Day 94: Because everything is never as it seems

I’m grateful for medicine, the hospital and how quickly Niyu was able to spring back from her illness. I’m grateful for reiki. For D and K, and my in laws who pitched in with the healing.

I’m thankful for my mother, who is easily the best kind of mother in any crisis. She just knows how to put everything on hold and channel her entire being towards where it is most needed. I’m grateful for what I see and admire in her.

I’m grateful for idlis. Bangalore’s best, just outside the hospital, no less.

I’m thankful for having made it to the gym three days in a row. No questions, no expectations. Just getting up, getting going and moving.

I’m thankful for my body. For its cooperation, kindness and agility.

I’m thankful for the music that keeps me going as I make yet another attempt, this time with my focus shifted, resolve renewed. I’m thankful for the 180 degree turn in my head, and for what feels like going back to things the way they used to be — as far as exercise goes. I’m thankful for having waited this out to get where I am today, rather than rushing to find a quick-fix.

I’m thankful for R who has the best playlists. And for how he always has a smashing recommendation. Or three. Like so:

I’m thankful for the work that’s coming our way. For the possibilities that are opening up. For the gumption and courage not to compromise on what we want to do and where we want to be. I’m super grateful for the timely and reliable partners. For the few good clients that are such an incredibly rare breed in a sea of mostly assholes.

I’m grateful for the current ease around friendship. I’m thankful for those who have come and gone, for the purpose they served, for the lessons they brought. I’m very aware of and thankful for those who have stayed. And some time I’m humbled to find reminders of genuine friendship in people who I am least expecting it.

I’m grateful for the patience an the stillness. I’m grateful for the awareness. I’m thankful for the slow absorption that continues to happen.

I’m grateful for the relief of summer showers. I’m thankful for the respite from the heat and the dryness. I’m grateful for coconut oil from our farm. I’m grateful for breakfast mangoes.

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Day 86: Love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves

Today, I’m grateful for the trying-so-hard-to-be-wild party I got to witness from the sidelines this past weekend. Because just when my eyes were about to glaze over from utter and complete boredom, the DJ played this tune that I had somehow all but forgotten. And it hit me like a bolt out of the blue. In the nicest way possible.

I’m glad for the reminder. I’m glad for the chance to sing out loud. I’m glad for the absolutely smack-on lyrics that are simple, but really cut straight to the heart of things.

 

I’m grateful for the music.

And I’m grateful for the champagne. And the wine.

Day 78: People say I should forget

R was apparently listening to the Dev D soundtrack on Apple music last week. And the sneaky little tool announces it to the whole world. So of course I hopped on and gave it a listen early this morning.

I suppose that’s the point. Listening to the album was like closing my eyes and taking a free-fall into the past. Diving headlong, into the abyss of the way we were (Thank you Barbara Streisand).

There’s some music that I will always, always associate with my life in Goa. Just like there’s certain other music that will only always remind me of growing up in Bangalore. My music memory archive is tagged by phases in my life and there’s actually very little overlap between them, each phase having its own distinct soundtrack so to speak.

So now, when a song or track triggers a memory, it’s one very specific time. Sometimes a particular phase, but often times I can drill it down to a particular event. As insignificant as a drive home from the supermarket, sometimes. No other reason to really remember it or retain it, allowing it to hog shelf space in my mind. But it’s there, simply because of how the music playing, either in my car or on my computer, at work or at home, or at a party, has framed it for posterity.

And so it was that I listened to the Dev D soundtrack again, after something like six or seven years. And it took me right back to year one in Goa. I had this pendrive loaded with the most random — some would say eclectic — selection of music, specifically for my car. It had to cover all bases — driving music, upbeat stuff, a touch of trashy pop, some classics and favourites like Coke Studio and other very disjointed singles that Id just taken a fancy for. It had everything from Dave Matthews Band to Dev D so you can probably gather its purpose.

So listening to the soundtrack the other day, specifically this track, nostalgia scooped me into her arms and took me back to that first monsoon, an extra dark night thanks to a city wide power cut.

We had friends over for dinner but fed up waiting for the power to come back, we decided to go out and drive. In the pouring rain. As we got into the car and set off, this was the first track that came on. And all of us — VC, S, J and I — were silent. No talking, just listening to its hauntingly heady beat and that silly “my/by God” refrain.

The streets were inky black, silky swift and all the while the storm howled on. There’s something cinematic about the memory etched in my mind. My black car bumping along the then Miramar highway, with its quaint streetlights (that we’re off) the median with ghosty lanky trees swaying in the rain, all only lightly magically illuminated by our far from adequate headlamps.

We took it in, in silence. The song, louder in my head than it really was.

And all these years later, when the memory of it bubbles up to the surface, triggered by the opening chords of the song, the evening plays out like a scene from a movie, untouched in my mind. And the song, it just as loud.

Two years ago: Day 78: Abandon

Day 68: Come a little bit closer, hear what I have to say

I’ve been all about tuning down my aversions, cutting out the will-never-dos and the won’t-ever-happens, of late. Because if I’ve learnt anything at all in the last few years of my life, it is that anything can happen and everything can change. Even the things you swear won’t, can. And probably will. I’m trying all the damn time, not to be so cock-sure about anything. To approach everything I do, with just a little more give. To allow for that smidgen of change (that I am so sure will never happen).

