me in time for breakfast. All traces of fatigue and sleepiness vanished as soon as the chattering began, of course. Needless to say, we began to gab from the moment go. I don’t think there was a doubt about how much we would talk, and we lived up to our own prediction of non stop chatter.

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So much food!

The other prediction we made was that food and everything food-related would score high in guiding the way the itinerary would pan out. Between the three of us, we knew the food was a large part of the reason we decided to venture into the Chettinadu region, and literally everything else was great-to-have, but incidental. We were right on that count too. We sought out all the food we had been hyper-ventilating about in the run up to the holiday. This was particularly endearing and satisfying for me because I’ve been feeling incredibly homesick for South Indian food of late. Goan food is great, but I’ve grown a little bored of it of late. Contrary to popular belief, Goa isn’t a superb destination for a variety of cuisines that deliver on quality, and I have really felt the lack of it in recent times.

We hit Saravana Bhavan as soon as I landed and I didn’t drink a single cup of chai until the very last day. And the food, oh the food in Chettinadu region, omg, deserves a post of its own. But I will probably never get down to writing it. So let me sum it up: lunch on day 1 was a banana leaf affair with 25+ things to eat, including some really unique things like a traditional black rice pudding, some highly local assorted curries with no generic or overlapping flavours, fish and chicken. Dinner on both days was a sit-down, set-menu deal with not as many dishes as at lunch, but fulfilling none the less because it also featured really obscure (from where I come from) flavours and preparations with such distinct character and textures. We didn’t repeat a single dish across the three days we were there. Breakfasts were so special, and I ate some steamed and fried sweet and savoury dumpling type things that were totally new to me. So yummy I gave the dosas a miss! On day 2 we went to a local mess for lunch. The kind that only accommodates about 5-6 tables that you sometimes share with strangers, eating off banana leaves that are placed after you swish away a multitude of flies. The meal included mountains of rice served by these smiley women with hairnets on, who served us like they were serving us in their homes, not taking no for an answer. Accompanying the rice was a huge array of curries that we could pick from, and were then brought to us in small single servings. The curries on offer included chicken, prawns, fish, mutton, liver, paya, talae or “head meat”, bheja, crab, and fried fish on the side. Everything we ate was awesome and it was so hard to pick a favourite.

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R and her husband E cooked us some amazing food in their home. A fabulous mutton curry and coconut milk rice one day, and a layered beef biryani with fried prawns that E kept ready for us the night we drove back to Madras. Multiple cups of amazing filter coffee punctuated the entire trip of course.

So much fun.

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Every evening S and I took a dip in the hotel pool, after sunset when we’d returned from our wandering. And we couldn’t help but realise that none of us had felt the need for alcohol. Except for the first day at R’s, I didn’t have a single drink during the entire course of the trip. I just didn’t need anything for additional mellowing. We went to sleep early-ish every night, sleeping in, in our comfy extra luxurious beds and waking up to filter coffee and a day out.

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We met some wonderfully hospitable people at the hotel. The kind that makes a trip memorable and extra special. Conversations that go beyond the hello-where-are-you-from, bonding with inspiring people who make you question your thinking and realign your perspective a little, leaving you with a fair bit to think about even as you drive out waving goodbye.IMG_5519

There was a lot of wandering in markets. In Karaikudi we walked endlessly through the veggie market, antique gully, two Chettinad cotton saree-weaving units and an Athangudi tile-making unit. On the last morning we also took a short cycle ride through the village we stayed in, much to the amusement of people going about their regular Sunday morning.

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Back in Madras we visited Mylapore, where I bought a saree and ogled mogra and other local market wares. Topped it up with a South Indian thali meal at Saravana Bhavan and shopping for fried things, masalas and filter coffee powder to bring back to Goa.

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Much fun was had all round. And now that I have put much of it down here, I know why my heart (and belly!) felt so full.

Here, happy song to capture the mood: