Day 311: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?

Dogs, I tell ya. They’ve got my heart ticking in ways nothing has in many, many years now.

It’s been more than a few days since D left on her holiday, leaving the puppies with us. It seemed like a huge responsibility we were only to happy to take because of how fond of them we are, but also because of how familiar being around them has been thanks to the many many trips I’ve made this year. Not just being around the pups themselves, but knowing their daily lives and whereabouts, their routines, food habits and even the intricacies of their weird whines, barks and unique manipulative moves. I have loved these dogs for a while now, so there was actually little thought or consideration involved when D asked if we’d puppysit. All three of them have (Leo leading the way) have long wormed their way into my heart, so I was prepared to have my heart crushed by puppy love. But this much?

I honestly didn’t see this coming. I booked my return ticket to Bangalore today, and while I am excited to be going back to resume life all on my own, I am already prematurely heartbroken about going back to a puppy-less home.

Safe to say I am beyond smitten.

(Yeah, how did I get to the dark side? When did this happen?)

Since we’re avoiding leaving the two of them unsupervised and alone for long periods of time, I have been timing my errand runs during the first half of the morning when the help is still around, which means our days have fallen into a neat little routine. So much so that Olive now knows that I will step out between 9.30 and 10. So she begins to follow me around like a tail, waiting for that moment when my sunglasses come on and my bag goes across my shoulder. Then she begins to bark and bring the roof down, demonstrating a full-on protest with gusto, giving it her all in the hope that either I will stay or take her with me. In a last ditch attempt, she dashes off to the gate ahead of me, bounding in double-steps, and stands between me and the gate defiantly. She may be small in stature and size, but she is larger than life in confidence and determination to have her way. In that moment, in her eyes, I see the wild, unbridled firmness of a woman who wants to get her way come hell or high water. It’s like she is oblivious to the fact that her ground clearance is barely four inches off the ground and her height is not more than a foot in total. And it means nothing to her that I can actually just step over her and proceed. Because she has the grit of a woman who means business, she seems large. Massive, even. And it makes me stay a moment longer, get down on my knees and pet her and mumble a few weak and unconvincing words to let her know that I will be back really soon.

What she lacks in size (how can anyone be so damned cute and small and contort themselves into something that resembles a puppy-inspired sushi roll? HOW?) she makes up in her vivacious personality.

Lego on the other hand, is best known for the way he uses his lanky front limbs like hands. Grabbing, holding, pawing, nudging like a bloody human being. It’s like a constant defiance of his doggy-ness and a consistent effort to be human in the way he carries himself. Inside his large head with impossibly big ears is a small brain, from the looks of it because he is dufferest of duffer dogs I have ever come across. But aren’t they the best kind?

He is VC’s favourite, and vice versa. Nobody in this home greets VC with the kind of unrestrained enthusiasm that Lego does. When VC walks in the door Lego loses his shit and doesn’t know what to do with himself. So he darts back and forth, between jumping on VC to bouncing off pieces of furniture like a crazy ball. Except if VC walks in with his full-face helmet on, or with a broom in his hand like he did the other day. Then Lego has no idea who he is and the only way he will run is in the opposite direction. We’re major fattu like that. Despite his small brain and easily triggered flight response, he has the body language and demeanour of the man in charge. Restlessly pacing about, investigating and inspecting things all the time, always walking around with an officious look on his face that would make you believe he’s the boss around here and everything runs on his watch.

He is also completely oblivious to his stature and size which, when he is standing, is about four or five times Olive’s. So sometimes she gets caught underfoot, as he tramples over her like collateral damage to his attacks of excitement.

After a morning of all these adventures warding off humans from leaving the premise, or pacing up and down in anticipation of our return (which leaves them quite hyper and wound up, borderline traumatised on occasion), some semblance of normalcy returns at lunch time, which is when I am usually back home. Nothing settles them like the sight of a plate of food in a human beings hands. They turn into the quietest, most docile dogs with the sweetest, googliest eyes. They sit, transfixed by the food focusing all their attention on the plate as if willing it to float towards them. At that moment, they’re a picture of perfection, the most innocent, angelic dogs. Until Olive’s drool pool begins. Depending on what’s in the plate it varies from being a drippy, leaky tap to a full-on open tap.

Afternoon naps follow. For the first two days after D left, Olive staged a massive sulk by hanging around us but at a safe distance, refusing to respond when called, making no eye contact and generally avoiding too much contact. But after 48 hours, something switched and she has become my tail. If she had it her way she would be attached to me, I suspect. And so we regroup in the afternoon, almost to assuage the trauma of separation from the morning, usually clustered on the couch — me stretched out reading or working, with the two of them curled up on 2/3rds of the couch. If I so much as stir or move, they wake up. If I get up to leave, even to just go to the loo, Olive follows me while Lego looks on from a distance.

Evenings are easily my favourite time of day. I have been walking Olive, while VC has been walking Lego. I didn’t know it, because I have no experience with dogs, but there is something so very grounding about walking a dog every single day, on the clock. The rhythm, the trail, the clicking of their nails on the tarmac, the same spots they stop at, the other dogs we encounter, the predictable fashion in which they behave at all the known spots.

In all of this, I deeply feel the absence of Leo’s presence. I feel it the most when we walk because I remember how different it was walking him. He’d saunter like the King of the land, scoping his field as far as the eye can see, his head held high. I find myself wondering what it might have been walking three instead of two dogs and I yearn for the missed opportunity. Yesterday especially, I was lost in a daydream thinking about him when we were out on our evening walk carrying around a heavy heart like I was aching for a person.

Evenings have been passing in a mellow, quiet fashion. It really is the time when the frenetic activity of their days too, winds down. I’ve found comfort in sitting together with the pups in silence. Them chewing on a bone, while VC and I read or Netflix before we eat dinner and turn in. There is companionable silence and an unspoken togetherness in sharing your day so closely with animals who so easily make you their own.

It’s taken barely 4-5 days for us to make this our routine and figure out how to manage the two of them together.

It’s not taken much doing really. The simple life that a dog loves, makes it easier. There’s barely any managing needed beyond feeding them and walking them on time, giving them adequate pets, belly rubs, back scratches, watching their poo for anything suspicious and holding them close when Diwali crackers begin to thunder around us. They make it very easy because they’re ruled by their hearts, and they know nothing else. So they go after what they want, demand it with all their might and don’t rest until we’ve understood just what they need. And in return for just that little bit of care and attention, I’ve been at the receiving end of a love so, so very pure. Filterless, distilled, concentrated love that is very hard to fight and not feel. It has swept me in, into a life-long snug embrace.

This kind of filterless love, this way in which puppies go all-in with all their heart, the endless giving even in the face of everyday little betrayals and disappointments (I still leave every morning, I still withhold that little morsel of food), this is the stuff worth aspiring for. Who knew, these doggies might teach me a thing or two.

Two years ago: Day 311: Okaybye

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Day 306: Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend?

Recently someone remembered me as that person with a strong aversion to people I have changed my mind about. It had obviously irked said person enough to remember me as someone who inexplicably rejects and moves on from people without so much as a thought.

I was taken aback when I heard this. The thing is, the description is not entirely inaccurate, but it isn’t completely true either. And even though better sense has prevailed, I haven’t been able to shake off the judgement. Perhaps it bothered me, and continues to bother me to some extent, because I realise fully why it might seem that way to onlookers who take the convenient position of watching my life from a distance and who get this sort of second-hand information passed on by other onlookers.

From the outside, if does really seem like I run through friendship like seasonal wardrobe changes, I’m sure. I have built and broken far too many friendships in the three decades I’ve lived, with most of the action in this department being concentrated in the last decade. And here’s the thing, I’m finally in a place where I am at peace with that. After years of longing for forever friendship, I’m more in acceptance of the idea that for some of us, that is not a realistic goal. And the more I accept the very transient nature of relationships in my life, the routine coming and going of people, the gradual building of some friendships and the natural fading away of others, the more it seems to make sense, and the less angst it causes me.

So in that sense, it is a bit like wardrobe changes with seasonal spring cleaning and doing away with that which no longer fits or interests me, while keeping some ever-green favourites that will never go out of style, and having that stash of items in the periphery towards which I have temporary difficult feelings, but that I hang on to for nostalgia’s sake or in eternal hope that we will fit again. Someday.

This no longer feels like a bad way to live. It works for me. However, there’s no denying that the uneasiness of this judgement bites me. And nothing makes it bite harder than a visit to Goa, because the judgement was based on the state of my relationships in the time before I left Goa.

I moved cities, yes, but much before that happened I had moved on from many people in my life here. But today, over a delightful few hours spent with C — fellow freelance writer and dear friend from Panjim — I realised that every time the uneasiness about being judged for this surfaces, I give away a little bit of my power. I dim a little bit of the light that is my lived experience and my agency — both which shined bright in guiding me through these choices.

Every time that I am affected by how easily I have been branded, I am weighed down by that opinion that is quite honestly only a half-truth. But most of all, hanging out with C and having the delightful time that we did made me realise that every time that I feel bad about this judgement and I wallow about being misunderstood for walking away from some relationships, I undermine all those relationships that I have allowed to remain. I lose track of those that I actively chose to nurture and grow. I fade out the light and love of those that I continue to keep thriving in my life, even 700 kilometres away.

Meeting C who I have such a soft spot for, had me overjoyed and so content. And I realised its a friendship that has had none of the typical markers. We barely hung out, we’ve met a handful of times in real life, but we’ve connected over so much more. And every time that we meet, we seem to have so much to talk about. It’s one of the few connections that has endure even after I moved on, and she is one of the handful of people I feel like connecting when I come back. We’re frequently sharing things of mutual interest over email, catching each other up briefly on where life and work is, sharing writing contacts and passing assignments on to each other. And I always feel a genuine warmth without the song and dance of it.

