Day 141: We keep this love in a photograph

There are times in my life, when smack right in between being surrounded by people, having so much activity going on, loving the highs and silently tiding through the lows, putting on a big smile on my face — I feel incredibly lonely.

Sometimes I’m lonely because of the beliefs I hold. The beliefs that are getting deeper, well-formed and articulate, with every experience I have. My opinion on the world. My socio-political stance. The resulting choices I make on an every day level — from choosing lesser plastic to taking a shared cab to feeling — are a reflection of the values I have and the beliefs they have birthed. And the thing with having my beliefs grow louder in my head is also realising which of your people have similar beliefs, and why. And feeling warm and fuzzy in that sense of togetherness and a shared conviction. It also means sometimes realising the beliefs of people on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, which is a far less happy-making feeling. And when it comes down to political views about our country today, add to it the feeling of being in the minority of people who feel deeply about many things the large majority couldn’t give a rat’s ass about and that despair and loneliness, a palpable helpless and worry that we’re all just fucked at the hands (and unthinking brains) of a bunch of low IQ savages rises very, very quickly to the surface.

This is the price I have to pay for having a firm set of my own beliefs.

Many time the loneliness is because the journey of self-awareness is by nature a very personal one. And not a lot of it makes for easy sharing or cheery conversation. Much of it is in fact best done silently, in private. That isolation invariably draws lines where none existed before. Lines separating me from people I once held close, between me and the places I love, things I indulged in. Lines that rein it in and draw me inward. None of this comes from a place of really wanting to be a touch-me-not in isolation, but simply that the full benefit of the journey is best experiences in private.

That too, is the price I have to pay for being so highly invested in my self-development.

Some days I become so acutely aware of how lonely and quiet it gets now that I am offline so much. Absolutely no social network, 10 hours off whatsapp every night, lesser and lesser time spent online during the day — my world and the world around seem to be constantly moving inwards and out in waves. The means to access and stay in touch with everything is fleeting. Some days I manage it better than others. But many days I don’t even really try.

Dealing with this strange kind of loneliness — suspended in a web of togetherness — is the price I pay for getting off the grid and seeking human interaction more than any other form of interaction.

There’s a lot of other ways in which this loneliness, the price I pay for being irrevocably committed to being my own person, rises to the surface. But, I have realised that every single time that I find myself cut away from the various groups and factions I dip in and out of, every time that I find myself despairing about being alone in the way I feel, the choices I make and the things I go on and on about (that often feels like nobody gets it), I have a place to come home to. And that sense of home and belonging, that instantly dispels the loneliness, giving me a safety and security, the space to be me in all my imperfection, is VC.

VC is my person. My home. My end-point, no matter how far or away I may stray.

This past weekend particularly, I realised that VC is the only person (aside from my parents — they deserve a salutation and a whole post to themselves) who really takes me as I am. A motley mess of still-developing beliefs, weird and inconsistent patterns, a constant work in progress, a far-from-perfect person.

VC loves me, just the way I am, at any point of time. He has loved me at my worst, as much as he has loved me at my best. He has loved me through the sweeping changes in between. He has loved me because of who I am, and he loves me despite it all. He loves. And he loves and he loves.

With VC, when I pay attention and allow the inner voices in my head to shut up, I always feel like I am enough, just the way I am. With all my unfinished business, the jagged edges, the yet-to-be-smoothed patches, the contradictions and the unexpected flare-ups.

This past weekend I realised that much of the progress I have made these past few years in getting closer to myself, knowing myself and being my own person, is because no matter what happens — how much I rock the boat, how far I wander, or how much I stir the hornet’s nest, I can always come home. To him.

It is a lot to be thankful for, this solid rock to fall back on. And it is such a powerful feeling to know, and really know in the way that I have felt it this past weekend, a good ten years into our marriage, that I am loved. And I am soooo enough. Just the way I am, inside and out. To understand suddenly what it means to never really be alone.

And so today, I just want to give thanks and really feel the gratitude I am, for the crazy-ass twist-and-turn life that brought us together, and the ways in which we have grown these last ten years. And for the place we are in today.

That is all.

Two years ago: Day 141: Malleswaram market things

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Day 131: Please don’t go

Postcard from Goa 7.

MAJOR GOA WITHDRAWALS IN PROGRESS.

I promise to stop this pcture posting standing in for actual writing now. And let normal programming resume on Monday.

(I think.)

Two years ago: Day 131: Summer evenings

Day 123: Like happiness is the truth

This past week, I’ve been treated to a variety of excellent meals. The food and drink situation has been consistently hitting above optimum levels of satisfaction and has been the thread of happy spots in an up and down week. So, I’m so grateful.

My mother and I have our birthdays just one week apart from each other. So my sister and I orchestrated a very complicated surprise lunch. We cooked a rather elaborate spread at my home (hidden away from amma’s knowledge of course), or eggplant parmigiana, an avocado and mango salad with sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese with a mango salsa dressing, a mushroom and corn quiche and we ordered some cake, invited her friends over and — surprise!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to surprise amma. For being around to celebrate another birthday together. For the lunch we had. The rain that came down that afternoon. The outstanding banoffee cake.

I’m grateful for this late afternoon coffee, had at the end of a rather heavy meal at the club.

I’m SO thankful for this breakfast on a pretty dreary Saturday morning.

We had just checked out a house we really had our eyes set on, but probably cannot have at this point of time. VC and I had a weekend of some very heart to heart, confrontational, honest conversations that had left me feeling very, very edgy and just, raw. There’s nothing like a hearty carb-rich breakfast to soothe that feeling. Right after we thulped this, we watched Infinity War with R and belted a big bucket of popcorn at top speed.

I’m grateful for this palya puff, flaky fly-off-your-mouth pastry encasing a spicy vegetable South Indian style sabji that just hits the spot for those 5 o clock evening hunger pangs. I didn’t intend to eat the whole thing, but once I started there was no stopping and I wolfed the whole thing down.

There’s a whole other level of satisfaction that comes from crispy, unhealthy snacks that hit the spot, when consumed at that perfect moment when you’re not just hungry but craving something as specific as an Iyengar bakery palya puff.

I’m fast becoming a fan of meeting friends over breakfast. For one it’s bright and early, the traffic isn’t as much as yet, people aren’t batshit as yet, there’s more scope to find parking, and there will almost always be eggs.

I met S over a lazy, slow but chatter-filled breakfast the other day. I like when things happen spontaneously, without too much deliberation or high expectations.

It reaffirmed my faith in boundaries, in giving each other space, in allowing for time and room for everyone’s personal journeys, and for having the faith that if paths reconnect, we will only be better for it.

I’m grateful for what I have with S. I now see all our ups and downs, the rough patches, and the extent to which our relationship has changed, for the place they have had and the lessons they have brought to my life. And no matter how I have felt at various points of time, today I understand fully what I love and value in this relationship.

I went home thinking I want to make a weekly ritual of getting out for breakfast. With myself, with friends, over idlis, over eggs, long and lazy, unhurried. The scope is unlimited and when I’m back from Goa, I’m going to begin.

Two years ago: Day 123: Turning 32 and the salt water theory

Day 122: Acts like summer and walks like rain

I woke up to the sounds of a crazy storm and heavy downpour yesterday. For days it’s been threatening to come, while the air around has been feeling like a pressure cooker. Other parts of the city have had tremendous amounts of rain, but not us. Not until yesterday morning, when it came seemingly out of the blue, with a crack and a bang and a good half an hour’s torrential rain.

It felt good to begin the day, a new year with a proverbial cleaning of the slate. Everything wiped down and fresh for a new start.

VC gave me the best gift, a birthday reading that was accurate, heartfelt and life-affirming.

This is the third time in four days that the Bodies of Water card has showed up at me. I’ve been feeling emotionally raw and a bit all over the place, and the card has asked time and again that I retreat to recharge my batteries.

Apt, because I leave for Goa tonight and Ive been looking forward to this time away for weeks now.

The second card too, is telling. A reminder to stop worrying and keep the faith. But the real affirmation for me are the haathis that flank the card.

I had a day filled with an outpouring of love. The thing is, while I love my birthday and the idea that it’s my day to begin again, I’m not into being the centre of attention. I don’t quite know what to do with it, so I much prefer sticking to familiar ground, spending it with VC or my folks.

However, yesterday I was touched by how many calls and messages I got from the most unexpected people.

My MIL baked me this insanely delicious chocolate cake with layers soaked in strawberry compote. But the icing on the cake — literally! — was this topper she made.

I was so extremely touched to see this, a well kept secret that my MIL laboured over for three days.

After an extra long nap, some chores and tying up some loose ends at home before I go away, my sister, VC and I indulged in a little “pre gaming” — an interesting concept to learn about at the ripe old age of 34.

What was meant to be a quiet dinner at Burma Burma then ended up being a night of hopping places.

Wandering around 12th main wondering why it’s packed as fuck and omgwhereareallthesepeoolegoing on a Tuesday night, we settled for drinks at Fatty Bao before dinner at Burma Burma (which had a 45 minute waiting even at 7.45 pm) followed by really, really sinfully good gelato at Milano.

It’s not often that VC agrees to get our and go as far as Indiranagar to begin with. That he did so on a weeknight, was enthusiastic to hop places and stay up beyond 10.30 was too good an opportunity to pass.

And so we found ourselves on a desolate stretch if CMH road with no taxis to be found. Wonder of wonders, it was an auto that saved the day. No haggling, no astronomical quotes, a simple demand of “one-and-a-half” and we were on our way back.

I like a surprise like this. When the day turns out anything but the way you imagine it will. Better yet, you have no expectations at all, so everything from there on is a surprise, an excitement and a joy.

I ended the day too happy to sleep. Which is a good place to be.

34 feels rather promising, from where Im at right now.

I’m grateful for life. For another birthday. For my husband (who wished me 34 times), for my family, for my sister. For the love and all the togetherness, especially given the sense of foreboding and unexplained loneliness that has clouded my mind this past week.

And, I’m thankful for cake.

Day 101: Forever inbetween

Cheat post, in the nick of time with a Pessoa quote that I love, and the rare occurrence of a bathroom mirror selfie.

We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept—our own selves—that we love.

One year ago: Serendipity

Day 99: You’re beautiful, it’s true

Unexpected validation in unlikely corners. Just in case you’re feeling debilitating low self esteem on your way up the stairs.

***

I took today off to catch up on some really long pending, much delayed errands. And then I took the afternoon off to read, which went into a really long nap. Then, I woke up and went for a haircut.

Somewhere in between, I caught up with S over a call — most uncharacteristically. But it left me with the fuzzies and I made plans to catch up in person later this week.

In the evening, I called A after literally putting off the call for one whole year. And she said something that again gave me the fuzzies.

“With you, there’s no need to talk every week or every month. No matter how long it’s been, we always pick up just where we left off.”

I couldn’t agree more. I met A back in the good old days of blogging. We’ve met all of three times in person, and we realised today that we’ve actually been talking for fourteen years, and have seen each other through some pretty transformational, life-changing phases.

I don’t always acknowledge the many ways in which kinship finds its way to me. But it does. And today made me feel blessed for it, right in my bones.

Two years ago: Day 99: On being average

Day 97: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

I’m thankful for having been introduced to the idea of being in agreement with the diverse, imperfectly-perfect, non-uniform, never-in-our-control, queer ways in while life sometimes unfolds.

I’m thankful for how much room for acceptance, how much courage to change my mind it has allowed. And I’m thankful for how much unexpected warmth and camaraderie that has opened up for me.

I’m grateful for the opportunity for a do-over, to be able to see things in a new light, and to allow this considerable opening of my very own narrow mind.

Two years ago: Day 97: Maybe I’m finally making my peace with being mediocre

Day 95: A life of stranger things

Brain worms for a Tired.Thursday

There’s this one thing about living and working in Bangalore, that I’m still grappling with, unable to come to terms with. The prevalent sense of time-keeping. Actually, I mean the general accepted levels of tardiness. In the beginning, I thought I was encountering stray cases, when everyone from the plumber to my landlady wouldn’t show up at a time even remotely close to the one committed to. There’s also the ever-prevalent time-sucking blackhole — unpredictable traffic — that is a legitimate reason for delays. I know and understand that sometimes even when you take traffic into consideration and leave early, there can be unexpected delays. That’s just how unpredictable it is. And yet, having said that, in the many, many months that we’ve been here, I have come to realise that it’s not just about arriving late, but about a general sense of time expanding and stretching as per convenience. Appointments aren’t kept with a start time in mind, they’re scheduled within a window of time. Or at least that’s the unsaid understanding, I think. Because if I had a rupee for the number of times I’ve arrived for a meeting and had to wait upwards of fifteen minutes (which is my standard grace time), I could have probably avoided opting for EMIs when I bought a new phone last month. Yesterday, I waited for 45 minutes for the person I was scheduled to meet. And this is after they had given me the time. I’m really beginning to think this casual tardiness is a cultural shift, rather than an outcome of circumstance.

***

What’s you opinion on the kind of passive aggression subtweeting allows? Have you ever been the butt of someones subtweeted (is that the right way to put it)? I’m a bit confused, and don’t know what to make of it. I ask because a couple of days ago, it came to my notice that I was the subject of a subtweet. I’m always flummoxed and amused when this happens, but I’m downright baffled when I am become the subject of a subtweet made by someone I don’t even know. I wish I could go into details and dissect it the way I am in my head right now, but I don’t want to name names (primarily because I don’t even know this person personally, but also because it would just be pointlessly passive aggressive. Not to mention, rude.) and then I’d also just be subtweeting right? So, no.

***

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a strangely high number of instances of minor injuries to my hands. A paper cut one day, a smashed finger the next, a hangnail, a kitchen-peeler incident, a scraped knuckle, a pinched pinkie — I’d probably have not even noticed if it weren’t all so focused around my hands and fingers. Also, they’ve all been seemingly small injuries, with disproportionately large inconveniences. The paper cut, like all paper cuts are known to be made it super awkward to get through the day without wincing every time the finger was stretched or bent. The smashed finger had me seeing white spots for five seconds and profusely bawling like a baby.  The pinched pinkie made it really hard to hold pretty much anything for the next three days, let me not tell you what it did to my driving and other essential activities.

***

And then, there was this cat in my basement last night.

I returned after a long day and noticed it in the basement, wailing in loud and long complains as I approached it, fully expecting it to dart and shoot off into the dark as cats are known to do. But no, she approached me fearlessly, accosted my feet, stepping all over them, digging her paws in, outstretched limbs, curved back. And then she proceeded to trace infinity signs, winding and worming her way around and between my feet, rubbing the entire length of her body, chin and face all over my ankles and shins. I could have so easily just picked her up and taken her home, but resisted temptation. I also thought she was just there to get her evening fix of love and then run off to spend the rest of her evening. But no, she followed me into the lift and made loud protests about not being allowed in.

Two years ago: Day 95: March

Day 88: Trust me on the sunscreen

Thinking of sunny days and all the positive thoughts I can, sitting in the hospital with my very ill sister this morning.

I’ll be back soon.

Two years ago: Day 88: Fam-jam

Day 64: I still remember, when we did not know the answers

We woke up last Monday morning to the news that VC’s grand mother had passed away. After weeks and months of silently suffering and fighting natural, age-related degeneration, her passing was in fact a relief. Peace for granny, relief for her caregivers who were growing increasingly distressed at having to watch her suffer, without having any more solutions to offer. What can you do to slow down the natural process of ageing, after all?

VC and I had visited her just the previous morning, and though she’d been largely bed-ridden for the last five years, it was all kinds of heartbreaking to watch her motionless that Sunday morning, her eyes refusing to make contact even though we knew and felt she was willing them to, her breathing heavy and shallow, panting gasping and holding on to the last dregs of life. I left that morning, with a silent prayer that her suffering ends sooner than later.

In that sense, it was an expected eventuality, but no matter how prepared one is, when the finality of death of hits, with the swift thud of a weight that’s been threatening to drop for weeks, it takes the wind out of you. And it feels just as distressing and tragic, like an unfortunate end that took you unawares.

Death has a strange way of spurring families into action. And for the first time ever, I saw a teeny-tiny benefit of how useful the joint-family set up can be at times like this. At home, granny lived surrounded by her sons and their (growing) families, which means she was looked after by her sons, devoted daughters-in-law, doting grandchildren, their spouses, and the next generation too. A whole brood of little, great grand children that she fawned over. Her home almost always had someone sitting with her, keeping her company. And this remained true till she breathed her very last breath.

As two people who have stepped away from this big family set-up, the establishment so to speak, that continues to thrive at home, I found myself at a vantage position. I observed how quickly everyone sprung to action and how much easier it was to mobilise things with all the extra hands to help in striking off duties that required doing, rites that needed fulfilling, and in between it all being there for each other, lending a shoulder, consoling, praying and keeping it together. It warmed my heart in a way I didn’t think VC’s family could. I recognised how it was all possible because they live within mere footsteps of each other, the doors of their homes almost opening one into the next.

Almost in the same breath, though, I realised how taxing the very same system can be. How unequal, one-sided, skewed and deeply, deeply patriarchal it all is. How the men automatically relegate themselves to matters of rites and rituals that women are patently kept away from, while women swiftly slipped into action taking care of cleaning up, getting food organised and playing host to visitors who came in to offer condolences.

As a woman rather unaccustomed not just to this sort of conventional division, but also very unaware of the customs and mores, the “right” things to say, the “right” way to behave, I watched part aghast (that this reality exists within a single degree of separation from me), part relieved (that I am sufficiently distanced from it), but very, very distressed at how much more taxing a system that ostensibly is about togetherness, is on women folk alone.

As we drove to the funeral, VC and I wondered aloud about being so ill-equipped to handle a situation like this. Not only am I not mentally or emotionally prepared for what death brings, but I am completely clueless about the motions that follow. Watching the family silently ticking things off that invisible list of things that need to be done when an elderly person in the family passes on made me wonder where is this list, what goes on it, how is it passed on and how will we ever know?

***

I barely knew granny. A language barrier posed a significant challenge in our chance to get to know each other. But that aside, I have always been the misfit daughter-in-law of the home. In the year I lived in the home, every morning I’d leave for work, feeling like I was defying generations and years of expectations that had been imposed on me. I carried the guilt of it for many years later.

When I visited from Goa, I’d be sure to go say hello, take her blessings, but it probably didn’t help that I showed up sometimes with blue streaks in my hair, sometimes wearing a dress that ended above my knees, no bangles on my wrists, no diamonds in my ears, and eventually with a pixie cut that she just laughed at, straight in my face. Every time that I’d visit, she’d forcefully tell me it was time to have a child, and I’d give her the same plain-vanilla answer, “It’s not what I want, so there’s likely not going to be a child.”

None of this made her happy, I’m sure. So I can’t say I had a real relationship with her. But she was adorable in that way grannies are, and I suppose she had made an impact somewhere in my life because I surprised myself when I realised I was crying quite uncontrollably when her body was carried off to the crematorium.

Go well, mummy. We may not have gotten to know each other too well, but you lived a long, full and blessed life and I’m fortunate I got to witness some part of it.

***

The traditional prayer meeting saw VCs entire extended family come together. It gave me the chance to meet so many people; uncles, aunts, cousins, children for the first time since our wedding ten years ago. Having moved to Goa within a year of getting married, and shutting ourselves off in a place that was conveniently located away from the grid, we escaped most family shindigs. It worked very well for us. We always had work keeping us busy, and even if we wished to attend family dos, Goa isn’t the most convenient place to just up and go from.

So it was oddly nice to be together, touch base again, now that we’re here and possibly will run into family more often (than we’d even like!).

As per custom to close all business operations, we shut shop for three days. On Thursday, though, we left for a shoot close to Salem. What was meant to be a one-day shoot, turned into two days because a- it was more extensive than we imagined and b- the exhaustion of the week finally caught up with us and neither of us wanted to drive back the same night.

***

We returned on Friday night, I was totally disoriented. My routine has been shot to bits, and that always makes me feel a bit rootless. The weekend was spent largely catching up. With unanswered emails, meetings waiting to happen, and assignments lying unfinished. It’s Monday, and I’m still feeling a bit out of sync, but plodding on in the hope that just getting on with it will bring that rhythm back.

Two years ago: Day 64: Because I want to remember

Day 61: Hit the road, Jack

Things I love about working with VC:

  1. Being on our own time, bending weekends and weekdays to suit ourselves. The agility and ability to get up and go whenever a project demands it.
  2. The opportunity to hit the road and travel to places I wouldn’t otherwise go to on my own. Salem it was, this time. Road tripping with VC is always fuss-free and easy, and I love this chance to make work and play blend.
  3. Going really local, wherever we go. Last night we hit a super local mess and sampled some of the most amazing biryani, and assortment of meat specialties — essentially a lot of mutton and naati kozhi so goodthat made us declare, for the first time ever, that the chicken outshined every mutton dish on the table. There were spicy gravies mopped up with egg dosais, and stories of breakfasts of steaming idlis and meat curries that I really wished we were staying back for.
  4. Learning on the go, things I wouldn’t have even attempted to try in any other “job” set up
  5. Being our own bosses.

One year ago: Kitchen soup for my homesick soul
Two years ago: Day 61: Just go with it

Day 38: The only baggage you can bring is all that you can’t leave behind

I actually don’t remember the exact moment when I agreed to participate in the OXFAM Trailwalk. All I remember is curiously asking what it takes to prep, what it feels like getting through those two days, and how long it takes to recover. The next thing I remember is laughing loudly when I was told I give it a shot. At some point though, I’ve obviously said “Okay, let’s do this,” because I was registered and a part of a team, along with R, S and D. I’m not that much of a quitter, and to be honest, semi-masochistic challenges like this are kind of my thing. It’s how I found myself at the start line of a 100 km cycle ride with zero cycling preparation. I was banking on regular exercise to and a lot of inflated confidence to take me through.

Thankfully, it paid off then.

I can’t say I was banking on the same set of variables this time around. Because as the day inched closer, and it so happened that I had a terrible month of infrequent gymming in January, a proper worry descended. I had accepted and mentally prepared myself for getting completely fucked, physically speaking, and had therefore turned to psyching myself mentally, to just finish it come what may. At some point I even told myself, if I managed a 100 km cycle ride, this can’t be so hard.

Can it?

IT CAN.

On a cycle, the kilometres rush by, you thrust ahead, propel yourself forth and go places. Quickly. On foot, you’re painfully aware of every single step you take, and how small it is in the larger scheme of things. On foot, my speed is a fourth of what it is on a bike. On foot, the strain and pain is about four times more than it is on a bike. That said, fear and butterflies-in-my-stomach aside, I was severely excited in the week running up to the day. There was so much (unnecessary) prep we did, and much like the time I did the 100 km cycle ride, I tried to compensate for the lack of physical prep by doubling up on the food and snack reinforcement.

If all else fails, have a Yoga Bar and power on.

But there were other things to consider too. This was a 48-hour event. That’s two days of trampling through the wild. So we had a bag of extra clothes, reinforcement for shoes and socks, lots of Enerzal, warm clothes for the night walk, blankets for our night stops. This time around, VC (and P) volunteered to be our support crew, returning the favour I did when VC cycled to Wayanad.

Finally, at 4 am on the day, we were on our way to the start point, 1.5 hours away. At 6 am, even before the sun was out, we walked through an arch, over which stood a larger than life, and oh so incredibly gorgeous Milind Soman, flagging off the walk. From there on it was just…a lot…of…well, walking.

I wish I had a more detailed description to give, but really it was just that. Walk, walk, walk. One step ahead of the other. Onwards and upwards. Up and down, under branches, over rocks. Alongside lakes, beside eucalyptus groves. The weather started out beautiful, but as was expected as the sun made its way overhead, it began to beat down on us hard. The area around Devanahalli and Nandi Hills is largely arid, with large tracts of barren, rugged earth, with rocks and brambles for miles together.

Off and on we’d hit a patch of shady trees which would give some respite. But for the most part it was walking through shades of brown earth, clouds of dust surrounding us, as we trampled on.

We managed to keep a pace of about 5 kms to the hour, for the first 38, walking through the worst of the afternoon heat, before we took our first longish break. The event was rather well-organised. Every check-point had adequate water and snacks available, a first aid and medical station, a rest-stop which was a large tent with dozens of mattresses and blankets for anyone to grab, and the whammy — a physio station where hordes of physiotherapy students stretched and pulled and pushed at walkers, relieving our muscles of the strain and lactic acid build up that was bound to happen.

The walk itself, while arduous, was really a lot of fun. I have to say. Even through the muscle cramps, the hellish stretching in my calves, the twitching and eventual burn in and around my knees, the hips that began to pinch, I had an utter and complete blast. It had everything to do with my team, and that includes my support crew. Somehow, just being in the energy of the gang, I found the strength and willpower to keep going.

We chatted in some parts, of course there was an inordinate amount of giggling and laughing (mostly on my part), and a really good rhythm in terms of pace and teamwork between the four of us. This is where knowing your team probably helps. This isn’t an event you can do alone, or with a team you put together just to hit the numbers. VC and P showed up diligently at every check point, bearing food and drinks — bananas, upma, coconut water, dal rice and omelettes, and kept us going with motivation and laughter.

Five things I loved and enjoyed about the walk:

  1. It’s been ages since I faced the elements like this, with no veneer to mask the effects. Punishing sunlight, gusts of wind, clouds of fine red dust, splinters and brambles in my shoes, the beautiful night cold that required me to layer up and get my gloves out — it was a bit mind-boggling to have experienced it all in two days.
  2. All manners of trees. Some stubby, gnarly with twirly, unruly branches cut short, some ragged, half-eaten, some lush and full with an almost visible bounce, some stripped down with a framework of a thousand, wide-reaching thin arms spread in different directions, some mushroomy, airy and pouffy, large and cloud-like, some tall, minimalist, some just so furiously flowering with no time for leaves, some almost dead but still alive.
  3. THE MOON. The moon! The night of our walk was just two nights after the spectacular Lunar Trifecta the effects of which lingered on. We watched the moon watch over us like a steady sentinel in the morning sky, long after te sun had rise on day 1. By evening, the a blazing orb hung low over the horizon, furiously large and intimidating, yet calming. The bright post-full-moon moon lit up the path for us, making it possible to turn our torches off for much of the night walk.
  4. The sheer push it took to get going and keep going. In recent time, my life and the kind of experiences I’ve had have made me believe I’m not one for too much roughing it out. I’ve shied away from treks, trips into the wild and any other outing that required a little less than bare minimum comfort. I’ve completely stopped taking bus journeys for this reason. Of late though, I’m feeling the pinch. I’m feeling the pinch of having missed out on a lot. And this is pushing me to get out some more. Not just physically, but get out of this box in my head. The truth is I can rough it out. I just need to choose to. So while the walk tested my physical abilities for sure, it also pushed my mental boundaries, to do with lack of sleep, to go without a shower or brushing my teeth, to use a porta potty to take a dump — four times over! It’s no big deal, but I’m glad I’m over that small hurdle in my head.
  5. The camaraderie. It’s very unlike me to put very diverse groups of my friends together, otherwise. I’m not the person who throws a party and brings a motley crew together, while I sit back and watch the fun. So it really amazed and thrilled me when I realised that with absolutely no effort on my part, four very varied sets of people I’d otherwise hang out with separately, somehow converged over the course of the walk. These are sets of people I haven’t taken the trouble to mingle with together. It happened, and there we were altogether, bound by this common goal to finish the walk. And we all came through, together. It was brilliant to watch how freely the energy flowed, and how by the end of it we were all hugging each other uninhibitedly.

That was the good news. Now for the bad news — I didn’t finish the walk. By the second morning, we were running on three hours of sleep and gunning on. When I reached the 65 km mark, I felt a surge of energy and 35 kms felt like a small number in the face of how far we’d come. Up until then I was just taking it one kilometre at a time, but at 65 kms, I actually saw the finish line in my head and believed I was going to make it. The strain was real, the pain in my legs excruciating, yet I felt like I could keep going, slowly but surely, with as many breaks as were needed. But very, very soon, something snapped. In my knee, to be specific. And I reached that uncomfortable place where I so badly wanted to stop after every kilometre, but the more I stopped, the harder it became to get up and start again. Truly like being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Eventually, when I felt a pinch at the back of my right knee, with every step I took, and I noticed an involuntary rotation of my foot that try as I might I couldn’t control, I had to will myself to quit for fear of doing some long term damage. In a brief span of five excruciating minutes I had to call it a day.

I made it to 81 kms, which took 31 hours, before I called our valiant support crew came to fetch me.

I wont lie, I’m very disappointed at having come so close to the finish and yet not making it through. But I guess that’s what next time is for?

D and R powered through for 7 hours more, to finish the 100 kms at 9 pm on Saturday night. What a rush!

The physical aspect aside, the two day experience was far more humbling and reaffirming in ways I didn’t expect. For one, I was happy I got out and made it. On the other hand, the six of us coming together the way we did was a bit like watching a real life experiment in letting go and being a part of a team you might not fully identify with at the outset. Once again, life seemed to be affirming how it is little about likeness, and more about the experiences that bring me closer to people, presenting opportunities to bond over commonalities that don’t lie at the surface. Commonalities that you wouldn’t discover over whatsapp, or sharing a coffee or beer, or even endless hours of chatting.

It is an incredibly privileged place to be, to be able to occupy my mind with matters of purpose and meaning attached to every experience. To see connections where I might not have even six months ago. To find common ground where I least expect it. To constantly time and time again find myself pushed into situations where I am forced to open up my heart some more. And the beauty of it all is that the more I seem to do it, the more natural and less like an effort it becomes. The more comfortable I get with getting out of the spaces in my head, the more life seems to push these amazing experiences my way.

Day 30: We are children that need to be loved

I’m thankful for the ride VC and I took, on his new bike on Monday. It was so nice to be out on two wheels, the (very polluted) wind in my (non existent) hair, and the general ease with which bikes tend to navigate Bangalore traffic. It was even nicer to see VC so excited about his new toy.

I’m thankful for the date with A on Tuesday, that ended with a visit to Blossoms, via the spanking new cobbled/paved Churst Street. I’m really growing to love the CBD area in this city. So much.

I’m thankful for the sensory treat that it was witnessing Nirtyagram’s performance of Samhara on Wednesday.

I’m still in awe, and I can see scenes from the performance stuck in my mind if I just close my eyes. I’m baffled by the exquisite blend of lines and asymmetry, of fluidity and structure, of rules that were meant to be broken, of geometry in the art, of the energy, powerful presence and the sheer prowess of holding their space, the dancers brought to the table.

I’m thankful for the taash party we hosted on Thursday.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how easy it was, to prep, to cook, for all of us to get along and have so much to chit chat about, for how late we ended up playing, and for how much fun it actually turned out to be.

I’m thankful for the early morning walk practice I managed to squeeze in on Friday. Despite the late night, and running on four hours of sleep, I met D at Cubbon Park for the only session we managed to fit in, before our big walk next weekend. We topped it off with breakfast at Airlines, of course. But would you believe that was just the bonus?

I’m thankful for the evening coffee date with P. For howit is sometimes so easy to share some of my deepest feelings with ease. I shocked myself with how I was able to articulate so much of what has happened in the past few weeks, and how it has made me feel. I’m thankful for our vibe, and how we always seem to have parallel situations in our lives, that make it easier to talk about it.

I’m thankful for the shoot we had on Saturday, which took us once again to Cubbon Park.

It was downright ridiculous to be at work covering an event, and have three different people attending it, recognise me off this blog. I’m thankful for the love.

I’m thankful for a the butt-crack-of-dawn early morning ride to Nandi Hills with the R, S, H and VC, on SUnday. I’m thankful for the early start, the breakfast of parathas, the laughter, the bike ride back.

And I’m thankful for the slow rest-of-the-day spent mostly in bed, reading.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to catch up with A in the evening. I’m thankful for how relaxed and refreshed he seemed, despite having just lost a parent. I’m thankful he always makes the effort to stay in touch, despite how much I suck at it. I’m thankful for how we always have so much to talk about. I’m thankful for the vulnerability he presented, and the chance for me to share, to listen.

I’m thankful for the pizza dinner I had with Amma. It took me back to our impromptu dinner dates to Casa Piccola when I was a child.

I’m thankful for the spontaneous, and unplanned running-into P in Koramangala on Monday. I’m thankful for the surprise opportunity to catch coffee with VC, since that is such a rarity.

I’m thankful for cancelled plans that led to a delayed dinner of greasy Chinese with VC, in a cute, quaint little restaurant near home.

I’m thankful for the dosa and chutney dinner I had today. I’m thankful for feeling like my body is slowly becoming mine again. I’m thankful that the ghosts of diets past seem to be leaving the building.

I’m thankful for the feeling of being overpowered by emotion almost all the time these days. I’m thankful for how I’ve started noticing every little act of love that I receive. I’m thankful for the goodness.

(In case you haven’t guessed already, these I’m-thankful-for posts are the Haiku posts of 2016.)

Day 9: The hardest part

is admitting that you were wrong. But once you’re over that hurdle, it’s like walking into the light, or unlocking the next level of a mystery you’re desperately trying to solve.

For someone so convinced I was an out and out introvert just over a year ago, the past year has seen a big change. The developments of recent time, specially the last six odd weeks have only confirmed what I have known to be true for a while now: I have changed, in ways I know, but more so in ways I am only getting to know slowly.

The more willing I am to sit still and observe, question and think about the changes I see, the more I know this to be true. And that willingness is the hard part. Because it means accepting that it may be time to let go of some rigid truths, or that I might need to soften up on some of my staunch aversions, or it means letting go of the safety of labels that I use to define me. It means instead, to look at the very real circumstances that are shaping me in entirely different ways.

It means finding new connections.

It means sometimes standing alone.

Daunting as it sounds, and is in some part, it is also incredibly energising. Nobody talks about how refreshing and life-giving the process can be. It is not without tedium, and there’s really no escaping the bitter realities that you’ll have to stare in the face, but once you’re over that hurdle, it is like a breath of fresh air. Light, rejuvenating, and puts the spring right back in your step.

Perhaps it is the mistaken ideas of adulthood and becoming-who-you-are that we have inculcated, that makes this journey seem one way. The pursuit of prescribed ideals, boxed definitions and perfection itself makes looking back, revisiting old versions of yourself and admitting less than ideal facets of yourself impossible, and a waste of time. Shame, envy, inadequacy, confusion become bad words we don’t want to believe are parts of us.

But the truth is, growing up involves going back and forth all the time. It is acknowledging these unsavoury parts of ourselves that unlocks the potential to plummet ahead. Never before have I valued retrospection so much. For it has helped revisit so much, only this time with a softer eye. Less self-loathing. Less judgement. More acceptance.

With every passing week, I realise I’m not the introvert I was in the months before I left Goa. It was circumstances that made me withdraw and seek my own company, closed in from the world. But I didn’t understand why or how it was happening. It was simply the playing out of what N articulated perfectly — Everyone can’t go with you everywhere — a truth (and several others) I’m only realising this now. And I’m changing, because of it.

Even until weeks mere ago, it was hard to say if it was a change brought on by changing circumstances, or if the shifts brewing within me in turn were reflected in my circumstances. Mostly this has been a revelation about how wrong I was.

I noticed around the middle of last year how suddenly I was much more willing to go out, be with people, socialise and do things outside of the four walls of the introvert cocoon I’d settled into. The frequency with which I’d surprise myself by volunteering to do something I thought was uncharacteristic began to rise, till I realised it was too frequent to pass it off as “exceptions to the rule”. It was, in fact, the new normal. Try out a new restaurant, I’m in. Want to come to xyz, with abs, def, (who you don’t know), sure! Want to try out a reading club where we’ll read a book on self-esteem, why not? Poetry reading, yes. Movie with the family, yes. Dinner with extended family, okay to that too. Cooking for fifteen people over two days, count me in.

Slowly I found myself feeling a lot more energetic and willing to to put myself out there, in situations I’d told myself were never for me. The clincher was willingly joining VC in his new business, and taking on a client-facing role.

Conversely, I don’t fancy spending as much time all by myself at home. It helps that amma’s home is in the next building, so I always have a cocoon of comfort to jump into when things get overly solitary around here.

This is a big change for someone who in Goa barely ever left home, and loved being alone. The most joyous moment on any ordinary day then, would be when VC left for work and the help finished for the day. I would savour the solitude slowly over the course of the day, wearing my space and isolation like a comfortable skin.

It’s true what they say, the company you keep really does reflect your state of mind. And maybe this, in some measure also explains the dissonance and distance I’ve felt with those I’d most easily turn to for daily kinship. I’ve carried this feeling, that something has changed, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it, around uncomfortably for a few weeks. Eventually, the truth dawned on me: in the face of all this drastic change, I feel less and less inclined to stick to fixed anythings. My faith in the rock bed of certainties has shaken, so I’m finding it very counter-productive to stick in places I am feeling restless. Whether that is a pattern of friendship, the habits I think I need to have, or fearing breaking them because it means being alone.

The last few weeks saw me do both. And surprisingly, it got easier. The fear subsided and I felt charged with an energy I didn’t know possible.

Do you know what it is like to watch yourself move from being a somewhat passive, this-is-who-I-am-and-I’ll-just-stay-here-until-the-right-stuation-happens to a let’s-go-out-there-and-find-a-way-to-make-this-work state of mind? It has been like dipping into a secret reserve of self-worth I have suddenly discovered.

We really underestimate how much we are capable of growth. How much we are in fact changing all the time. Drastic growth brings with it such significant shifts in the mind and body that inevitably, it leads you to the reality of leaving things behind. By definition, it is what movement entails.

So whether it’s a time (it’s futile being torn up about moving on from the perks of full time employment, for example, because it doesn’t have a place in my life or in my current reality), place (similarly, so meaningless to wistfully long for my life in Goa when this is where I am now and it is what I know is most necessary), or even company (If I am changing all the time, surely every body else is too. So what then am I hanging on to so tight?), the need to loosen the grip and ease up on expecting a pre-defined kind of certainty has slipped under my skin.

Much like hanging on to older ideas of a version of myself did nothing but delay the movement that was waiting to happen in my life, I’m realising that hanging on to a fixed, rigid idea of the kind of friendship I am made for, or what I am capable of in relatonships, has made it hard for me to find deeper, authentic connections suited to where I am now.

 

One of the things that has become utterly clear to me in the recent past is that my life has little meaning without connection. I’m craving it all the time. In people, in activities, in experiences, in spaces, in habits. I’m only now learning how believing so hard in the fallacy that I am a complete introvert, has held me back in this respect.

It was hard to acknowledge that my introvertism was a temporary shield I donned, while I waded through emotions I didn’t want to face. I mistook a streak of introvertism to be a personality-defining thing, when actually it was just me seeking safety in numbers, in memes that scream relatable truths that made me feel like I belonged. Because I wanted to belong anywhere, but to the real self that was desperately running away from feeling all the feels.

Until, I was ready to break out and do all of that — face those scary feels, be as vulnerable as I possibly could, acknowledge how wrong I was, look at new and intimidating ways of being that my situation now required.

Now, I’m less afraid to make connections.

Similarly, I am less afraid to stand alone.

This shift in my attitude has already brought tremendous positive change — I see it in the most significant things like the way I was able to accept moving to Bangalore to the smallest, seemingly insignificant things like suddenly embracing hot pink lipstick with a casual comfort that was alien to me.

I see it in the way I am suddenly more outgoing. Accepting invitations to meet new people, pushing myself out to events, trying out new restaurants, making plans to beat traffic and increasingly seeking new experiences, over the comfort of mundanities, when it comes to people. I’m reluctant to keep going over the same motions out of habit. I have little to share in terms of mundanities, and the lack of conversational sharing does mean I’ve fallen out of the loop. But I’m dealing with that, and even with its difficulties, I feel it’s better than the hollow, exhausting efforts of continually trying to flog a habit I’m clearly not in the space to hang on to.

I am so not that person anymore.

Accepting that was the hardest part.

This business of looking back at the trail we’ve traversed now seems like an essential healthy practice, one that I should probably do more often. To see where we were, how far we’ve come, to ask crucial questions about where we’re headed, why, and if we’ll actually be happy once we get there requires so much reworking of of our old selves, to take what’s best for us and to let go of all that no longer serve a purpose.

But I won’t lie, that is the hardest part.

More Goa postcards: yellow

Walking through Fontainhas always gives me a sense of stillness. Like time stopped for a bit, and then picked up again, but the effects of that lag, those missed moments linger on indefinitely. Casting a cliche old-world hue, not just on the way the place looks, but energy it carries. I always feel like I can feel right to my bones, the yars and years of lives, histories and experiences that these buildings, little streets, tiny shuttered windows opening on to groaning balconies must have witnessed.

If I had one word to describe the afternoon we spent back in Fontainhas, it would have to be S T I L L.

And then there’s the beach of course. It doesn’t get more Goa than this. Peachy sun-kissed sunsets, a lilt in the air, beach dogs befriending you and succeeding effortlessly, and the smell of seafood and tandoori everything in the air as the shacks get set for dinner service.

After this trip, where every dog that passed us made a beeline for VC, and instantly struck a friendship and unreal levels of intimacy with him, I’m convinced he might be a dog whisperer.

Same time, last year: Day 301: Notes to self