A lot of this had to do with dissolving my ego a tad. Because I realise that most times, if I swore something — some aspect of me, or a situation I was presented with — would never change it was because it was too damn scared to let it, or it made me feel less in control, or small unsure and unworthy, or it felt too damn far away from where I was for me to even relate. But loosening up a little, I’ve come to believe that making room for the possibility that all those things could in fact change, doesn’t diminish who I am. It just means I’m letting the fear go, and opening myself up to possibilities — whichever way. It means that in the eventuality that things don’t go the way I am so ramrod sure they will, I will not be shattered.

One of the biggest positive manifestations of this change has been the improvement in some of the key relationships in my life. I realised my unwillingness to take feedback was a direct result of being cock-sure about my reasons for doing things and being a certain way, which in turn left absolutely no room for improvement. No give to try alternatives. I used to be impatient, impulsive and very restless in my communication. Stepping back, tuning my mind to acknowledge that there are always other possibilities, other perceptions and opinions outside of my own, has made me slow down a little. I’m not perfect, but I’ve found that swallowing my pride has meant that I do listen more, and I mean really listen not just hear. Listen in a way that makes me contemplate when I am told, the feedback I am given, and consider that maybe my way — just because I am so dead-sure I can be no other way — isn’t always the right way. And that even if it sometimes feels like the right way fr me, it could possibly have completely differing effects on the other person involved.

It’s nice to have the advantage of hindsight, to see how far one has come. For example, I often look back to where I used to be — stubborn (and I’m talking rebel-without-a-cause stubborn) steadfast and sometimes so silly — that when I now encounter statements like “That will never change” it makes me want to laugh. Out loud. Because the words “never change” almost don’t hold any meaning anymore.

Because, everything changes.

Every damned thing.

All of this recently came to light when I was in an argument with someone, and they went down that path. Something to the effect of this-is-who-I-am-and-this-is-what-you-mean-to-me which is all well and good. I laughed. But when that cock-sure, definitive edge of and-that-never-changes got added to the mix, I knew it was time to back off. Because it meant that nothing I said or contributed to the conversation from there on — no matter how honest or true — was going to be heard, let alone make an impact or be acted upon.

It didn’t matter how I felt, I wasn’t going to be heard. Which then begged the question — what use is that love and respect and empathy and generosity (this-is-what-you-mean-to-me) if the relationship doesn’t allow space for me to be heard?

That was my cue to back off. (This also led me to some new realisations about boundaries. More specifically, how much more I need to learn and apply, in this respect. But that’s a story for another post.)

The thing is, being so dead sure, of anything, often means shutting out all other possibilities. Including the possibility that one’s behaviour, actions, words, the version of oneself one bring to a relationship, might be problematic, or detrimental to the way in which the relationship is moving. Or sometimes it’s just that the way one is, isn’t making the other person feel very good, no matter how honest or noble the intentions.

There are few things worse than big, kind gestures wrapped up in ego-driven good-intentions. Perhaps one of those few things, is being cock-sure said good intentions are for the best, and will never change. Because it means there is little chance one will ever examine the effect it has on the very people one seeks to love, respect and shower with generosity; whether they’re actually feeling good or bad to be at the receiving end of it all; and if maybe, just maybe, there is a better way to be. A way that takes into account a version of reality that’s outside of one’s own. A way that could in fact mend or further relationships.

Wouldn’t that be so much nicer for us all?

Two years ago: Day 68: How we’ve aged (part 1)

Day 53: Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you

I’m grateful for the music. All the time.

I’m so grateful for how frequently I’ve been finding myself spending early mornings at Cubbon Park these days. I love how the temperature feels like it dips inside there, in the shade of bendy bamboo groves, large rain trees and the like.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to partner with VC at work. It’s been an enlightening, challenging and eye-opening exercise. It throws up opportunities to surprise ourselves so often, I’m savouring it while the newness lasts.

I’m grateful for my car that has stood by un for nearly a decade now, and promises to keep going even though the age is now beginning to show. It was an utter saviour in a week so full of meetings in such far flung areas of Bangalore, I wouldn’t have made it otherwise. I’m grateful for the extra time it gives VC and me to spend together. To be able to chat and laugh our way through painful traffic jams, makes it a tad better.

I’m grateful for how the tide seems to have turned and we’ve seen an upswing with work. From several dead ends, flogging dead lines of communication and witnessing some seriously shitty behaviour from prospective clients, to suddenly be flooded with opportunities that put us in a position to chose from, is all kinds of reassuring. I’m grateful for the opportunity for yet another new beginning that VC has been presented with.

I’m grateful for the pav bhaji S made me last week. I’m grateful for the beer we had with R. I’m grateful for the Andhra meals we snuck in. I’m grateful for yet another taash party that ended too late.

I’m grateful for the Sunday I had — sleeping in, then pottering about the house setting it right again, and for the homely meals enjoyed in silence, and the bulk of the day spent reading.

I’m grateful that amma got to experience a weekend of family constellation. I’m grateful for the ice cream we shared.

I’m grateful that Niyu is back from Goa and that our collective shenanigans have begun again.

I’m grateful for the visit to the Mallu mess A and I finally made it to, after talking about it for only like forever. I’m thankful for the comforting meal, the conversations we have, that never disappoint, and always leave me thinking.

I’m thankful for my gym that always stays the same. No matter the ups and downs in my motivation or the energy I bring to it when I step in, I always feel welcome. I’m thankful that I have almost never ended a workout regretting it.

One year ago: Roads and Kingdoms
Two years ago: Day 53: Playtime

Day 46: All the feckless men that queue to be the next

It’s been such an enlightening few months working with VC. It’s a role and a kind of work I’ve never officially ever thought to undertake before. Because it involves dealing with a lot of people. Trying to understand what might make them tick, being a little cunning, persuasive, and learning the tricks that will elicit the responses I want to hear. Which means it’s a lot of taking changes, it’s a lot of thinking on the go, it’s a lot of being ignored, it’s a lot of feeling helpless and lost, it’s a lot of confusion about peoples’ behaviour. It’s a lot of disappointment. It’s a lot of growing a thicker skin, laughing off the idiocy and the unnecessary way in which people tend to complicate the simplest communication, and picking oneself up to move on quickly.

Most of all, it also rather thankless, at this stage in a new business.

I’m learning slowly, though, never to count my chickens before they’re really hatched. To never take an expression of intent as anything more than just that — an expression of intent. It doesn’t prompt action in 9 out of 10 instances.

I’m learning to make believing nobody my default, so much so that when suddenly I encounter a sane, normal person in this sea of idiots I’ve been dealing with, I am pleasantly surprised.

I’m learning that sometimes even the nicest, most polite people in person, can be the rudest assholes in communication.

I’m learning that the people you think you’ll vibe with, can also turnaround and be obnoxious in the most surprising and unexpected way.

I’m learning that people will go through the most complicated communicational acrobatics, just to avoid confronting a really simple question that can so easily be answered with a yes or a no.

I’m learning to read the signs. A full room of attentive people is a good sign. A meeting of tired faces who just want to get this over with is a sign that they’re just doing me a favour. Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m learning to keep my hopes up, even when things look really hopeless. I’m learning what it is to keep getting knocked down, even when I feel like I have so much going for me.

I’m learning, most of all, to just keep swimming.

Thankfully, every now and then, my travels around the city, meeting feckless people, are peppered with stopovers with people I love, with whom I can enjoy a laugh, and share a beer.

As we did yesterday. In an unexpected turn of events, we found ourselves at the other end of town, in parts we would no venture to if our lives depended on it.

So we reached out to R, and we grabbed a few beers, stuffed our faces with pakodas, and it was just the refresher I needed after a meeting with someone who seemed intent on making me feel like I would never be able to achieve their sophisticated level of aesthetic, right from the get go.

Which made me wonder, so why did we bother coming this far?

The answer to that one is another one of the things I’ve learned: People just don’t know how to say no. So they will keep saying yes, and pretending like they really would like to meet you, and believe that they’re being very convincing about it. Even as they continue to tow that fine line between being responsive enough to lead you on, but also being a touch non-committal so as to never put a date to it.

One year ago: Pointless post
Two years ago: Day 46: Morning views

Day 37: The future is no place to place your better days

I’m thankful for the weekend that just passed. For how it churned together several affirming moments and put so many different, disconnected pieces of my life together. I’m so thankful for the many reality checks it presented, the thumping steady beat of truths I knew to be true, but that I needed to experience in order to believe.

I’m thankful for my friends. The entire diverse lot of them, and how we miraculously converged, rallied together this past weekend.

I’m thankful for uninterrupted the access to a great gym. The opportunity to keep working out. I’m thankful for the many people who have contributed to my approach to strength training, because I know it’s a large reason I was able to make it through the walk, and how quickly I have recovered and bounced back.

I’m thankful for VC. Again and again, the man surprises me in big and small ways. The more I find myself abandoning the chase to find sides of him I want to see, but aren’t really there, the more he surprises me with other facets I need to see more. I’m so grateful for his kindness, generosity and patience.

For his unending support, his ridiculous faith. For his rock solid presence, cheering me on in whatever I choose to do, and how he always has my back, should I happen to falter. And I am eternally grateful for his perpetual, blind confidence in my capabilities.

I’m thankful for the number of opportunities to meet people to discuss work. Even as I get incredibly frustrated at the slow pace at which the conversations seem to move, or how long it takes for something concrete to materialise, the truth is I feel lucky to have so many people willing to open up opportunities to meet with us and have a chat about the possibilities of working together. I’m thankful for the places these meetings take me to. I’m thankful for the second shot at dressing for work. I’m thankful for the purpose it brings to my days.

Day 22: Pretty lights

For all the cribbing that I do about Bangalore and all the many ways that it doesn’t match up to the standard of living I want for myself, I have come to really appreciate some of the things it offers. Cabs, for one. I cannot imagine what driving around to get anywhere and get anything done would be like. It also leads me to balk at how ten years ago, driving around oneself was the only reliable way to get anywhere and get anything done.

The Bangalore I left was woefully lacking on the public transport front, but I’ve returned to a city that seems to at least try to fill the gap. Public transport — we have options! — are one of the few things I actually love, appreciate and feel much gratitude for. We haven’t figured it all out, as I realised the day I took the metro to go from Malleswaram to CMH road. It took 17 minutes flat. Which is all kinds of amazing. If you don’t count the twenty minutes it took to get to the Malleswaram metro station.

I’ve become an ardent user of shared cabs, which means I find myself taking all kinds of circuitous routes on my commutes across the city, sharing cabs with all kinds of people. I am always on the side of the argument that favours leaving a little early in order to get that shared cab and still make it to an engagement in time. Whenever a shared cab gets full, the type A person in me gets an extra thrill at how we have all collectively avoided putting three extra vehicles on the already clogged roads of this city.

I’ve taken to chatting with cab drivers a lot. Everything from how’s your day going to, what’s an average day driving around in Bangalore, to what’s new at Uber. And I’ve learned more about Uber’s capitalistic, exploitative ways and how we’re all just rendered powerless to protest because really, what are our options? I’ve surprised myself how accidentally breaking into Hindi is sometimes met with raised eyebrows whereas taking off confidently in Kannada guarantees that I’ll have a long chat. I’ve had conversations that have surprised me, moved me, pissed me off and some that just downright aggravated me. In turn, I vacillate between feeling admiration and respect for cabbies — because it is such a thankless job to do, with such pathetic work conditions in a city like ours, at the hands of monoliths like Uber — to feeling really angered when I realise how apparent and in-your-face the resistance to accept “outsiders” is. And it usually gets to that part of the conversation pretty quick.

Last week, I found myself caught in traffic at this odd time at sundown, that slice of time right between end of day, and the beginnings of night, sandwiched in a pink-purple-golden mess.

Most places get awfully congested, the city is usually a mess and no amount of planning can really guarantee escaping it.

But sometimes, a moment like this shines through.

One year ago: Because I want to remember
Two years ago: Day 22: Saaru-Anna

Day 16: Video killed the radio star (what I’ve watched)

I haven’t watched “TV” — as in, tracked television programming on the idiot box, in the good old way that we used to by tuning in night after night — in forever now. We haven’t consistently had satellite TV for many years. Barely a year after we first entertained the idea of doing away with it, we actually went ahead and kicked the idiot box out of our lives. Though we had our TV hooked up in our last home in Goa, only sporadically got the TATA Sky going. Typically, only when VC’s folks visited or someone mentioned a must-watch show. But it never lasted long enough to hold our interest and invariably our account would expire from sheer neglect.

When we moved to Bangalore, I was determined to keep the TV out of the living room as it had been for the last many years. The new home doesn’t have a conducive space for the TV in either bedroom. So the damn thing is currently languishing in a box in a cupboard, while I entertain the idea of selling it off, from time to time. I’ve gone several years without traditional television, depending on downloading shows when the sweet spot of my interest/inclination to watch something has met with a promising show showing up, and having the requisite amount of time to actually watch it. the number of shows I’ve started and abandoned is embarassing.

But, it would be inaccurate to say I don’t watch TV anymore. With Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar at our disposal, we’ve ben dipping in and out of television lala land. I’m still not quite there yet with binging the way one is supposed to with this kind of access. I don’t know, I suppose it’s watching it on a small screen that doesn’t really work for me. Also, I very rarely have that much time (or mindspace) at a stretch anymore, and I’m far too restless to actually binge watch anything, as the format demands. I do have spurts and the last time it happened was with OITNB, but by and large, I tend to give most of the much-talked-about shows a miss.

All this, to say I only very rarely get hooked to a TV show, and I’m usually very late to get the memo on most “good” TV shows. I just find it hard to keep up. So much TV, so much social media, so much news. Where are you guys also finding the time to read and cook and exercise and have a life? (which is what I tend to choose over TV)

Anyhow, last year, when I was dillydallying over choosing between forging ahead with my writing, or joining VC, I found myself with a lot of time on hand. I told myself it was time that would be hard to come by, depending on which way I decide to go. So I began to watch 13 Reasons Why. Long after everyone had watched, obsessed, critiqued and discussed it to death.

I hadn’t really read too much about it, and wasn’t even fully aware of the plot, so I went in clean. I had a fair idea what it was about, so maybe I had a bit of an expectation of how it could go. So, when it didn’t — and it actually progressively went annoyingly south — I was severely disappointed.

The only thing I really, really liked about it was the title track. I will not lie.

Okay, it’s mildly well-written, given the altered (from book to TV show) plot line, and most of the actors have acted really well. But it’s just, the very premise, and the way the theme has been dealt with, really, really annoyed me.

Straight off the bat, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the entire build up to uncovering and going through the tapes in gory, drawn-out harsh, urid detail, felt like it glorified suicide. It was really hard to ignore that it felt exactly like the opposite of what the show was trying to do.

If the show was supposedly meant to make a case for how suicide should never be an option, how come it comes out sounding like it’s a great way to get revenge. A legitimate way to make yourself heard. To serve justice. To come out victorious.

I know I’m treading thin ice even saying this, but I don’t buy the argument that this show aimed to build awareness. Sure, it got more people watching and talking about bullying amongst teenagers, cyber bullying specifically, peer pressure and suicide, but it definitely did it in a way that sensationalised the issues surrounding teenage suicide, and it exercised very little tact and sensitivity in dealing with the many facets of the issue.

Perhaps because I set off with this notion in my head, and I couldn’t shake it off at all, the show grated on my nerves right through.

I know, I know, you’re thinking why did I bother watching it. Well, I thought at 13 episodes, it’s far shorter than some of the worst shows I’ve subjected myself to. And I wanted to see if anything changed.

It didn’t. The well-intentioned message — that suicide should never be an option — just didn’t come across clearly enough for me. For one, Hannah never talks about having suicidal thoughts or never seeks any kind of help, despite having all the obvious channels for it. I’m not placing the blame at her doorstep, but her parents shock and devastation at having absolutely no idea their daughter was troubled enough to be driven to suicide, was telling. They assumed she was a regular, average troubled teenager, is all. Second, when she does seek help from her counsellor, in the very last episode, her efforts to talk about her troubles are dismissed by a counsellor who belittles and confuses her. This is a horribly wrong route to take, especially if the intention of this depiction is to steer people from towards seeking help, over suicide. This, amongst other things, really made me feel like the entire progression points towards glorifying suicide as a way to make yourself heard, when you have nowhere to go and nobody to talk to.

