Monday Tarot Message: On shame, hiding and relationships

Who are you when nobody is looking? What parts of yourself do you shy away from revealing even to your closest people? What are the casual white lies you tell to keep what’s hidden intact? Observe that today.

The need to lie about who we are comes from underlying shame, and shame, lying and hiding almost always comes from not being fully at peace with those aspects of and in ourselves. As long as they remain hidden, our work towards meeting our authentic selves remains incomplete. Because what we keep from the world, we also keep away from ourselves. Bridging that gap requires compassion so we may meet all that’s unpalatable, undesirable and sometimes downright loathsome, within us.

The thing is, each and every one of us comes with some inherent shame or self-loathing. Healing this requires compassion. Not to justify or allow continual inauthenticity, but to trust that what’s “shameful” needs acceptance, even integration, in order to ge healed. So we don’t have to be fragmented anymore.

The Seven of Swords asks to also look at your closest relationships. Who you are encouraged to be stealthy, cautious or surreptitious around? Who triggers your shame, making you most want to present a more “palatable” version of yourself?

We all have someone like this even in our closest circles. Sometimes it is our partners, our closest friends, or even our parents — with whom we may very well have great relationships. What version of yourself do you present to your closest people?

This happens because the ego is steadfastly committed to saying “yes” to relationships that help keep what you find shameful hidden. But this also means saying “yes” to avoiding the work of healing shame and meeting yourself wholly. And worse, it means saying “no” to your authentic self.

Most often, those of us with a history of deep shame are attracted to lovers and friends who appear to accept us completely, but around whom we unconscioulsy have to shrink, downplay, downsize ourselves. Think about that person/s in your life today. Look out for the ways in which you are stealthy around them. Choose well.

One year ago: Love filled
Two years ago: Everything is going to the beat
Four years ago: Flight

Monday Tarot Message: Find your tribe

That familiar grief of lost friendship that keeps rearing its head time and time again, is never without reason. I am going through yet another cycle of re-looking at myself, observing what has changed in this brief period, and along with it re-looking at what that has changed in my relationships. It also means observing the subtlest shifts in how I am with people, and how people are being with and around me. It’s making me once again re-look at who I want to belong to and how. This happens every time I reach a point of levelling up. I realise it is actually an upward spiral that brings me to the same emotions again and again (that’s why the recurring grief), albeit a little deeper. Lightness follows grief, brightness follows darkness, connection and solitude dance together, belonging and loneliness walk side by side.

So I have been going through a strange sort of pulling back that feels quite unlike me, and yet I am allowing myself to go with it. It’s almost like I am testing what happens when I pull back and really let go. What changes in people around me, who stays, who reaches out, who understands. It has been utterly fascinating. It has been a period of loneliness, and frankly, some anger too. This time around, though, there is renewed clarity about what I want for myself in terms of people and relationships, and what kind of presence (or the lack of it) just won’t do anymore.

So this seemed like a super interesting card to have popped up right after feeling this way for a while now. A reminder that just as relationships endure when individuals are committed to developing a healthy sense of who they are, individuals can truly grow when they’re surrounded by others who support that.

But this can be difficult for many of us. Especially, if we didn’t grow up with adults who valued or encouraged a sense of self in us. In many cultures this is avoided as encouraging over-confidence, self-obsession or selfishness. Without these early lessons, we may go through adulthood lost and trying to discover ourselves, wondering what we are outside of all the roles we play.

Inculcating wholeness, or a sense of self involves exploring making and respecting boundaries, getting in tune with personal desires, discovering the ability to hold space for ourselves, being in touch with our needs so we can go after them in an authentic manner.

While some part of this work is solitary, much of it requires the company of a chosen tribe.Relationships act as mirrors for our projections, where suppressed needs find expression in mysterious ways. Observing how you are around people, and how they are around you can be a very loaded way to get cues and insights into what you need to work on yourself.

So it is useful to identify a tribe. Who gets to be in your circle and walk with you as you tend to your inner self? Are they committed to their own growth? What happens to you when you are with them? Choose who you show your vulnerabilities to, with care. But perhaps that’s the stuff of another post.

In learning to relate to others, we understand our preferences, we see who vibes-in and who vibes-out. It is a key part in finding belonging, and in finding our true place in the world at large. It helps iron out the chinks, confront our shadow selves, and deepen what we want to make of ourselves. To believe this work can be done entirely in isolation is delusion.