Most times I tell myself I don’t care what people think, but today, I acknowledged that the reason being judged in this instance bothered me is because it hurt to be judged and misunderstood. I have not done a very good job of dealing with that hurt. And so every time it surfaces, it takes me right back to that half-truth, misinformed judgement. It takes me back and it makes me focus on the lack. The lack of empathy, the lack of understanding, the lack of people in my life at that time, and the lack of my ability to deal with it then. But that was then, and I have come a long way since. But in choosing to focus on the then, I discount the abundance of all these little connections that I have now. Many of which have flourished in the time after I moved away. I discount all the relationships that stirred over a few commonalities that only bloomed as time passed, and I discovered friendship beyond the limited definition I had back then. I think of people like C, and a couple other “work friends” who I am in touch with virtually, and how despite how little we hung out when I lived here, are always quick to jump at any opportunity I present for us to catch up. I am overwhelmed at how my relationship with D and K has turned into so much more than mere friendship. I think about B and R who keep checking in on me to see if I’ve had enough of Bangalore and if I’m returning any time soon. There’s R and S and J who are some of my fondest friends from Goa, and how our relationship has gone so far beyond the time we spent together here. And there is A who I know I can always turn to and lean on, in times of need. I think of P in Finland (Hi, P!) and how we catch up over infrequent but frantic bouts of messages about things we feel deeply about. And all I feel is a sense of abundance.

So, I came away wondering why it takes so little to shrink that sense of settledness and abundance I know I carry within me. What is it about hurt that makes everything that’s otherwise solid, so fragile? And what do I need to do to make it go away?

Two years ago: Day 306: Diwali 2016

Day 288: All along this love was right in front of me

Today has been such a slow day. This feeling of everything being tentative seems to pervade every where, across spheres of my life. The only thing that’s moving ahead with sprightly energy is my presence and activity around home. Thanks to Niyu being with us, recovering slowly, the workings of my home have fallen into a healthy clockwork pattern which has brought about a sense of grounding for me.

I’m deeply grateful for this. It’s hard to look at difficult times (the last ten days have been hectic and stretched us all in ways unimaginable) and feel gratitude for unseen gifts. But this is the truth, hard as it is to accept, there have been positive aspects to it. We got the gift of focused family time. I was thrust into a role of caregiver that has skyrocketed my respect and gratitude for the role my mother plays in our lives, I see the men in my life (VC and my dad) in a very different light, and there has been the gift of a home that works like a home again.

Two years ago: Day 288: New eyes

Day 285: They’ll be making sure you stay amused

Grateful for friends today. This week has shown me abundance in friendship like never before.

Rekindled connections, restored conversations, grown up versions of the camaraderie we once had.

New friends who I’ve found unexpectedly. New friends who visibly feel a sense of kinship through the experience of the work we shared and make no bones about wanting to stay in touch long after.

Friends who lead by example and champion causes dear to us. Friends who will always be the torchbearers for me to look up to.

Friends who relentless stay in touch and more even when I completely fail to.

Friends who send me food. Always, friends who send me food.

Two years ago: Day 285: Shifting gears

Day 283: Wandering through life will love come home to you

Lessons on becoming come at me from all sides. Sometimes loud and crashing, toppling carefully curated beliefs, forcing in freshness. Sometimes gently, softly, like comforting words whispered in confidence.

As I contemplate a time of solitude, with a deliberate focus on my becoming — that little bit that’s begging to turn that will only turn when I am alone — I find solace in the ways in which these messages show up at me. I realised earlier this month, that it was in September 2016, when I first sought therapy for what felt like a spiral into a depressive state, that I began this journey. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now. And since then, it has been a slow and steady process of peeling back the layers, cutting the fluff, removing all excesses, shedding all that no longer serves me, in order to move closer and closer to what lies beneath. An inner sense of knowing, intuition, a soul’s calling — whatever you may choose to call it.

This year especially, there has been something very steadying about finding my centre again — a centre that’s not attached to work, to my spouse, to my family, to a city, etc. And yet, I am still seeking a little something more. I can’t really explain it, but I feel that little bit that I am still seeking, I can only find in solitude.

I’m fortunate to finally be in a place in my life and in my marriage where this is a viable option. It has taken time and effort to get to a place in our marriage and relationship where VC and I feel safe and secure to deliberately stay apart. Not because of logistics, but out of the need to exercise the choice of wanting to stay alone for sometime. He deserves it as much as I do — to live our own selves into being. It has taken considerable shedding fear and uncertainty. But here we are. I’m so excited to watch this unfold and see where it takes us.

Day 275: In the nick of time

I thought I might have finally hit a day when I’ll miss posting but, phew I’ve made it just in time.

It’s been a bit of a hectic day. I woke up to a phone call from Niyu that required us to rush to the hospital. And the rest of the day went in figuring out a health hiccup, visits to diagnostic labs and back to the hospital. A process that ought to have been smooth and simple, but apparently their working hours are affected on public holidays. So it ended up being unnecessarily long-winded. Then there was some battling the pressure hospitals put on you to “admit the patient”, without giving you a clear sense of the accuracy of the urgency and criticality of the situation. So there was a few dozen calls made back and forth to doctors, and my parents, and second and third opinions. And before I knew it the day was done.

I was so fortunate to have VC at home, he’s largely working from home this month, my father anyway on his way down from Kerala, my mum who is all the way across the globe who pretty much stayed up all night intermittently messaging to keep tabs on the situation, a dear aunt who immediately made some calls and hooked me up with the right doctors and sent me delicious home cooked food without my asking for it, and my MIL who showed up with cash, food and moral support.

I’m always amazed at a) how we’re constantly pushed into spaces we’re afraid to face. I’m absolutely shit at dealing with medical emergencies. I’m a complete wuss and am quite capable of turning into the patient instead of being there for the real patient. And b) how help just flows every time I most need it. Even with the exhausting back and forth, the day was much smoother than it would have been if we were on our own. Eternal gratitude for the way things always work out.

I’ll have to call it a day with just this today. This isn’t much of a post, but it’ll have to do. Season three of This Is Us is out, and I’m going to veg out for a bit before I go to bed. Tomorrow looks like a long day too, with some doctors visits in the morning and then I begin the next module of my course for three and a half days after. I really should go steel myself and rest my brain a bit.

One year ago: What colour is your sky?

Day 266: You’re still young, that’s your fault

Paris. Day 4.

There’s just so much to say, about this city, about how not having a plan when we travel worked out for us, about intersecting with friends in parts of the world and about just how incredibly overwhelming beautiful this has been.

We’ve been so lucky with the weather this week, even with the spots of rain, we had J fly down from Hamburg to surprise us and S who anyway lives here now, which dramatically changed the way these four days have been.

Mostly, I’m grateful for life’s little surprises and how things always work out. I came without a plan, just a vague idea of what I would do, and it didn’t involve a single museum. I had no idea it would turn out that I’d spend my time the way I did, but somehow it has been exactly what I wanted.

My brain has been shutting down from the sheer sensory party that this place is. I can’t seem to string one sentence straight even though they’re all there in my head. Try as I might to invoke them, all I get is a bunch of superlatives that still fall short.

I’ll have to try once again in a few days after I’ve had a chance to process it all.

Paris has my heart. Good and proper.

Day 249: I wanna see you be brave

I have had such a fantastic week. And today was such a stupendous day. I had a post all written out about it. But I have shelved it for tomorrow. Because today, I want to give this day to the people it belong to, and celebrate it wholeheartedly.

Pic courtesy: Sandhya

This was the highpoint of today. I spent a good hour madly refreshing the news on the minute. I shocked myself with how emotional I felt, when the news the verdict eventually came in. For the first time in nearly 5 years I felt a sense of belonging with this country, spurred entirely by a mild feeling of hope that truth will prevail and the fascists will not have it all their way.

What a powerful statement. What a resounding, thumping win for reason and humanity, and above all else, love. What an absolute slap in the face of the current government this has been. I feel incredible to be alive to witness this.

As I read the statements that rolled in, I choked and teared up a little, imagining what a struggle and an uphill and constant battle this has been. And over something so utterly basic? I’ve been thinking about what Arun Shourie said in the video I linked up yesterday, about how we have been slowly accustomed to a new normal. Like frogs tricked into a slow death, in a slowly boiling pot of water, we’ve lost the will to react and jump out and back to our senses. I realised today that the bar is set so damn low, that a victory for something as basic as the right to love, has come as such a massive victory. This should have been basic. It should have been a non negotiable.

But here we are. Love is love.

What a day.

One year ago: Brain noodles
Two years ago: Day 249: Ferry days

Day 242: Whatever you believe, it could be real

This past weekend, we had a Sunday lunch. A hearty, hearty one for more reasons than one. My sister had us over for lunch to her home that she has just moved to, sharing it with two other friends. It was a warm, delightful afternoon of food cooked entirely by them, of produce almost entirely grown in the kitchen garden in the home.

I love a crowded table — crowded with people and crowded with food. My parents, VC and I joined in the three of them who share a home, along with two others who were visiting. We sat around the long table, with extra chairs dragged in, digging in to the absolutely delicious spread that they’d cooked together, which included a 10-hour braised lamb stew (which they began cooking the previous evening!), multiple salads, stir fried veggies, a kickass platter of mushroom and spinach patties, and two dips to go with it.

So hearty. The afternoon left me so high and happy. This is a bunch of kids I’ve known since my sister was in grade 1. I’ve watched them grow, through various stages of development over the last two decades — not a number one actively keeps track of, no? Life gets ahead and the years roll by, until suddenly an event like this makes you stop and register how long it has been. Three of these “kids” running a bigass home on their own, cooking this bigass meal and having us over — it was so wonderful to witness.

I wondered about how if I felt so overwhelmed at the developments, the reality and weight of the passage of time is probably even more harsh and enunciated for my parents who have near two decades on us.

That afternoon, I realised that my parents are about the most resilient and giving people I have had the privilege of knowing. They truly live the live-and-let-live life by example, and have let us free to run amok, whenever we wished, and wished us well as we set off on our own.

