We’re going through changes

So it’s not just me. The Economist has this amazing piece on how Covid has changed lifestyles significantly. It’s safe to say this is not a mere passing trend, but change from within that is here to stay for a while longer than just the next fad. It was very comforting to read how the world over, we have turned to cooking, cleaning, DIY and home-making, craft and arts, gardening, pottery, baking, embroidery and knitting and the like to find some semblance of peace amidst the chaos, and our centres in the face of being thrown off kilter completely.

I realise that this too is global. Not just the destruction and chaos of the pandemic, but also the troubling churn that is also an opportunity for transformation that it is offered us all.

This impetus to find different ways to be has been triggered within us all partly from realising how undependable the current ways of the world are. How fragile and illusionary they are, how little support they offer. And most importantly, the gaping holes of inequity that have been exposed.

We were never meant to slave away like cogs in a relentless capitalist wheel in the way that we do. Running on the hamster wheel endlessly, chasing after one milestone after another, like mirages in a vast, desolate desert. But we were willing to cash in on whatever it offered, in the belief that it will somehow remain forever. This was the road to happiness. But how quickly all of that went to shit. And how quickly the discomfort struck each and every one of us, in some manner or another.

I wonder if the changes I am seeing — and I truly am seeing them in folks around me — are in a small manner coming from an awakening. A slow, slow return to the certain primal ways we were meant to exist in. Working with our hands, nourishing ourselves, finding pockets of rest, looking for joy in things other than making a living, doing the things that matter to our lives first, before feeding corporations became the only means to making a living.

Thinking about living and life first, and allowing the means to organically emerge from there. Rather than retrofitting the means to a living, to the kind of life we are then saddled with.

In my own space, I know that the slow down that this has caused has permeated more than just the pace at which I function. I have been more observant, more aware, I feel more in-tune with the world around me, I feel fiercely about certain tenets I now want to live my life by, I see the ways in which my internal and external worlds echo and mirror each other, and therefore the need to find balance, moderation and sustainability.

This didn’t just come out of nowhere. It came from getting down to the basics again. From literally getting down on my hands and knees to clean my home, chop veggies, grow plants, dig the soil, water fresh blooms, wash my loos, clean the dustbin, mindfully stock and store groceries amongst other things.

It made it impossible not to observing keenly what it takes to live life, and what (and how much!) I lost from dissociating from the acts of basic living completely. In outsourcing, I severed that connection to the very hands-on acts of living life. Putting food on the table, keeping a hygienic home, being curious about how much I consume.

Somehow, this made me aware of the plurality of life around me. The diversity in resources. And the pressing need to bring back balance to our relationship with it all. Watching nature, whether in my little balcony garden, or at the vegetable and fruit vendor, or in the millions of thought bombs I have read about these things (because everybody is talking about it now more than ever), has really made me realise the need to pause. Pause before I act.

Now that I am back to running outdoors, I catch myself literally watching, observing, looking up at the trees more, noticing blooms, catching unlight speckling through the leaves, smiling to see flocks of parakeets rushing from tree to tree, finding joy in withered, yellowed trees as much as lush, verdant ones. Watching, seeing keenly has shown me what natural resilience looks like.

Isn’t it amazing how it is the trees, birds, water, animals and insects that are thriving in the middle of a pandemic, while we are perishing faster than we can keep track of. We’re cowering into the corners of our homes, shrouded in masks and scarves to keep safe, while something else, something outdoor, stronger and more resilient than us is enduring.

There are lessons in survival in natural cycles. In balance and organic timing. In patience and timely growth.

The more I notice and become aware of these things, in the quiet moments when I am catching chai on the balcony, or running in the park, or simply watering my plants for the day, the more it percolates in some way into my life, my actions, my habits, my beliefs.

I cant unsee the glaring evidence that balance fuels survival, harmony breeds joy, equity births prosperity. So, in my own little way, working with my hands and doing the work has been an attempt at bringing balance back into our lives. A practice in adopting a more benevolent attitude, a slower rhythm that runs in respectful pace alongside my world, not trying to always get ahead.

And it is also impossible to ignore the joy that has come from it. You’ll know by now how much being involved in gardening has been the mirror I held up to my own internal processes. The clarity in thought, the ability to hold the murky days, keeping my head up even when inside I am going under, finding space to hold the sadness and pain that has come from all of this, working with a focus on what I want to do and why the work is important to me — I believe it is a function of returning to who I am. All thanks to stripping down to the bare necessities, and surprisingly finding inexplicable satisfaction in doing mundane chores.

The tide is turning.

***

Post title lifted from old favourite song that has an apt sounding line, but in totality has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

One year ago: Gratitude fix
Two years ago: August

Life around here

Today, I had a full-on domestic day. I mean full-on, from the moment I woke up. Gloating about or feeling like the domesticity is special is so passé because, well it’s been too long now. We decided to do without domestic/household help and we have been at it on our own since April. We have found a rhythm, and we workaround energy ups and downs, lazy spurts and there is division of labour and a method to our madness. Mostly great things have come from this change, and huge realisations of what we actually need to survive, and everything else that is a luxury has made it much easier to cut back on the latter and lean in to the former.

Today’s spurt of full-day domesticity was thanks to a much-delayed pest control treatment. I first realised we needed it in April. But of course there was no pest control to speak of then, and somehow we forgot and pushed it, until it became unbearable. Probably several generations of them had spawned by then and the colonies were obviously overcrowded because the buggers had started venturing out looking like they’re in the midst of an existential crisis, in broad daylight.

Anyhow, so we had to empty out our entire kitchen the night before. The contents of which lay neatly strewn all over my dining table and chairs. The actual treatment involved deep-spraying the kitchen first, then a surface treatment, and spraying some parts of the rest of the home. It’s the worst because the creatures begin to crawl out and die slowly. There’s also chemical residue all over the house, most of all in the kitchen and I didn’t want to put anything back in order in a rush until the house had been ventilated and the stuff had had it’s time to blow off.

Also, VC was out all day in meetings, and I wasn’t going to do this all on my own. So I quarantined myself in my bedroom. And we managed with take out for a full day, eating meals in bed. It felt like the day we had just moved in when there were boxes all around the home, and only our bedroom was liveable.

So today, we had to reset and chores included sweeping up about 300 cockroach carcasses, literally scrubbing the kitchen down with a brush and soap and Dettol water, then wiping it down once again, resetting all my utensils and appliances, and throwing away a shit ton of junk in the process. And then doing the dishes, and getting to the rest of the home that also needed to be sanitised.

We were at it from 8-12. VC did his bit and went on to take some calls and get some work done, while I kept at it, taking the opportunity to spring clean and declutter some stuff that had piled up since our last such overhaul in May. It’s crazy how quickly junk piles up.

So yeah, cleaning and domesticity is really not special anymore. We’re both just found an auto pilot state of mind that helps get things done, around the other stuff we have going on in life, pitching in for each other when one of us is having a flat/busy day. I thank my stars that this has happened at a time when we’re both anyway at home, a lot less interested in being madly busy as we once used to be, and so we have the space and inclination to make this choice. I plan to keep at it until something changes and maybe other interesting things might have our fancy instead.

I even think about too much on a daily basis. Except when I realise that somehow even with being cleaned a lot less than when I had daily house help, the home is cleaner, more organised and feels more lived in. This added domesticity has been a safe haven for me, I’ve said before. And I have frequently turned to the rhythms of keeping a home, cooking our meals, gardening and sprucing things up around the house as a means to stay grounded and in touch.

The gift in all of this has been realising just how much of a homebody I naturally am. I really do thrive in keeping a home. And I mean all the allied parts of keeping a home, not just the part where the home is lovely and nice, but everything that goes into making it so. I have denied this part of myself for a very long time, even when I’ve had phases where I have dipped in and out of it many times over.

Today was that kind of day. Come down from the skies, land your feet on the ground, remember where you are kind of days. I have been floating off in an overly emotional space for several weeks now, processing many things, and generally having my mind and body a bit hijacked by it all. A full day of domesticity always gets the old gears moving back how they used to.

Somehow, the big reset moments in my mind, when I return from having gone full circle, moments that feel like inflection points of transformation, like washing out the interiors of my brain in anticipation of something new — these phases are always marked by a day or two of real-life cleaning around me. My nesting tendencies peak, I get very eager to throw out junk, strip down our lives and minimize the clutter, make our living spaces warm and comforting. It’s all very metaphoric for the inner process too, and I don’t ever take that coincidence for granted.

There have been some important and big shifts happening for me internally. But for the last couple of weeks, I was in some sort of limbo. Like I said yesterday, at a threshold of pain — having walked through the door but not yet fulling moving in, rather still tempted to bolt back out the door. But that is slowly changing. Slowly. And days like this are balm for that state of mind.

Earlier in the week I did a good load of garden sprucing up too. Watching how the old is making way for the new there too. Schefflera doesn’t sprout new leaves on a regular cycle like say, my syngonium or monstera. And I haven’t quite figured out the cycles on the schefflera as yet. But that morning, I realised somehow it’s time. The old is on its way out, the new is blooming and beaming out, making itself seen.

It’s hard not to see the parallels and feel very reaffirmed and assured by it all. Like seeing 11:11 again and again — something that never happens or happened to me.

Until this week. When it happened three times.

So yeah. Things are stirring.

***

Post title inspired shamelessly lifter from one of my favourite James Blake tracks, in collaboration with one of my favourite rappers — Chance.

Here, have a listen.

One year ago: Love actually
Two years ago: I want to thank you for giving me the best days of my life

Friday feels

Can’t get over, or enough of, the brilliant weather we’ve had this past week. Consistently moody skies, pleasantly refreshing drizzles in the day and nourishing downpours by evening.

I’ve taken it easy this week thanks to getting my period, but also the fact that it occurred happily right when the weather got so good. I’ve wanted to do nothing but stay in, so I took the readymade excuse that was offered up on a platter.

I had a mini catch-up session for my course, mid-week, but my mind was entirely elsewhere this time around. Amongst the rain laden clouds. The glistening wet streets. The cool air, beyond. In thoughts of picnicking somewhere outside Bangalore. With being in the hills elsewhere. Amongst this random dream of a cottage with a farm where I’m growing my own veggies.

That’s the only spot of work I managed to get myself to do. Readings have been going on, and they don’t tax me or demand a lot out of me at the pace at which I’m operating currently. So it doesn’t even classify as work. There are a few plans or side projects I have that I could get going with — logically this is the right time — but I haven’t been able. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait like this for the right moment but it feels like the only thing I can do right now. I can seem to only push myself this much. Going against the grain and pushing through in the name of “getting shit done” just because an empty spot of time opened up is not only hard, it feels impossible now.

Today after cleaning chores, though, I shuffled things around at home. In anticipation of our new living room furniture that’s arriving soon. We decided to break the rule and not get a set, or a couch, but two single armchairs instead, in the hope that it opens up our cozy, tiny living room up. I bathed my plants and moved them around. I took the babies that have been inside outside, and brought some new babies inside.

The whole time it drizzled. And I cleaned while listening to Continuum, which threw it all the way back to to yonks ago, to a time in the years when I had just started to drive in Bangalore. When listening to my best music, driving around in the rain, with no plan or agenda, was a legit thing to do. Most times, I didn’t even need company.

This whole album is GOLD. And perfect for the rain. And is loaded with all the feels. It was a serious trip today that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I can’t believe another week has just whizzed by. I feel like I’ve been horizontal for the most part. I can’t complain, but I am just in shock at the pace at which time seems to be moving, even with deliberately doing so little. And just like that another weekend rolls along. The days are certainly blurring, weekday/weekend, nothing seems to matter anymore and I’m just floating through the continuum.

One year ago: Stay in
Two years ago: June

Peace, within and without

First thing in the morning is my most preferred time of day for exercise. In a perfect world, my energy and willingness would be right up there with that intention. But that isn’t always the case. And it is only very recently that I have come into agreement with this fact, without feeling like I am somehow useless for not always meeting that standard.

I don’t know if it is just an outcome of ageing that I am me seeing how my “morning person” energy is shifting, as it does, mostly towards a natural slowing down, or if this has always been true and I am only just getting more comfortable with my inherent patterns of energy.

I am also at my most energetic, nimble and supple in the few days right after my period, while at my least energetic and not desiring movement in the days right before my period.

Today was that kind of day. Slow, blobby, body not entirely willing even though head and heart were. So even though I woke up early and had a perfect window to workout, I found myself moving in a very measured way, doing everything else except getting ready to exercise.

I nearly cancelled out the workout entirely, even. But pushed myself just a wee bit. Because I have rarely never regretted a workout once I have finished, no matter what the circumstances before I began.

This is also a part of rolling with the punches — the willingness and ease with breaking the plan, with doing something rather than nothing at all, going as far as is possible than not going at all, not being exacting and demanding with my expectations of myself.

Picked a short, quick, high-impact workout today. There is quite nothing like that burst of energy, even for a body that not so long ago felt unwilling to move. Invariably, it takes all of 5-7 minutes for me to feel like I can move. And so I am glad I pushed through with whatever I had to give and however I was able to show up today. Because by the end of it, I felt bliss.

Bliss is just the word for it. Have you ever felt bliss within your body? Like the sun shining out from within you? I felt that way this morning, despite that feet-dragging start. And so I felt instinctively drawn to step outside, to the little sliver of sunshine I get and feeling one with the world around me.

It has to be said that even with the ups and downs in my emotions, in context to what’s been going on around me and the world at large, I feel very much at one with myself lately. A sense of togetherness within me. Peace inside of me. Quite anchored and not wanting to uproot anything — a sense of everything being in it’s place.

Earlier, when this contentment showed up, it would come with a desperate need to hold on to it. To bottle it. To keep it for a rainy day. I notice now that there is a new ease with just witnessing, experiencing it in the now, now. And letting it go. And welcoming all experiences and everything that they bring, alike.

This is so new, and I suspect a major reason for the peace, even in the face of feeling low sometimes, quite a bit of grief sometimes, physical distress from being restricted too.

I want to acknowledge this experience I’m having, of seeing and knowing emotions, without being hijacked by them, getting swept away or losing my footing when in their effect. Is this possibly a brush with inner peace?

***

Today, this also made me really happy.

***

Looking back at posts from July one year ago, and again balking at what a different place I was in, in my head and in my life. It seems too distant to even process, like reading the words of an entirely different person.

This year, with the coming of the monsoon, that expected and predictable yearning to be in Goa is all but missing. A fascinating development. I mean, I would love to be there in the monsoon, but every year since I have moved away, this time of year used to bring an aching longing and FOMO, which hasn’t come this year.

One year ago: The rain
Three years ago: I need to sit with the quiet, I know that much
Four years ago: The rain, the rain

Lovely day

Highlights:

My tuck jumps have gotten steadily better. I’ve gone from not being able to do more than 2-3 at a stretch in February, to being able to do a slippy cheat version for 30 seconds (cheating was the only way to endure the interval) on my birthday, to today doing them really bloody well for the entire interval.

I felt seriously stoked. Working out within the physical restrictions of a 4x5ish space in my living room at home has upped my game. Who’dathunk?

Vc had a light work day and so we spent it together relaxing, just doing our own thing. It is a seriously underrated luxury.

I cooked lunch today as opposed to eating leftovers from dinner the previous night, which is usually the strategy. Sindhi kadhi, methi aloo and some crispies on the side — perfect for the threatening-to-pour-any-minute-now day that it was.

Then it came down finally. It poured the fuck out at sunset and things have cooled off considerably.

I went the whole hog and made Biryani today. Friday onions, a separate meat curry cooked in coconut milk, half cooked basmati rice. Layered and cooked on the dum. It was divine and I even took a picture, which I looked at much later, only to discover it’s a perfect depiction of how good the biryani smelt and looked because I was clearly in too much of a rush to dig in.

Two years ago: There’s still time for another
Four years ago: On the calmness of being at home

Inside is alright

It’s been impossibly hot the last week or so. Like so, so hot, I felt like I was in Goa in the end of May, when the oppressive summer heat would drive me to tears. The last few days of that punishing heat that would really peak and take things to a crescendo before the first rains at the end of May or beginning June. It was like that, except high on the punishing side and absolutely nil on the relief-of-rain side. Our AC desperately needs servicing but since we’re in a red zone, that’s not happening any time soon. So the nights have been uncomfortable. The days have also been borderline miserable, and I have been complaining a fair bit.

Even so, I think indoors has been better than outdoors. One trip out into the wild outdoors, beyond the restrictions we’ve been living within, to buy some booze, and to buy some fancy groceries we don’t get in my neighbourhood proved it. It’s probably also the way that our bodies are now habituated to the energy requirement of a life enclosed within the four walls at home, but I was wiped clean from just that outing and needed a long afternoon nap. The heat was sapping and I was so glad to be back home.

I am turning into quite the homebody, even more than before, even more than I thought possible. I am slightly grumpy about life resuming the way it is. Also appalled at the staggering stupidity of lifting this whole lockdown in the haphazard and cruel manner that it is. When we are nowhere near the peak, or flattening the curve. It would also be accurate to say I am a bit scared too, and will not be venturing out for the next week or ten days, even though we are now allowed to.

Strange, no?

I don’t understand anything that’s going on with this country anymore. And when I try to it just brings up extreme grief, helplessness, frustration and anger. I have not hated being here ever, as much as I do now.

***

It did rain briefly last night though. One of those classic Bangalore downpours that shows promise and comes with a clap and a bang, but disappears with just as much gusto. It cooled things down a touch, but not enough, and nearly not for long enough. Today was overcast and tantalisingly grey, all day long.

It was a slow day and I just decided it wasn’t a day for productivity. And I spent the day cleaning, taking my time, listening to Advaita in the hope that it will induce some rain. It certainly induces a rainy state of mind for me.

For two reasons:

It takes me back to this late monsoon-y sunset beach visit (its the set of washed out sepia toned pictures) S, Niyu and I took back in 2012 or so. Back when we did that kind of thing every weekend. We’d grab a beer each from the supermarket, drive to the nearest secluded beach (and we had scoped a good number of those, away from shacks and restaurants and people in general), plug in our ears with our respective music and just chill. Either walk about, or just sit and stare, wonder, drift away.

And then in December last year, when we were in Coorg, S brought Advaita back. It had been years since I heard them and we listened to it some on the drive there and back, particularly when it rained a little. It’s now in a monsoon playlist on my phone.

***

Apparently the promise of rain is thanks to a cyclone thats brewing. In addition to everything else, we’re now prepping to evacuate a million people to safety. I don’t understand anything anymore.

And so I’ll take solace in my music and the mundane machinations of my everyday life. Pulp those mangoes, get that workout done, reheat leftovers for lunch, finish that assignment due today, take that call for a reading this evening, read a little. Inside is alright.

Life is so strange.

Four years ago: Beach vibes 

Soft, rested, easy

A softness and ease that I was missing since the start of the year, seems to be slowly returning.

Easy. Relaxed. Unwound. Rested. Calm. Happy. All things that felt like they needed effort, are now within reach again.

A good night’s sleep, that has been really hard to come by (to the point where it was beginning to worry me), has made a comeback. Consequently waking up — that I was also struggling with — has become easy again. Which in turn means I’ve been very good with getting exercise at the best time of the day for me. And that soft, good beginning that really sets me up for a day of ease and flow, is possible again.

I had decided I want to get 5 days of exercise per week, as far as possible. Because this number had dwindled in the last 3 months of 2019, and the effects of it were showing. I have had way too many fits and starts since then. But as of last week, I think I may have made a real comeback, without having to struggle for it.

Mid way through last month, my gym membership expired. It was around then that I realised it was time to listen to my body that was asking for the usual change I crave every now and then, and I didn’t renew it. I’ve also been feeling a very strong urge to run, outdoors, more seriously, more frequently. And so I began. I just began, without thinking about it. Running outdoors and working out at home on alternate days.

Summer is also upon us. The days are getting longer, mornings warmer. Waking up and wanting to head out has been easier. And so, I’ve had an unbroken streak so far — 5 days last week. Everyday so far, this week.

The green outdoors, running amidst freshly flowering trees, morning glow all around, my current music OBSESSION in my ears — on two occasions I teared up while running just from the sheer goodness of the endorphin rush combined with the perfection of the moment.

I managed to get out and have some fun, to balance out all the heady work I’ve been doing. The heaviness that has made me constantly choose the bed as my only respite when I wasn’t working, has lifted.

Solo outings that I so, so, so need are happening again. I’ve also been enjoying cooking good, wholesome meals for us at home again. Minus the drudgery. And even allowed myself take out on the days I most needed it. Minus the guilt.

I’ve been taking naps when I needed them, given the bad night sleep I’ve been having. I have been in a consistent fog of sadness through the last few weeks. Even when things have been good, happy and uplifted even, there has been this fog lingering at the back of my mind. It sometimes felt so physical, like my vision has been hazy at times and seeing clearly was difficult. But, I feel rested, eyes open and I feel clear again.

VC and I have been enjoying relaxed time together — something we strangely haven’t done very much of since the start of the year because we’ve both dived headlong into our respective new work areas and it’s been very, very preoccupying for the both of us. So the past week or so we’ve had relaxed evenings just sitting together, chatting, sharing a drink of wine and I realised it’s something so simple, but has been missing, even though we’re both working from home, and are together all the time!

My energy has changed, and I know getting sleep and exercise back on track has everything to do with it. But I also feel it was an energy shift from the weekend of workshops. Not just from facilitating, but also from being in a healing circle and receiving gifts even when I am not there to work on myself. That has been such a gift.

I didn’t know that what I was missing during these confusing, heavy, sad last few weeks was softness. But now that I feel it — in my body and in my mind — I realise there was something clenched up, hard, about the way I have been lately. Maybe it’s the constant onslaught of the political situation, plus the hyper-focus on making work work and a serious reduction of all my rejuvenating practices that actually ought to double or triple at a time like this.

I’m enjoying this return to me.

One year ago: As Goa as it gets
Four years ago: Because I want to remember

I’m alive

WHAT. A. DAYYYY-YYYYY!!

1) It started at 7 am. For making it to the gym, two days in a row. Yes I’m now down to celebrating this, because January has seen the exercise streak take a severe beating. One that I was happy to just go with, till it led to unbelievable levels of sloth that I had to just ride out, I suppose. An upward spike in energy since the weekend has meant I am back, once again. And two days in a row made me insurmountable happiness first thing in the morning.

Working out to this on repeat a handful of times probably also had a major role to play.

2) Also the fact that I started loading and refreshing the Election Commission’s website at 8 am today. It was bound to be a good day, right form the get go by the look of things. But boy, I was not prepared for just how good Delhi came through!

This is probably what reaching tipping point feels like. When the status quo has been hella shook, people have no fucks left to give. I’ll admit, I had a mad sadistic happiness watching the results, with BJP getting absolutely pissed on, and Congress, walloped. Every cell in my body feels relieved. And insurmountably happy that after years of wondering how much lower will we have to go before there’s a glimmer of some push back, some turnaround, this happened.

The single-minded hate campaigns have had me really disillusioned lately. That this is a state’s response the country’s current ruling party got, for what was probably the lowest, most despicable, disgustingly hate-laden, vilest campaign possible makes me happy no end.

Kejriwal’s “I Love You” to Delhi punched me right up in the feels today. I feel hopeful that as a country we know better, we want better, and even though it might be a long and painful road ahead, this victory makes me feel hopeful that we will not settle for less. Not anymore.

I read this couplet somewhere today, and aside form feeling really apt for the turning point that today is, it really, really touched me:

tū shāhīñ hai, parvāz hai kaam terā
tere sāmne āsmāñ aur bhī haiñ

Translation:
You are a falcon, flying high, your purpose
And you have so many undiscovered skies ahead of you

This is what hope looks like.

3) And as if all that goodness was not good enough, I watched Little Women. It was an impulsive plan to tag along with S and S and I wanted so badly to “revise” the plot of the book before I went but that didn’t happen. I kept repeatedly mixing up details and plot lines and earlier televised and cinematic versions with Pride and Prejudice (*eyeroll*) and I was all kinds of confused until right before the movie began. But OMG OMG OMG — what. a film! Came home so utterly confused about why Soirse Ronan didn’t bag the Oscar for Best Actress.

It was just beautiful — stunningly re-imagined, picturised, shot and edited. And just such a delight to see a film so full of powerhouse women taking so much screen time, uninterrupted by men who are just mostly in the background. It was poignant, and I could personally relate to so many little nuances of each of the characters. Their pains, sorrows, joys, triumphs, confusions, disillusionments, frustrations and ecstatic successes alike. It was touching and joyful, heart-wrenching and uplifting, simultaneously. Experiences that show me humanity, and duality are fast becoming top experiences in my book.

4) We shared a plate of the best potato wedges after the movie.

Yeah that’s it. That counts for a darn good happy day in my books.

One year ago: Super power
Four years ago: Fail

Coke love

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

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

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

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

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

More feels

Oh how far we’ve come. How low we’ve fallen. How depraved and deranged a time we now live in. How despicable and desperate everything seems.

In contrast to a time like this.

Watch Bismillah Khan sing praises to the spirit of Benaras, reliving his days and life there, where the duality of Islam and Hinduism found peaceful coexistence in one of the holiest cities in the country.

A reality that seems unbelievable and impossible to retrieve today.

SHAME.

One year ago: Winter joys
Two years ago: You’ve been on my mind

Things that have punched me right in the gut

Right up in the feels. Full blown emotional reactions. Some tears. Some swelling pride. Some solace. And still some despair.

Will this go down in history books as the Revolution of 2020? I sure hope that at least from the digital documentation and all the spontaneous, raw and brutal art coming out from it, it does. Because the news channels aren’t getting the full force off the ugliness off it all. Not even a little bit.

And with the way things are going, I don’t think we can depend on the history books to provide any degree of accuracy to the actual goings-on of this country and the dark times we are traversing.

Sab kucch yaad rakha jayega. By Aamir Aziz, of Acche Din Blues fame from some years ago. If you haven’t heard it, you need to. Now.

Mere paas bechne ko kuchh nahi so bech raha hun ghaflat,
Daal bohot mehengi hai so log khareed rahe hain nafrat.

And then there was this: Vaastvik Kanoon, by Naveen Chourey.

And then this grooooovy sample from a Cubbon Park anti-CAA/NCR Cypher. (We have cyphers now?!? Woooot.)

Ah. I have never witnessed joy and pain sit in companionable silence together like this before.

One year ago: The morning after
Two years ago: Video killed the radio star

Coke Studio love

Reliving old days. These ones, where Coke Studio madness made for perfect rainy night stay-ins in Goas madenning monsoons.

Our very own tunnel of nostalgia. Just with a brand new Rohail Hyatt season, in a different city, minus the rain.

Reliving old days, while also holding and rejoicing the many ways in which all the people in this room are grown and changed irrevocably and wonderfully.

Such bliss.

One year ago: Relax, take it easy

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]

https://www.instagram.com/tv/B37BNjXlw3V/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

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

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