Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

I’ve been in this floaty in-between space, I call my extended time of transition, for so long now. First I was transitioning from Goa to Bangalore, then from my parent’s home to my own. At some point I realised this transition wasn’t just physical. In some ways I was transitioning from the 2016-me to the now-me (for a lack of words to explain this). And somehow, the process doesn’t feel complete. A trail remains, and I’m gliding along slowly.

Some part of me knows this is WIP, and perhaps not a start-stop kind of event that will ever end. This is a transformation of sorts, a shedding of what was and stepping into what could be. And I say could be because I’m not sure as yet where I’m going. I am sure of the lack of surety, because I see the signs that tell me not to rush, to wait and to allow things to settle in their own time. Because the process, and what’s happening now, is crucial.

I need to sit with the quiet. I know that much.

I have been in a funk with work. For many reasons, and that is the stuff of another post, should I choose to ever discuss it. C put is so perfectly yesterday when I was whining about this to her.

“I can’t stop thinking about writing. And yet I can’t seem to get myself to write. For work.”

So it’s what I’ve done. I’m only quietly pursuing a few opportunities that landed in my lap, and not aggressively going after anything. I have enough, and yet it feels like a lot. What I am doing, I am really struggling to keep up with.

On the home front, I’m semi-interested in most things. I feel like I could do with a project and there are so many up for the taking, but I don’t seem to want to actually push myself into investing time and effort into any of them. I’ve been doing the bare minimum to get by. The house is not always spic and span, the laundry tends to get ignored for longer than is ideal. Our meals are a far cry from what they used to be — sticking to basic stuff now that my diet has given me permission to scrap all the fluff.

Socially too, I’m not over-eager, neither am I cutting myself off or anything. I’m doing what feels easy and doable. Much like work, there’s a lot I think I want to do, but I realise maybe it’s just the idea of doing those things that excites me, and not so much actually going out and doing them.

I’ve considered travel several times these past few weeks. It just seems fitting no? To go away, be with myself while this shit works itself out. Especially given how I’ve unlocked new reserves of patience I didn’t know I had. But again, same issue — half of me is willing and the other half doesn’t want to budge. I just want to remain and watch as things happen.

I’ve discussed a hypothetical Europe plan with J and S three times this year. Finally semi committed to dash off to Singapore. And discussed numerous desirable weekend getaways with S and R. I stalked Goa airfares for about eight weeks before actually booking ourselves on the trip last month.

So yeah, maybe you get the drift? Have you ever felt like this? In limbo, on all fronts? Ennui-like and just happy to be afloat?

***

And then when I returned from Goa, it occurred to me that virtually, social-media-specifically too, I seem to be in the same headspace. Nothing compels me. Work was the only reason I would frequently visit facebook, and now with that fading, I don’t check in nearly as often. I am not feeling the burning need to respond to every notification or do anything else while I do check in. I’m only frequently posting on Instagram, because I still love picture-making and rambling on. But there too, my follow list has been pruned and transformed so much. I’m surrounded by art more than anything else. My interest in watching people and their lives has nearly died. Much like it did for food, clothes, cakes. But the icing on the cake was finding myself indifferent to whatsapp too.

Could it be that the quiet is creeping deeper than I thought it could?

Right now, it feels like there are several moving parts that are making small, almost non-existent movements to come together. I feel the movement ever so slightly. It is only some times overwhelming, but mostly tantalising. And yet I am only still waiting. Watching. Patiently waiting, quietly. To see where it is all taking me.

It is really beginning to feel like this is going to be a year I should write off to WIP, transformation and about enjoying the process while I get to where I am headed.

Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take you all the way home.

As for the title, it’s another quote from my favourite Glennon Doyle Melton. I read this somewhere a while ago (and I really wish I knew where it was) because it came back with resounding alacrity on one of our evening walks in Goa last week, as I watched this amazing sunset, wondering about exactly this. This limbo, and what I need to do next.

Time and time again these past few weeks wait and watch keeps coming back to me. It is the next right thing to do.

***

Speaking of limbo, I chatted with S last night after what felt like absolute aeons. I don’t think we’d actually properly caught up, giving updates on all that is happening in our lives, since we met in Bangkok last year. That is a long, long time for us. Listening to him tell me about his very own kind of comfortable limbo, in a world so different and remote from mine, I still felt an affinity. I could relate. In as many ways as our worlds and experiences are poles apart, that feeling of being in a comfortable limbo, in waiting, is so, so familiar. We spoke for an entire hour before I realised we were all caught up.

Literally all of this year we have made plans to catch up, promising to call each other as soon as a window frees up. The weekend, after work, when I’m back from my trip, when I’m feeling better — and somehow the right time just never came up.

I don’t know about him, but for me it was a lot of avoidance. I didn’t want to have to give updates about things I wasn’t fully sure of myself. Maybe I was worried I’d be judged? Maybe I was too shy to admit I was downsizing my amazing Goa life to a seemingly-less than ideal one in Bangalore? Maybe I just didn’t want to have to explain everything that had happened in the run up to this transition because it felt like just too much to have to talk about on the phone? I’m not sure. Maybe it was all of it.

But it felt like I needed to get out of my hole and call him last night, as it has for a few weeks now. The wonderful thing is that once I did call, it was just so easy. Conversation flowed, updates happened, all the things I thought I didn’t have the words for, suddenly articulated themselves. It helps when you have an eager, earnest person on the other side, genuinely concerned and interested in knowing what you have been up to.

It didn’t feel like an effort at all. It didn’t even feel like we were catching up, merely talking.

And then there was the kindred spark — the mention of that limbo. The only too familiar feeling of being comfortable while I wait and watch. And boom, i changed the conversation for me.

I’m not sure why I didn’t do this sooner, really. With S, I have a really special bond that has time and time again made it spectacularly easy to pick up where we left off, with barely any effort. There is never any awkwardness or the need to fill gaps and silences. It’s not something I have with too many people, and I realised last night how much I really, really cherish it.

As I drifted off to sleep, it dawned on me that actually, I have had this with a lot of people off late. With N, who I chatted with at length last week — catching her up on the amazing, life-changing experiences I had in Goa that I absolutely knew she would relate to. With P, who I had sworn I would never have anything to do with again, but with whom, time and time again, I have relevant, insightful and meaningful conversations that matter. With D, who came into my life most unexpectedly, but with whom conversation is rarely just that, and almost always impacts me in deeper ways.

I went to sleep with my heart brimming over. I have said this so often off late — that I don’t have much to show for on paper, when I think of what I’ve done/achieved this year. Yet, my life, even in it’s utter slowness, with the pregnant pauses and tantalisingly slow trajectory, feels so goddamn full.

***

And so I continue to wait, basking in the overwhelming gratitude for where I am, the people I am surrounded by, the connections I have and those that come back to me even when I’m not making the effort, and for everything moving along until it finds it’s place.

I wait because it just feels like the next right thing to do.

Same time, last year: Day 279: Sticky trash

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Grow

I’ve been meaning to write about how I’m feeling, and what a positive difference being in a new place, surrounded by all the right elements I most needed, has done for me. It has sparked a lot of freshness,  a renewed way of looking at everything.

But.

I can’t find the right words.

I have felt like there aren’t enough words to stack the overwhelming goodness I’ve been gloating in, into rows of squiggly letters and words. It feels too limiting.

So I haven’t really even tried.

I must also admit there are times where I feel I don’t need the words.

I ask myself if I really want to dig deeper? Why do I feel the need to get the better of this feeling? Why this incessant urge to explain or decipher it?

I haven’t found a convincing answer as yet.

So I stop looking for words.

I did say before that this is quite easily the best I have felt in all my life. And I wasn’t exaggerating.

I’m content. Existing, absorbing this feeling, marinading in the goodness of it all. Or at least I was, until something happened last month that gave me the sign I needed.

And suddenly, I had the words. So I wrote about it.

***

One morning last month, I woke up troubled. I faced a situation that caught me unawares. And yet, it had that stale stench of familiarity that creeps in slowly: something tells me I’ve been through this before.

It made me go back to a similar episode from January this year. I dug through my chats and pulled out a series of voice notes I sent to S, my voice broken, the words coming out in between stifled tears. I almost couldn’t believe that was me and the words I spoke had been what I had felt. It was true, I had been through it before. Present situation was no different from the one that triggered the breakdown in January.

It was identical. But the only difference had been my reaction. Or rather the alarming lack of it.

Suddenly I realised that something had changed. I had let it go, almost as quickly and unexpectedly as the situation had occurred. After months and months of trying to let go, here was an instance of having actually done it. Turning those mere words into deeply internalised thought into action.

Almost serendipitously, I stumbled on an image with words that perfectly describe what I had been feeling all morning.

If you are willing to look at another person’s behaviour toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all.

***

It got me thinking some more about these past few months. Not much has happened, on paper. I don’t have a lot to show for what I have been up to. And yet the shortest span of time, punctuated by a whole lot of silence and stillness that I only take a break from to either go to the gym, or meet happy people, has catapulted me into a different headspace, a different version of myself. I haven’t experienced this kind of internal transformation ever before.

Through all this, if there’s one thing I’m proud of having allowed myself to do, it is opening myself up to face the fear of letting so much go.

Everything from people. Expectations. Reactions. Situations. Interactions. Labels. Earlier versions of myself. Older versions of relationships. I’ve let so much go. And when it felt like I had nothing more to lose, I sat back and looked at everything that had remained. It was telling to see that not only was I left with people who matter, but I had made space for new people, and many lost connections from the past that surfaced almost magically. I found forgotten aspects of myself emerging from the dark corners I’d hidden them into. And I discovered new parts of my persona that I didn’t know I had.

keep letting go
PC: Buddha Doodles

To be light, to go with the flow, to be at peace with the way I feel, to be in happy harmony with my thoughts and feelings in sync most of the time — this has been a large part of the reason I chose to begin therapy last year. I did it at a time when, amongst other things, I was stuck in a loop of always finding myself at the receiving end of shitty behaviour. Whether from clients, friends, acquaintances, relatives. I didn’t know why they sometimes behaved the way they did, or why their actions had the kind of unravelling effect they had on me.

Therapy unlocked something. And there has been no looking back since.

Self awareness is a bit like an abyss. Once you’re on the path to discovering nuances about yourself, the way you feel and how you’re reacting to things around you, there’s no turning around. Every time you feel you’ve hit a milestone, the deceptive end point moves further away. The deeper you go, the more you figure out. The more you learn, the lighter you feel. The higher you go, the more there is left to discover.

When I began therapy, I was sick of being caught up in a web of issues, and the feelings that resulted from them. I longed to be able to look at them, objectively, and figure a way to move through them, rather than being stuck in them.

And so, to be able to react with an almost dispassionate calm, having noticed a recurring pattern, stepped back, taken stock and moved through it, was happy-making.

If the road to self discovery is speckled with potholes in the form of shitty people, shitty situations, shitty luck, testing your patience from time to time, that grim August morning, I believe I finally hit a milestone.