There is a sense of liberation and satisfaction in watching your young ones grow and turn into adults, I’m sure. I’m not even a parent, but being the older sibling comes close. My heart brims over when I see my sister thrive, when her little fledgeling art education project goes places and when I see her satisfied and happy. Seeing her hit milestones like this — having her own place — makes me so happy. But to see my parents, as they’re able to be a part of this growing up, alongside us, let us go yet hold us close enough to sit at the same table and witness our joy and partake. To be a part of this evolution, close at hand. It’s made me very aware of what a special joy and a privilege it is. One that I have not acknowledged before.

This year, more than ever before, I’ve realised the importance of parents. And parenting. As I’ve dropped so much of my own baggage, judgement and misconstrued preconceived notions in this regard, I’ve had the humbling chance to see my parents as people first. It has been eye-opening and heart-filling and given me a very new and satisfying sense of family.

I had the unique chance of flying back right into the heart of the proverbial nest for the second time in my life. I returned to Bangalore, but in reality I returned to a state of mind that I had deferred abruptly, and unfinished phase of growing up that I severed before its time and ran away. Probably to fly out the nest too soon — before my time was done. Before I was ready for new grounds. And I realise it is that resilience about my parents that welcomed me. In many ways I have gone back to being the child. But in so many ways I have bloomed into an adult, who is still the child. In so many ways this feels like the completion of a previously unaccomplished chapter.

As I ready myself to fly out the nest once more, I realise how different everything looks from the way it did last year. And like sunlight streaming through this glass-tiled roof, illuminating all that needs to be seen, I’ve witnessed all the missing parts coming to light. Everything is so lush, and my heart is so full.

Two years ago: Day 242: A morning moment

Day 241: Keep waking up high

This week, someone outside my immediate family expressed sadness about my impending move away from Bangalore. The only other person to have done that is my mother. And both times it made me feel warm and fuzzy within. It reiterated for me how charged and full of life my time in Bangalore has been. I’ve had intensely connected relationships. I’ve connected deeply with people — known and new. I’ve opened myself up to so many more experiences, and I realise now that maybe deep down I knew I was on a deadline. Our bodies and minds know and I feel that I was able to listen to that inner knowing and dive in to most things that felt like they needed to be done.

Having said that, this has been a year of conscious being, over doing, like I told A yesterday. And I can’t help but feel that this feeling of fullness — of abundance, of life being so much bigger than I ever imagined possible, of feeling like the universe’s favourite child — has been a direct outcome of it.

I’m grateful for the humbling lessons that have brought me here. I’m grateful for all that Bangalore has given to make this journey the perfect one for me — from efficient services, to the course I’m doing, to bringing the right people at the right time — I wouldn’t have felt so kindly and like the experience has been so abundant if not for it. 18 months ago when I contemplated moving here with shaky feet and a restless heart, I hadn’t the faintest clue that I’d get so much (and enjoy so much of it) from my time here. Grateful for the opportunity to take this time out. Grateful for all the support I get so I can keep going, deeper and wider. Grateful for VC. For my parents. For the few friends. All of whom share this journey with me, in small and big ways.

Day 234: It’s been a hard days night

I have a half written post I started this morning, before we began shooting for the day. But my brain is too fried to finish it. Or make much sense otherwise.

But on the upside, we’ve decided to stay an extra day to recover from the hectic shoot we’ve had. Which means I get another day with these (and a third one who will only sometimes allow a pet or a belly rub too fleeting to photograph) runts.

Day 230: What good is it to live with nothing left to give

Two weekends of class/workshopping and two study meets have brought home one message loud and clear.

It sits front and centre of my entire life right now and I am so ready to finally embrace it in its wholeness.

Family is important. Even those parts that I have not seen or lived. Especially those parts that I have not seen or lived.

We are connected in more ways than I know or realise.

I am so much more than the sum total of my body, mind and soul. I carry my family with me in ways I am incapable of fully understanding.

In belonging and connecting with this family, I need not lose any part of myself.

I can be connected, even as I grow and move my separate way.

Starting a ritual to acknowledge this and remember it every single day has been on my mind and today I realised it is something I want to do immediately.

I’m not fully sure how or what I want to do as yet. But I’m going to figure something out pronto.

This is gratitude for my family. For generations before and after. For all that we bring and carry with us. For all that people have held so we can move on and ahead. For life, love and this sense of connection.

Two years ago: Day 230: How many days

Day 220: Enjoy your privileged life

I’ve noticed in the recent few weeks that every time I make an attempt to get into some sort of rhythm, routine and flow around my home, I don’t get beyond 3-4 days of doing it. I’m talking about a routine around my home. Cooking my meals, knowing what’s in my fridge, stocking up, having a sense of what I want to eat a little beforehand so I am well-prepared to make it happen, sleeping and waking up on time, getting work done alongside, not forgetting to stock up on things like detergent and soap, having laundry cycles happen on time — routine housekeeping basically. When I moved to Bangalore, I was in the kind of headspace where I wanted out of this domesticity. Temporarily at least. I felt like I had given away so much of myself to it, it was beginning to feel like a burden more than anything else. The hows and whys of it are a story in itself, but suffice to say I needed a break, in order to regain some balance. And I got one because we moved to Bangalore and found a home so close to my parents. I realised today, which was again spent in bed thanks to nagging cramps, that I’ve been incredibly lucky.

