For Kashmir

Two weeks of Rohail Hyatt being back in the freshest season of Coke Studio Pakistan, and there’s already so many reasons to get back and be hooked.

  1. Rohail is back producing it
  2. Zeb is back
  3. Atif Aslam looks and sounds like he’s grown up
  4. The season features Fareed Ayaz, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Sanam Marvi
  5. It’s already sounding like it’s full of the old, peaceful vibe of the old CS Pak days
  6. It’s raining
  7. Did I mention Rohail Hyatt is back?

I’d lost interest in the show once he exited his position as producer because he brought in a certain perfect aesthetic that no producer ever after managed to even come close to matching up to. And there have been oh-sooo-many producers and directors after him, not a single one could level up. In all the many seasons after his moving on, there have been so many misses more than hits that I’d gotten used to cherry picking the good tracks I could weed out of the trash and consoling myself about having to make do, when what I wanted was a whole seasons worth of music to fill to my hearts content.

Eventually, I skipped the last three seasons because the experimentation just got too much for me. To poppy, too noisy, too loud, too out there, just not tight, just not together, just not melodious even after a point. There’s a space for experimentation and fusion, but it can’t come at the cost of pure melody and aesthetic. It can’t replace music with noise, and unfortunately the last two seasons have been just that for me — noise.

Until this year suddenly my attention was piqued all over again because I heart Rohail Hyatt was back. I’ve been hooked, good and proper, since the premier three weeks ago. Atif Aslam has had a growth spurt, he’s singing well, he’s making sense. The general set isn’t OTT. The overall music production quality is sane and soulful again. The collaborations have been coming out of musicality first, and everything else next. There is a general sense of respect for the music, primarily, that is so palpable in every track so far. And I’ve only had a meh reaction to one out of seven tracks so far. That’s a bloody good conversion rate compared to the last few seasons.

I’ve been properly addicted, tuning into the BTS previews that release on Wednesday, and getting hyped like crazy in the run up to Fridays, when the episodes release. On Friday, there’s a dramatic countdown that happens on the video as it premiers live across the globe. And it has been such a rush to witness the release of these tracks along with other fellow junkies all shouting Rohail for president! and other versions of this in the comments as the song is slowly being released. S and I have been tripping cross continents, hyping each other and getting psyched in anticipation, on cue every single week.

I already have a season favourite.

The BTS, if it’s possible, is actually as good as the song. This is a song by Kashmiri poet Habba Khatoon who was called the Nightingale of Kashmir. In this she laments her beloved who has gone missing, for not returning to her, and keeping her waiting. It’s a comment on conflict and loss of life and love.

And I cried when I watched it. See for yourself, if you’d like. It’s worth it.

They couldn’t have timed this better even if they tried. And Zeb’s bright, twinkly eyes, the perfection in voice, and her heartfelt attempt to embody the spirit of Habba Khatoon, and her despair in missing a loved one, just did something for me that day.

The day the song released, the comments section was a celebration of love. There were loud comments harking freeKashmir! literally in thousands. Watching that, sensing the hope and optimism in those words really did something for me. Of course, I cried some more.

In the words of Zeb herself, “If we put aside what is right and wrong, the truth remains that in places where there is trouble, our loved ones are sometimes separated from us. This idea of missing someone when you don’t know where they are, it’s so relevant to places that have turmoil and that has been the experience of Kashmiri people now for centuries.” And it really hit me then, for centuries we have only heard stories of conflict, politicised stories that benefit nobody but those in power. Especially now, more than ever before, I’m suddenly curious to know more — what of the culture of the people there? What do they sing? What do they read? What do they eat? What are their celebrations like? What is it like beyond the face of turmoil and anguish that’s presented to us? Especially at a time when Kashmir is in a state of a blackout, I ask myself again and again, who will tell their stories?

It is so easy to get caught up in the right and the wrong, in the political angles. They’ll always exist, of course. And to choose one or the other will always put us in places at opposite ends of the spectrum. But what we’ve lost in all of this is basic humanity, a sense of basic rights, and this is something I’ve been sitting with silently (seeing as how this is not something I can discuss out loud, in person anywhere in my immediate surroundings) ever since the abrogation.

Thankfully, there are some people at work. This video needs to be seen.

[Trigger Warning: Violence and Bloodshed in the video below]

Is it possible to look at the humanity? At Kashmir in the context of conflict and it’s effects on people? Is it possible to put the justifications and political ideologies to the side at all?

I don’t know. And not knowing makes me very, very sad.

***

I’m grateful for music today. For poetry and the power to express such deep emotions through words in ways that can cross generations, centuries and touch hearts long after they were first penned. I’m grateful for artists like Rohail Hyatt and the entire Coke Studio Pakistan team. I can’t believe I’m going to say it but I’m thankful for Coke, else I don’t think I’d have accessed this goldmine of music ever.

I’m grateful to live in times of peace in my part of the world. For stability. For love and life as I know it.

One year ago: October
Three years ago: Diwali 2016

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Good juju

Yesterday was such a good day. It started off extra emotional. Happy, but I was feeling overwhelmed by the multitude of emotions that was bubbling up, and I was feeling every little thing so intensely. A day of deep work and learning somehow released the heaviness of those emotions and left me feeling light and energetic.

As is becoming habit now, I hung out with D who very graciously kept me company for best two hours after class. We played around with my tarot cards, as I had time to kill between class ending and dinner with these two monkeys.