There is also the graphic representation of rape, twice over, despite the trigger warnings, that really troubled me. I know, you can go ahead and tell me, I shouldn’t have watched it. But here’s the deal, I read the trigger warning and I went ahead and watched it. As would anyone else, I suppose. And I was physically disturbed for several days after. I know it’s a fine line when you’re making a show like this, and you need it to work on a platform like Netflix. But to go so horribly wrong in the accent you take, when dealing with a topic as sensitive as this — it feels like the makers and Netflix kind of just abused the theme to catch as many eyeballs as they could. This isn’t to debate the need for programming to take serious issues into the ambit of production, or to choose a style that favours realistic depiction, but just like we’re increasingly being made to be aware of diversity, inclusion and representation, the issues surrounding mental health, teenage development, cyber bullying and suicide need a lot more awareness building and sensitivity to be woven in.

More than anything, I was hoping the show would tell us things we didn’t already know. I really wanted the show to delve deep into the reasons rather than give me a playback of how horribly wrong things went for Hannah. I wanted it to be more than a lazy retelling of the sequence of events that led up to Hannah’s taking her own life.

Oh yeah, it just occurred to me: in addition to being insensitive, I found 13 Reasons Why to be very, very lazy.

Earlier still, in October, while I was gallivanting around Pondicherry, I got into This Is Us. More because I had P telling me how every episode made him cry. This, I’ve got to see, I thought. And I’m happy to say, it worked out for me because enjoyed the show very much. Since I was on holiday with absolutely no agenda, I binge-watched it.

It is not since watching The Wonder Years or Brothers and Sisters that a family drama has tugged at my heartstrings this much. Possibly because it has been ages since any TV show so unabashedly deals with the story of a family like this, in all it’s dirty, raw, realness — feelings, mess-ups, emotional baggage and all.

A semi-naked Milo Ventimiglia in the opening scene definitely urged me on, but eye-candy aside, it’s a show about entirely mundane, regular family things. Shining a light on every aspect of family — from the immensely special bonds shared by siblings complete with jealousy, competition and an overarching undeniable love, to the frustrations one inevitably feels towards ones parents, the ups and downs of growing up, the triumph of being an adult and parenting your parents, the growing up of owning up to your issues and solving them in the hope of being a more wholesome, integrated human being, and most of all — in knowing that family — in all it’s imperfect glory — happens to everyone. It is not something you can forget, divorce, distance yourself from and ever move on. We are all products of what has happened to us growing up, and the families who bring us up, even if we’re not bound by blood.

It’s intelligent story-telling that weaves two timelines in parallel, creative and beautiful production, has an outstanding soundtrack and background score (by an Indian!), lovely acting all-round and also ticks all the right boxes for me as far as representation goes. It had many a moment that struck a chord so deep with me, as far as theme and plot go. The second season, typically, saw a dip. Especially in the pre-holiday phase, with unnecessarily long and dragged out story lines that say so much but do little to develop the plot or further the story.

Yet, I continue to watch. Because even though the writing may sometimes falter, and the scenarios feel too white or too American, the characters are heartwarming, honest, real and very, very relatable.

Day 10: A hazy shade of winter

Mid-November or so, the weather in Bangalore turned. Nothing unusual in these parts. Winter was coming. But for my sun-fed, humidity-aged Goan muscles of the last almost-decade, it felt like an insurmountable challenge to take into my stride the nip in the evening air, the dark mornings and the perpetual cold fingers and tip-of-nose.

It comes with the typical tell-tale beginnings. The sun setting sooner, casting gloomy evenings upon me. Disoriented, I’d rush off into the kitchen too early, thinking about getting dinner started, prompted only by the too-early sunset that brings night time sooner than I’ve experienced in a long while.

Much as I loved the balmy climate in Goa, and luhhhved the rain (heck I have a whole category dedicated to it), I’ve been obsessed with devouring every little bit of the winter I’ve had. Maybe it’s time to jog my memory, and get more than my muscles to feel it and start writing about winter in a way that deserves it’s own category too.

The thing with being in tropical climes for long enough is that you body changes adapts beautifully. My muscles always felt stretched and well-oiled, my skin supple and perpetually sticky from the humidity. Here, it’s not strange to wake up in the morning, your limbs feeling stiff, my skin is parched and turns white and scaly if not adequately oiled and lotion-ed. At the gym, it takes awfully long to really warm up and break a sweat.

Because muscles, they forget.

I’m quite sensitive to the cold, quick to feel it and in need of warm clothes and socks in no time at all. This typically meant that in Goa, in December, I’d wear a jacket and people would look at me oddly. In Bangalore, it means I have been revelling in winter clothing again. I’ve discovered things in my wardrobe that have been stashed away in suitcases relegated to the loft for the last eight years. I’d forgotten I owned some of this stuff. Extra jackets, scarves and shawls. And still, I realised in shedding stuff from my wardrobe over the years, I’ve lost some of the winter basics one tends to keep when you live in a place that has more than one season.

It’s no secret, I love winter in Bangalore. So I was already really looking forward to this time of year. And lucky me, we’ve been blessed with a colder than usual winter, I think. Nippy mornings, bright blue winter skies with no clouds for miles, chasing spots of sunshine and snuggling into them, wrapped in warm clothes.