So every time that I feel the urge or a need for this domestic rhythm of my own again, when I make attempts at rebuilding this routine, only to have it break in mere days, I have been questioning where the need comes from.

Today was day three spent mostly in bed. To go from an intensely emotional high, to more than a couple of days of unexpectedly deep sleep, to getting my period with the regular order of cramps has not been fun. It’s my fourth month of going without painkillers, which is a sign of two things: the pain is less debilitating, and I’m not hating on it or my ladyparts anymore. However, it does mean I have to bear the pain, which I mostly do lying horizontal with a heat pad underneath me.

I’m learning to (and getting better at) listen to my body and work with it rather than against it. So I give in. Thankfully, I finished my only deadline for the week on Monday, amma is back and I’m going over to hers for lunch, so I had the luxury of kicking back and doing the version of Netflix and chill that one does when one is unwilling to get out of bed.

It’s been an incredible privilege and a wonderful opportunity to receive the endless generosity that only parents can extend, and I have taken of it, fully. To the extent that my own home has run half-full at all times. Mostly because I haven’t needed to pay attention to it. I realise now how the kitchen lies at the heart of making a house a home. Because that is the essential function I have not given my full attention since this relocation. This is probably the part-emptiness I try and fill by compelling myself to some routine? I’m not sure as yet.

The luxury of not having to think about meals and sundry domestic needs has also meant I have thoroughly enjoyed the liberty of getting out and about. Whether wandering the city, or travelling out, or committing to a year-long course, and joining VC’s work and being available to up and go wherever and whenever work calls.

It has been such a far cry form my years in Goa, which were mostly about the home. Even with the numerous things I did achieve and do, keeping a home and keeping it going was a large accomplishment. I took pride in cooking all our meals, in playing wife, in creating and nurturing a home that was welcoming for us and anyone else to come into. When our friends circle was larger, ours was the home everyone thronged to when we needed a place for an adda. My life as a freelancer, which also kept me home-bound for the most part, made it necessary for my home to run a certain way for me to be able to function and be productive in there, day after day.

And suddenly something had changed. I wanted out. One of the big reasons I wanted a change fo scene from life in Goa was to get out of home some more, to seek richer, deeper experiences, and to have the opportunity to jump into more things than I was allowing myself to back in 2016.

I’ve really enjoyed this at a time when I really wanted nothing more than to experience life outside my home. And I feel so lucky to have been able to experience this surrounded by my family that has been every bit instrumental — whether they know it or not — in enabling it for me. I’m so grateful for the support. Amma, for feeding me every single day, and filling in for when I have chosen not to cook either by sending over food or having us over. My in laws have us over every single week and invariably, I come away with packed food that takes care of the next meal. I have literally not had to lift a finger too often around here.

The past 18 months or so have been about coming back to myself. Bringing back parts that I had distanced, some that I’d entirely lost sight of, of discovering new sides of myself and putting it all back together — with balance. If the couple of years before leaving Goa had me feeling torn between constantly being home-maker, freelancer, wife, cook, cleaner et all, these past few months have been about reworking these aspects of myself such that no single part overshadows or swallows the other completely.

It is a work in progress, as I’m sure it is likely to be for the rest of my life. But I realised today that it isn’t a process I can do entirely alone. So everything that I have gotten done these past months (it feels like a lot, and I’m not even talking about my “work”) is really the product of this little village that quietly rallies around me. I don’t have the words, not enough of them, to express just how grateful I am for this.

If I am able to unentangle myself from the role of homemaker, it is because my home is already taken care of by VC, mostly while I am not looking. If I am able to eschew cooking all meals, it is because amma unquestioningly steps in to do it. If I am able to take a step back from full-time freelancing, it is because I am looked after. If I feel more whole and closer to myself today, it is because my family has stayed with me unflinchingly.

***

Here’s a picture I snapped last week, in one of the moments of domesticity — I cooked a rather yummy chicken stroganoff and enjoyed a glass of wine (consumed Bev-style) all by myself, while I waited for VC to come home form work.

These moments, rare as they are, are special, because they remind me of my privilege. And I never want to forget that I am so very, very privileged to be living this life that I do.

Day 217: Hold on to this feeling, when dreaming of leaving

It’s a perfect, perfect morning.

It’s threatening to rain. But it’s also mildly sunshiney. It’s crisp today, the kind of crisp I can snap perfectly in two if I tried.

I’m listening to this, really loud. It seems to fit.

My heart feels like it’s overflowing river today. I can’t contain it. Everything is beautiful.

Also, I’m all alone. This is the first time since I’ve been back in Bangalore that I am utterly, completely home alone. VC is back in Goa for the weekend. Amma and anna are in Bombay since mid-last week. Niyu has been in Bombay for a while longer, and I haven’t actually met her in a month (and I miss her so).

I’ve had the most fantastic four days at the just concluded module of my course. It has been powerfully emotional, and I think there is something about needing time and space to process this that made this a good time to have this space alone.