The Three of Cups asks us to embrace the role of people around us on this journey. Friends, parents, families, significant others — whether or not there are difficulties in these relationships, they are good spaces to find portals into healing the inner self and learning in adulthood who you really are.

***

This is your timely reminder that if you’d like a personal Tarot Session to explore yourself and get more insights like this, you can reach out to me to make a booking. I offer these sessions in person, in Bangalore, as well as telephonically for anybody anywhere in the world.

Also, pssst: if you’ve already worked with me and are considering a second session, there’s a discount of 10% waiting for you. Only until the end of this month.

One year ago: The last of the despatches from Benaras   
Two years ago: But if you try sometime, you’ll get what you need   
Three years ago: What I’ve been reading   
Four years ago: Telepathy

Of love and longing

Like thousands of other Indians who are horrified at the aftermath since the Delhi pogrom, I am no longer able to keep my politics under wraps. I find that it is showing up, surfacing, in my face, even without any effort. Pushing me into spaces and conversations where I have to really think about where I stand, and what I really feel. I’m trying not to be hasty about many things, to take my time to decide and make up my mind, but I find that being altogether apathetic is no longer an option.

It’s clear that what the current Government is doing in the name of making a statement that probably works as a (severely myopic) political tactic has done some severe damage to the minds of people. Much of this is going to be hard, if not impossible, to rebuild.

This has come up especially loud and clear, in my work. Last weekend at the workshops, it was not a coincidence that three clients came with issues of distress around the devastation playing out in our country. I know that going forward, in an increasingly polarised world with multiple forces trying so hard to divide us in as many ways as possible, people’s longing for connection and belonging is only going to be on the rise. And so, I realise my work as a practitioner and facilitator of family constellations feels relevant and has suddenly taken on a new avatar.

The connection between the personal and the political has never been greater for me than since studying family constellations. Belonging is such a fundamental theme in the work, and I have written about it so very often, here too. I’ve seen time and time again how the transgenerational trauma and effects of world events like the Partition, World Wars, mass migrations, being prisoners of war, and the like, experienced by older generations impact the current generations ability and need for Belonging, Love, Flow and Life. And how the effects of it show in surprising and often unbelievable ways.

Watching current events pan out, I am frankly petrified of the nation we are becoming. In full view of the world that is watching. The continued blame shifting around the violence in Delhi, the complete lack of accountability, the violent amounts of straightfaced lies, the atmosphere of uncertainty and the abject lack of empathy as we have all just slipped back to assumed normalcy as thousands in Delhi are still missing, possibly dead, entire neighbourhoods burned to the ground, with virtually no questions asked, IS TERRIFYING.

I know this is going to show up in my work time and time again. The need to hold these polarities, to make a case for peace, love and hope, against all odds, even as we acknowledge and call out the effects of these atrocities. It’s a tough job. And it’s easy for me to slip into an abyss of gloom sitting in my home endlessly scrolling and consuming the news.

But because Belonging is such a huge theme not just in my study, but now in my life too, recent events have had me wondering a lot about it.

  • Who decides who belongs?
  • How do you belong once you have lost everything?
  • What is the place of love in the world today?
  • What is connection in the world today?

I live for pockets of solace and moments of hope when I get them and yesterday, it came in the form of Sindhustan. An exquisitely made labour of love. I went to catch Sapna Bhavnani’s epic film Sindhustan, but reached the venue early and slipped into a talk that was already running. It was titled “The Politics of Citizenship” and it was about a newly launched book The Deoliwallahs, about the true story of the internment of Indian Chinese in the 1960s. Co-author Dileep Dsouza was present, while Joy Ma spiritedly joined on Skype. Somehow the boundarylessness of the setting itself was so fitting. The conversation shone a light on an issue I was entirely unaware of and even though I had to duck out in time to catch the film, the experience was everything.

Sindhustan, on the other hand, had me in tears from the get go. I was so overwhelmed for so many reasons and I feel a serious lack of words to express what or why. So I’m not going to try, except to share some lines that have stayed with me.

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.

I may finally be understanding that my inexplicable bind with Sindhis goes beyond my love for VC and Sindhi curry, because my fascination about the community, their migration and the way in which they exist as a culture today has no logical reasons.