A birthday dinner two days too late, but a good birthday dinner nonetheless. There was of course as always such joy and kinship in spending time with S, but there is something so reaffirming about hanging out with a bright and engaged child. U, with his long-winded stories (some that will have to be finished the next time we meet!), his hyper-observant yet childlike insights, and his cute face of course.

On the way to dinner, I watched the just-released Coke Studio episode, tearing up in a shared cab. Tearing up from the joy of the good music, from the live chat I was having with S parallelly discussing the new tracks with such energy, and for the instant sense of nostalgia Coke Studio evokes in me for my friendship with S and J from Goa and the things we used to do together. I missed them both so very much yesterday.

***

I’m grateful for all the love I have in my life. I receive it in so many different ways from so many different sources and places, it’s amazing how fulfilling that is when I stop to think about it.

One year ago: Come if it feels right, now is the time to be
Two years ago: Postcards from Goa
Three years ago: Stuff

Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you

I had a brief exchange with someone a couple of days ago that brought up in full force a latent feeling of hurt and disappointment with people. Specifically of a set of people I felt used me during the Goa years of my life. People I mostly knew online, but who slipped from the virtual into the real in the name of shared interests. People I mistakenly called friends. People I opened my home and life to so (maybe a touch unnecessarily too) willingly. People I realise now preyed on the usefulness of knowing someone who lived in Goa. People who picked my brain effortlessly — for work, for contacts, for information, for inspiration, for help, for connection, for friendship. People who took it all so easily. People who have benefited from my hospitality, my openness, my willingness, my warmth.

People who needed me then, more than they do now. People who dropped me like a hot potato when that phase — and the usefulness — of my life ended.

Because, what use am I now when all I do is blog about a largely personal journey? Only speaking in vague circles. Not posturing at an audience. Not sharing details of any particular interest to anyone. Not giving enough meat to build a steady voyeuristic habit on. Not possessing much coolth by way of social media currency or giving anyone any reason to engage with me. None of the above.

The exchange, and the hurt that followed, didn’t leave me pining for the oddly confused/lost connections (as such situations once did), as much as it made me feel sorry for the naive and simply trusting person that I have been. For being at the receiving end of this, too often for my own liking. For mistaking my own loneliness and need for diversity as the right receptacle for new connections. For mistaking some of those new connections to be something real connections. For trusting. For being used. For feeling hurt.

I’m glad that exchange was quickly followed up with a solid day spent (in a saree!) with S. I chatted with her about this, blinking back tears at one point. Because it reinforced so much about where I’m at, what kind of connection I want and will welcome, and just how impossibly ungrateful people can be. And even as I feel my world expand, my heart open wide, there is a simultaneous bitter truth about the number of people who make it in to that inner world getting smaller and smaller.

I feel grateful for the friends I have at this point in my life. Close friends, acquaintances and everyone else in between. I’m grateful for what I have learned from experiences past, and the ability to now call shit like this out. Even if to myself, even if in retrospect. For knowing what I simply will not stand for anymore.

The more I see how shit people can be, and the ways in which they have exited my life, the more I appreciate those that have remained. Those with whom my relationship has evolved and strengthened. Those who have given me room to be who I am, through the ups and down. Those who watched me go and grow through the last two years either silently from the sidelines, or cheering me on front and centre. Those who have made me feel I have the space and liberty to take as much as I give. Those who allow me to take, even when I don’t have much to give. Those with whom the relationship is larger and way beyond what I am good for or what I have to give.

***

I was talking to S (a different S ahaha!) yesterday and telling her how even though I am in a phase where I feel solid physically and mentally, I seem to be at my most “unproductive” best. My reluctance to do anything at all has reached an all time high, and my inclination to work (actually, to do anything at all beyond the bare minimum required of me right now) is at an all time low. And she echoed it — telling me how her experience was exactly the same during the time of this same course that I am in the thick of.

The more I think about, the more I feel glad for a life that allows all of this. The luxury of staying off work commitments, the choice to dip in and out of family commitments knowing I have their support and backing, a roof over my head that I don’t have to hustle for, a structure and routine that has my space and solitude at the heart of it. It’s enabling a lot more than the obvious.

***

Ran a smooth, steady 7km in the park today. A good pace, a new route, bumping into S after 7 months since I trained with her last. To have her look at me and immediately notice OMG, you’re running! and then to take off and run with her for the rest of the time. Such a good start to my day. I’m grateful for the park, for bumping into S (that’s yet another S! I realised recently that I am surrounded by them!) who took my run from a regular run to a milestone run. My longest outdoor run yet that ended at 7.1km.

One year ago: Warm days filled with sunshine
Two years ago: Boooooook post
Three years ago: 109 kms done

Free

Every now and then there’s a day that’s so good, it takes me by surprise. I began yesterday with a run in the park — my first real, proper outdoor run. And by that I mean, not a walk-run-walk-run run but a legit long-distance run. And by long distance I mean 5+ kms. Truth be told, I didn’t know what it would be like. I was pretty sure I’d walk more than run because I know how running on a treadmill is a bit of a hack because it sets a steady pace and you have to just keep up. Not to undermine the effort and stamina that takes — I have seen how little by little I have gotten better and steadier at running on the treadmill and pushing the kms a little everyday. But, I always believed outdoor running is a whole other ball game. I have also never had the sort of endurance that I do now.