I imagined I’d be holed up, cocooning myself at home because I’m usually pretty emotionally and mentally exhausted after doing this work. Previous workshops in this series have always left me completely drained, in need of quiet recuperation at home, eating wholesome food, drinking plenty of water and getting all the sleep I can. However, surprising especially given how powerful the therapy has been this time around and it’s impact that I am feeling reverberating inside me even now, I have been buzzing with an energy that is hard to explain. I don’t know where it has come from, but I have been flowing with it.

On Wednesday evening post class, I walked over to Koshys to have a cup of tea and wait for S who was going to join me for dinner. I had a good two hours to myself, and it warmed my heart that I feel so at home there, a single order of tea and a single cutlet are enough to drag out over two hours.

When S joined me, we chatted and chatted non stop and animatedly over beer, fish cutlets and beef fry, while it poured and poured outside.

On Thursday night we went over to VC’s folks’ for dinner. I was mostly mellow, my mind scattered even though I was physically present. Perhaps internally, I knew what was to come on Friday (which is when I did open out my work). And what a day that was. Deeply thought-provoking, emotionally draining, pushing all the touch-points I’ve been guarding away from being exposed to this work so far. But it really felt like things were building up to just push me to the level of openness and vulnerability that it needs, and that I am finally ready for.

So when it was time and my turn, I really did feel so ready for it. I came away feeling raw, yet liberated, so light and free that initially I beat myself up a bit for delaying this and keeping it waiting for so long. But sleeping over it, I know now that this was the perfect time for it. This was my time. It could not have been any other way. I had to lay out the path, do the preparatory work, peel back the older layers before I got to the crux of what’s been sitting inside of me for so long.

Funnily though, intense as the therapy was (and therapy usually has me cancelling the rest of the day in favour of sleeping), I came out very willing to go out and do something. Specifically wanting to engage, feel uplifted and just go with that flow.

I did the most unlikely thing. Unlikely given it was post therapy, and it was 7 pm on a Friday night in Bangalore. I drove across town to Indiranagar to meet S for dinner. It was meant to be an early and quick thing. I didn’t plan to drink. And I thought it might have been good to aim to come home and get some sleep. But all those plans were shot to bits once we began talking.

Remember how I mentioned I’m thoroughly enjoying watching the women around me come into their own? It was an evening that completely, thoroughly reaffirmed that for me. I ended up with a pink drink, and we were completely engrossed in conversation from the word go. There was deeply gratifying laughter, intensely personal sharing that brought some tears, and a very heartwarming connection over what’s going on inside of us. And I can tell you one thing for sure, at this point watching S as she flowers into this impeccably happy, solid on the inside, sure-of-herself person, even as she’s tearing up telling me about her anxieties, and sharing her deepest, current vulnerability is all kinds of joyful.

There was gyoza, dimsum and stirfried lamb to be eaten. And then the biggest slice of a gooey chocolate cake. I ate it all, and even so, the food wasn’t a patch on the way the company and conversation filled me up.

It’s amazing to sense this kind of transformation and feel such deep resonance over it. It’s transformation from the inside, that requires little explanation on the outside. She mentioned a quietly altered bio that reflected the big, bold shifts that are shaking her inner core, and I heaved a sigh of relief because it was everything (and then some) that I have been working through myself, at times feeling very alone. It’s everything I have refrained from talking about — in real life (save a couple of people I am very close to) or online even as I post here everyday. It was everything that I needed to hear from someone as articulate and sound in thinking, as she is.

There is immense liberation in women coming together over shared experiences. And I came away feeling extremely grateful for this connection I share with S. I have a theory that women sparkle on the outside, when they’re sparkling on the inside. I believe it even more today.

I’m only now seeing the difference between change at a cerebral level — when ideas sound aspirational or desirable and I can embrace them in the realm of the cognitive — and a deepened, shape-shifting sort of change that happens within, inside my gut, in the depths of my mind, at a cellular level. This is where it is most unsettling, when my insides feel like they’re in churn and everything is up in the air, and I’m counting down backwards slowly, waiting to see what shape and form the new settled will take.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were long and very intense days at class. Plenty of learning, way too many aha moments for me to compute and that require me to allow myself to marinade in some quiet for a while longer. We did some amazing written and movement exercises that are going to be etched in my mind for weeks to come. Something has shifted for good inside of me, and I’m revelling in this energy it’s brought with it.

I came home on Saturday to finally enjoy the alone time I have had for days now, but have been too busy to really sink into. A hot salt bath was taken, momos and hakka noodles were ordered, two pieces of dark chocolate studded with orange peel were consumed, and I was in bed by 8 pm ostensibly reading. I didn’t last very long, before I complete passed out.

The next thing I knew, it was 8 am today. I had been asleep for nearly 11 hours. I feel rested, filled-up, content and so alive today, it’s not even funny.

One year ago: Book ends
Two years ago: Day 218: So green

Day 211: There’s glitter on the floor after the party

It’s been a weekend of crawling back to normalcy, considering this was my default state of being for the last ten days:

I’m taking stock of the highs (and some lows) of the week gone by because today, I realised I am so grateful for the people in my life.