So, with great glee, I stocked up on a couple of warm tees, a woollen pullover, a new jacket (with a hoodie!) and a couple of warm accessories. When I step out, it’s nice to have a while new kind of clothing to dip in to. And then there’s the extras — jackets, stoles, shawls, sweaters! I may have spent a lot more time and energy than necessary being excited about the winter, and winter clothing. And don’t even get me started on the joys of socks and closed shoes *eyeroll*

Ever since I’ve gone off carbs at dinner time, it’s been complicated thinking up things to eat for dinner. With the weather turning I no longer felt inclined to eat cold, crunchy salads, even though it is the best time for winter veg. Soups have made a comeback, into my kitchen. And my life!

Now that I’m back, it has taken a handful of weeks to get my sun-loving body to get used to the biting nippy mornings that feel sharp, turning my fingers and tip of my nose perpetually cold. We’ve been sleeping without the fan for the most part, unthinkable i an older life. Even now, though it’s necessary, it feels odd. I’m torn between having the fan on slow and layering up to stay warm, or having it ff and sleeping easy, only to wake up in the middle fo the night feeling claustrophobic.

Waking up in the mornings is a huge task. With the sun refusing to peek out before 7, and even then, being a slow, hazy rise, it’s been an everyday battle to face. I like to get o the gym by 7, which in this season means waking up when it’s still dark out. Something about that just feels illogical.

I realise muscles have a memory and perhaps ours have forgotten what it is like to be in the cold. VC quite literally forgot. And he went around for the first few days claiming he was feeling feverish. After some medication and befuddlement when there was never a real temperature spike, when I asked him if maybe he’s just feeling cold, he replied with; “I’m not cold, I just feel nicer when I’m covered up.”

*eyeroll*

Mystery solved. Yeah. He’d totally forgotten that that’s what feeling cold is actually like. So I had to re-introduce him to the joys of jacket-wearing, sock-donning, soup-drinking, chappals-at-home Bangalore winter habits.

This winter, I’d like to think I’ve made the most of being out and about too. Lots of evenings out, walking about, a crisp sunny morning or two at Cubbon Park, drinks in outdoor places, warm soup and Asian food galore. Lots of chai and the like too.

There is something lovely about being in a Bangalore watering hole in the winter, and it’s filled me with so much happiness that I’ve been around to really enjoy that this past winter.

I wont lie. These are some of the things I’ve really missed in my life before the return to Bangalore. And to be able to experience it all again has done a number on me. Making me love being outdoors, rekindling memories from my childhood, and making for good Bangalore silverlinings, when I often feel overwhelmed by it all.

Because muscles, they remember.

The icing (literally!) on the cake was ending the year with back to back trips to Wayanad and Coonoor in the last week of December. But that is the stuff of another post (or two).

***

And because it’s Wednesday and I promised music at least once every week, and because I’m not sure how many of you have picked up on the fact that I’m trying to cheekily title every post with either the name or a line from a song I’ve heard or loved, here’s today’s aptly titled track.

One year ago: Happier: perpetual WIP

Day 3: What is life

Something terrible happened last year. Despite sporadic posting, I went through the entire year without posting a single music track, or writing a single Things about VC that I never want to forget post. It says a lot about what occupied my brainspace last year. It’s not that I didn’t listen to any music. The truth is I listened to an awful lot more music than I have in the years before, thanks to high speed internet in Bangalore — at home and on my phone, having to entertain myself while on the treadmill and realising 4G actually works and means I can watch youtube videos instead of just listening to my ipod. It’s opened up a spectrum of music again. One of the first things I did in the new year was get myself on Apple music again. And after six months of having these speakers in my wishlist, I’m lusting after a slightly more realistically prices portable speaker again. I don’t know how long it will be before I buy it, but I’m so ready for more music in my life.

So this year, as I embark on writing a post a day for a whole year again as long as I can keep it up, I want to try and have enough music to go back to. Because, I routinely go through my archives and hit the music tag. It’s a good archive of all my favourite music through the ages, and invariably looking and listening back sends me down a nostalgic trip. It’s also doubly amusing and heartwarming to see what I listened to at different points in time reflected in my writing. So, a track a week at least? That’s very doable.

In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I’m super eager for the new year. I love a fresh start, a clean slate. Amongst other things, it feels nice to have a neat little beginning to set off a new habit on track. And since motivation levels are typically skyrocketing, there’s a good chance starting off now will mean some of these habits will stick.

So here goes.

Because, I listened to it on Coonoor on new years eve, huddled around a bonfire with a bunch of strangers I least expected to engage with, let alone enjoy the company of. (The strangest and loveliest things have been happening, ever since I opened myself to it. And that will make for another post.)

Because, I’m back.

Because, what is this life (without music)?

Two years ago: Day 3: Reminders and notes to self

Day 361: Spinning the wheel

2016 seems cock sure and determined not to go out quietly. As if the blows we received this year weren’t enough, today we lost another gem. I woke up to the terrible trending news, and in my head I ran through the whole gamut of GM memories. From ogling him in his itty bitty denim cut offs to heartbreak when we realised he was gay, to rediscovering the full depth and breadth of his repertoire in my late teens, to having some songs associated with some of my best people. Oddly, I spent a whole day listening to GM last month, binging on his entire Vevo channel.

It’s been a year of unprecedented loss, but if I didn’t write the typical social media outpouring of grief or an eulogy for most people this year — not Bowie, not Prince, not Muhammad Ali, not Glenn Frey, not Doris Roberts, not Zaha Hadid, not Harper Lee (I remembered Leonard Cohen, though) — it was because I just couldn’t keep up with the frequency anymore. Most times, words seemed futile.