And yet. Yesterday was such a revelation. First of all, it was a cracker of a morning. Many hours of rain the previous night meant there was a crisp nip in the air. Not bitingly cold, but just perfectly cool enough. The sun was beginning to peek out ever so subtly. The park on a weekday is 100% better than the park on the weekend. I began with a slow and steady jog, picked it up to a comfortable pace and then kept waiting to go out of breath and feel the need to walk/stop. But that moment never came. Pretty much until the end of my 45 minute stint, by which time I had inadvertently clocked nearly 5 and a half kilometres.

I was beyond stoked. Not just by the numbers, but the sheer thrill of being outdoors and seeing actual results for something I have been silently working at. Something about the lungs expanding the way they do in the midst of greenery, having my heart race and breaking a proper heavy sweat even when the weather is chill, and winding my way through a green, green park, slowly but steadily, feeling so, so, so tuned in and focused.

It’s taken me a long time to consider a mid-week run in the park. It’s taken me longer still to get out and do it alone, even without company. But it was so good, I maybe considering doing it more often.

In the evening, Niyu and I took ourselves out for an early dinner to Koshy’s. We ended up having breakfast for dinner — omelettes, chicken sandwiches and a plate of smileys — between ourselves, with a large rum and very iced tea as a mixer. Then we ducked into Hard Rock Cafe to catch a Thermal and a Quarter tribute gig to celebrate 17 years of their very first album.

It was the kind of evening that was like going back in time. A real life throwback Thursday, if you will. Not just because I got to hear TAAQ again after so many, many years, but because they performed in the OG set up with Rudy stepping in for a few numbers, the groupies and crew returning to reunite in celebration, and also something about rock and Bangalore churns up the somethings-will-never-change feels for me. It was really like stepping back in time. The vibe, the people, the excitement. It may as well have been 2003 in Zero G which was my first time hearing them live. I was all of 19, and there at the behest of Niyu, but also lured by the idea of watching a boy who had semi heart-eyes for me perform. It was a time before mobile phones, let alone camera phones. And so we didn’t document anything back in the day. But I have vivid memories of having such a good time, and drinking way too much more than I could handle. It was a simpler time when we managed to get home safe, even over-inebriated, no cabs, no cell phones. Good times.

And so I relived it all last night. As an adult. And it made all the difference. There is a new self-assuredness and awareness of myself and the space I occupy at social gatherings that I am suddenly very aware of. That little bit of self-consciousness that always kept me one step back from the thick of it seems to be slowly peeling away. I feel much more at ease and comfortable in my skin, I have loosened up in ways I didn’t even know I could or needed to, and I am able to step in and have a good time with little thought.

Yesterday was such a freeing day.

One year ago: One night to speed up the truth (Amsterdam. Day 1.)
Three years ago: Control issues, part 2

Morning joy

This is what I woke up to this morning. Later than usual, groggier than usual, feeling more lethargic than usual — thanks to the rice-heavy full meals I had later than usual, last night.

I was *that* close to skipping my workout and just calling it a rest day, but something compelled me to go. A little voice that said it’s too good a morning to spend in bed, and that nothing will kick the lethargy out of me like a quick run. And so I went, and it turned out to me an hour long Chemical Brothers retrospective. Thanks to D, who brought back this cracker like a blast from the past, when we met on the weekend.

Again, I don’t know if it’s the music that gives me this burst of energy, or if it’s the goodness of slowing down and going at my own pace, or I’m just unconsciously genuinely getting my legs to work better and faster, but guess what?

That next milestone I said I wanted to work towards, on Friday? I surpassed it today.

One year ago: Warm shadow, won’t you cast yourself on me (Bruges. Day 2.)

Run

This is the sweaty, but thrilled, messy but smug mug of someone who hit a significant running milestone the other day. That it happened out of the blue, unexpectedly, despite running on just four hours of sleep thanks to a moment of temptation that resulted in a caffeine-addled brain that didn’t shut down till 2.30 am, is a thing to celebrate. And yet, just to have taken myself to the gym, to find the energy to surpass my daily target by a whole kilometre, felt so, so, so good.

I hit the 6k mark, in just five minutes over my usual running time. It took running for ten minutes more than usual. It took pushing. It took a little more sweat and pain. But it felt so good.

I don’t know if maybe the remnants of caffeine were responsible for the extra energy and power. Or maybe it was the playlist for the day.

How does one not feel like running when this comes one?

Or this?

Anyhow, lying sleepless in bed the previous night, I was worried how I’d get through two days of class with limited sleep. But I managed just fine. And I think making it to the gym and getting that spot of exercise in had something to do with it.

I have so enjoyed exercising this year. Minus the rigid need to make all the self-made rules. Minus the unrealistic goals. Plus a whole lot of listening to my body, giving it the right amount of stretch it needs, while also resting when it asks for it, an eating what I want when there is a craving. I’m back in the groove of things, and I feel like I’ve found a sweet spot that work for me. The right routine, the right set of workouts, allowing myself that little bit of flexibility and ease, and the right goal — consistency, not numbers.

Even on mornings when it’s slow to start and the going is hard, it takes about fifteen minutes of being at the gym, pounding my feet on the treadmill, letting the music kick in good and proper. I have to stretch myself just that much and from that moment on when the sweat begins to roll, when my legs begin to do the work, I feel like I could fly. What a massive high that is.

I can tell something has changed when there’s an ease and a flow about the way in which I am able to carry it out. And this has happened with other things in life, but this is probably the first time there’s an enjoyable flow about exercise an I am so enjoying the twist in the tale.