I came back to Bangalore along with D and K, who spent three days with us. Like I was telling D the day she left, one would assume that considering we spent the last ten days in Goa, chilling together and gabbing a lot, we wouldn’t have much to talk about. But somehow we yakked all the way to the Goa airport, through the flight, all the way home, and then some more every night that they were here. Our day together would begin when they’d return from class and even though we had a set pattern of things to do, somehow it just doesn’t get old. Or boring. Or tiring.

I feel blessed to be surrounded by people in the same headspace as I am, with whom I can unabashedly talk about most things on my mind. It has meant a lot of thrashing out of things I’d otherwise mull over (and cause some confusion) myself. There is the added benefit of fresh perspective, reassurance and a sense of kinship that we are not alone. That everyone is more or less in the same boat.

Having come away form Goa with so much to navigate, I’m taken aback by the gentleness with which I have been going through it all. I think back to being in a similar situation some years ago and I can see the difference. I know for a fact that it is the presence of people like D and K, in whose lives I see similarities with mine and it gives me immense confidence, with whom I have talked about issues direct and indirect, and from whom I gain a quiet strength that all things will pass, that we are looked after, that we are enough, that has contributed to this shift in my being.

I loved that we cooked so many meals together, in Goa and in Bangalore. It takes a special level of comfort to get into someone’s kitchen and help yourself, pitch in without asking, basically make yourself at home, and it’s an ease that warms my heart.

On Thursday, I caught up with S for a lunch of Andhra meals at Nagarjuna where we ate almost as fast as we chatted. It extended into black coffee and iced teas at Koshy’s where we discussed our new thoughts about gender (amongst other very important things) in hushed tones. She got me the loveliest cotton dress (with pockets!) as a birthday present, and when she pointed to my new sling bag and said she loved it, I emptied it out and gave it to her.

There was also the Thai meal D, K and I snuck in, at Misu which really surpassed my expectations and made me very very happy.

It must be a week of gifts because earlier, D got me flowers for the house. Purple ones that I put in a vase on the console, where they’ve lasted more than there usual time, and two long stalks of tuberoses that I stuck in a whiskey bottle.

Friday night had us turning in relatively early, considering the many many nights we’ve stayed up beyond the usual limit our old lady bones usually allow us to. But, it was not meant to be. I got out from under my blanket at 10.45 to get a peek at the pre-eclipse full moon, and eventually we ended up on the terrace, beanbag, cushions, mat and blankets in tow, where the three of us camped out under the moon. Determined to catch the eclipse, but fading away and drifting off to sleep before it actually started. But the near-hour we spent basking in the moonlight, watching bats hover around and the odd sparkle of Venus shining through from behind the heavy cloud cover, was just amazing.

On Saturday morning we said our goodbyes and if I hadn’t had plans to meet D for breakfast, I’d have been very, very bummed roaming around an empty house all by myself. D and I had promised to meet to exchange gifts we’ve been holding on to on a string of endless planned and botched meetings. I got the most delightful gift I have in ages — Kiki de Montparnasse, that I have only lusted over before and never thought to own and a wildly unexpected handwritten note. I’m a sucker for those, and when they bring unexpectedly life-affirming messages, it’s a win win win. Told you it’s a week of gifts, no?

Eventually, I did come home to the full force of the gloom of my two week break (if I were to count ten days in Goa plus the three in Bangalore when we had D and K over!) inevitably ending.

As nice as it was to be at home with VC again, potter about clearing up the house and doing comfortingly mundane things like change the sheets, tend to the piled up laundry and cook a simple meal, I had to fight a strange lethargy that had came over me. It brought with it extra long naps on Saturday and Sunday. And Sunday was spent mostly in a funk — restless and a bit antsy. I attributed it to the effects of the full moon lingering on, but VC also pointed out that this Sunday-evening-gloom seems to be a recurring, weekly thing. I hadn’t realised it, but he is right and I want to try and really get to the bottom of why it is so. I don’t have an office to get to on Monday, the start of a new week per se doesn’t bring me down. So why do Sunday evenings get to me?

After restlessly flitting about not achieving much all day, I decided to cook to get myself together. And it worked. Amma was to arrive from Bombay and had asked for a simple dinner. So I cooked a big pot of dal (for them and for us), a karela sabji that I attempted for the first time, and a masala stir fry of boiled eggs. Despite how out of sync I’ve been with the kitchen — with the sense of routine, of even wanting to cook coming and going in waves — it still does ground me in ways that few other things do.

I took dinner over to my folks’ to realise that amma had brought back brownies form Theobroma for us. It really has been a week of happy surprises, and a perfect way to turn in. Brownie in my belly and happy in my heart.

Monday has rolled along, and things have slowly slipped back to normalcy. I resumed yoga today. I caught up on emails, received some happy-making ones. Ate a sumptuous meal with my parents, something I had been missing, I realised. And I caught yet another long nap — something is making me really luxuriate with these. And just like that the gloom of the weekend has lifted completely.

One year ago: Bangalore: a graphic novel
Two years ago: Day 211: Interwebzy things