Today, I feel no different.

So, I’m going to sleep listening to some of my all time favourite George Michael tracks.

 

 

Go well, GM.

Day 340: Happy high

I began the weekend by posting this picture on Instagram because I missed the blue skies, the sunburns skin, the green waves and the unencumbered time to read.

mis

Here’s why. December was to begin with the announcement of the winners of the fellowship I’d applied for. I didn’t win it, un case you’re asking. To be honest, my confidence flagged when I got news that the media house received 5k applications from across the globe. An email I received on 1st December confirmed that I had in fact not won it. What I did get instead, was my domestic help taking off for two months. I haven’t cooked a meal in over 6 months. And neither VC nor I have had to do much by way of heavy lifting around the house in terms of regular chores. The help is just one of those efficient people who has become so used to the way my house functions, and takes ownership of everything she does, often going above and beyond her responsibilities, picking up even when I have slipped or forgotten something. To say my world was falling apart a week bit, would be accurate. Luckily, she found me a substitute. Just to do the cleaning though, so I’m still going to have to cook us our meals. Having two hot cooked meals appear at meal time, without even having to do much thinking has been a luxury and I’m not looking forward to planning meals, stocking up veggies and culling out time from my mornings to cook, dammit. Second, substitute help comes at 6. On. The Dot. It’s been five days, and she’s never been a minute early or late. But, it’s literally still dark out when she arrives. And I’m usually very asleep at 6 am. So to alleviate my paranoia of sleeping through her arrival, my alarm rings at 5 am and I snooze it for an entire hour, neither really sleeping, nor waking up, making it an altogether restless, useless hour in bed, before I wake up when she rings the doorbell on the dot of 6. It’s hard to be complain or grudge her punctuality. I cannot complain. But I was drowsy for the first few hours of every morning last week, which made me miss my morning workouts. I made up for it by going to the evening slot instead, but it’s not the same and I’m just not a fan of so much change in routine at once. Urgh.

You know what else I got? The morning of December 1st began with a battle with a lizard that had entered the study, so when I opened the balcony doors for some morning breeze, it scampered out from behind the curtains, running behind my cupboard, dangerously close to the bed in the room. For someone who’d get paralysed at the sight of a lizard, only to recover long enough to jump on the closest piece of furniture, descending only once the creature had been dealt with by someone, I’ve come a long way. I still shriek. I still get a little stunned. But I am able to gather myself and deal with it on my own – with the help of insecticide to make them drowsy and a long broom to probe and poke them out of the room. Double urgh.

Anyway, last week was not very productive. PMS plus PTS (what I call post therapy syndrome) had rendered me a bit dazed. So I decided to take the weekend seriously. What I did was stay in bed and not leave for practically the entire weekend. I finished one and a half books, ravenously reading and getting out from under the covers only to eat.

All of Saturday, VC was at my service, bringing me beer, food and anything else I demanded, to bed. He even sent me an sms saying “at your service” – giggle. On Sunday, I kind of returned the favour. He’s developed what is now looking like tendonitis on his left wrist which has been acting up every now and then. It flared up early yesterday morning, rendering his left arm pretty useless. Which meant, I was doing the delivery. Aside from that, I stayed in bed reading, while he watched Black Mirror.

In the evening though, I dragged myself out. Cooked some chicken 65, and planned to have dosas and chutney for dinner. R came over with beer, chips and dip, and rasmalai (!), and we watched YJHD together, which I thoroughly enjoyed for some reason. I turned in early, diving right back into my book again before passing out close to midnight, a little frantic about waking up in time for my very timely house help.

This morning, I was up on time, with this song stuck in my head. So after the maid had gone, I turned it on and turned it up. At 7.30 am.

The rest of my day has been ati fantastic. A sudden spurt of productivity has meant I finished three stories I was struggling to make progress with last week. I responded to some enquiries. I even felt empowered enough to take a bit of a ballsy (for me) professional decision that I hope is going to pay off.

Somewhere in between I cooked lunch, picked and dropped off the injured husband, and watched an episode of my current shitty TV guilty pleasure and did some admin stuff I have been avoiding.

I wish there were a day to bottle the good juju from days like this. So I can take sips of it on days when the haze of the sads descends and makes me feel and behave totally useless.

 

Day 298: Weekend snippets

“Are you feeling lonely?” my mother in law asked me on the phone the other night.

“Not at all,” I said, disappointing her.

I wasn’t lying. I do enjoy my me-time and space. The next day, Saturday at noon, I found myself still in bed and a whole book finished. I had intended to get out, shower and head to the market to replenish veggies approximately two hours earlier. Funnily, I wasn’t kicking myself about it. At about 3 that afternoon, I called VC to say hi, and he hadn’t eaten lunch. At about 8 that night, he was still napping. His afternoon nap. And I wasn’t kicking him about it either.

Whenever VC travels, especially over extended periods, my routine goes out of whack. It’s not logical, really. There’s no apparent reason. If anything, it should actually be the time things go completely to plan, my plan, because there’s no additional variables at play. And yet, it becomes the time I let go and all my schedules relax. It’s the time I stretch food cooked once across three meals, watching back to back movies, enjoy a single drink every night, take off for a drive at all kinds of odd hours, spend inordinate amounts of time in bed reading and the like.

It always happens when he is away, and this time too, bang on cue, there I was, schedule unravelling. Except, I wasn’t het up about it, nor was I berating myself about letting things slip.