Three years ago: Friyay

Wash-out

Today, a lot happened and I had three different things I wanted to write about. But somehow the day just got ahead of me — errands in the a.m., Netflix and chill in the afternoon and then a long-ass marathon 4 hour study/practice session with D & S. (I’ve gotten so much reading — for the course — and practice in this week, I feel pleased) And then I stepped out for an early dinner with my dad, and came right back to Netflix some more.

Something is happening here. As life seems to be opening up and moving, that old familiar quiet seems to be coming back again.

Perhaps it’s also the weather — grey, dull and constantly rainy. It brings a lethargy with it. Today I even skipped going to the gym. It’s making doing things a tad difficult, encouraging me to stay under the covers in bed, reading or Netflixing, for large parts of the day.

Take, another song to fill in for today’s post. Something I have on repeat a lotttt. Because, this weather.

I guess I’m writing off today as a wash-out, a dud, in terms of writing here.

One year ago: July
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: kinship, quietude and becoming

Warrior

Still feeling quiet. Still feeling some kinds of MIA. It’s been like allowing myself to fall so deep in to an all encompassing abyss, to allow it to take me completely and see what happens when I let go of it all. So until I emerge, I’m leaving you with this (also because it’s a bit telling of the churn inside of me).

One year ago: It’s the house telling you to close your eyes

New light

Adversity has that strange capacity of bringing out aspects of us that we didn’t know existed, that we didn’t know we needed, even. In this past week, I have seen family rally around and show up in ways that while essential and maybe even expected, but with a quality of togetherness that has caused role reversal, and brought out vulnerability and tenderness in the most unexpected places.

When I decided to fly back to Bangalore on Friday, I was responding to an inexplicable push from within that was nudging me to do the same — to show up and be present in a way that I have shied away from for years now. In that moment I realised that it isn’t about the the doing, but just the single act of being. Of showing up. Of being there. All my thoughts about being the odd one out, and all the difference I held between them and me, that had actually unconsciously kept me away, suddenly made way for clarity about the single and only way in which I suddenly wanted to connect, which was to be there. These emotions surpass the stories in my head, the narratives I want to cling to and all the various things that allow my mind to keep me staying in a place I am adamant to be in. But many times, like I said the other day, the heart and soul is ready to move on. To transcend barriers, to find a new way of being, to make way for growth — and I’m only just, very, very slowly, learning to be easy with that, in a way that doesn’t feel like a compromise to myself.

This past weekend, I have watched myself be present for VC’s family, in a way that I haven’t before. In a way that I have maybe even held myself back from being before. It’s been special to see that this happened even though I didn’t have the active presence of VC for support, as well as to hide behind, which is my usual MO. He came down with the flu the day I landed, which meant he had to stay away from the hospital entirely, and I still felt compelled to be there anyway. It’s been special to acknowledge that am now in a place to be able to do this with confidence rather than diffidence, calmly without slipping into panic and most of all without feeling the distress about the possible cost to my being.

It’s like discovering new light, in an otherwise dark time.

It is not lost on me that is yet another positive manifestation of how relationships with others, with the world at large, are changing, as the deepest most private parts of my relationship with myself are also changing. It brings the promise of new ways of blossoming.

The impending crisis has settled, for now. I return to Goa, in a couple of days, and life will likely resume. Even though everything about this back and forth seems familiar and old, at some very fundamental level I feel like nothing will ever be the same again.

One year ago: Oh my life is changing everyday
Three years ago: That’s all

These days

I’ve only been back in Bangalore a week, but the settledness that comes with returning home makes it feel like it’s been a while. Longer. Only thoughts of my plants give me a pang for the wonderful summer I had this year, not so long ago. But for the most part, life here has resumed in full swing. The weather has turned here with thunderstorm-y nights and grey, overcast days. Summer feels long gone.

There is the new development of not having work at all, something that otherwise grounds my days, giving me tangible milestones to work towards. I’m also mostly still eating all meals at amma’s, because ammama is visiting, so my kitchen hasn’t found a burst of activity as it usually does when I return. The only thing I’m doing (and by doing I mean expending physical energy) with utmost dedication an enthusiasm, is hitting the gym every single day. As much as this is a luxury that I love and appreciate, it has meant my days are rather floaty, like an extended holiday of sorts. Except I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t a holiday, this is now life itself. A phase of life without work, a life with abundant help and generosity from my mother. It is here for the taking — with freewheeling days to do as I please — and I must step up and take it for what it is, without diminishing its (or my) value with my sometimes problematic notions of what is “okay” to receive, and what is an unnecessary indulgence.

This seriously still disorients me — the floaty days, and the internal tussle I go through before I can enjoy them — but the uncanny and deliberate way in which events aligned to land me in this place this time around feels like a fresh call to just stay with it for a change. Do not rush to fill it with busyness, Re.

Even though I am getting better at it, it still takes a lot of effort to put myself in the headspace to go with it and enjoy it, to believe I am not “slacking off” for not being “productive”, to quit equating my usefulness to professional work alone. There is a sense of urgency I feel in getting to work, that I haven’t had in a while. The comfort of a steady gig, a steady income had kept that at bay, I suppose. The emptiness left by it now has brought old demons I’d somewhat put to rest, back up again. I’ve done my share of overthinking it silently in my head. And I keep coming back to asking myself this — what is your rush? What are you in looking to fill, ignore, move your eyes away from? Are you looking for work to numb the discomfiting silence that comes from extreme stillness? What is so scary about emptiness that you are trying avert it so urgently?

While I figure this out, I’m casting the net out again. Feebly. I’ve been out of the game for so long that I feel inept and a bit at sea about where to begin. So I must remember to take it slow, telling myself as many times as it takes to remember, I didn’t get to this stage of funemployment overnight, that sheer providence has sent a steady flow of work my way even in phases when I wasn’t really looking for it, that I am probably not going to go back to a state of steady work overnight. This is the natural order of things now. That it is okay. That there are gifts in here, even in the sometimes uncomfortably empty days, in the laziness that forces itself on me, in the wealth of time that is opening up for me. Is work really the only thing I want to fill it with?

At this point, I don’t know.

One year ago: Life has a funny way of helping you out
Three years ago: Period story and writing lessons

Happy bytes

The instructor on my workout video has this refrain whenever the workout hits a particularly tough or burn-inducing spot. Right when I’m wincing at that last rep, about to give up, he’ll go Just go to your happy place! and two months ago when I began using this channel, I’d chuckle, roll my eyes and have a giggle at his morbid sense of humor.

This morning though, right in the middle of all that burn, something like 45 burpees in, when he said Just go to your happy place! I suddenly got it. Even in that eye-popping, muscle-stretching moment, while I was melting nose-first, when I could have been seeing white spots in front of my eyes, I had such an endorphin rush I burst out laughing. In a truly happy, full-body guffaw of sorts.

I’m so happy that I’m back in this old familiar zone, even though I feel like a whole new me this time around. Where the exercise isn’t a pain or a chore (like it had become through 2017-18), and is in fact a joy-inducing, happy-making activity I am willing to put other things aside for, dedicating myself mind, body and soul.

***

Speaking of happy places, it’s been five years since P and I made the Goa Happy video, our little contribution to the literally thousands of local spin-offs to the Pharrell Williams song that took the internet by storm in 2014. So I revisited it!

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

I spent the weekend with D, because VC went away on a bike trip with work buddies to Gokarna. I think after food, therapy and tarot, the thing we’ve started to discuss the most is plants and gardening, and as usual (as always — I realised I’ve always left her home with plants or cuttings or both, on this trip) I came home with so many new things to pot.

I came away earlier than I usually would have. Ostensibly to catch a Sunday nap, wake up in my own home so I have the mojo to cook and settle back in, rather than be washed out by Sunday evening blues as it tends to happen to me.

What followed though made me want to stop and think, What Sunday blues?! because I woke up from my nap and went straight out into the terrace. I planted a whole bunch of fresh cuttings of plants I wanted that she’d painstakingly made for me, I repotted some plants that have grown too big for their pots over these few weeks, and I did sundry round of tending to everything, picking out dead leaves, watering, loosening soil and the works. All this while listening to Coke Studio that has made a timely pre-monsoon comeback in my life, right on cue.

The evening light was beautiful, and we’ve had a warmer couple of days so there was the residual heat of the day, as the sun is getting the full effect of the last of it’s rays in. My terrace was strewn with picked weeds, dry leaves, piles and trails of soil from all the dirty work, pools of water, muddy footprints. The sun set in a glorious pink yesterday, and when I looked up I was a sweaty, muddy mess. Such a joy. Such bliss. I didn’t realise I had kept going long after the sun had set, until VC walked in and laughed at how engrossed I had been.

***

Last weekend I cooked pork ribs for the very first time on my own. Following no recipe, winging it as I went along, throwing things in intuitively. And it turned out beyond delicious, if I can say so myself.

This has been happening a lot of late. The draw to go experiment, without too much planning, going in and going all the way. Some days are for the simply comforting givens like khichdi, and some days we pull out all stops and go the whole hog.

Either way, the kitchen has been a huge source of comfort for me these past few weeks. I’ve said so much about the peace and quiet and solitude staying in Goa offers me. And as much as I have enjoyed it, last week I realised I am ready for the hustle of my Bangalore life again. But this kitchen joy, the steadiness and joy that it brings to me, is something I want to try and keep going in Bangalore. Even if I am cooking in Amma’s kitchen, or even if I’m cooking for just myself at home.

Today, I’ve just cooked a marinara sauce, fortified with minced carrots and smashed stove-top charred red and yellow peppers, with smoky cumin and coriander and lots of red chilli flakes. I tossed up some frozen meatballs in some olive oil, and I will put them together right before we eat, mopping it up with millets and a salad.

***

After the bursts of those quintessential curly edged long green leaved mango trees, delicate frangipani and bougainvillea, we’re at that time of year where the gulmohar trees have come alive in all their glory. Literally everywhere, there are these clouds of fiery red, leaf-less trees, curvy and orb like when seen from a distance, eye-hurting flaming red when seen up close.

***

I’m all set to go back to Bangalore. I feel like this time of rest has been amazing, and well-timed and I am so refreshed and ready to get back to regular programming. I’m excited at the blank canvas sense I have for the next few weeks, and I feel certain I need to be in Bangalore as it unfurls.

Looking back, I’m so happy for the unexpected twist that brought me to Goa earlier than time, and kind of set a very different tone to the way the last two months have gone. It was unpleasant and challenging at the time and induced a fair bit of anger, frustration and resistance within me at the time, but as usual, as always, I can only connect the dots looking back.

It’s abundantly clear to me that there was no escaping this time, or the gifts it has brought, foremost amongst which has been the quality of the time VC and I have had together this trip. It’s been different. There was a quiet, reassuring and steady quality to it that hasn’t been there for a while — probably ever since we moved to Bangalore two years ago — that I didn’t know was missing until we somehow have regained it while not even looking for it. And so while I am looking forward to going back to Bangalore, this time around I am already feeling the pangs of missing him that I am anticipating will follow.

This is new. I have been so busy and involved with myself for the last six months, there hasn’t been a lot of room to sit and miss him really. I’ve been having a really good time in Bangalore, too much to let the usual longing dampen it. So this is going to be interesting.

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things

Finding flow again

It’s been a while since I experienced a state of flow like I did today. I’ve only ever felt it when I’ve been so completely into doing something that it absorbs me wholeheartedly in a way that makes me zone out, the world spinning on like it does, but all I can see or hear, all that I am aware of is the task I’m engaged in. It has consumed me fully, taken me to a strange otherworldly state of bliss. I have experienced this with baking, writing and reading before. Times when hours had passed, but I was entirely clueless of the passage of time and when I suddenly snapped back to reality, I was in utter disbelief about how long it had really been, and how deeply engrossed I had gotten. This was years ago.

Today, it happened at the gym.

I was so slow to wake up. Even though I went to bed early and got a good night’s sleep, that old familiar feeling of wanting to hit snooze till eternity came over me. So, I got to the gym ten minutes later than I usually do. It’s the kind of thing that used to earlier really bother my Type A mind that could only work a regimen to the T, the way I have it chalked out in my brain. Even the smallest deviation would make my motivation drag and a 10 minute delay would sometimes mean I’d cancel the workout completely. But some things have changed, I suppose.

So anyhow, in my groggy state this morning, while trying to get myself out the door before I give in to the deep desire to sleep again, I glanced at my workout of the day, saw only the top line mention a 20 minute run and thought Oh, that seems easy enough. It was all the push I needed. And off I went. Earphones on, Sapporo (currently the only album that’s fuelling the running) on full blast, I began to run.

I don’t know what happened after, but the next thing I know, the 20 minutes were done I felt like I’d barely been running for 5 minutes. Energy pulsed through me, and I  could almost feel it charging down my legs urging me to get going some more. It’s been challenging getting my running form up again. Every day last week I’ve had to really, really push myself through to the end of the running bit of the workout. It has taken every ounce of willpower to push through that burn and not give up when I think I’m done. The wonderful thing about finding this flow today, was how all of that difficulty just dissipated entirely, without my awareness. It’s the sort of switch that makes pain turn sweet, makes that inner voice (that sometimes tells me to give up) just disappear, and makes every moment spent with the task at hand an absolute and perfect joy.

Running those 20 minutes were a visceral pleasure that I could feel in my soles snug in my shoes, in my quads taking me farther with every step, in my hips that were no longer straining to keep up with me but were working in perfect synchrony, getting my legs to find the rhythm they’ve been gingerly trying to get a hold on for the last ten days.

Then. The killer.

I glanced at my WOD and realised the 20 minute run was just the start. The next few lines to follow “21 minute run” went like this:
5 minute rest
15 minute run
5 minute rest
12 minute run

And as if that wasn’t enough, a 15 minute conditioning burst to finish.

Misreading that is usually the kind of mistake that would make me either go back home, or fudge the rest of the workout. But today something took over me. I don’t know if my supplements are finally kicking in, or I needed 8 days back at the gym to find my groove again, or if Shingo Nakamura kicked things into place for me today, but today it really felt like divine timing waiting to happen. Like disconnected parts aligning slowly and moving towards that one moment when everything clicks into place just so. Like perfection waiting to happen. As a result, something really special, and surprising happened today.

I didn’t fudge the workout. I didn’t feel the need to give myself the I’ve-just-started I-can-go-easy excuses. No shortcuts, no sneaky cheats. I finished.

And I felt utterly blissful.

It’s a different matter that when I left the gym there wasn’t an inch of dry surface area on my tee, I wished for one of those Tesla cars that drive themselves, and a remote controlled house key that needed only a click of a button.

Boo-yeah.

One year ago: Just go ahead, let your hair down

Another favourite

Play time has gotten off to an excellent, excellent start. I ticked this one off the bucket list too, last night.

I kid, again. There is no bucket list. Just opportunities for things I’ve been wanting to do that have been consistently showing up. And the rather uncharacteristic reaction of jumping into them with minimal thought.

I’ve been trailing Abhishek Upmanyu (who I absolutely love, love, lovvvveee), and this show particularly, for about a year, I think. Either I missed the dates because of all the travel I had going on last year or I’d be late to wake up and book tickets, or they’d be too expensive. But things aligned last month when I spotted the show, saw tickets were affordable and available. I did the logical thing to do, asked around to see if anyone else wanted to go with me. Nobody did. The logical thing to do then, or what I would have typically done, was can the plan.

Instead, I booked myself a single ticket and decided to go on my own.

So there I was last night, by my lonesome, surrounded by a demographic that had showed up in deafening numbers — very loud, Hindi-speaking, 20-something boys. It was so fascinating to be an observer.

The show, of course, was so completely worth it. Upamanyu lives up to all the hype, to his online persona, to my huge expectations of him. After the show, I treated myself to a drink and dinner out by myself before I headed back home.

I had a really good time. Bangalore makes me feel free in some ways and yesterday was laced all over with that feeling of freedom.

***

I’m a bit high on just how good this week has been to me. This was meant to be a time for celebration. I am balking at how without much deliberation or execution on my part, it has somehow been exactly that, almost as if by some divine plan.

Actually, the fun began last week. I’ve had two full weeks with so much fun, enough alone down time, and little space for much else that could bring me down. I have been extra happy and at ease. Like I’m in a bubble, and nothing can touch me.

It peaked and showed at therapy — possibly my best, most path-breaking session yet. It was so good to tie up some loose ends and soak in that feeling of completion, from understanding where this is coming from, and how far I’ve moved to find myself here today.

I also got an inordinate amount of work done ahead of upcoming travel, so I have freed up enough time to chill when I’m away.

I had an unbroken ten day streak of daily exercise, and I’m feeling that good feeling from within. Cleaner from eating better, leaner from really enjoying working out again.

The Bonobo gig has mildly blown my mind. But it wasn’t just the gig. Something about the entire experience softened me some. To let go of my reservations, give in to fun just the way it was left me feeling light and playful. This is precious, it’s like tapping into a previously untouched part of myself and surprising myself with the realisation that hey this is fun too, who knew? It’s like discovering an old, young side of yourself you didn’t know still existed, you know?

I enjoyed dancing so much. It’s been years since I went to a club, just with the express intention to dance the night away, or just danced with abandon for no apparent reason. I had a phase in 2015, where I massively binged on all kinds of dancing. I’d found myself in a clique of people who frequently partied, not to drink, not to socialise but only to dance. And we went at it with the regularity and focus we brought to working out. I had even signed up at a dance class and spent 6 months learning to jive, salsa and also bachata a bit. But there’s been nothing since. Dancing that night made me realise how much I love to do this once in a while, and how much finding the right company for it matters.

Bob’s Bar was so fun. So reminiscent of the kind of drinking joints we’d frequent when I was in college. That typical Bangalore breed of bar that’s buzzing at 5 pm on a weekday. Also, full marks for the clever name and most excellent chicken pakodas.

I’ve been enjoying the city so much off-late. Really indulging the city-slicker in me. Taking cabs to zip around the city, any time of day or night, having an “office” at the local coffee shop (where I have become something of a permanent fixture in the afternoon), enjoying Cubbon Park, taking full advantage of the multiple exercise options within driving distance of home, having access to a pretty good array of festivals and shows, exploiting the spoils of good weather to walk as much as I can, having my friends in the same city as me, and living right next door to my parents.

I’ve realised that my years in Goa, blissful as they were in their own way, abruptly ended my access to this kind of city joy. While I adjusted to and enjoyed Goa thoroughly, there’s a part of me that has really felt a deep void from not having these indulgences. As much as I embraced the small, simple life, this big, loud life with so much access has my heart some times. At least at this point in my life, this makes sense. It fits and I’m glad I get to experience it fully.

I feel utterly fortunate for the chance to have a foot in both places so I can enjoy them both alike, without missing out or feeling a sense of lack for either. I’m not ready to choose one over the other. So for now, this makes sense. It fits.

At the gig, I met a friend I used to be pretty thick with in 2002-2003, with whom I’ve totally lost touch with in the years since. We were standing beside each other for a full ten minutes before he noticed me. Turns out he’s still in my phone book, but I hadn’t thought to let him know I’d moved. He was offended, and that surprised me. So we parted with a promise to catch up. It was so unlikely, unexpected, but just so heartwarming.

I had three instances this week, where I caught myself sticking my neck out to preserve a healthy boundary, valuing my time and choosing well by me. In all three instances, I chose to express my feelings rather than couch them or make them palatable in some way. I didn’t even realise it was happening in the moment, but much later when I was thinking about it, I felt excited and incredibly happy to see old patterns that once plagued me are slowly breaking away and the evidence of a new possibility emerge from each of these events.

I’ve been feeling very centred — possibly thanks to the point above — thanks to a very obvious sense of some of these pieces of my life falling into place. There is contentment with things just as they are, in a constant state of straddling perfection and imperfection. There is gratitude for this strange journey and all the many twists and turns it has taken, and continues to take. This feeling has only been growing as the days go by, and I find myself really feeling “enough”. Fulfilled, wholesome, whole, complete. I was writing this in my journal the other day, when I landed on this page that I’d scribbled randomly into a page in between, somewhere at the start of December.

When will it be enough? has long been a big question in my life, fuelled by that itching constant yearning for something more. This wasn’t the positive, healthy passion for seeking more, this has always felt more like a slightly dark, gnawing want that was driven by a definite sense of lack.

To have completely by fluke, scribbled my way to land on that very page, on a day when everything felt so complete, just sooooo enough, made me tear up.

At this point, everything is enough. It has been for a while now. And I see it, and take it in completely today.

Is there anything more delicious than the serendipity of long-unanswered questions finding happy resolution in a time and place one least expects?

One year ago: If you could change your mind
Three years ago: Make like a tree

You’re my favourite, you’re my favourite

Ticked this off the bucket list, last night.

I’m kidding. I don’t have a bucket list. But I did go to what I think was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity gig, for me.

To catch only like my most favourite DJ live, in Bangalore, was wild. I almost wouldn’t have gone if Niyu hadn’t pushed me to. I was being my usual finicky self preempting loud, large crowds, dusty outdoors and badly organised scenes.

However, I am so glad I pushed my adult worries aside and went anyway, because the rest of it wasn’t half bad, and the gig was insane good.

Fitting way to kick off play time.

I booked my ticket all alone, prepared to just go by myself. But I ended up tagging along with Niyu and a bunch of her almost-30 year old friends, so I did things I haven’t done in a long time — absolute years. Dressing up! Pre-gaming at Bob’s Bar. Walking to the gig in our “outrageous” clothes. Consuming whatever alcohol I could get my hands on. Coming home with super achy feet and quads from all the dancing. Waking up severely hungover this morning.

It was oddly freeing. And it certainly helped that it was a cracker of a live set.

I mean she was there. *all the heart eyes*

And in classic Bonobo style, a full band too with the whole deal — drums, keys, guitars, trumpets, sax, strings — for all the instrumentation.

My only complain was that it ended too soon, in utterly predictable Bangalore fashion, at 9.45 pm. *eyeroll*

BUT, they played one of my current obsessions:

And if you’re enthu, here’s the official video:

And even though this felt like a once-in-a-lifetime gig, I’m already setting my intention and wishes on a do-over. Preferably outside India.

Universe, make it happen.

One year ago: There’s still time to change the road you’re on
Three years ago: Cloudless skies

Weekend highs and lows

After a very long time, I had a weekend all to myself. A weekend that I spent almost entirely at home, just being a cooped up chicken. Just the way I like it sometimes. I cancelled all possibility of plans that could have materialised. I went for walks in the morning. I cooked full meals for myself. I had a massive Netflix binge. I read a book I’ve been attempting to begin since the beginning of January. I had long and winding conversations with VC.

On Saturday I felt extra pleased when I had finished dinner by 7 pm and was right back in bed and Netflixing immediately after. At 9.30 though, R and S called and dragged me out of bed for “a drive”. How bad could it be, I thought. I can get out for this, I told myself, as I got out of my night clothes, into a bra and presentable clothes again.

The “drive” ended at the airport. And what followed was a big binge, only to get home closer to 1 am.

On Sunday, after spending all day in bed, I showered at 3 pm and took myself out to work for a couple of hours. That was the extent of my venturing out.

I was telling VC last night how I am enjoying this time of cocooning and spending time with myself — I crave it and enjoy every last bit of it — as much as I am loving being in Bangalore where the world outside is just within reach whenever I want to venture out. I am really enjoying this access and ease.

***

Sunday evenings are the devil. They bring out a strange melancholy in me that takes me right back to the age of aching weekend endings. When white shoes needed to be washed and polished in time for Mass PT. When uniforms needed ironing. When books needed pre-packing. These were the rituals of the years when Sunday evenings ached. And they have pretty much set the code for all Sunday evenings of my life. No matter that my life today looks nothing like it did then, and has none of the trappings that life did then.

Even with nothing earth-shattering to wake up to on Monday, even with the luxury of starting the week with an easy 7.45 am yoga class (and really, this is easily the best way I have allowed myself to begin any week, in recent time) Sunday evenings bring that dull ache back, almost every week. With immaculate regularity.

And yet, every Sunday, when the gloom descends I forget to discount it as that specific kind of meaningless Sunday evening gloom. Week after week, month after month, endless Sunday evenings pass with this restlessness gripping me bang on cue. Invariably, it takes VC pointing out that it’s Sunday evening, midway through my whining and complaining, for me to realise it and let it go.

Sunday evening gloom is the new PMS in my life.

***

This Sunday evening I had a big mood, though. An incredible disappointment in all people, in what is left of most relationships in my life at this present moment. Several events leading up to Sunday have left me feeling excessively depleted, like I just have nothing more to give, and yet the ask and want from various quarters persists. Unabashed and singleminded asking, of me. With no regard or thought for the balance or what I might get in return.

After a long, long time I reached a point where I felt disillusioned and a touch of self-pity for the oddly familiar place I am in, that somehow still feels all new and shitty at times too. How did it get this way?

On the one hand, I have this longing for people, for connection, like I haven’t had ever before. All pretence of introversion has lifted. I want to be out there, meeting, talking to people, not just for the the heavy and intense bits but the light and fun bits too. And yet, of the mere handful of people that exist, there is just disappointment and a consequent lack of inclination to reach out. It makes me close up. Makes me want to be the lone ranger I have the habit of being. Makes me confirm the In the end we’re all alone anyway thought.

By late Sunday evening this mood had bloomed into a full blown rage. Complete with a big urge to just burn away all ties. To shut this blog down. To go under. And I expressed it to VC as a deep, deep desire to go away someplace completely new, where nobody knows me — not the old me, not the new me — to start over from scratch.

Monday came along, and some of it passed. But it wasn’t until after a solid afternoon nap and a long chat + reading with D that I felt some of the heaviness lift. Later last night, I had dinner with Amma who had just returned from Bombay. A dinner I had cooked and taken over, with a side of conversation and some laughs. And I felt infinitely better after it.

Maybe this is just it? Maybe I need to stop looking so hard and trying to catch this nebulous notion of connection that seems to be festering within all the time? Maybe I just need to let it go, put an intention out and let what will be, be. And give thanks for the little bits of connection I do receive, in whatever form they come my way.

***

Here’s a ragey tune fit for all Sunday evenings.

***

On the other hand, I am also acutely aware that all these feelings are a part of the process. This unsettling may be long-drawn and painful, and will bring with it a fair share of shedding. I am still partly afraid, even as I brave the daily reminders of everything in the people department in my life that is hanging by a weak tether. Deeply unsettling of all is not knowing which way I am going. The confusion, the not knowing too, is a part of the process.

I have known this all along.

This morning, I came across this tweet that reaffirmed my knowing of how wide open the choices out there are right now, for me. The fear is still in letting the reins go, in letting the old go.

One year ago: May your feet always be swift
Three years ago: Blush