Same time, last year: Day 259: Morning moods

What coming home feels like: making friends edition

When I was preparing to move to Bangalore, I wondered about feeling lonely and isolated in a city of nameless faces. I didn’t particularly fancy the thought of making friends all over again. Nor did I want to continue my streak of people-less-ness. Much of the urge to get out of Goa was bolstered by the promise of new people. I’d grown rather jaded of the company I kept and was seeking a fresh energy and some new faces. And yet, 33 isn’t the most appropriate age to venture out into the school yard, to scope cliques and meekly gauge which one to attempt to break into.

I felt at sea in matters of people-ing because it’s just been so long since I had to go out and make an effort in this regard. Specially since the last decade or so I’ve had things just happened — people have come and gone from my life, connections were effortlessly made and lost with equal ease — without any active pursuing on my part. Not to make friends, and not in keeping them either. I’ve let a lot of people just go. So making friends felt daunting.

Wh is friendship in adulthood such an intimidating proposition?

However, in yet another unexpected turn, things have been strangely easy on the people front. Ironically, while I still continue to struggle to come to terms with many other things about this city (including some aspects that I thought would be a good change) it’s the people who have been pleasantly warm and welcoming.

I’ve already said coming home gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that I’d sworn I would never go back to, and how comforting it is to just be in the same city as the best of my friends. But that apart, there’s a third set of people-ings that I’m so happy to have stumbled on. It’s the new and unexpected friendships I’ve made. Through friends, through older connections, through people who know people. And happily, so many of these connections have brewed over home cooked meals. I’m more than grateful for these folks who just easily opened their homes up, invited me over and cooked some splendid, memorable meals.

There have been multiple such events. With D, I thulped Goan sausages and bread like it was my last meal ever. A cooked me this stunningly simple but high on flavour Andhra meal, from recipes of her very own cookbook complete with a spicy and heady bone broth that kicked my cold out of the way. With N and D I ate baingan bhartha, chapaties laced with carrots and some gluten free bread because I’ve been off carbs lately.

Each that I’ve shared a meal, hanging out over hearty hot food, huddled around a table, cross-legged on the floor crouched over a plate laden with goodies — something opened up for me.

This past weekend I ate what will go down as yet another incredibly tasty, beautifully put together meal, at yet another table in the home of someone I didn’t know just a few months ago.

It was a large, painstakingly out together array of Andhra food. And again, I felt grateful for the opportunity. For the warmth, the openness and the joy of sharing a meal.

There’s something about honest, homely food cooked straight from the heart, that reaches right inside and touches my soul.

Same time, last year: Day 257: Down and up again

Brain noodles

It dawned on me this week that growing up doesn’t have to happen at the expense of the child inside of me. That a major part of the self development piece involves acknowledging that child/younger self without feeling guilty, ashamed and afraid to admit to the person I once was or the things I have said, believed and done in the past. Owning up to some of these past versions of myself has been difficult. And yet it has been strangely liberating.

***

Four weeks into the six-week shred I’m on, I did four full nose-to-the-ground push ups. The thrill of watching progress and improvement as it unfolds right in front of your own eyes is unparalleled. When I began, I was hopeful and confident because of the changes I’ve already experienced with my body. But nothing prepared me for this kind of drastic, visible transformation, possibly the fastest and most impactful I have ever achieved on my own.

This time around there is the added discovery that I can be self-motivated beyond what I’ve assumed to be my natural or innate capacity to push myself through the grind. I didn’t think I could ever go off white rice. And yet, here I am four weeks in, not missing it, and potentially tossing up the idea of giving it up for good.

***

It was Teacher’s Day yesterday and I was asked to make a list of ten mentors/teachers/people who have impacted my life positively. It was strange how not a single actual teacher from my years in school and college came to mind. My list included abstract things like *life* and *marriage* and at the very end, just when I was finishing it off, I thought it D and A who have taught me so much about how to look at life by looking within. And then. Thought of B and R who have permanently altered the way I look and feel about my body. These folks didn’t come into my life as teachers. But they’ve hugely impacted the way I have understood and explored the strengths my mind and body are capable of. I am eternally grateful for the experience – especially of the last 3-4 years. My life wouldn’t be the same without it.

Same time, last year: Day 250: Finding my people

What coming home feels like: finding new comfort in old places


Nothing prepared me for the kind of freshness this new beginning in an old home would bring.

I thought I was wiping the slate clean and starting over. I hadn’t the faintest clue that so much of this new beginning would involve picking up old threads I’d left behind, visiting feelings I thought I’d dealt with good and proper, and doing things I swore I would never do.

I’m the most change averse person I know. I usually find security in sameness, in old comfortable habits, in well set patterns. But Ive realised how sometimes that cuccoon keeps me from experiencing things I need to. It keeps out the possibilities that I most need. Not just events and experiences as end points, but the process of getting there too.

So much if this newness has been about relaxing a little, letting go of my staunchly held beliefs, questioning all the firm nos and opening myself up to the gentle maybes, and allowing some bits of the old back into my life, looking at it anew and opening myself up to that change completely.

What I once knew to be crippling fear that made me build my walls up high, has turned to a gentle acceptance – first and foremost, of myself – of this wave of fresh energy. Bright and green, new like the eager blade of grass pushing through damp soil, ready for life.

I seem to be dealing with a lot of this change and everything that has come with a lot more grace and gentleness. Towards myself, first. Rather than stiffen up with fear, I’m learning to relax and take a chance more often. It’s led me to stumble on new, interesting people, to some kindred spirit, and best of all uplifting friendship in unlikely, old connections I was so sure I was never revisiting.

The change then, has been within myself, than in my external surroundings.

I not sure I love Bangalore. I haven’t fully come to terms with where I am going. But for now I am utterly and completely at peace with why I am here.

I’m still learning.

Same time, last year: Day 224: Wayanad Things

What coming home feels like: kinship, quietude and becoming

With four months in Bangalore now behind me, I find myself taking stock. I’ll be honest, Bangalore is not a silver bullet to the complicated “where do we go from here” situation VC and I had been in for many months. So much about this city, the people, life here, my neighbourhood, that I have in fact returned (which has given me fresh eyes to look at many of the same things I grew up seeing), the people I used to know, the people I now know, often surprises me — both pleasantly and some times jarringly. Some times I’m irked or frustrated. There’s a lot about life in Bangalore, when compared to Goa, that really annoys me. And some times I have moments of utter clarity, when I know why I am here.

Everyday, though, slowly and calmly, I’m adjusting to it. I find myself still just coping, getting by from one day to the next. But, (and I suspect this is the newfound adult in me talking) I’m making peace with it. By focusing on what I came here for — familiarity, security and kinship — which thankfully, I don’t have to go very far out (or brave the maddening traffic) to find.

The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.

I’ve found new meaning in making peace. I’ve realised it isn’t a shiny thing that you just find and hoard. It takes cultivation, active seeking and building bit by bit. And it takes practice. In doing things to create it for myself I’ve found a strange inner satiety (for the lack of a better term) I can’t name, a warm quietude in the pit of my heart, taking over me.

There, in the depths of the addictive, gummy, don’t-want-to-let-go-of-it peace is the reason why despite all the madness and recurring chaos this change has brought externally, I’m finally happy to be where I am.

Before I moved I had a long list of pros that I enumerated in convincing myself that coming back to the city wouldn’t be as scary as I imagined it would be. That list featured many things my life in Goa didn’t allow — friends and more work topped it. But today, irony is having the last laugh, as I slowly slip deeper and deeper into accepting the real place I want work to have in my life. That, and the fact that I haven’t met or hung out with my friends nearly as much as I imagined we would.

In a brief moment of introspection the other day, I realised that on a literal day-to-day level, my daily routine, the motions of every day life here, is not even a little bit different from what it was before. I still spend a bulk of my time alone, at home. Either working, or reading, cooking, catching up on things I want to. The only difference is, in Goa, I was alone for the most part. Here I have the constant company of my parents and my sister through the day, VC – post work hours, and his family when we go over to visit (which is shockingly more often than we imagined it would be). I cannot begin to describe how much I needed this.

All my life I’ve been running, escaping the present in search of something or the other. Even up until I upped and left Goa. For the first time, choosing to stay is coming easily. All that I am in search of is right here, within the walls of this place I call home.

And this has been the change I needed. The one I feared. It was never about this city or the next. Or where better work opportunities lay.

I’ve never been good with change, I’ve said this numerous times before. But perhaps it isn’t change I needed to fear. I’ve realised that it isn’t change itself, in it’s purest form, that is challenging. It is my own resistance to blend and bend, my uncontrollable need to control and own it, my urge to plan and fight the inevitable that creates rigid, inflexible periods of pain and flux.

For the longest time I shunned the sense of continuity, of eternity, the word home brings. And here’s the thing — home used to be the place that binds me. The space I fled some years ago. And yet, today, it is that same space that has set me free.

I’m completely absorbed in making the most of this opportunity I’ve been presented, when after a decade of being in different cities, my family is under one roof again. I’m greedily taking in the comfort of being surrounded by the silent company of people I love. People who get me. People. Just hanging out. Doing simple everyday things. Going about our daily lives, just together.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to meet my friends often, all the time. But this has been the most painful realisation of stepping back into the city life. Nobody has the time. And because even a simple catch up takes time and effort, nobody owes you that time or effort. It sounds naively idealistic when I hark back to the simpler life I had in Goa, when I say it was just truly so much easier to get out and get going. Whether with friends or alone. Granted, I didn’t have as many real people whom I could truly call my people, but it was very uncomplicated to meet. It’s bittersweet to realise I’m in the same city as all my people, and we’re still more in touch on whatsapp than in person. But it is the way it is. I have no complains.

It’s the nature of life here that involves navigating through the biggest hurdle of all, the traffic, which ridiculous as it sounds, dictates all schedules. Every outing involves planning, a predetermined plan of action, and some amount of praying that things go to said plan. I’m never really fully sure if a pre-committed engagement is going to actually materialise, until it does. I’m still not used to the significant coordination and pre-planning that goes into orchestrating even the simplest of outings. And that is when I sorely miss my life in Goa where getting out was as easy as that – getting. out.

Anyhow, before this sounds like a litany of painful comparisons and like I’m complaining, let me say, I’m merely acknowledging what I’ve come to realise and how it has made me feel – a bit disappointed. On the other hand, it has forced me into a very comfortable shell. And in retrospect, I realised this is the place I needed most to be. At home. Literally, if I think about my folks’ place where I spend most of my days, and figuratively, when I think of the sense of feeling at one, or at home, in my own mind.

There is an ever pervading feeling of gratitude I feel for where I am. A feeling I didn’t know I was missing all along. It comes in dense doses that swoop in and sit snugly in the base of my heart. Heavy, leaden but bright and luminous.

When I try and talk about what I feel, I cannot find the words to quantify or describe the quality of that peaceful gratitude. At first I was unable to find the words, and it crippled me in moments of excitement and wanting to share it.

Nowadays I find myself not wanting to necessarily talk about, describe or even share it.

That in itself has brought a sense of calm.

This, is honestly the best I have felt in all my life. Happy, healthy and balanced — right into the depths of my very soul.

I’m not too big on Nayyira Waheed’s works, but this poem really hit the spot.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this. It took leaving a seemingly quiet life, where I had a noisy fire raging within, to move to the madding urban existence. It took giving up the exclusivity and embracing being lost in the cacophony of crowds. It took leaving the home I thought I’d never leave, to come back to the place I never thought I’d return. To assuage that fire. And find the peace I never knew I was missing.

The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.

Perhaps then this wasn’t a homecoming, but a becoming.

Same time, last year: Day 221: On the road

What coming home feels like: Love and abundance

For many years while I was away, I believed I missed absolutely no part of my life back home. It sounds extreme, but for a brief while, this was entirely true. Call it the honeymoon period, or whatever else, but I was snug as a bug in the newness of the anonymity and the pleasures of discovering everything a new life in a new city has to offer. It helped that the Goa I moved to was the diametric opposite of everything I left behind in Bangalore. And I mean this in more ways than one — it was a shift to an entirely different space and time. And that joy lasted a long, long time. The fresh excitement at the newness remained for more years than I imagined possible, for far long after the newness was no longer even new.

But as I’ve discovered near-eight years is a long enough time to go full circle. And I had definitely entered a headspace where I began to slowly miss some very specific things about being home. Big and small, they included everything from being a short drive away from my friends to easy access to fresh filter coffee.

There were days when I longed to wake up to a hot cooked breakfast, amma-style. Or the smell of fresh filter coffee. Or weeks when I’d walk out of the gym on Friday night and desperately long for the luxury of being in the same city as my friends, friends who get me, so we could all gang up at home over wine or beer and do nothing but talk.

I’ve missed experiencing a wide range of food and drink. I’ve missed having options, and I’ve missed having people to obsess over the variety with. I’ve missed the comforts of being on familiar ground, of old haunts an of new discoveries. In the months I’ve been here we’ve already sampled a fair amount of microbrewery beer and I may have found a temporary favourite too.

I’ve missed my family, just being around them even when there is nothing particularly important to say. Breakfast time, evening chai time, and dinner time — which is usually when we gather together. Weekday chai time with amma, weekend drinks with anna, for example. Coming back to this ready set up, where I don’t have to work to provide it or create a space for it has been the change I wanted. When all else fails, I have my parents to go back to.

When enough years of basking in the newfound hermitism grew old, I yearned for some of the bustle that people bring in your life. The right kind of people. Without the frills, without the special occasions, without the stilted conversations and pretence that comes with manufactured togetherness. With equal amounts of silence and the mania that only kindred spirits can appreciate alike. Converging and agreeing on the silliest of things, going into raptures about the most mundane and inane things, and knowing that it is with only just these few that you can and will always be at your unbridled best.

In the last two years of being away, as I rediscovered sides of myself I didn’t know existed — some that I thought I’d left behind had actually resurfaced, and some that I never imagined possible had made a loud appearance — I realised how much the transformation had affected my relationships. Both near and far.

Distance and time are difficult variables to work with. Very unconsciously, I had started to filter people in my immediate circles out. Days and weeks would go by without me getting out of the house. No plans, no get-togethers, no outings seemed to tempt me into engaging with the family I’d built in Goa (save for a few people). And yet, the bonds that grew thicker, stronger and richer were with folks in Bangalore and away.

Here I am now, and even as I carve out a niche for myself again, a large part of the everyday joy of coming back is in reminding myself how I’m so close to all the things I love. Especially the things I was craving in the last two years of my life away.

Anyhow, this ramble just to say that coming back has been difficult in many ways. I’m often taken aback by situations I’ve forgotten how to deal with, overcome with emotion when the stark contrast between Goa and Bangalore makes me question my decision, and there have even been the odd instances where I feel defeated and overpowered by the city whose way is to ensnare everything within its reach.

Yes, this city is overwhelmingly large (literally and figuratively) compared to where I used to be. But within and outside of my home, I have pockets of peace. Sanctuaries of love and abundance that I can slip into. A mere glance through my picture roll on my phone showed me enough evidence of ample instances of this abundance. Unsurprisingly it is about the people, punctuated by food and drink. In each of these images is a reminder of the things I desperately missed until three months ago.

Yes, I’ve left behind a lot and sometimes I’m not entirely sure the trade off makes sense. Especially when I feel the lack — of open spaces, of greenery, of silence amongst many other things. But there is an abundance of exactly that which I was seeking. And it counts for a lot.

Same time, last year: Day 182: Watercolour eyes

In-stages

By no deliberate design the frequency of my Instagram updates dwindled at the start of the year. Scrolling back the other day, I realised that aside from work updates, my feed (before April began, that is) has an unnaturally high number of pictures focused on my feet. And legs. (Remember this and this?)

I don’t know what brought this sudden preoccupation on, but the whole thing is kind of telling.

March 5, 2017.
When I was a bit resigned to keeping my head down and getting from one day to the next. Knocking off assignments, doing the drill. I was still very much in limbo.

In transit.

March 14, 2017
Holi day began with a big breakfast of idlis and vadas. And I saw this splatter of pink at the entrance of the restaurant. It was a week when things began to shift for the better and a quiet reassurance was creeping in.

And I think everything is going to be alright. No matter what we do tonight.

March 16, 2017.
Somewhere in all of this, the positive swing made me realise that I needed to focus on getting my head together and moving on, which required time and attention. Attention I couldn’t squander on much else. Not even work. But this wasn’t an easy thing to accept. My inner Type A rises to the fore way too frequently, bringing up a perspective that is at loggerheads with the one that one that demands silence. This is where I began to really question what ambition, productivity and the rest means to me.

It was also my quarterly reminder to stop holding myself to irrationally high standards or productivity, and to just keep swimming.

There is literally nothing in nature that blooms all year long, so don’t expect yourself to do so either.

April 9, 2017.
By the beginning of April, it was clear I was going to be on my way. A sabbatical, some time off was on the cards. And given that I intended it to be an indefinite break, we decided to go away for the weekend with some friends. And their pups.

At the end of a deliciously easy weekend away, on the eve of my trip to Bangalore, I came away ever so recharged and happy for what lies ahead.

Things about Goa I’ll miss the most: weekending outdoors. Spent my last one amidst cashew groves, lazing in the summer heat, reading, waking up to chirping birds and having these two at our feet.

April 20, 2017.
This trip to Bangalore has had a definite relaxed mood like never before. It’s been without the rush to do the things I’m always urgently wanting to tick off because I only ever have a few days at my disposal. Very high up on that list is getting some down time with S&S. As it happens, we try and combine it with sampling some food, or a menu or restaurant I haven’t tried before. But this time, we met only ten days after I got into town. In a relaxed, beer tinged evening at home, spent gabbing while we waiting on our home delivered Thai meal to arrive. It was a good taste of times to come, of one of the few things that promise to make living in the city bearable again.

To more nights like this <3

Step by step, in stages, I’m getting through it after all.

Same time, last year: Day 117: See Lanka

I get by with a lot of help from my friends

Honestly speaking, I’m all into this mindful seizing of day, living in the present business. I really am. For the most part. But for the longest time now, I have literally felt like I am existing in-between. Like I’m passing through a conduit of endless waiting. In limbo. And it has meant enjoying the present is a tough ask. It has tested the absolute life out of my capacity to stay still, to remain present without racing ahead of myself with dreams of the future or being stuck in a loop of lamenting about the past.

It’s been painfully slow to move, this time of transition between one phase and the next. And the pain started as a smidgen of dissatisfaction with what had become of my life. Feeling limited in the littlest ways, and that longing to go beyond — at work, in my city, with people around me — constantly clawing away at me, in tiny nibble-sized chunks. A little minuscule molecule of dissatisfaction in a period of almost 24 months morphed into a burgeoning restlessness that rumbled on endlessly, just beneath the surface. And when I was unable to decipher and deal with it adequately, it festered. Gently at first, a very covert sort of twist and churn, making itself seen and known in small, but shocking ways. Eventually, the churn got bigger, noisier, and the made its presence felt in painful, alarming ways, more often than I cared to be reminded of it.

But that was just it. As I busied myself with convenient distractions in the form of the pursuit of over achieving, outrageous professional goals and what not, the rumble continued to make itself known, nudging me to stop filling my everyday life with distractions, and instead look at the bubbling cauldron of pain I was in. I saw the signs, and I took every one of those events as an affirmation that the pain I was feeling was real. But I just didn’t know where to go to begin to fix it. To find my way out, I had to stop and acknowledge the situation I was in, and accept that I couldn’t and didn’t need to do it alone.

But everything has a tipping point. Over time, the fuzzy restlessness turned into a distinct surety that my time here was done. And that was really hard to wrap my head around. I mean this is where my life is. It’s where adulthood really began. In Goa, in this phase of my life.

It was in Goa that I landed quite by surprise, and then cobbled together a home with the man I love, built little every day experiences and got through eight years together, ploughing through an assortment of situations — good, bad and ugly. t’s here that I trudged through expanses of most no work prospects and yet carved out a flourishing career in a manner that made sense to me.

This is where I’ve made, nurtured and lost friendships, relationships, associations of all kinds. This is where I found other sides of my identity, and it’s also where I shed them. This is where I learned to appreciate solitude, the bliss of silence, where I stumbled and fell multiple times, picked myself up and gathered myself time and time again, where I truly embraced the slow life.

This is where I hit my stride and became the adult I was waiting to be. This is where I discovered sides to myself, found my feet, explored hobbies and chased experiences I wouldn’t have had in my other life if I had continued the way I was going in 2010,

This is where the naive decision to pick up our lives, wrap them in 13 little boxes, and a car and get going came to fruition. My life since has been full of experiences. Enriching, enlightening, eye-opening, humbling, and so much more. This blog, more than anything else, is testimony to the changes we went through, the various milestones and setbacks we hit along the way. There has never been a more transformational time. This is where I had the best years of my life.

To go from near-eight years of that to a sudden, but very rapidly consuming limbo was all sorts of painfully incapacitating. For a while now I’ve felt this building up of everything to a very pregnant point, this growing ennui has gone on so long. It has only kept pointing me closer and closer to all the little, seemingly insignificant aspects of my life that I was ignoring (some by choice, some by sheer ignorance itself) because it would mean facing difficult questions, difficult choices and difficult conversations.

For the first time, I realised what having a empty life was like. While I was consciously and unconsciously filling my days with all that I thought needed my time and attention, life was doing it’s best to pare itself down, so I would just focus for a moment, on that which needed it the most.

In the bargain I stripped my life down to the bare minimum. The friends I have left will affirm this. Only a handful know what’s really been going on with me. I found it impossible to expend even an ounce of energy in explaining any of it to an audience just because they were curious or concerned. It’s not like I chose to alienate people, but it is what happened as I sought the company and conversations of folks who cared to check on me, understood when I explained, and kept conversations from going back to talking about themselves. With work already taking up a fair bit of my mind space, I had very little left to spread between therapy and those few who did get my pain. Fewer still were the number of people who realised that my needing some time and space to myself was not a reflection on them, and therefore no reason to take offence.

In many ways the experience of the last 2 years has been a large filter, holding a mirror up to the quality of interactions I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s been a slow withering away of those that existed at the fringes, held by weak ties, and pulling those I hold close, even closer still. Without much effort or doing, it became exceedingly clear the friends I was clinging on to, many of whom, ironically, weren’t close to me in proximity. Spread between Bangalore, Bombay and even as far as Singapore and America, they’re the ones who stayed. Pitched in when they had advice to give, insights to share or answers to those 12 am questions. And sometimes even when they didn’t. They’re the ones who had the constant reminders to not be hard on myself, to take my time.

For the absolute first time in my life, I realised what it was to be lonely. I fully fathomed the pain of longing for the company of folks you love, because they get you, and are so far away.

Despite the distances, though, pain has a strange way of bringing those you need the most closest to you. In a late night call with N one day in March, she reminded me of this really pertinent snipped from Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior.

…we think our job as humans is to avoid pain, our job as parents is to protect our children from pain, and our job as friends is to fix each other’s pain. Maybe that’s why we all feel like failures so often — because we all have the wrong job description of love. What my friends didn’t know about me…Is that people who are hurting don’t need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witnesses. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain.

It was the kind of conversation that clicked something into place in my head, and set off a ripple effect of things that were just waiting to happen. It set the wheels in motion, in a way that wouldn’t have happened without the push. And just like that I felt like the vacuum that was the two-year limbo suddenly released, making way for movement again.

I’m grateful for the timely reminders.

I’m grateful for the kindred spirits and the uncanny commonalities we discover in our lives.

I’m grateful for the company that blurs distances and erases time zones.

I’m grateful for the gentle nudges and the wholehearted pushes.

I’m grateful for my tribe who has consistently sat quietly, holding space, sometimes in helpless vigil, to my pain.

I wouldn’t have realised my pain, and made the effort to move through this two-year limbo, without them.

It finally feels like I’m at the start of something new, rather than wasting away in the dregs of something old, done and dusted. And I’m so very ready to get going.

Same time, last year: Day 116: Bits and bobs

Ten reasons why I love the girls I’m in long distance relationships with

(AKA things a man friend will likely not be good for)

The effortless way in which we can go into collective raptures over anything from this delicious Instagram account to why Hidden Figures was so amazing.

The absolute ease with which I can ask to be listened to every time I need to vent/bitch/rant/froth at the mouth, because I know I will not be judged.

The obscenely granular level of detail we can go into while discussing everything from saree weaves we love to the exact nature of PMS.

Virtually no topic is off the table, not farts, not poop, not body parts, not the abysmal lack of decent underwear.

No matter how shitty I’m feeling, or how much I’m beating myself up describing the serious levels of fail I think I’m hitting, they’ll always make me feel like I’m actually amazing.

Constant, heartfelt reminders to stop being hard on myself.

They listen. Even when they don’t have the answers. Especially when they don’t have the answers.

They know when to just stfu and let me vent, because they know what it’s like to just need to voice some thoughts – no solutions offered, no explanations given.

They’ve made opening up easier, taken me closer to honesty – with myself, with them.

They make literally everything fun. Surprise trips. Holidays. Holidays. Holidays. Whatsapp groups. Conversations. Gossip. Long distance friendships. The whole nine yards.

*****

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This isn’t just a post-Hidden Figures high talking, but watching the movie last night I really came home feeling grateful for having a bunch of women in my life with whom I have found the space to live my belief in genuinely rallying together through thick and thin, propping each other up, and always creating space for the kind of intimacy we’ll never find in our relationships with men. Several times in my life, I believed I had it – but nothing comes close to where I’m at now in terms of having relationships that are grounded in trust, transparency and utmost comfort. This is all kinds of liberating. Yes, it took upwards of three decades to get here, but I’m so fortunate to have found it.

*****

I used to be that girl who was really surrounded by boys all the time. Who believed having women friends was laborious and tedious. For a long time I honestly believed that maybe I’d just encountered the wrong kind of women. I was the wrong. It wasn’t the women I encountered – it was me. Somewhere down the line, life happened and #3 from this amazing essay kicked in. So I was so incredibly choked up to see it articulated in such simple honesty here. I don’t know how I’ve missed sharing this already, but it is the truth, it is life. I could start quoting the many things I love, that spoke right to me, reached out and grabbed my heart, yadayada, but I’d essentially be quoting the whole damned piece, so do yourself a favour and read it.

And then go tell your girlfriends how much they mean to you.

Same time, last year: Day 54: Working better

Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read

You know you’ve been off the grid and out of the work force for far too long when you feel the need to prep for a skype call. I still take my appointments seriously. Half an hour in advance, I decided I needed a cup of tea. I figured ten minutes before the call would be a good time to make it. So I did. And then I made the evening snack choice, grabbing the entire bag as opposed to the usual, taking a small portion in a bowl. It was a new client, and I wasn’t sure how long this call was going to be. I didn’t want to be stick on a call, tethered to my system, snacks just out of my reach. So I set myself up. Snacks within arms reach, mug of tea close at hand, I was ready for the call. Only to realise it was a video call.  And the only thought I had was, fuck the snacks, I need to wear a bra.

So much for prep.

*****

Battle scars. It’s what I call them. The scars I don’t notice. The scars I’ve resigned myself to perpetually bearing. Honestly, it’s because I don’t register them when contact happens, because I’m usually too involved in boomboompowpow to register it happened. But a few hours later, the bruise tells a completely different story. And I only realise something is wrong. Usually when I’m standing in queue at the checkout line in the supermarket and I see the group of aunties behind me staring strangely at my arms. Or when I go waxing and the parlour waali inquires about the bruises that to her shifty eyes look suspiciously like marks of domestic abuse. Or when I go from one class to the next and people ask really what happens in my other class. So I just say, battle scars.

*****

Early this week I felt major pangs of missing my friends. Like proper, tugging-at-my-heart feelings that I’ve felt only for boys I loved. The kind of intensity that has in the past made me abandon everything on the spot and rush to be with them. I think it’s the first time that I can remember it has happened with my friends. I told them as much. I said this feels like we’re all in a long distance relationship, we need to reunite soon.

So we’re working on that.

Hah.

*****

I’ve started a wee little habit. Gratitude journaling. Inspired last year by N, who mentioned it several times, and even did a month long challenge on more than one occasion. Then I did it briefly when I took on a 10 day abundance activity. I found it surprisingly revelatory, because it forced me to really zero in on the tiniest things that I am happy about and grateful for. In a year when I felt a lot of discontent, scarcity and unsettledness, this helped build a solid base of positivity. I now know what it means to operate from a place of abundance. It’s a state of mind that has helped me coast through many a low day. So this year I’m attempting to do it for as long as I can. I considered doing it online, in the name of being accountable. But seeing as how I’m working towards completely stopping all social posting, save for work updates, and this blog, that plan was quickly abandoned. And I went back to a good old journal.

Red ink <3 yellow light. Handwritten.

Twelve days in, I can safely say it’s the best ten minutes of every day. No matter what the day has been like.

Have any of you tried this? Any insights for a noob?

Same time, last year: Day 12: R & R 

2016

So it’s done. What I’ve called the most forgettable, shitty year, time and time again, is over. It’s true that last year I had more than a fair share of lows. But it’s also true that in bouncing from one low to the next, only keeping my head above water, occasionally remembering to thwack my limbs and move towards the closest object for support, I’ve often needed to remind myself that I’m still alive and breathing. Which is a convoluted way of saying, a lot happened in between the lows that really wasn’t bad at all. But I have been so occupied with just barely staying afloat that it’s felt like I’ve been mostly stuck in a downward spiral of negativity. The bad has a way of eclipsing the good, and painting a picture so dismal, you wonder why this is your life. Which is why I’m thankful for forced stops in the infinite loop of time. We put a date to the end of the year, we decide it’s a time to reflect, and I’m glad we have this opportunity to lay out all the cards, pick which ones to fold over and put away, and which ones to take ahead.

There is such a difference in looking back cursorily, because all I can see is large spans of time spent lying in bed, unable to move, just staring out the window, and looking back one day and month at a time. Broadly, I feel like I spent way too much time wondering why this is happening to me. This, being the thick and heavy fog that consumed me. But, it’s only when I combed through my archive that I realised I was diffident, cynical, exhausted from the get go. I entered the year in a terrible headspace. Maybe it set the tone for the year? Maybe I was a fool not to see how things were hurtling towards an inevitable crash right through 2015? Maybe this was all just a necessary intervention in the making? I don’t know.

What followed was a lot of indecision and confusion that really chipped away at my confidence and left me on very shaky ground. Pretty much the entire year after has been spent trying to regain that solid ground beneath my feet. Whether it was putting my confidence in myself and my work back together and resuming in a direction that made sense to me, but scared the shit out of me, or opening myself up to honesty of a different kind, running all my relationships through a sieve and keeping only the most important ones close, learning to distinguish between an inner and outer circle, basically redefining the very notion of love and friendship, or regaining some bit of pride and a sense of self and identity that I’d lost sight of — everything about 2016 was an effort towards building something in me that 2015 had broken.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to write a post a day, because looking back has helped me see that while 2016 was far from fantastic, it sure was eventful. It was shitty in many parts, challenging in ways I have not previously known but omg, you gaiiis, so much happened!

Mostly, 2016 has been a year of rediscovering honesty. Of coming to terms with many things I was either not seeing right, or turning a blind eye to. It all started with the decision to take some time off. To regroup and clear my head out. I had a breakdown at the end of 2015, that made me realise I was overworked, confused about my priorities and sorely needed some time out. My inability to be honest with myself was pushing me into a cycle of repeated losses that had left me very, very tired.

So, I planned to spend 5-6 weeks unwinding and doing the things that gave me joy, in the hope that it would make room for some clarity. I read and wrote. And that’s not counting my work. There was some drawing, some haiku, and an exercise regimen, all in the interest of building a routine that enriched rather than depleted me. With all the mind space to introspect, it wasn’t long before the truth, or rather the lack of honesty emerged strong and loud.

I don’t mean honesty in the sense of truth-telling. I mean honesty in so many different ways — the inability to break through my denial, my stubbornness in not admitting to seeing things as they were, the fact that far too many people in my life had more to take than give me, the false belief that the work-life pattern I had unconsciously fallen into was necessary for success, my misplaced conviction that it was what I liked and wanted, when the truth couldn’t have been farther from it.

I’d begun to realise a need for a deeper honesty in my friendships. As it happened several of my closest friends found themselves in a bad patch at the start of the year. It involved unravelling, together, and being there for each other and made me realise just how much I valued openness and vulnerability, even in or maybe especially in hard times, as a measure of authenticity of any relationship. I suddenly saw how I was surrounded by relationships lacking in it, even though I considered them to be the solid, long-term ones. I backed away from many that seemed to exist in a perpetual state of hiding behind convenient veils of passive aggression, demanding more from me than I could give, or they could ever give back to me.

This has meant being alone a lot more, staying with solitude and embracing this part of me wholeheartedly. This will always be the year I made peace with my introvert tendencies. After a hectic 2015 chock full of socialising, putting myself out there and pursuing things I never imagined I would have, giving the hedonistic life a shot I realised my place. It’s indoors, with myself, away from the mindless din of connections and networking. I much prefer the loud camaraderie of a few I call my tribe, even if we choose to exist in absolute silence.

This too, required honesty. In laying the tussle between the virtually-social and actually-solitary, to rest. On the one hand, I live what many call a “social” life, especially thanks to frequent and frantic social media posting. And on the other hand, I was trying to teach myself boundaries, to say no, to protect my personal space and energy. This tug-o-war between sharing my life has given many observers a sense of false camaraderie that often oversteps the virtual lines that separate me and them. I began to see through social media veneers, and was disappointed by people on more than one occasion. I found myself wanting to dig deeper and find within myself the strength to accept the differences that these are just virtual interactions, while saving my energy for the solid core of authentic interactions I have in real life. Even when it meant accepting the truth that was far from pleasant, realising that seemingly normal people sometimes display unacceptable behaviour, or that I myself had untowardly let some folks far deeper into my life than was needed.

The need for this honesty came with a price. For one, I let go of the steady promise of work that I had in hand to make room for the work I wanted to pursue. Second, I had to consciously let go of a couple of friendships that I had assumed were easy-going and probably for life.

What I gained, though, was immeasurable. Because the time and energy freed up from it, was channeled into all that I wanted to put my mind to, but had failed to in the years before. I will always remember this to be the year I moved closer to finding myself, and my voice, professionally. The decision to quit a steady, decently-paying gig with scope for growth, to dive fully into the erratic, unpredictable world of full-time freelancing was a pivotal one. A lot of it happened because I had to own up to the fact that clinging to a safety rails was only going to get me that far. Yes, I’d have a salary in the bank at the end of the month, but the hours spent earning that salary was definitely keeping me from expanding my repertoire, aiming higher and going wide and deep into the kind of writing I want dip into. If I were to be honest with myself, and I was, I needed to be brave. Or at least pretend like I was. It was not without its moments of extreme imposter syndrome, but I know I am better for it.

There were moments of immense frustration. A steep learning curve that I didn’t particularly enjoy at all times because let’s face it I wasn’t feeling positive and upbeat for a large part. The long waiting periods, systemic inefficiencies, blatant unprofessionalism made me cynical and under-confident. Incidentally, it was the year with the most number of unsavoury professional experiences. But while navigating the doubt and incertitude with heaps of scepticism, I did manage to get a whole lot of work done. It’s funny how the haze of unpleasant experiences has clouded this reality that. Ironic that the shittiest year is the year I had several work wins that I am proud of. Like this, this, this and this and this and this. I never imagined I’d write essays worthy of being tweeted by the UN Women’s handle. I didn’t think I’d see myself published in The Telegraph. I certainly didn’t imagine I’d find myself in a publication dedicated to science and technology.

I even managed to throw together a website and a portfolio that I should have done a long, long time ago. Much of this had to do with trying very, very hard to unlearn my obsession with perfection. Of quitting the terrible habit of waiting for the ducks to get in an absolutely straight line before making a move. In accepting that well begun is half done, I may have taught myself a thing or two about what is possible when you accept what works for you and hold yourself to slightly more realistic goals and ideals.

One of the best things I did was write and write and write every single day. Whether it was the for the stories I worked on, daily posts on here, scribbles, ideas for stories, half written posts — I made sure I did a little writing every single day and this is a habit I don’t want to lose. I am a little astounded at myself for seeing the daily post habit through to the end of the year, even though I fell off the wagon and frantically caught up again, sometime. Even with all that writing, I have so much more to express and share. So I started a newsletter. Admittedly, it’s taken a break so soon after it was launched but I hope to be back this year. 2016 marked the completion of 10 years since I started blogging. I wrote 318 posts this year having blogged every week, which feels like a fitting way to mark a decade of rambles.

On Day 1, I decided it was going to be a year to move more. In addition to upping the ante with training by joining, pursuing and loving kickboxing, I let the husband get me a cycle. It transformed the middle parts of this year in ways I can’t explain. Unfettered joy and immense satisfaction have been had from the hours spent pedalling through Goa. Cycling changed the way I experienced what could potentially be my last monsoon here. I even finished my first ever 100 km ride.

Part of the reason I caught the cycling bug was the undeniable urge to get out and get out. In the open. To travel. It’s something I’ve denied myself the pleasure of indulging in, for various reasons in the past few years. I travelled back home more than I ever have since I have moved out. Cleartrip sent me an email calling me a Happy Tripper today, for the 18 flights I’ve taken. There was a trip to Chettinadu, KeralaThailand and Coonoor. There were a few mini vacations right here at home too. I turned 32 in the company of these lovelies who came down to celebrate over a weekend of beach time, with me. And it reaffirmed my faith in certain inalienable truths about why some relationships endure and others don’t. It’s the one year VC and I haven’t taken a holiday or travelled anywhere together. And no, we’re not complaining.

The other big change I made this year was I kicking myself back into the reading habit by getting myself a Kindle. It has made all the difference and  finished the year with 29 books read, a high for me. While I’m looking at numbers, it seems a good time to look back at this post where I detailed the few things I want to see myself doing through 2016.

  1. Read a little everyday – check, post-August
  2. Write a little everyday – check, check, CHECK
  3. Give in to the urge to draw/doodle as much as possible, don’t put it off for “later” – check, for as long as the inspiration and urge lasted
  4. Avoid multi-tasking at all costs – yes and no
  5. Wear a saree at least once a week (any more is a bonus!), and don’t wait for the “right” occasion – ditched
  6. Call ammamma more often – check
  7. Meditate every morning, consciously remember to slow down – check for the first half of the year, then abandoned
  8. Go to the beach more often, even if it is for a stroll or to catch the sunset – check, check, check (run a search for “beach” to see how)
  9. Actively avoid clicking random links that lead to news on social media – CHECK!
  10. Whenever posting something on facebook, ask myself if the post would annoy me if I were looking at it posted by someone else – check, followed this for the most part, but slipped a lot, now correcting it by slowly deleting all fb activity from all of time
  11. Generally, avoid oversharing on fb – not every thought needs to be telecast to the world on fb, do it here instead, in longer form – check
  12. Keep phone away from bed and sleep-time – failllll!
  13. Sneak some more kisses – CHECK!
  14. Choose things, make decisions with purpose – CHECK
  15. Make the most of Goa, get out, breathe, watch, listen, do – CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK, cyclecyclecycle
  16. Reclaim stillness whenever it happens, and when it doesn’t, create it – this is WIP
  17. Fuck perfection – this is WIP

Speaking of WIP, one of the best things I did for myself in 2016, was take myself to therapy. When the cycle of breaking down, finding my footing, stabilising, coasting and only to slip again recurred three times in a span of 8 months, I knew I was in over my head. Again, it called for a kind of honesty I didn’t have, but so desperately needed to find. To accept that I cannot navigate this alone, that I need a fresh pair of eyes to see things differently and help me work my way through, rather than away from this. It has been the best, because it brought to the surface things I wouldn’t have noticed on my own. It made me reclaim myself, discover and strengthen crucial aspects of my identity that were slipping away form me. Much of my newfound peace, focus and positivity is a result of this, and I know that every day I am making progress in facing up to and loving my imperfect self.

It hasn’t been an easy year to live with me. Every break down has brought with it several emotional outbursts, thoughtless spewing of anger and frustration, violent mood swings, long periods of demotivation. But through it, VC has been my constant. Constant everything. Punching bag, sounding board, friend, foe, confidant, co-homemaker, support, voice of reason, strength and solace. We celebrated our eighth anniversary. Ironically, it was a year that made me fully understand how relationships that nurture are the ones that help you growing together, separately, rather than collapse and grow into one entity, and completely turned my beliefs about marriage around, that somehow also brought us much closer.

I find myself feeling a little sheepish about how much I have bashed 2016. It had so many sore points, so many weeks and months I wanted to just wish away. So many events and incidents I wish I didn’t have to go through. It all felt so damned shitty. And yet, when it all stacks up and I look at it in retrospect, it was rather eventful. Memorable, even. But most of all, transformative. They say things sometimes need to get really bad before they can begin to get better. Maybe my bad bits were peppered right through 2016. But right there, in between the bad events, things were already beginning to get better.

This year I just want to build from here. Make some goals, shut up about them, work hard, live big, laugh loud, love hard, breathe deep and smash them to the sky.

*****

Quick guide to posts in 2016
Monthly recaps: APostADay
Bheja fry, since this year had so much of it
Work and writing
Books and reading in 2016
Travel and photographs
Cycling and exercise
Music

Same time, last year: Day 5: In-bloom

Day 366: December

It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines of the impossible levels of drivel I posted at the start of the month, and tell that I’ve been in a slump. My brain has been impossibly foggy for many weeks now, my motivation levels plummeted to lows I didn’t know possible, and it showed in all aspects of my life. If blogging through this year has been a study in the ups and downs of my state of mind, I hit an all new low at the start of December. This kind of unexplained, debilitating, chronic blues has hit hard, several times this year, but last month when I returned from Thailand, I felt myself slip a notch lower. As an otherwise naturally happy, easy going person, it has been particularly difficult to deal with this. For one, I haven’t known this level of dejection and disinterest that seems to have crept into everything. Second, the inability to put a finger on it has meant I’m slow to recover. Third, my usual recovery time to snap out of a lull is a few days, a week, at best. So this one has completely thrown things out of whack.

Finally, I was prompted to dig deeper, and follow through on a hunch that perhaps there was more to this – a physiological reason – than meets the (mind’s)eye. Turns out I was right, and taking this blood test was one of the best things I did this year, making me kick myself for not listening to my gut sooner. Which is not to say the things I’ve felt and gone through this past year were unwarranted or without other reasons. This has been one of the most trying years in recent time, a time of transition, the sort that only makes sense when you look at things in reverse. When you realise that every sucker-punch moment was a set up for what is to come. I’ve felt for a while that all this confusion, unsettledness and restlessness is not without purpose. That it is leading up to something. You may not recall, but I said it at the end of this post too. It really felt like November was a culmination of one phase. Like December was going to be a time of moving into a better, brighter, positive space. I had an inkling about some sense of a transition at the start of 2016, but I didn’t anticipate it would last all year long and make its presence felt as much as it did. But, the reason I reiterate this is because December felt like I was finally over the hurdle. The same one I have been painfully eyeing and struggling to get over all year.

I’m putting a lot of it down to the multivitamins kicking in and altering the chemicals in my body which have put my fatigue to rest, given me sounder sleep than I have had all year, and generally brought the spring back to my step. My motivation levels have shot up, which is to say, they’re back to normal. I feel upbeat, positive and happy. My moods are more evenly tempered and for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like myself again. All the layers of sadness, nostalgia, PMS, PTS, and dejection have lifted and I feel like the aliens have returned me to my place on this planet, just the way I used to be. (Inside joke: I’m beginning to think I was abducted for the most part of 2016 because I couldn’t recognise the person I had become. Yep, this might be your cue to unfollow this crazy lady.) I’ve dropped the oscillations from extreme highs to debilitating lows. And clarity, sweet, sweet clarity that has eluded me, is coming back to life.

Some part of this sudden upward swing was kicked into motion when I was suddenly jolted out of my misery seeing updates from some writers on a group I’m a part of. Nothing like a look back at the year gone by to really put things in perspective, no? It’s so easy to slip into a loop of negativity when you’re feeling shitty because it’s the most convenient thing to do. It’s easy, and getting up and out is unthinkable. But I was forced out of my lethargy and I had a pleasant and rather exhilarating realisation that despite it all, somehow I’ve had a good work year. From where I stand, looking back, I see so many gaps in my work style. I took so many unwanted breaks that put my progress back significantly, I was slowed down by rapidly dipping motivation levels, I was plagued by self doubt and had my confidence crushed by plenty unsavoury experiences. I ended the year knowing fully well that I hadn’t achieved exactly what I had set out to do at the start of the year. Yet, it wasn’t all bad, it seems. And that came as a very, very welcome silver lining.

A mildly altered morning schedule saw me waking up at 6 am every day this month, which while I dreaded, turned out to be a bit of a Godsend. Because it gave me a solid hour everyday to be by myself, at peace, reading. And I was able to really pick up the pace and finish up so many more books because of it.

Somewhere in between, a long-awaited and very special essay — another one about Indian women who have chosen to remain childfree — went live on The Establishment. It was the byproduct of a lot of data I had gathered for another essay, but was unable to use. So tada, I turned it into a whole different essay. Win.

There were more travels of course, the last of it to close the year. I ran away to Bangalore, and then to Coonoor with S, a trip that came about in the most spontaneous and speedy fashion. Four days in the hills, and a road trip up there and back to Bangalore was really the icing on the cake. I spent four days soaking in the mountain sun filtering through the mist, and questioned my love for the seaside. I saw mighty trees that made me feel oh so very small. And I saw a giddying variety of flowers, trees, fruit and vegetation of the kind that only mountain air can bear, and it made my head spin.

It’s been a year of tremendous travel. I may not have gone very far, but with every trip I snatched some lovely cherished moments and experiences, and have found something that my life was missing the past many years: camaraderie with just the right mix of closeness and space all in one. I came home with my heart feeling very full. It put a whole different spin on thoughts of distance, longing to be with friends I love, and the expanses of time between us. I returned to the news of George Michael’s passing, and it put me in a nostalgic, reflective mood.

But I also returned to renewed enthusiasm and a very refreshed, positive outlook. It feels like I’m over the bump. I was able to write so much in the second half of the month, spruce up the home that I have ignored for a better part of the year, stock up the house and I even spent four days getting prepped for the work weak ahead. I had some time to even reflect on what a surprisingly good year of reading it has been.

December marked the end of a shitfest of a year of course, but I’ll remember it as the month my vitamins kicked in and my body and mind began to behave like I owned it again. It’s the month I closed the door on 2016 in more ways than just the passing of 12 long months. I’m so ready for 2017.

Day 357: Cutting the fat

If there’s one unifying theme that ties all my travels, in and out of Goa this year, it has been the spontaneity that kicked all plans to action and the unbelievable effortlessness right through every one of them. Well, that’s if you discount the effort it took to find enough cash to carry in hand before we hit the road last week – *eyerollllll* – but that aside, effortless. And it has a lot to do with the kind of people I was surrounded with, on each of those occasions.

Of course when I think of effortlessness, actual instances of smooth, near-flawless and easy planning and events come to mind. But really, it’s so much deeper. It’s been so long since I have experienced this kind of light, clear and direct quality of relationship in my life that I have come to value all that it brings with it. A large part of which is this effortlessness. The easy way in which personalities, no matter how disparate, plans, people, just fit. And by fit I mean, making it work, without necessarily getting enmeshed or tangled.

I realised this with astounding clarity as S and I were quickly calculating out expenses on the return leg of our trip, over hot filter coffee at the A2B we’d stopped it. The entire exercise was a good reflection of how most of our trips, and some others that I took, have been this year. No loud haggling, no complains, no mismatched expectations, no effort. Very quickly and simply, we knew what we’d spent and how it was to be divided and who owed who what. Done and dusted.

Perhaps it is the slowing down of time, being free from routine and allowing time to empty out your mind that makes room for mini epiphanies like this. Earlier this year R, S and I had a conversation about why some combinations of people work better than others, and all three of us agreed on the high premium we placed on effortlessness and a complete distaste for drama and passive aggressions. Increasingly, I find myself gravitating to effortless people with whom I have an effortless equation. So much so that I notice the daunting, weighted and complex relationships have withered away rather, well, effortlessly. Without trying too hard. Earlier, I would be het up about it. Now, the aftermath is effortless too.

I’ve learned this from VC a long, long time ago – trimming the fat in all my relationships – and on returning form this trip I felt rather pleased to realise it’s become an unconscious, effortless part of my life. I don’t know if this makes me lazy, but it’s not that I want to stay away form putting in an effort or investing in relationships. It’s more about investing in less drama, more honesty and clarity. And I’m extremely glad and grateful I am finally in a place in life where I am surrounded by people who feel the same way, understand and respect it as much as I do. It has made a lot of the events in the last year less painful, less intense and less demanding of emotion and heartache. But most of all, I’m glad I have started to parse people and tell the genuinely effortless relationships apart from those that inevitably leech. I’m better for it.

Day 350: Ohhaii again, Bangalore

I touched down in cold, cold Bangalore yesterday.

I cannot believe how lucky I’ve been this year, with umpteen trips back home to visit this city, my folks and some of my fondest friends. 

I love love love Banvalore in the winter. Post cyclone weather has been splendid. My nose and toes are perpetually cold and it’s hard to fight the snuggle up with tea and books kind of vibe. 

Bangalore has been the starting point of many trips out from here. And this time it is no different. I’m off on a roadtrip with S. Somewhere hilly. Somewhere amidst the clouds. Somewhere surrounded by tea. And somewhere a lot colder than Bangalore, methinks. Brrrrmmmm. 
 

Day 340: Happy high

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 322: One night in Bangkok

The last time I was in Thailand, I was so hyper-focused on the beach, that we planned to be there for a bulk of the trip, sandwiching it with a grace period of 1.5 days in Bangkok on either side. And that too, only because we had to fly in and out of there. I’m a fan of city holidays as much as I am of getting away into the wild or exploring nature. The last time around I got a good sense of the wonderful amalgamation of urban and ethnic culture that Bangkok is and I’d long decided I would come back for more. So this time, we planned to return from our beach days and spend two days in Bangkok.

We checked out of our resort at noon, and caught the 2.45 pm catamaran back to the pier at Chumphon. A similar stream of efficient hustling like on our onward journey, and before we knew it we were on the bus speeding down the near-perfect highway back to where we had come from. The last time I was in Thailand too we’d taken a bus journey, and like the one to Chumphon earlier last week, was a night journey. So it was nice to have a day view of the countryside. Rolling paddy fields, highway eateries, outlet stores, villagers ambling along on foot or badly driven two wheelers. I read for the most part back, and only perked up when we halted at the rest stop and this time I got off to experience the mind-boggling variety of food on offer. We picked rice, meat curry and stir fried veggies and tucked in hungrily. And thank god for that because it was well past midnight when we wound our way through Friday night traffic in Bangkok and pulled into Khao San Road again.

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The same street we’d left, which was bustling and chock a bloc on a Monday night, was packed tighter still with what looked easily like three times the number of people and twice the number of food stalls. Loud, stomping beats wafted out of the nightclubs, and groups of inebriated young folk staggered out looking high as kites. It was noisy, festive, a cacophony of music and a medley of smells of all kinds of food. It was time to eat again, of course. So we bought ourselves a massive Nutella crepe each while we watched the crowds much to our amusement, and figured out how to get to our hotel for the next two days. It turned to be a twenty minute drive and we decided to cab the distance. We didn’t even have to look very far for one because opened the door confidently, fully prepared to negotiate and start arguing about a reasonable fare, when the cheerful driver clicked his meter on. “By meter?” S asked. He nodded happily. In shock at our luck at finding a cab past 1 am, and not having to haggle over a far, my love for Bangkok was already through the roof. As a rule cities with really good public transport give me a massive high (“turn me on,” said S). I’d already experienced the amazing skytrain last time I visited, but to get into a cab well past midnight, not have to haggle and be taken straight to your destination – full marks, Bangkok!

We stayed at this really cool hotel with a neat concept and super minimal style. It was a basic business-traveller kind of hotel, perfect for just the two nights that we were there. Several notches higher in terms of fashionability, without as many digits being added to the price. So it was much nicer than a deal hotel we’d have settled for otherwise. Our room had a cool mural and twin beds that we hit almost immediately after we checked in and had hot showers. The next morning, we set off looking for breakfast and currency exchange. Several street food stalls had opened up, and everything smelt divine, especially this one cart wedges into a corner adjacent to a tiny gift store, where a woman in a long coat and a hat was making omelettes and fried eggs with a hit of chillies, green onions and soya sauce. It looked so good, we stood by trying to communicate with her in sign language and broken English. She didn’t even so much as look up. We’re not the target audience we told ourselves, dejectedly, and settled for Au Bon Pain very disinterestedly, because by then we’d walked a long way from the hotel and the hunger levels were rising. Thankfully the chai and croissant really hit the spot, and was just perfect for the late breakfast it turned out to be because we wanted to hit Din Tai Fung for lunch.

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It was a morning dedicated to gift shopping, as we roamed a mall picking up delightful little things that we thought were unusual, that folks back home with like. Colourful leather stuff, really cheap and comfy footwear, amazing soaps and lotion, wooden trinkets and the like. All very affordable, even for a mall. Shopping in Bangkok was the only place we encountered Desis doing what Desis do best, shopping. And bargaining. The latter of which neither S nor I could get ourselves to do, everything was so dirt cheap. And if it wasn’t the item was probably so nice we thought it warranted the price. Yeah, we may have serially paid a lot more than we needed to, but we cannot complain.

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By lunch time we sniffed out way to Din Tai Fung, with the single minded focus of a detective on the job. Referencing GPS and the map on my phone, speedily rushing through lunch time pedestrian crowds, winding out way up and down skywalks, we found ourselves in yet another massive mall, a much nicer, fancier one than the one we were in. Eyes popped at beautiful bakeries with their displays laden with gorgeous freshly baked goods, and a Marvel store that nearly made us stop and walk in. “After lunch!” became the common refrain, until we finally made it. And DTF did. not. disappoint. I’d first eaten at this Dumpling Mecca in Singapore last year and I’d move East in a heartbeat, just for a lifetime supply of DTF, I would. Garlicy sauteed greens, delicate, almost too good to eat, with soup-filled pork dumplings, spicy noodles and pork baos were inhaled. Completely satisfied with how committed we were to finding DTF, ignoring all the distraction en route and proceeding straight to the main deal, which totally hit the spot, we picked up dessert at Paul the authentic French bakery and boulangerie that had a cute little store in the mall. Back in the hotel, we stashed dessert away for later that night, and waited for S, who by some corporate sorcery managed to have a work trip to Bangkok coincide with my weekend there, and flew in from Singapore.

When we were planning the trip, S and I briefly flirted with the idea of flying back via Singapore. The charm of the city still fresh on our minds from our respective brief trips last year. Also, friends. I’m always game to plan a trip to meet friends I love. But for various reasons we decided not to stretch ourselves that far. I was slightly bummed at not being able to go and meet S and party it up with him for a bit, but when he managed to swing by Bangkok and meet us, it really more than made up for it. I have a special place in my heart for friends who will really go the distance, and who I can count on to keep the fun up even when my different worlds collide.

It was at 5:30 that evening, when he hopped into our hotel, out One Night In Bangkok truly began. We hit a beer cafe nearby, sitting outside watching traffic go by, drinking Asahis while yakking away. Well the yakking was mostly done by me, but we caught up. What is it about beer bars and retro? Does every beer bar everywhere play retro? The tunes took me right back to Purple Haze in Bangalore or Down The Road in Panjim, and if not for the superior quality of beer, if I shut my eyes, I could have been anywhere, really. When S had said “lets begin at the beer bar” I didn’t quite know what we were in for, for the rest of the evening. A couple of beers later, we left and headed to the second bar for the night, which S did a really shitty job of selling to us.

“It’s a cool place. It’s really dark.

“Erm, like the lighting? Or the vibe?”

“Both!”

“Okayyy, then why are we going there?”

But go we did. It was one night in Bangkok after all.

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And boy was I glad we did. It was easily the best bar I’ve been to in a long, long time. A bar with serious character – it’s designed to resemble an iron smith’s workshop. Crammed, packed tight with intimiate seating, wrought iron staircases that lead nowhere in particular, dingy staircases and alleys lit by candles, secret doors leading to surprise entries to private seating, and some seeeeeriously good live music. The Band was superlative, playing what sounded like very bluegrassy covers of everything from Fly Me To The Moon to Cheerleader. Yeah! How’s that for serious variety. More beer followed, despite my staunch attempts to pace myself, somewhere between my fourth and fifth beer I teetered over the line and decided to go with it. S had some really interesting cocktail with gin ginger ale and peaches (I think, I could be entirely off here) and a flambed sprig of thyme. It was amazyyhzing and I now think I should have had that too.

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In time to leave, we swung by the loo. And the only reason I mention it here is because if you stepped into the dark and dingy bar that is was, you’d expect a shitty loo. But. It was spotless. And smelled amazing. I almost didn’t want to leave The Iron Fairies, but S suggested a Japanese bar (I think) so we walked out. Only to bump into a friend of his, completely out of the blue. S kept saying “what are the odds!” like it was truly unbelievable, but his friend diligently kept responding “pretty fucking high!” while S and I just giggled non stop. Before we knew it we were being herded in the opposite direction from where we were headed, and we were joined by a bunch of other people, and suddenly we were in a crowded elevator that opened into a rooftop bar. Dark, with clubby music, suddenly the crowds parted and a table was set up for us. I looked around and I was at this table with about 7 other people I didn’t know. A large bottle of vodka with an unpronounceable name appeared out of nowhere, swiftly followed by 6-7 glasses stacked with ice. Someone had to ask for tonic. I gingerly pushed my glass away, and ordered cider, deciding to play it safe and stick with beer. It all happened so fast, and sent me off into another giggle fit. S joined in, because truly, it felt like a scene straight out of a movie. Surrounded by people who looked like they were up for a long night of partying hard, a DJ who had blonde dreadlocks tied up in a man-bun, and people unravelling in various stages of inebriation dancing away.

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Our clever plan to stick with cider didn’t work after all because when we were done, two glasses of unnamed alcoholic contents appeared. And S’s friend kindly informed us that he’d told the bartender to give him what he always does, “a double of whatever it is” Turned out it was a G&T, a very, very stiff one. So stiff it burned my oesophagus. But we drank up. And soon enough I got up and danced a little with some random Thai folks. Someone broke a glass, someone took pictures of everyone, it was all a blur. I just remember giggling a lot and saying cheeeeese at some point.

Pretty soon, I realised we hadn’t eaten. Possibly the longest we’d gone without a meal through out the whole trip! So we decided to duck out, and went to a 24 hour outdoor food court of sorts close to the hotel. More beer followed. With a papaya salad that was so spicy, i began to hiccup uncontrollably. Which made me giggle some more, and didn’t help any way. Pad Thai and something else I cant remember was consumed too. And we topped it all off with a long walk back to the hotel to eat dessert. You know what’s the worst? A cocktail of alcohol followed by something sinfully sweet. And that’s exactly what we went headlong into. We dived into the little boxes of dessert and nearly polished off the custard filled eclairs and the strawberry and cream mille-feuille. So good when we were tucking in, but ph so horrid about half an hour later when my high suddenly spiked. It coincided with my finally lying down in bed. The minute my head hit the pillow the room began to do gentle little circles around me. I was too high (and tired) to bother to fix it with water or pacing up and down and the usual tricks that help, so I did my best to ignore it, telling myself this is what I get for ageing prematurely living my sage life in Goa devoid of any sign of partying, and I don’t know when but I drifted off to sleep.

The moment of truth is always the day after a night like this. How many times will I hit snooze before I wake up? Will we make it to the Chatuchak weekend market? Will I be hung over? Funnily enough, it wasn’t as bad as I felt it could have been the previous night. Both S and I woke up mildly groggy, but now shitfaced. But S, being S, served up room-made tea with two Disprins each. We chugged it and in no time at all felt clear and ready to head out. I’m really, really glad we did because we got to the market earlier than planned and the crowds hadn’t hit full swing. And even though we probably only touched about a tenth of the space, we saw some lovely wares, walked through the stalls amazed, and even bought some really special stuff for gifts. We were on a deadline because we had to find our way back, a 40 minute train ride, in time to catch S for lunch too. So we stepped out, when suddenly S spotted the one item we’d been hunting for (albeit very passively) all week – Birkenstock knockoffs! And then the food, oh my god, the food! Everything looked so, so inviting and if we didn’t already have plans we’d have given up all attempts to resist. It was just as well we didn’t because S scouted out a really amazing little restaurant back near the hotel. Indoors, air conditioned, with very affordably priced authentic Thai food. It was likely the best meal of the week, next only to DTF, and a lovely way to wind down.

Quick bye-byes followed and S and I went back to pick our luggage up before we trudged all the way back to DMK airport an hour away. We managed to squeeze in a tuk-tuk ride from the hotel to the skytrain station, from where we went to the last stop on the line, and then took a bus to the airport. I LOVE efficient public transport and I got a special kick when I realised we’d officially taken every kind of transport we saw – those classic colourful cabs, the metro, the local train, city bus, long-distance bus, catamaran, and a tuktuk!

Reaching an airport and touching Duty Free also means encountering Indians again, and invariably it’s an experience in being schooled about why we get treated the way we do. I tried my best not to let a few uncouth Indians spoil the holiday high. Webought ourselves some goodies and booze for home and settled into a corner to sit and do our hisaab like a couple of baniyas. It’s when it hit me again, how every single thing went off without a hitch, with zero conflict of interest even between the two of us, and just a smooth, seamless progression from one event to the next. R and S were sorely missed again, as we did several times during the trip, adn we vowed to do this many, many times again.

To end the holiday on a high we went into the Thai restaurant at the airport for one last meal. Finally, I succumbed to green curry and rice, while S had pork meatballs in a noodle-y broth. Both divine, and even though we had no room for dessert we had to relent and get one last portion of mango and sticky rice. The flight back was quiet, uneventful and I read for the most part, feeling very, very happy to be going home. We landed in Bangalore at 10:30 pm, to ATMs with no money. Thankfully my folks came to pick me up. I came home wired, unable to get to bed till almost 3 am. So I lay in bed thinking about the week gone by – how quickly it came and went – and how near-perfect it had been. It’s the mark of a good holiday I think when you come home feeling satisfied, and like the experience you’ve had was enough. My cup, it runneth over.

Day 321: In which I turned into a beached whale

The trip from Chumphon to Koh Tao by catamaran took about an hour and a half. Again, I’d read horror stories about choppy seas and swaying boats that caused much seasickness and drenched luggage. But the weather was splendid. Blue skies, golden morning sunlight and the promise of three days of extreme relaxation gave me reason to kick back. It felt like we’d been on the move forever, and the truth is we had, but as we left the mainland and lost sight of the pier behind us, it slowly began to sink in — I was finally away en route to the island holiday that we had obsessively discussed and built our excitement up for so many weeks.

Right from the start, my intention was to do absolutely nothing on this holiday. I loaded up my kindle and packed my swimsuit. But that was as far as I was willing to go in terms of activity. And I’m glad the island and the resort we picked enabled me to fulfil that wish wholeheartedly. As we piled out of the catamaran, an assortment of people of various colours, race and varieties of travellers, I realised we were the only Indians around. Score. We were picked up at the Koh Tao ferry point by an open truck of sorts that belonged to our resort. Along with an Italian family of three, we were off.

The island itself is hilly, as many islands in Thailand tend to be. Walkable, if you’re willing to give your legs a good workout, something I was certainly not planning to do. So as we drove up to the resort, I sank further into a state of sloth, convinced I wasn’t going to leave the resort. S planned to go diving and had signed up for an advanced course with a dive shop nearby. We checked in, lazed around over a late breakfast and finally found our way to our room. This resort was an odd mix of fancy — it had two pools, a private beach, two restaurants and a spa — with some specific things that didn’t go with its fancy image — like a poky bathroom just big enough for a tiny shower area and a loo, the wash basin in the damned bedroom, a lovely picture window strategically placed in front of the pot, rather than the shower area just in case I felt like taking in the view as I took a crap, I suppose. They also didn’t have room service at breakfast time, and sneaked out of giving us more than two tea bags a day to fully use the in-room kettle. Minor, hilarious, but definitely strange hassles.

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What followed was four days of utter and complete sloth, punctuated by spurts of reading, cocktails, iced coffees and plenty of nibbles and snacks. We’d begin every day by kicking ourselves out of bed, reaching breakfast just in time to load up. With a delightful spread of fruit, Asian breakfast, eggs to order, an assortment of bread, croissants, pain au chocolat and the like, and so much more, it was the meal that would keep us going till early evening. Plenty of extremely icy drinks were consumed through out the day, as we alternated between our deck chairs, the pool that overlooked the sea, and the sea itself. By tea time we’d be ready for a snack, which we’d split neatly in half. I’m telling you this two person holiday worked out so well for us! No ordering qualms and no wasted food.

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We’d then return to our room after sunset, shower, chill for a bit, only to come back to the restaurant to stuff our faces with dinner again. All the while we’d stick our noses in our books, looking up every now and then to chat a bit, giggle at something, but mostly it was just check if we’re ready to get something to eat. Despite sticking to ourselves and being anything but couple-y, everyone at the resort seemed to be convinced we were an item. It was super entertaining by the time we figured what was on their minds. It didn’t help that the resort was very couple friendly, so I suppose the assumption was kind of justified. But, I’m as straight as straight gets though. Despite the abundance of seemingly virile, young men of hitchable age, I’m sad to report that there was zero eye candy worth looking at. Utterly tragic.

Anyway, my intention to do nothing went completely to plan, but in a bizarre turn of events, Efficient Esther S, who had preplanned her diving trip, turned completely lazy and abandoned the idea altogether. What can I say, I’m a bad influence. What it meant was, the sloth and the amount of food and drink consumed doubled.

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I’ve been to Thailand before and experienced the clear, crystal clear blue waters and white sands before, but Koh Tao was something else. I know, this is probably what everyone says after a beach holiday. But really, I went expecting the turquoise, sea-blue waters, and instead got this incredible shade of jade that got deeper as we swam further (which I didn’t – ask S, she’ll tell you how much she laughed), and clearer, until it’s almost crystal clear and transparent by the shore. White little fish danced between out feet from time to time, and it was surreal seeing straight through and through to the bed where we’d put our feet down.

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In a weak moment, I decided that since S had abandoned diving plans, we must at least go out and snorkel. Our part of the sea was called Shark Bay after all, and it was an opportunity we shouldn’t miss. Who goes all the way to Thailand and doesn’t do anything anyway? Me. That’s who. So yeah, we didn’t snorkel either. In fact we didn’t even head out of the resort. One evening we forced ourselves to sign up for the shuttle that would drive us to the bustling market side of the island, under the pretext of at least seeing what else happens on Koh Tao, and to get a better glimpse of the setting sun. But guess what? It didn’t happen. Mai-tais and pizzas happened instead.

Eventually all the cold drinks and sitting in the sun all day long got to me, and I caught a cold. By day three I had a stuffy nose and an itchy throat, which I was trying to battle with my willpower. My skin however, told a different story. It gave up all efforts to battle the scorching heat and turned a brilliant shade similar to that of the current president elect of the United States Of America. It was horrific, and on day one as I stood in the shower taking my swim suit off, I looked at myself shocked and amazed at the neatly formed lines that bifurcated the whites from the brown bright orange bits. In some light, at some angles I looked like a beet. But mostly my body was a map of various degrees of burnt. It might have been funnier still, if it didn’t hurt as much as it did. Eventually, by the last day, thanks to the skin and the cold, I had to cut back on sun time and just take it easy.

Easily done when this was my view: a long, long pool flanked by towering coconut trees, the jade sea beyond, and service by the pool.

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Koh Tao is known for splendid sunsets, but maybe because of where we were located, and the weather that was mostly sunny with clear skies, and one surprise night of a heavy downpour followed by a morning of drizzles, we didn’t see those quintessential dramatic technicolour sunsets that we expected. Finally, on the last evening though, the clouds relented, and we had a hint of some drama. It was enough for me. I was so satisfied. Four days was just perfect. I don’t think I could have taken another day of not moving. I might have caved and done something drastic like diving or something, so I’m glad we timed it this way. By day four my heart was full (as was my belly) and I was ready to head back to Bangkok where another adventure awaited us.

Day 320: One day in Bangkok (or day one in Bangkok)

The idea to go to Thailand cropped up at the unlikeliest of times. But the alacrity with which we got around to booking tickets, figuring out where to go, how to get there and all the nitty gritty details really surprised me. It was originally meant to be the four of us, which slowly petered down to three, and eventually left just S and me. We’d booked non-refundable tickets and I’d planned my November around this holiday, so we weren’t about to cancel. I’m so glad we decided to go through with it because it really turned out to be just right, in every way. I said before that it isn’t often that you find travel buddies so perfectly aligned to your inclinations. Which isn’t to say that everything about us was same-same. A lot is, tbh, but it’s also that between the two of us we managed to balance our eccentricities, laziness and efficiency out — which made for a great mix! From our obsession for morning chai that was the perfect temperature, to keeping detailed hisaab through the trip, to our single minded focus on eating our way through every day, to being armed with everything from socks to sanitiser to scissors and Disprin between the two of us – we realised we were more than suited to travel on long trips together. It was a holiday with adequate laziness and quiet time (on the island), 80% of which was spent in utter silence, and the enthusiasm to get out and do stuff (in Bangkok).

I landed in Bangalore a day in advance. I spent a day and a half with the folks and on Sunday night we took a flight out of Bangalore. Months and weeks of excitement that had reached a point where I felt I couldn’t hold it in any longer finally exploded when we met outside the airport. It was all a bit surreal. We bought ourselves beer and Chinese food to set the tone for the Asian food fest that was about to be, and got yakking. S had decided to ration out all the things we had to catch up on. Literally every big update and conversation in the weeks before the trip abruptly ended with “But I’ll tell you when we meet”. So with all that saved up conversation, the list of things to catch up on was fairly long. And the conversation was loud, giggly and animated, of course.

We and reached Bangkok at 4 am, which we thought was genius. You know, reach your destination at the start of a day so you can set off exploring immediately and all that. Which was great but for the fact that including checking in three hours prior to departure, delayed departure, horrible low-cost carrier seating and having a lot to catch up on, it meant that I didn’t sleep much. S is one of those lucky people that can pass out quickly, almost anywhere. So when we landed in Bangkok four and a half hours later, we emerged from the Don Muang Airport (yep, it wasn’t Suvarnabhumi this time around) bleary eyed. Information very helpfully told us we were an hour away from the heart of Bangkok and that we could either take a bus or a train, both available right outside the airport, to get there.

We trudged across the walkway over the main road and entered the sweetest, small, quaint little station. Which was basically a covered shelter with a few Thai folks waiting in the last dark moments of dusk to catch a train into Bangkok. A mere 20 thb a head, and a shot 15 minute wait later, a noisy train pulled in. We got into a chair car and it was a while before we got ourselves place to sit. Shaky and noisy, with tea-coffee vendors making their way through the aisle, and locals in various states of slumber, I felt right at home, as I would have in a train in India. We drank a shot of coffee each, “o give us a kick,” S said. Except we promptly drank it and nodded off to sleep. S being herself and dozing off effortlessly, and me trying to make up for all the lost sleep.

An hour later we were at Bangkok Train Station, and came out to hoards of people dressed in black, snaking their way out to a counter where free food and drink was being offered to anyone mourning the death of the King of Thailand who passed away last month. Later I realised this was common sight through the rest of the trip – people everywhere, tourists included dressed largely in black. Whatever the crowds were being handed in styrofoam cups looked like hot noodle and meatball broth and smelt divine. It was nearly breakfast time and we were both starving.

Thankfully, we found a cab fairly quickly. Some sign language, showing the cabbie the address to our hotel and helpfully offering GPS was all it took to get to our cute B&B where we were booked just for the day. It was small and cosy. Very basic, but with crisp sheets, a clean loo (with a shady as fuck looking instant water heater connected right to the shower head) and a hot water kettle and instant coffee – it was more than enough. We freshened up and didn’t give ourselves time to settle, rushing out in search of breakfast instead. As it turned out, we’d accidentally picked a very nice part of town to be in.

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Khao San Road is quite the hipster place to be, with quirky coffee shops, charming restaurants and the last vestiges of Bangkok’s famous street food culture still to be seen. We ducked into this place called Chomp which looked promising. Breakfast was sumptuous, and free wifi and a stand full of all kinds of maps meant we settled in and figure out what we were going to do next, and over the week to come.

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The cafe guy didn’t seem inclined to throw us out even long after we’d finished eating and made the very large cups of tea last as long as we possibly could.

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Eventually we headed out to try and figure out where we had to catch our bus on the way out later that night. As it turned out the travel company we’d booked our bus+ferry ticket from was not too far form the hotel. Walking distance in fact, across one of the streets that turns into a food street by night! We couldn’t have accidentally planned this better, really. And this was the best part about having a travel partner equally interested in being efficient and prepared. We’d barely suggest something and the other person would promptly agree, because in all likelihood we’d have thought of the same thing.

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A short loaf at the closest mall and a minor attempt to try and find the closest Din Tai Fung ensued, but we glazed over very quickly at the chaos of the shopping and excessive sensory overload that is MBK Centre. Luckily we were distracted, and stopped in our tracks, by a mini hawker centre of sorts right outside the mall, lured mainly by our noses to the smells of sizzling meat on a hot griddle, and the sights of raw papaya salad. We very quickly ditched the idea to go hunting for DTF, promising ourselves one meal there on our return, and settled in for pad thai with shrimp, raw papaya salad and some extremely icy mango and passion fruit spritzers.

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Here’s the great thing about Thai food, right? It’s fresh and light, yet so filling. But not in the way that greasy, spicy, rich food tends to fill you up by settling in your belly for many hours. It was filling enough for our eyelids to droop, though. It was also hot outside and since we had figured out where to catch our bus later that evening, we decided to retire and catch a quick nap before heading out again. So we returned, drew the curtains in the room and passed the hell out, ignoring the alarms we had very efficiently set to wake us up.

Eventually, room made coffee tempted us to rise again. And we packed and left the room closer to sun down. We traipsed around the street watching the food carts and stalls being set up, as the whole atmosphere was slowly changing and coming to life around us. It was super hard to pick a place, with rows of food carts, all equally inviting and plenty of bars stacked back to back, adjacent to each other. Eventually we went to a place that had a happy hour offer on cocktails and we picked the closest thing we could find to G&Ts. Topped that up with pad thai and spring rolls and walked back to our hotel to tidy up a little and check out before returning to catch our bus.

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Catching the bus was super easy and very entertaining. We decided to walk the distance from the hotel, because it didn’t warrant a cab ride. It was nearby and 50% of it wound thru the food lane, which would have been impossible to take by cab. So walk we did. Eventually very sweaty, but so happy to reach the spot where we saw this sign and cracked up completely. However, that incredible piece of communication was no indication of what was to come. As soon as we checked in, we were handed a bunch of stickers to denote our seat number, destination and matching stickers for our luggage. One set went on our bags, the other on our chests. From that moment on we were just herded around and pointed in the right direction by non-English speaking Thai women who were the bosses of this efficient system. We walked up to the point where we’d board the bus, tucked in our luggage and got to the top deck of this basic, but decent double decker bus that took us to Chumphon.

The journey was fairly comfortable. The roads are excellent, not windy like in India, so even my fears of getting sick faded away very soon. The ACs underperformed so my tendency to freeze in travel also vanished. Yet, I couldn’t sleep. I must be getting old, because I used to be the kind of traveller who could curl up or stretch out in any awkward spot and manage to go to sleep. For some reason I just couldn’t. So I tracked the journey on my phone for a bit, read a bit and eventually only nodded off in the last 2 hours of the seven hour journey. The service was pain-free, the bus was decent, even though I’d read some horror stories of leaky roofs and such. The rest stop that we halted at around 2 am was excellent, with clean loos and a lot of food options too. However, I was dazed and wanted to just go back to sleep.

Seven hours later we woke up at the pier at Chumphon. It was still dark, but the cafe was open. We doubled up on chai and waited for our catamaran to arrive. Before it did, the sun came up and cast mad colours in the sky.

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Suddenly it felt like it was really worth missing two nights of good sleep.