I came away definitely looking at not just the community differently, but also feeling very differently about my family. The family I have often struggled to find my own belonging with. It is so interesting how answers to so many long-held questions can suddenly crystallise when you’re least expecting them.

When love ends, everything ends.

I have known for a while that the average South Indian like me, especially us who live in the South, are largely shielded from the true atrocity and violence of the Partition. I have in some measure tried to dig up and read about it for my own curiosity. More recently, it has come up again and again as a theme and an event in my work with family constellations, and I may have only begun to understand its consequences a little bit more. The film gave me a solid hours worth of fodder to pull away from the frankly useless maddening cacophony of news cycles and Twitter threads, offering not just hope through the stories of love, of overcoming strife, of humanity, of spirit and of belonging, but also reason to change my perspective.

I’m sitting with that for a while.

So I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity I literally chanced upon yesterday. I went off to soak in the feeling over dinner with myself after the screening, furiously jotting down notes and thoughts. And I sat quietly, with a sense that while I know what is going on right now is looking like it will be a long, brutal fight that we will undoubtedly pay for heavily, somewhere inside of me I carried a glimmer of hope. That maybe we will be okay after all.

One year ago: Baffling Benaras
Two years ago: Everyday is blue Monday

Monday Tarot Message: Everyday grief

I have found such a stark difference in the way I experience closure in lost relationships where I have had a greater degree of processing the sadness of it, versus those where things ended suddenly, where I felt misunderstood (and still continue to) and had to move away, shut myself off, close my heart up, without any degree of processing that sadness at all.

It’s ironic that this past weekend, as hung out with some of the nicest friends I have at this point in time, having a genuinely good time, engaging, feeling nurtured, while also kicking back and relaxing, I was flooded with thoughts about a friendship that ended with a complete lack of space for vulnerability in the ending itself.

This was of course the issue with said friendship, and why I had to eventually let it go. So perhaps it is not ironic that even in the ending, the same pattern continued. The friendship had thrown up a lot of smaller grief along the way. Signs of a possible, impending ending. Signs that I had ignored, because at the time I was so frightened of having to let go, of being alone, of untethering myself. And in the bargain, I know the relationship had made me avoid facing the pain and grief it was causing me altogether.

And this is probably precisely why thoughts about this friendship still linger, long after it has ended and we have both ostensibly moved on. I have much grief still to process with this one. So I am not at all surprised at today’s card. It has come at an apt time, as a timely reminder to do right, now, what I haven’t done enough in relationships past.

Regular, functioning relationships throw up so many instances of small, everyday grief. That cancelled plan that you were so looking forward to, the prolonged lack of availability, the desire for conversation when there was no space for it, that friend who suddenly changed (as everyone is entitled to).

While there is always good reason for each one of the scenarios above, it doesn’t negate the minor level heartbreak that we’re all constantly facing. It is also not to say that we turn into snowflakes who take offence at and hang on to every little instance of things not going the way we’d like. But how often do we allow ourselves to feel this heartbreak? Is there space for sadness and everyday grief of this minor kind in our relationships and friendships at all?

We usually reserve the grief for potential endings of relationships/friendships. Even the mere thought of that grief can be scary, so we avoid familiarising ourselves with it. Over time it may be that even when we know a potential ending maybe good for us, we put off the inevitable, and sometimes the necessary too. Sometimes we keep walking back into failed relationships in the hope that something will be different, simply because we don’t want to face the sadness of the ending.

The reason it feels impenetrable and all-consuming is usually because we have not made space for small, daily grief to touch us. To slowly make space for it, is to know that we can hold it. So you do not have to avoid it altogether.

If you find yourself at a crossroads in a relationship or friendship, the card today asks you to imagine what rebuilding might look like. To put pen to paper if necessary, and work out all that you will need to hold yourself in the time after an ending. When the grief has arrived. To think about everything from the minutest, deepest emotional needs (the grief and sadness to deal with), to the other practical physical needs (an altered physical reality?). To work on building resources so you have them when the time of need comes.

I know it seems like this might be more apt for broken marriages, cases of divorce or long term romantic relationships that come to an end. But I feel strongly that it is no different in matters of friendship too.

Often we avoid this part of the work, not wanting to imagine ourselves at our most vulnerable — feeling abandoned, rejected, like we have failed — and so when grief comes, we jump straight to “moving on” bypassing the grieving process that is crucial to authentic recovery and actual moving on.

The message for this week is to acknowledge and make space for everyday grief, to get friendly with it on a daily basis. To avoid making it a monster you have to avoid at all costs. So you know you can hold it when it comes, as it does with every one of us. Because it is important to give grief a holding space. Without it there is no evolving, no growing.

One year ago: Slow row
Two years ago: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say
Four years ago: Small joys

Cry freedom

Sabke labon ki tu
fariyad rahega,

Tu azaad hai, azaad rahega.

One year ago: Open
Two years ago: The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself

On love

Generations of conditioning about love as something that completes us has ruined it all. We’re not jigsaw puzzles, ffs. We’re all independent human beings, capable of being whole and integrated on our own. If anything, authentic connection begins right here — within. In our own hearts, with our own selves.

Instead, we roam the world in search of connection that can complete us, when actually the struggle is a connection with ourselves. And that connection with ourselves is really the basis from which healthy, balanced and positive connections with fellow human beings can grow. Without it we’re only going to find projections, attachments and codependency; instead of true intimacy. And belonging.

What’s worse, that sort of inauthentic connection will demand people-pleasing of you. All of which comes at a high cost to The Self. Negating, minimising your true self, and moving further away from an authentic connection with yourself.

When that connection with oneself is on shaky ground, it leads to the need to find safety in connection outside the self. When there are things within us are difficult to see, hear, sit with, acknowledge and integrate, we push them our Shadow. And the larger the Shadow gets, the more fragmented we feel. This is the sense of being incomplete. And so, we look for “completion” outside of ourselves.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post about the fleeting moments of being the harmony of being deeply connected with myself and how that miraculously reflected in a sense of peaceful connection and ease with everything around me. This sort of authentic connection with each other is the need of the hour. In this age of hate and polarity, we need connection more than ever.

If you’re looking for love, start with yourself. Begin within. Do you truly love yourself wholly? What parts need some work before you get to acceptance?

Today, a wish for every one of you to find and nurture love — in significant relationships and friendship alike. Love that gradually grows free of projections, that isn’t attachment masquerading as love, that isn’t the harmful claw of control under the garb of love. A love that holds close the spark of honest and free expression, but also knows deeply the silence needed to hold space. A love that allows for comforting space to individuate and become your own person, while also connecting creatively and intimately. A love that both liberates you, as well as grounds and anchors you.

Today, this wish is for every one of you to find and nurture that love within yourselves first. It really is the first intimate relationship to nurture, and the only way to find true, balanced, wholesome love in significant relationships and friendship alike.

One year ago: Born again, all grown up
Two years ago: We’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got

Coke love

Something about flights and travel brings back Coke Studio to me in a big, big way. Every single time.

Did another massive on-repeat listen of my Season 12 favourites all the way to Bombay, thinking fondly of this warm evening we had at home in December. I actually physically hurt with a longing for how much I miss this music-filled, perpetual-food-coma, period in my life from the Goa years that was super-charged on a bonhomie I am yet to experience since then.

Listening tot he entire playlist made me super nostalgic, as usual. Enough to want to check ticket prices to Berlin for another reunion. Hahaha.

PS: Also, I’m running out of descriptive titles for this repetitive Coke-Studio-Love kind of post

One year ago: Glowing within, growing within 
Two years ago: What you seek is seeking you 
Three years ago: Busy times apparently

Monday Tarot Message: On receiving

I’m Starting a Monday ritual of sharing a message for the week. Just a little something to get my tarot energies out into the world, and who knows, maybe some of you may enjoy and benefit from it?

I’m also going to be posting a version of these on Instagram every Monday going forward.

***

As luck would have it, I picked an apt card for current times.

The idea of belonging and connection. It has come up in virtually every other reading I did this past month. Either in the ask for guidance in relationships, in the context of clashing families and community, in finding companionship and friends. And I too have been thinking so much about belonging, in context to the current political scenario.

This card speaks words of belonging, to me. If you’re waiting to find belonging or connection or simply support and understanding, it’s quite likely you already have a fixed idea of what it ought to look like, and you’re waiting for it to take shape in exactly that way.

It’s also equally likely that you are already receiving connection, the opportunity to belong, be held and loved, in many other ways. And that they may not look anything like the belonging and connection you long for.

Is it possible to perhaps change the gaze with which you’re looking? So as to not lose out on what already is, in the constant hankering for something more? Perhaps the work is to learn to receive what is with grace, and with gratitude? To find ways in which you can count your blessings. Identify the ways in which you are receiving — belonging, connection, support, love — and put your energy and focus behind that instead.

In a world that celebrates (and often conflates) independence and strength, it’s easy to lose touch with the authenticity of collaboration, community, connection — the very building blocks of belonging — such that the basic act of receiving becomes challenging.

This card always reminds me of these lines from the brilliant Toko-Pa Turner’s book Belonging, in which she says;

Worship at the altar of your being supported. After all, you are the receiver of too many generosities to count. Count them anyway … At any given moment we can attune ourselves to wellbeing, which is a tributary of belonging. It is that place in our hearts where we are grateful for all that we’re receiving and, for a moment, want nothing more.

Belonging begins with the ability to receive. So today, maybe think about how it is for you to receive — a gift, a compliment, a pleasantry, an olive branch, a hug, an act of kindness, help.

Four years ago: Finally moving

Awaaz do

Hum ek hain.

I really wish I had at least one video of this slogan, but every time that it was hurled out through the mic, I would freeze, my hair standing on end, driven to tears.

Sometimes I wonder what’s the point of taking myself to protests because I spend much of my time just crying, and wiping tears. So two nights ago when I headed to the first night of the 24/7 protest slowly growing outside the Frazer Town Mosque on MM Road, I wondered if maybe more than my doing something for the protest, the protest is doing something for me.

It has certainly been very cathartic for me. Just to be there, surrounded by swelling crowds of unity, finding a voice and joining in the slogans. Just saying Azaadi, over and over has been healing. For me.

After literal years of being a cynic and fearing this country is a lost cause in the hands of rogues, this past month has filled me up with hope. Literally, somatically, I have felt like I am being filled up by an energy I didn’t know we had as a country. Every time I have been at a protest I wonder where these people, people like me, have been hiding for all these years!

The MM Road protest has been incredible. Organised completely by and for women, it’s been an outstanding show of how ultimately it’s women who roll their sleeves up and get the job done. I’ve seen them there in huge numbers, big and little kids in tow, organising food, passing around water, multiple rounds of chai, and even coming back to collect trash.

At the foot of the stage, where woman after women goes up to speak or sing or chant or sloganeer, there is a makeshift activity centre of sorts. It’s not as fancy as I am making it sound, but it moved me immensely, because it was a sign of women doing what they need to, to get out of their homes to get the job done. It was well past 10 pm on Thursday night, and with  probably nowhere to leave their kids since they were out on the streets, several women gathered their kids together, distributed piles of paper, scattered some paints and crayons amidst them and asked them to stay together. The kids stayed, doodling, making posters, painting the tricolour on each others’ faces, while their mothers donned reflective jackets over their hijabs, and job hustling with their volunteer work.

I was there till well past midnight, all by myself, long after my friends left, and it was entirely safe, well organised, just so tremendous and inspiring.

I said this before, and I’ll say it again. This isn’t just about religious fundamentalism anymore (though that is also a big reason why we need to push back). This is about divisive politics. Politics that will come after minority after minority. Today it’s religious factions, but it wont be long before it irreversibly ruins the poor, Dalits, Adivasis, LGBTQIA folks, women and children.

Tomorrow marks 70 years of the Republic of India, and there is no better time to revisit and reassert our rights, and celebrate the very constitution that makes us who we are as a nation. The constitution that is at stake today.

All bets are off. The shiny veneer of the promise of development has all but faded. Unemployment is at its lowest. We’re in the midst of a full-blown agrarian crisis. The economy is in shambles and all we can seem to do is wring our hands and watch hopelessly. In fact, IMF is now pitting the global economic slowdown on India. And to top it all, our rights are severely at stake now.

The world is watching. Yesterday, The Economist revealed the cover of the first edition of the year. It reads “Intolerant India“.

We have got to stand up as one, like this matters. And like it matters to all of us alike.

***

The MM Road 24/7 (indefinite) protest is happening outside the mosque, opposite Carry Fresh Supermarket in Frazer Town. Today is Day 3, and there’s a lot of hope and determination to keep this going in support of the incredible women of Shaheen Bagh. If you’re in the city and you’d like to show your support, even if it is just for a short while, please consider going there.

This realy awe-inspiring piece talks about how it’s women taking the lead.

They need our support. Awaaz do, hum ek hain. 

One year ago: Full moon magic
Two years ago: Gravity is working against me
Four years ago: Love

Here’s to getting old

Another revolution around the sun, VC.

Another milestone. Another year on walking this planet.

Another year obsessing about all the things that you do. Another year living in that fully committed single-mindedly focused way that you do.

Another year of simultaneously infuriating me with our polar opposites and softening me with our fundamental likeness.

Another year of inconveniencing me with unnecessarily heavy luggage all for another year of stunning pictures and memories from our travels.

And yet, I suspect this year will be a touch different. So as you step into the new, I wish for you a year of just enough surprise of magic and just enough comforting familiarity. A balance of enough challenges and the right amount of easy wins, too. A year of flow and ease, peppered with opportunities to stretch yourself. I wish for solidity and harmony as you continue to take life by the horns and grow from strength to strength like you have this past year.

Something tells me you have only just begun.

Happy birthday, old man :D

One year ago: Would you rewind it all the time
Three years ago: Redemption reading

Through the years

The sadness of a really good time, of the sort that uplifts and nourishes and fills you up, coming to an end hasn’t hit me in literally years. The last memory of such a deep post-good-time of this degree sadness is from when I was a young child and my favourite aunt and uncle would visit us once a year, leading to endless bunked days of school and just too much fun all round. So much fun that when it was time to leave, even as young as 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, I remember feeling abject sadness and finding it difficult to slip back to normalcy and function as usual once again. It always took a few days to get back to the regular rhythm of life.

And that’s the degree of sadness that hit me yesterday once S had left. Thankfully, I had a meeting with S in the evening to soften the blow of the hard knock it could have been. And today, I met S for drinks and brunch at mid day which is always uplifting, and certainly helped fight the gloom that I would have inevitably felt if I was left to my own devices.

Talking to S this afternoon, about friendships as we always do, I realised for all my complains and cribs about disappointments and dissatisfactions about people, especially in a year like this one that has seen the most upheaval and shaking of the ground beneath my feet, I have also received the best and mellowest gifts of love, affection and friendship. I am not very quick to notice it for what it is, and that is something I am trying to change.

The last week spent with S and VC was life-affirming in that sense. And I want to acknowledge the many ways in which it was so good for me.

It gave strength and validation to my deeply held belief that friendships that are based in simple truths and genuine connection don’t take work. They work beyond distance, infrequent meetings and all else. And they have that wonderful ability to rejoin and pick up exactly where we may have left off, even when either party has undergone massive transformation in the time spent apart.

I realised S and J are amongst the handful of people (that I can count on one hand) that I have this absolute and utter privilege with. They honour me with a kind of friendship that some of the relationships closer home that I have struggled to keep going haven’t. That ability to cut through the fat and come straight to the heart of the matter. A high degree of respect and space for vulnerability, even as we hold space for the silliness and laughter. A genuine warmth and being excited for the best in the other.

These are folks I talk to maybe 3 times a year. It’s only in the last six odd months since we started a whatsapp group between us (yes, it took us that long) that there is some form of frequent banter. But otherwise it’s restricted to the timely wishes and brief catch ups on each others birthdays and new year, at best. And yet, somehow, by hook or by crook, we seek each other out at least once a year. Making plans to meet somewhere or the other, dedicated time to spend catching up and reliving the old days. This, is not something I have with literally anyone else in my life. The effort and the follow-through on this, year after year. And today, I realised I really love that we do it.

This past week, I laughed harder than I have in a long while. VC admitted he enjoyed our company more than just being the third wheel he usually makes himself feel like. And I came away feeling like we are grown up versions of ourselves from 2012-2014, with something at the heart of it all, intact. To have each been through some seriously diverse experiences, some transformative times, and still find it’s possible to connect. And connect long and well, and enjoy every moment of it, is special.

So, when I got home in the evening I dug out pictures that pock-mark the many years of our friendship. There are folks who have lifelong friends. I haven’t had that luck as yet. But here, I see solid potential of being stuck with each other for life. OOPSIE – hahahaha.

I realised I have a picture for nearly every year since we split ways, and that we’ve met in six cities and four countries in the years gone by. Again, not something I see myself going out of my way to do with too many people.

From 2013, when we did routinely took off for a staycation when we all lived in Goa.

This was taken on this summer trip that I documented, but several day trips and wanderings — way way too many to count because we’d go out literally every weekend — that probably went undocumented. When we weren’t out and about, we lived out of each others homes. We shared way too many common loves — for movies, music, art, travel — that made us converge on more things than not.

In fact, I cannot separate my association with monsoon listening of Coke Studio from S and J at all. I write about it here. I shared my most impactful professional year, the one that had more far-reaching consequences that I knew, working with S. We’ve cooked way too many meals together and shared way more beers for our own good.

S left Goa in the end of 2013 and moved to Bombay. He visited us in Goa again in 2014, but apparently we took more pictures of the food we ate and absolutely none of ourselves at all.

In 2015, we visited S in Singapore.

In 2016, S flew in from Singapore to Bangkok to catch up with me. Many shenanigans ensued, and ended with this very drunken picture that was taken at 2 am in a bustling street market.

Somehow, we missed meeting in 2017, as S reiterated today with a “WHAT HAPPENED IN 2017??” when I shared these pictures with him. I was caught in the landslide that was moving to Bangalore and the year zipped by without any big travel.

In 2018, we made it to Paris where S now lives. And he and J plotted to surprise us, with J flying in from Hamburg.

Again, way too many shenanigans ensued. And I’ve written about the ways in which I felt so filled up from it all here and here.

Last December, we caught up in Goa, just months after we had returned from Europe.

And then, a whole year later we connected in Bangalore, making a trip to Coorg together. I have a new picture to add to this collection — the first one in the post.

I want to say this is fate or destiny or some such, but I think it isn’t just that. It’s also a lot of deliberate intention, and sincere keeping up of our word and following through on the things we plan to do. That is a deeply cherished aspect of friendship I have coveted for years now.

It’s not too late to acknowledge that for all the knocks and falls I’ve had in the last few years, and especially this past year, as far as people and friendship goes, I am still one lucky girl, for all the love and connection that has stayed and found it’s way to me, despite it all.

One year ago: Take me to your heart
Two years ago: Shut up and drive
Three years ago: Time

So blue

Currently severely feeling the sads since S left this evening. The house got extremely quiet and lifeless for a bit. Thankfully I had a meeting in the evening to run off to, but when I got back home there was no escaping the full force of a plunge into deep, deep melancholy at a superbly fun and nourishing few days coming to an end. As all good things eventually do.

Niyu and amma made some sheera and sent it over so I ate a big bowl of it to feel better. Yeah, I’m that level of sad and feeling the post-holiday blues.

One year ago: I just want the realness
Two years ago: Warm sound
Three years ago: Spinning the wheel

Friendship fires

 

Two nights of feeding a fire to keep it going long enough for us to stay snug and warm, talking intimately and candidly huddled around it, listening to the best music is what it took to end a year of massive friendship lessons on a positive and love-filled note.

There was warmth in the silences. Life in the conversation. Fuel in the feelings shared. I am mildly changed by the three days I have spent away in the company of VC and S.

Something fundamental has shifted as far as my perspectives on adult friendships go. And after months of not knowing what, this trip away illuminated that something for me.

I’m just sitting in the afterglow of it.

I’ll say this again. I’m grateful for those who left, almost as much as I am grateful for those who remained.

One year ago: Lay down all your thoughts
Two years ago: Morning song

Love and belonging in politically charged times

My journey back to myself has been pockmarked with several points where I’ve questioned and examined belonging. Belonging is a theme I visit often, as I heal parts of myself and make efforts to integrate them — to really belong to myself fully again.

In recent times my focus has shifted from beyond myself to the world around me — both immediate and extensive. I have been asking What is my place in the world? Where do I fit in? What is my purpose? Where and how can I belong? And I find myself deeply disillusioned and let down by the ideas of belonging that crop up around me. Wishy washy, idealistic notions that sound pretty in words but are very difficult to put to life. Lip-service by the rich and privileged who cleave to feel-good ideas of connectedness and togetherness but think nothing of putting their support behind acts and bills that scream disharmony and throw entire sects of our people under the bus. Religious ideas of love and togetherness that they otherwise hold close are rendered null and void when the same mouths and brains that do things to tell me they’re backing the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.

I’m sick of the hypocrisy.

This makes it very hard for me to belong to groups that I ought to belong to by default. My family, my neighbourhood, my state, my country.

Today, I question where I belong. And I’m constantly looking for a spark of some signs of belonging in people around me. But it’s getting harder and harder to find.

I am the great granddaughter of staunch Gandhians. My great grandmother spun khadi at home, and she and my great grandfather marched with Gandhi in many acts of civil disobedience. My grandmothers older sister even went to jail for it. And yet, those same Gandhian values that I’ve grown up being dinned into my head, are altogether washed out today. My family is mostly unrecognisable when it comes to politics. They’re supporters of the fascist forces that celebrate Gandhi’s assassinator. I simply don’t understand it.

How then, can I say I belong to this? When I have nobody to converse and dialogue this with? When ideas of respect and politeness are conflated with dishonesty.

I can no longer be dishonest so I’ve chosen silence for too long now. That silence is slowly snapping.

My building is filled with upper-caste, patriarchal Brahmins who have displayed their displeasure of our unbrahminical ways more than a handful of times. I definitely don’t belong here. But I shut the door of my home and I make do.

I have for very long now questioned how I feel about belonging to India. The truth is, I don’t feel it at all. I have resented being Indian since 2014.

But something interesting happened this week. Over this week at all the protests I went to, though, I felt a surge of belonging. Like I had found my people. Like all is not lost and we may have just not sold the country to a majority of hate-mongers.

There is something incredibly softening and nourishing about finding this kind of connection. In receiving it, I realised it s something I have been missing it for way too long now. I have walked around feeling like an alien in my surroundings, around my family and everywhere else for just too long

So what I felt this week, I’d like to think is a start of something new, a new wave of healing yet another part of myself that has been deeply hurt and excluded.

Registered my protest today by beginning to read BR Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. Woefully late in life, and just a quarter of the way through this is essential reading for every Indian (every human really), in a country that’s being fast made to forget the very idea of India that birthed our constitution and our identity as a nation. Essential reading for people being lulled to sleep slowly in a hateful frenzy. Essential reading for a staggering number of people in my immediate circle who have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.

I can’t do much to change people around me, I think. As always, I realised today again that I can only work on myself. If what’s going on in the country today means anything to me, I can only inform myself and solidify my politics. I can only show up more often. I can only do everything it takes to put my entire being behind knowing exactly what I am talking about when I say,

I refuse to buy this hatred that insists on making me believe that I don’t belong in my own country.

I can keep speaking my truth. And I can keep consistently choosing love.

Because without truth and love, I’m going nowhere in this search for belonging.

One year ago: Find my direction magnetically
Three years ago: Too much nature ho gaya

There is a new voice

Thinking of Mary Oliver, on The Journey, today. This past week has been ike coming out from underwater, taking big chest-fulls of air, filling my heart with a soft light and breathing normally again. I’m on an upswing and around me even though nothing is different, everything has changed.

This is what moving through and forward – through the joys and pain alike — is like, I suppose.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Unlearning lifelong patterns and choosing to honour oneself over everything else is a deep, slow, long and often painful process. It requires being a little selfish, which has been easier said than done for me. Because in the doing, it has meant confronting the hardcoded people-pleaser in me, shocking the side of me that believed I was always my own person, and now contending with the possibility that I will be seen as selfish, unkind and self-serving.

As I move through this, without willing or wishing it away, and accepting this part of the journey in its entirety, I am deeply aware of how people close to me may at times feel hurt, shunned, abandoned or rejected.

I can see how relationships are shifting from one day to the next, how some have ended altogether, and others are having to find new ground — not always swiftly and easily.

There is a shit ton of grief and sadness, guilt and fear at all this changing, at letting go at a lifelong comfortable way of being. Of being okay with letting people go. Of facing temporary bouts of despair and loneliness. Of having to grow a new skin, and feeling utterly vulnerable until that new skin appears fully.

There have also been moments of doubt, when all of this has been sometimes too much to take. Moments of questioning if this was worth it? Moments when it all do terrible, I wonder when it will feel right again. Moments that make me want to stop feeling at all.

I’ve wanted to turn this around many times over. Shut all of this that I have unraveled over the past two years, back into a box where it came from. Lock it up and throw away the key.

I’ve been here many times before, and I realise that I will come back to this same place again and again. That’s just the way the cycle goes.

Each time I will question if this was worth it. And each time, that voice inside — of the soul I am nourishing and the life I am serving — will whisper yes, very, very softly.

There is a new voice.

One year ago: Yes we all need a room of our own
Two years ago: I shake off all that no longer serves me
Three years ago: The last of the books for 2016