I told you something has shifted. And I’m taking this too as a sign for some unlearning, and relearning that needs to happen.

This trip of VC’s has been perfectly timed, with work petering out, the overwhelming emotional few weeks also tapering down to normal again, and the need for space and time by myself coming to the fore. Despite being alone for the most part of everyday, and looking forward to evenings with VC on a daily basis, time apart like this is always welcome. I know VC is enjoying it too, because he gets to lunch at 3 pm and nap till 8 pm. Without someone to remind him about the schedule he had no part to play in formulating. Heh.

*****

I finished two books this past weekend, and over today.

In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri, intrigued me completely with it’s premise. It’s a love story, an ode to a language. It is an expression of love for Lahiri’s second language – Italian. A series of short, but beautifully lyrical snippets, that I later learned were journal entries, she gives her love for the language so many different shapes and forms — each one so meaty, voluptuous and full of grain, that you can reach out and feel it. Many times I caught myself completely relating to the descriptions of love, the kind of relationships that she likens her affair with the language to, and I drifted away from the reality that it was all an ode to a language, because it takes on the form of people, of things, of places and moments, which are all somehow typical objects of love. One just never expects a language to take up so much headspace. And Lahiri does a brilliant job of bringing that love to life. It’s originally written in Italian, and translated to English. But so, so, beautifully so.

Would You Like Some Bread With That Book, by Veena Venugopal. I’ve admired Veena Venugopal’s journalistic work for so long now, that I was surprised I didn’t know she had written a book already. Actually, she’s written three, and I had no idea. So I had to remedy it quickly. On L‘s suggestion, I started with this one. It’s a book about books, quite simply. That it is a collection of essays extremely witty essays makes it even nicer to read. It’s a book for book lovers, and you’ll find yourself in more than one essay as the collection covers a lot of very relatable feelings and situations. From the nostalgia of old bookstores, the smell of yellowed pages of treasured books, seminal stories from the coming-of-age-time of our lives, inevitable literary snobbery, traversing the world of pulp and trash, and just the unbridled joy that is loving a book, which she so simply and beautifully calls “simply a relationship between the writer and the reader. It is the reader’s privilege to make of the words what she will….The book I have read is mine alone.”

I absolutely devoured it in a little under a day. It helped that that day was today, with just a few emails demanding my attention, so I could lie around and dip into the book, guiltlessly. All that was missing was some bread

*****

Work took me to this really lovely homestay. Not my first time at Arco Iris, I’ve even written about it here before, it’s already a favourite. So I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to write about them, or to visit again.

1

This time I took D along with me. It was a quiet time of wonderful company and conversation. We nearly finished an entire bottle of wine between the two of us.The food was stellar, and I got to try the upstairs Indigo room for the first time. When my friends begin to stifle yawns at near 10-pm, doing their best to stretch bedtime as much as they can, I know I’ve picked them well. The best part, though, was that I got to visit the incredibly fascinating 450-year old Menezes Braganza House in Chandor. I wouldn’t have gone by myself, and the last time VC and I dropped by, I only got a hurried walkthrough, because it was closed and we were in a rush. This time though, we got to wander around at leisure, with the great-grandson give us a tour.

2

It’s the kind of home with rooms that droop under the immense weight of their legacy. Where the walls chip away to reveal whispers of conversations it’s held secretly close for generations. Where the air echoes with whispers of century-old stories. Being in a treasure trove like that gave me goose bumps, and I was glad I finally had the opportunity to visit.

3

*****

I came back last evening and R and I caught Jack Reacher, to tick off the only missing thing in my weekend agenda — a substandard movie. Actually it wasn’t all bad because it fit the Tom Cruise-mission-impossible brief to the T, and I should have gone expecting just that. It was entertaining, so I’ll be fair and give it that.

The highlight of the evening though was the dinner of idli and vada, to assuage an unsatiated hunger that breakfast at Arco had set off. Yep, idlis for breakfast and idlis for dinner. I’m that kind of South Indian. It was topped only be R’s incredibly entertaining and hilarious real-life anecdotes that always make me laugh.

*****

I rediscovered Vijay Iyer at Arco Iris, as D and I sat in the porch outside, post dinner, chatting, while the strains of this track I’d never heard before began to echo inside the long living room. Something about late-night melodies played at the right time just hit the spot immediately, and I had to shazam this one. Needless to say, it’s been on loop ever since.

So, what did you do this weekend?

Day 295: In with the new

Things are shifting. Slowly, but surely, they are. Within, without. Inside out. Squelchy and yeeuurgh, to shiny new, bright. Hot, even. Like so.

From three weeks ago:

fillower

To, this, today:

I feel it in my bones. Everything is suddenly super light, unburdened and very fresh and bright. It’s funny and uncanny how it almost always reflects in my immediate surroundings. My desk is cleaner, my calendar light, my work done on time.

After what feels like aeons, I’m home alone again, with VC out on a super long work trip. This hasn’t happened in a long, long time. I’m having those slow days again, coinciding with work winding down in prep for my holiday. The review gig means I’m out of the house a lot. Today I even woke up, and got dressed in going-out-clothes and went to work like a normal person. (Things are shifting, I told ya!) It felt strangely nice to have somewhere to be, that wasn’t the next room. And it was awfully nice to have a chance to be presentably dressed. The weekend has me going away to another review, with a girlfriend and a bottle of seco. I could get used to this, you know?

Today, I’m just happy. I’m winding down with an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, dal-rice and lemony onions, and then my book. This one, if you’re wondering.

Happy song I discovered today: