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Tag Archives: Peeps

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

23 Feb

(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.

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Inconsequential posts you really don’t need to read

12 Jan

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?

2016

5 Jan

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

Day 366: December

31 Dec

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

22 Dec

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

15 Dec

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

5 Dec

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

17 Nov

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

16 Nov

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)

15 Nov

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.

Day 315: Slow down, clown

10 Nov

Just a little over half a day to go before we head out of the island. I watched the sun set in a neon orange blaze framed by an icy cool blue this evening and I felt once again, what I have felt so many times these past three days – time slowing down so much it feels like you could fuse into the furniture and blend away into the background.

It’s been all kinds of lovely. As I knew it would. I’m so very grateful for having had this chance to getaway by myself. But also for the perfect getaway partner in crime. It’s not often that you find the right company when you plan to cross continents and travel to faraway lands to do nothing. That’s what these last few days have been about. If there were a way to illustrate perfectly just what I mean, this picture would have to be it.

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Day 313: Mid week blues

8 Nov

We’ve been on four modes of transport, traversing air, land and finally the sea.

It took navigating the neighbourhood (that accidentally turned out to be the best one we could have picked for a single night in Bangkok!), seeing amazingly direct and coherent (yet hilarious) signs to figure we were on the right track.

Many hours of sleep lost, to witness the break of dawn, like this.


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To finally get here.


Not too shabby, I’d say. Especially because I plan to park myself here and restrict all movement to the bare minimum for the next four days.

Day 312: Holiday mornings

7 Nov

There’s cute. And then there’s Bangkok cute.


There’s peace. And then there’s wilderness peace, the way VC likes it.

Day 298: Weekend snippets

24 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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*****

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

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

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

So, what did you do this weekend?

Day 294: Link loving

20 Oct
russia

PC: Priya

This gorgeous picture wasn’t taken by me. But it is in the newsletter I sent two days ago. Because it was taken by P, in Russia, where she and L spent three months away from Goa. It makes an interesting story, some truly beautiful pictures and lovely haiku, and I wrote about it all for the latest edition of the newsletter. Which, if you haven’t already subscribed to, is open for viewing, for just a bit. Here.

Go see? And if you like what you see, follow P and L on instagram here and here. And if you feel like subscribing to the newsletter, you can do it here.

Day 293: Stuff

19 Oct

Over the last few weeks I’ve been unable to write full, comprehensible posts. I’ve had so much to say. About women and safety, about why I’m learning self defence, about Priyanka Chopra’s utterly vapid Refinery29 interview, about her obnoxious choice of teeshirt for the cover of CNT, about her “beneath the surface” interview (I don’t know why she’s on my radar so much, and I’ve to remind myself to stop clicking on any link that has her name on it because it always makes me raaaage), about my renewed reaffirmed feelings for the girlfriends in my life, and thoughts about those I have let go of, therapy and some surprising facts that it has unearthed. So it has not for the lack of having things to say, but the funk I’ve been in. My brain has felt like it had stalled, performing on half battery for a bit now. But I realise in retrospect that it was probably just the natural course of things, of conserving energy, words, emotions, given that I had so little to spare and what little I did, I wanted to turn inwards, rather than dissipate. Anyway, long story short – it was hard to communicate, write, share. So much remains to be talked about, and maybe I will get to it. In the meantime, here, smatterings of things I’ve thought about journalling, but didn’t get down to.

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After absolute years, I’ve felt the need to escape my life. That theory about creating a life you don’t need to escape? Well, after many years of floating along painlessly, I’ve felt the simmering need to change things up again. Escape it for a bit. And I’m taking this as a sign that my life needs change. I’m starting by escaping temporarily. Early next month, I’m off to Bangalore again. This time en route to my holiday. S and I are running off for a week of girlfriend time. It all happened so fast and so unexpectedly. We were planning a trip to Gujarat, and I don’t actually know at what exact point it happened, but destinations changed and tickets were booked faster than I could say maybe-we-should-go-to. It started off being the four of us, and then one of us dropped out, then another, leaving just S and I. Much sad is happening at severely diminished numbers, but c’est la vie. Since our tickets were non refundable, we’re going, in the hope that the other two will be there in spirit. Spirit, heh, get it? Because we will have to drink and eat their share, I suppose. It only seems fair to represent them at the very least, no?

I’m mildly hysterical with excitement now that we are all finally booked, all hotel reservations done and ready to go. It only sank in once I saw all the confirmation emails. We’re going off to an island. We, well I have no plans, except to bum around on the beach, while S plans go diving. We then return to the big city, because it’s the kind of holiday VC and I would never take together. I needed to do it with girlfriends in tow, where the plan is to eat and drink some more. Just that, nothing else. If the past few holidays with the girls are anything to go by I have a fair idea of the shenanigans that will transpire. I realised somewhere in the midst of booking this trip that all my holidays/breaks this year, in and out of Goa, have been with the girls. VC and I haven’t even remotely entertained the idea of taking a break together. Okay, correction, I have entertained the idea, but not acted on it. I don’t think it has even occurred to VC. But that’s okay. Next year, big travel awaits us. (Fuck, did I just say next year?) We’re in that final leg of the year where everything is winding down and some part of me is already looking forward to wrapping up 2016 and moving on.

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Holiday aside, I’m looking forward to being home, even if it is just for a couple of days on either side of my holiday. I’m still that baby that wants to go back home to mommy when I’m having a rough time. I just want to tune out from regular programming for a bit, and be looked after. Is there any place other than home for that? I think not. The lack of a laptop means I won’t be taking my work with me. Pure unadulterated home time. I cannot wait.

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Speaking of leaving work behind. Something strange happened on the weekend. I worked. I had a sudden burst of inspiration and sat down to finish some stuff that wasn’t even immediately due or anything. I finished a lot of stuff ahead of time. And I realised I’d finished most of my big commitments for the month. With one fun on-going gig to keep me sufficiently occupied for the rest of the month before I go away on my break. Somewhere, in the midst of just trying to stay afloat these past few weeks, I didn’t realise it, but I’d gathered a lot of steam with my work. There’s a clue in there, about work and play and how much of it I need, want and am willing to give myself, that I am looking at. Because it was so good to be in that kind of flow again. The flow that has eluded me for some time now.

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My communication woes with editors in India continue. I used to be convinced it was something I was doing wrong, but I’ve been analysing and introspecting on a few utterly bizarre situations with mind boggling communication that I’ve experienced in the last few months, and I’m that close to putting it down to just our Indianness. Too many people at our disposal, we have no value for personal interaction, for giving someone the time of your day, for reaching out just a little bit beyond your call and duty, for preserving personal connections, for being humble. There’s nothing to lose, I realise, one writer moves on, there’s so many more in line. Perhaps editors have nothing to lose? I’m just wagering a guess here. The funny thing is some of these communication trails have been open for almost two months now, and remain unattended. And I’m waiting to see how far this will go before someone gives me a clear answer on each of these.

As an experiment, I haven’t pitched any fresh work with Indian publications in about 6 weeks now. For a while, based on the stark contrasts I find between the work ethic and general level of professional communication styles I find between Indian and Non Indian publications, I’ve feel like this is just the space that we have a lot of learning and growing up to do. And I’m talking about everything here – response time to emails, the tone in which emails are written, the urgency to get work done and out there, the alacrity with which payments are made, a sense of responsibility in fixing a wrong when there is a problem, a complete lack of power play – everything seems to happen with a lot more purpose overseas. People give a shit. I know this sounds like a generalisation, and maybe it is. I am aware that freelancers like me working overseas have their fair share of woes and a lot of them echo the kind of problems we face here, but in my experience so far, which has been fairly wide and varied, I have observed this.

So I’m testing it out with this experiment. Unfortunately, so far, my worst assumptions are coming true. And it is all kinds of disappointing.

*****

This week I had a massive flash from the past and traversed a lot of music from the good old days. Yesterday I went down the Seal-Guns N Roses-Bon Jovi-Def Leppard-Aerosmith trail and when I landed here, I got stuck. Good and proper.

Day 277: 109 kms done

3 Oct

So this happened, after all.

Vagus adventuro flags off

A post shared by Probyk (@probyk) on

After some deliberation and accumulation of a lot of blind over-confidence, I decided to go through with it.

Even the morning of the event, as my alarm woke me up at 4.30 am, I got out and looked at my bed. It was so inviting, tempting me to just get back inside and stop kidding myself about this insanity I had signed up for. As much as I have come to love cycling, I haven’t reached a point where I can say my love for cycling has overtaken my love for sleeping in. The difficulty of waking up early is strong and real.

Just 3 minutes prior t this picture being taken, it was still dark out. Don't believe these happy faces. I was NOT happy to be up that early.

Just 3 minutes prior to this picture being taken, it was still dark out. Don’t believe these happy faces. I was NOT happy to be up that early.

I went in completely devoid of any expectations of myself, fully psyching myself to give up if I needed to.

What I was lacking in confidence, I made up for in snacks. I was over-prepared in that department. Obviously. Lined my stomach with fruit and a sandwich even before the event began. Plenty of chikki, a handful of dates, two packets of ORS on the go. And I wiped it all out before end. This is not counting the large breakfast we had at checkpoint 1, and the ice cream at checkpoint 2.

I was one of two women in the event of about 25 participants. I was expecting more women. But clearly I was in the minority with that expectation because not one, but two dudes gave me the statement of utter surprise — “hey, you’re pretty good!” and I could almost feel the “…for a girl” subtext.

The ride: it was fantastic. For all the starting trouble I have, every time that I get on a bike and get going, it is rewarding. There is something mildly massively addictive once you’re on a bike, zipping through the wind and experiencing early morning like nothing else can, really. Not even walking or running. Okay, maybe doing this in Goa adds a million points in favour of the activity, so yes, I’m giving thanks for the wonderful place I’ve found myself in. The weather suddenly turned that morning, and we had grey cloudy skies. A ten minute downpour was a welcome relief, and I seemed to escape even the harsh noon sunlight which caught up with me only in the last stretch of about twenty minutes as I was struggling to the finish line.

Thankfully, the event wasn’t a race. It was about finishing, and there was a very comfortable outer time limit in which to do it. There were enough triangular shaped, testosterone pumped men who didn’t have a moment to spare to even smile or exchange pleasantries because they were dashing off to beat each other, or their own personal records, I’m not sure. I was the very very very last person to finish. I can’t say I didn’t expect it.


I’m just glad I finished. That was my focus, and I’m glad I didn’t waver there. I couldn’t have done it without VC who pepped me up with his inspirational talks, R who absolutely insisted this was going to be a cakewalk and then stuck around cycling with me for the entire second half of the ride, and a random friend we made, let’s call him A. A is a 51 year old man (possibly the oldest participant) who was also lingering around the back of the trail with me. We’re the guys who stopped to take pictures all along, got lost a couple of times, bothered to look at the map, ask for directions and generally have a bit of fun along the way. He claimed all he’d ever done in life was smoke and work, and that bicycling was a new interest. He’d so far only ridden a maximum of 30kms ever. He stuck around with us, we definitely drew off of each others’ energies and somehow stayed together until the end.

End of segment 1.

End of segment 1.

Control point #1, where a massive bhaji-pao breakfast was laid out with plenty of other essentials - cold towels, premixed ORS, carrot cake, a photo booth (!) and the route map for the next segment that ended at Baskin Robbins with the assurance of 2 free scoops of ice cream.

Control point #1, where a massive bhaji-pao breakfast was laid out with plenty of other essentials – cold towels, premixed ORS, carrot cake, a photo booth (!) and the route map for the next segment that ended at Baskin Robbins with the promise of 2 free scoops of ice cream.

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Just keep spinning, rere. <3

I couldn’t have done it without my people. And my playlist, which I heard from end to end for the very first time in my life. Twice over, in fact.

Also, training. For all the heavy duty working out I’ve been doing in the last 3 years or so, I’ve never done anything that’s tested my strength or stamina. This was quite the test, and it completely reaffirmed my faith in sticking with working out and always trying to remain fit. It always pays off.

I’ve also never felt a gush of endorphins as strong as I did at the 88km mark, when R and I, unsure of what turn to take, stopped to ask for directions. Except I wasn’t of much use because I was collapsing in a huge outflow of uncontrollable guffaws. For absolutely no reason at all. R watched helplessly, not sure what to do next. And try as I did, I couldn’t hold back the laughter. It was coming out in heavy, loud bursts that just couldn’t be contained. We had just pushed ourselves over a 8 kilometre stretch, hitting the highest speeds I did on the entire ride, and maybe the energy rush just got the better of me.

A stupid move at the very end, possibly caused by the lack of oxygen going to my brain by then, made me take a wrong turn. I was leading the trio at the point, so the other two followed suit, and we found ourselves off track, adding a whole lot of unnecessary kilometres to the finish, not to mention one major chunk of which involved backtracking across the stretch we had just covered.

Home stretch! Just across the bridge to the finish line.

Home stretch! Just across the bridge to the finish line.

So as it happens, I didn’t just complete a 100 kilometre ride. In fact, I clocked 109 kilometres to the finish line. And it was worth every minute of excitement, adventure, pain and exhilaration.

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Cold beers waited us at the finish line. Which we emptied into our water bottles to consume. Because, Gandhi Jayanti = dry day, it seems.

The next logical step is to attempt 200km. If someone had asked me last week, if I could see myself doing it, I’d have laughed loudly. But ask me now and I’ll say, hell yes, without batting an eyelid. I’d just like to be better prepared, maybe actually train for it next time around.

Honestly though, I didn’t think I could finish it this time around. I went in blind, like I said before. But maybe the endorphins kicked in, maybe being in the presence of all the other cyclists gave me a boost, maybe I just went into auto pilot, but it was hard to think about giving up. I actually didn’t feel the need to at any point. It was only somewhere around the 60km mark that I realised how far I had come and that I was actually possibly going to finish this.

So while the ride was physically taxing, as was expected, beyond a point it was entirely a mental game. Every 10 kilometres knocked down felt like a huge milestone crossed. There were moments when an unexplained energy kicked in, pushing through my lower back that had begun to ache, my quads that were tensing up, and my butt that had gone numb. I’ve never felt that kind of resilience in myself, I don’t think.

Clearly, I had underestimated my capacity to physically push myself, and overestimated the time it would take me, in the event that I did finish. I overshot my estimate by a 120 whole minutes, finishing in 6 hours. Despite coming in right at the very end, this was a win I needed to undo the collective shittiness that September was.

So that’s done and dusted.

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Moderate to severe levels of hysteria at having finished may be showing here.

Day 264: Perch

20 Sep

This was where I was perched for some part of the past weekend. On assignment, for a piece you should see up soon.

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There are days when I lament the inherent competition and the potential to undercut services that exists in an industry like ours, working the way that I do. Last week I was exhausted sending out cold pitches for ideas in emails that would get opened a dozen times to no response. It’s lonely business, especially if you’re a slowly getting to be a stickler about the kind of work you will/will not do.

But every time I have hit a low, felt a bit at sea, floating in an endless waves of information, lost and unsure of how to get ahead, help comes along in ways I least expect it to.

I am glad for it. And it reinforces my faith in goodness, in chance friendships, in paying it forward. I’m glad for moments like that. For assignments like these, that come by and land in my lap without much effort. When they come through friends in the same business, willing to selflessly share a chunk of the pie, I am especially grateful, overwhelmed and overcome by the need to pay it back again.

At the end of an exhausting, meh couple of days, it’s moments like these that make me see the light again. I’ve found kinship and kindred spirits through my words, my work and and some days it’s all I need to feel uplifted and centred again.

So an unlikely, unexpected assignment came to be, and VC and I found ourselves in this spectacular property for a day and a night, where we mostly chilled over food and drink and spent time reading. I took a dip in the pool that overlooked the beach. And we went to bed extra early, and I clocked 8 straight hours of uninterrupted sleep for the first time in weeks.

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And of course he made a film.

Day 257: Down and up again

13 Sep

August saw a force-stop as far as work is concerned. But I didn’t realise how incredibly hectic it was with people visiting, until the last of my guests left on Saturday. I’ve pretty much been in the company of someone or the other since the end of July. And just the thought makes me feel so claustrophobic and peopled-out. To be surrounded by this kind of camaraderie is  immensely enjoyable while it lasts, and I push through into a sort of overdrive in the moment. I was making plans, always raring to go out exploring or for a meal or drink and the like. But in true introvert-style, it’s only when the last guest has left, the chairs have been put back in their place, the linen washed and put away, the glasses wiped clean and stored, and the the silence comes crashing in, does the fatigue kick in.

I slept for 15 out of 24 hours on Sunday.

Susan Cain talks about this in her book, Quiet, and if I hadn’t read it early this year I’d have thought I was ill and popped a pill or something. Engaging with people, no matter how enjoyable or stimulating, is far more taxing and demanding on intrverts/ambiverts than it is on extroverts. Obviously, it demands a lot more expulsion of energy and leaves us a lot more fatigued at the end of it. So it wasn’t just the alcohol, heavy food and late nights talking. I was really, literally people-d out.

Reading the book definitely helped accept this as a natural by-product of needing a fixed amount of down time to recharge batteries every now and then. So instead of fighting it and forcing myself to push on and get going with life, I allowed myself to relax. I spent the waking hours of Sunday reading, we ate leftovers for lunch and went out to eat a greasy dinner of Indian Chinese.

It was so needed. One day of sloth was all it took. Who’d have thought? Because after spending a good part of last week dragging my feet to slip out of that “holiday” mode, even though I promised myself I would resume work at the start of September, I snapped right into it yesterday. And I surprised myself.

Catching up on emails, and my work feeds on facebook, my brain was on fire. Ideas snapped out faster than I could keep up with them and I had to reign it in, breathe, put pen to paper and jot things down before they escaped me.

I pitched a total of 11 publications in 2 days. The most productive I have been in a long time. Some of those pitches had multiple ideas. This is not to brag because it’s entirely possible that absolutely none of them will convert and be commissioned in the form I imagine. But I’m just happy to get going for now. Of course there’s the part where every Indian editor I’ve pitched has seen my emails multiple times but hasn’t responded, all my American editors were likely asleep when I emailed them so those emails remain unopened. And I’m stuck here refreshing my inbox every 45 seconds. Oh, the joys of the freelancer life!

Since I’m starting with a clean slate, there’s going to be some waiting, I know. But, if I hear back from even a third of the number of people I pitch this week (there will be more emails sent out tomorrow and day after!), I will be okay.

I spent a significant time updating my collections sheet that I haven’t looked at all month, today. For the first time this year, I have zero outstandings. I can’t explain how good that feels.

I then sorted out my saved links, compiled all the bits and bobs of ideas floating in various places into my pitch list. colour coded the rejections and planned out my next wave of pitches too.

I’m inexplicably pumped today. You know how you feel it in your bones somedays? Even with a full day of work, and a long night ahead, you feel like you will get through it feeling okay?

That.

In other news, I’m mildly in shock that I received a surprising 34 subscriptions to my newsletter. I’ve got a ton of new music I am waiting to dig into. I’m reading a super fun book that I’m looking to finish tonight, and already have my next book lined up. I changed things around with my workout routine, once again, and it seems to have kicked my metabolism back in shape slightly. I almost couldn’t believe it when I closed this mornings kickboxing class with 5000+ steps and 1000+ calories clocked.

And all that done, I felt like I could sneak in a run in the evening. But I decided against it. I have a double whammy workout tomorrow – morning and evening sessions – and I must conserve energy.

That said, I’m feeling extra energetic, overall.

If this is the high that I can be sure to get every time I hit rock bottom, and then take time out to recuperate, I’m going to do this more often.

If committing to a holiday, with the unwritten promise to myself to work my ass off retrospectively, can somehow turn the switch and spark this level of earnest productivity, I may be on to something.

If this is the amount of energy sleeping for 15/24 hours can generate, I might consider calling Sunday, Sleepday.

Here, share some of my energy? I have enough to go around a couple of times.

And then some.

Day 251: August

7 Sep

Facebook brought this post I wrote at around this time two years ago, back to mind a couple of mornings ago. Reading it made me so very misty-eyed because it was such a different time, and I was such a different person back then. Arguably, it has been a long enough time for change, even if just at the hands of progression of time.

The posts makes excuses for being MIA, and those excuses are hectic! There was so much happening then, events, random people in pictures, a social scene, a chockablock calendar from the looks of it.

I’m currently MIA, if you were to go by all the action from 2014, of course. I’m missing, just from those aspects. Going out, being at every food event, meeting random groups of people and taking the trouble to put myself out there. Today, I’m MIA becuase I’m mostly cooped up at home. Or out with the few people I can be around, doing the things I like. Like reading in silence, cycling or watching a movie. Some of my friends here have expressed that they don’t know if my withdrawal from all things social and externally stimulating should be taken as a call for persuasion to break out, or to just let me be. That’s quite a sea change for me. But, that aside, it was mildly comforting to see how otherwise predictable August is.

  1. The monsoon is in that weird transition petering out the finale when it’s all over
  2. It seems to be the month my parents always visit
  3. Invariably there is some travel for me

All of that happened this year too. Despite it being a month to consciously pipe down from the overload I was feeling, it was busy (in other ways). With travel, to Bangalore and Wayanad that was the fall-off-the-grid that I needed. There were visits – friends throng Goa in the monsoon, and this year has been no different. A weekend with S, hanging out with with L, and my dad clocked his August visit too. I missed amma and Niyu desperately, but I’m also so glad to see how our individual lives have become so full and taken us our own respective ways to follow our bliss — amma all the way in America for her annual teaching and performance trip, Niyu otherwise engaged with adult things like keeping a job, my dad in the throes of building his home in the woods.

Of course there was the rain, even though we’re gearing up to say goodbye and bracing ourselves for the heat which is slowly creeping up on us. And there was plenty, plenty of cycling, because I suddenly realised there;s really no better way to do it than to cycle in the rain. I cycled so much, and so far, and did so many things as a by-product of cycling that I’m feeling really thankful I took to it this year.

This is what months of recharging should be like. Slow days spent wandering about with no plan, out in the real world or in your head, virtually, tossing up worlds of words and ideas. I didn’t pitch for any new work all through the month, focusing on finishing up some spillage from work I’d submitted at the close of July. Being caught in this “in-between” kind of headspace made even that a bit of a challenge. But the downtime meant I caught up on somethings that needed uninterrupted time and attention. Picking up the reading habit once again. Sending in a well-thought out (rather than half-assed, which is what it would have been if I didn’t have downtime) application for a fellowship. And writing for myself, things that often brew at the back of my mind and die like stubbed out cigarette buts that could have smouldered if I’d had the time to let them. Despite blogging everyday, I am constantly grappling with allowing more immersive, trains of thought meander and make their way here, because it means giving it more time, and an ease that I don’t always allow it. So I wrote yet again, about my shapeshifting idea of home and where that might possibly be. I got dragged down a tunnel of nostalgia, way back to gloomy Sunday evenings before school, and found a delightfully new memory to take its place.  I took a lot of pictures, and so I wrote a lot of haikus this month, too.

August was definitely the month for refuelling that I needed, and made time for. I drank up the slow, empty days in big gulps, and I saw myself enjoy the busy times with the folks I hung out with. The weird restlessness I talked about in July seems to have passed, and I’m aware its probably only temporary. Big and small changes are afoot, many of which I am unable to put a finger on even for myself to acknowledge. These are exciting times.