I haven’t watched “TV” — as in, tracked television programming on the idiot box, in the good old way that we used to by tuning in night after night — in forever now. We haven’t consistently had satellite TV for many years. Barely a year after we first entertained the idea of doing away with it, we actually went ahead and kicked the idiot box out of our lives. Though we had our TV hooked up in our last home in Goa, only sporadically got the TATA Sky going. Typically, only when VC’s folks visited or someone mentioned a must-watch show. But it never lasted long enough to hold our interest and invariably our account would expire from sheer neglect.
When we moved to Bangalore, I was determined to keep the TV out of the living room as it had been for the last many years. The new home doesn’t have a conducive space for the TV in either bedroom. So the damn thing is currently languishing in a box in a cupboard, while I entertain the idea of selling it off, from time to time. I’ve gone several years without traditional television, depending on downloading shows when the sweet spot of my interest/inclination to watch something has met with a promising show showing up, and having the requisite amount of time to actually watch it. the number of shows I’ve started and abandoned is embarassing.
But, it would be inaccurate to say I don’t watch TV anymore. With Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar at our disposal, we’ve ben dipping in and out of television lala land. I’m still not quite there yet with binging the way one is supposed to with this kind of access. I don’t know, I suppose it’s watching it on a small screen that doesn’t really work for me. Also, I very rarely have that much time (or mindspace) at a stretch anymore, and I’m far too restless to actually binge watch anything, as the format demands. I do have spurts and the last time it happened was with OITNB, but by and large, I tend to give most of the much-talked-about shows a miss.
All this, to say I only very rarely get hooked to a TV show, and I’m usually very late to get the memo on most “good” TV shows. I just find it hard to keep up. So much TV, so much social media, so much news. Where are you guys also finding the time to read and cook and exercise and have a life? (which is what I tend to choose over TV)
Anyhow, last year, when I was dillydallying over choosing between forging ahead with my writing, or joining VC, I found myself with a lot of time on hand. I told myself it was time that would be hard to come by, depending on which way I decide to go. So I began to watch 13 Reasons Why. Long after everyone had watched, obsessed, critiqued and discussed it to death.
I hadn’t really read too much about it, and wasn’t even fully aware of the plot, so I went in clean. I had a fair idea what it was about, so maybe I had a bit of an expectation of how it could go. So, when it didn’t — and it actually progressively went annoyingly south — I was severely disappointed.
The only thing I really, really liked about it was the title track. I will not lie.
Okay, it’s mildly well-written, given the altered (from book to TV show) plot line, and most of the actors have acted really well. But it’s just, the very premise, and the way the theme has been dealt with, really, really annoyed me.
Straight off the bat, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that the entire build up to uncovering and going through the tapes in gory, drawn-out harsh, urid detail, felt like it glorified suicide. It was really hard to ignore that it felt exactly like the opposite of what the show was trying to do.
If the show was supposedly meant to make a case for how suicide should never be an option, how come it comes out sounding like it’s a great way to get revenge. A legitimate way to make yourself heard. To serve justice. To come out victorious.
I know I’m treading thin ice even saying this, but I don’t buy the argument that this show aimed to build awareness. Sure, it got more people watching and talking about bullying amongst teenagers, cyber bullying specifically, peer pressure and suicide, but it definitely did it in a way that sensationalised the issues surrounding teenage suicide, and it exercised very little tact and sensitivity in dealing with the many facets of the issue.
Perhaps because I set off with this notion in my head, and I couldn’t shake it off at all, the show grated on my nerves right through.
I know, I know, you’re thinking why did I bother watching it. Well, I thought at 13 episodes, it’s far shorter than some of the worst shows I’ve subjected myself to. And I wanted to see if anything changed.
It didn’t. The well-intentioned message — that suicide should never be an option — just didn’t come across clearly enough for me. For one, Hannah never talks about having suicidal thoughts or never seeks any kind of help, despite having all the obvious channels for it. I’m not placing the blame at her doorstep, but her parents shock and devastation at having absolutely no idea their daughter was troubled enough to be driven to suicide, was telling. They assumed she was a regular, average troubled teenager, is all. Second, when she does seek help from her counsellor, in the very last episode, her efforts to talk about her troubles are dismissed by a counsellor who belittles and confuses her. This is a horribly wrong route to take, especially if the intention of this depiction is to steer people from towards seeking help, over suicide. This, amongst other things, really made me feel like the entire progression points towards glorifying suicide as a way to make yourself heard, when you have nowhere to go and nobody to talk to.
There is also the graphic representation of rape, twice over, despite the trigger warnings, that really troubled me. I know, you can go ahead and tell me, I shouldn’t have watched it. But here’s the deal, I read the trigger warning and I went ahead and watched it. As would anyone else, I suppose. And I was physically disturbed for several days after. I know it’s a fine line when you’re making a show like this, and you need it to work on a platform like Netflix. But to go so horribly wrong in the accent you take, when dealing with a topic as sensitive as this — it feels like the makers and Netflix kind of just abused the theme to catch as many eyeballs as they could. This isn’t to debate the need for programming to take serious issues into the ambit of production, or to choose a style that favours realistic depiction, but just like we’re increasingly being made to be aware of diversity, inclusion and representation, the issues surrounding mental health, teenage development, cyber bullying and suicide need a lot more awareness building and sensitivity to be woven in.
More than anything, I was hoping the show would tell us things we didn’t already know. I really wanted the show to delve deep into the reasons rather than give me a playback of how horribly wrong things went for Hannah. I wanted it to be more than a lazy retelling of the sequence of events that led up to Hannah’s taking her own life.
Oh yeah, it just occurred to me: in addition to being insensitive, I found 13 Reasons Why to be very, very lazy.
Earlier still, in October, while I was gallivanting around Pondicherry, I got into This Is Us. More because I had P telling me how every episode made him cry. This, I’ve got to see, I thought. And I’m happy to say, it worked out for me because enjoyed the show very much. Since I was on holiday with absolutely no agenda, I binge-watched it.
It is not since watching The Wonder Years or Brothers and Sisters that a family drama has tugged at my heartstrings this much. Possibly because it has been ages since any TV show so unabashedly deals with the story of a family like this, in all it’s dirty, raw, realness — feelings, mess-ups, emotional baggage and all.
A semi-naked Milo Ventimiglia in the opening scene definitely urged me on, but eye-candy aside, it’s a show about entirely mundane, regular family things. Shining a light on every aspect of family — from the immensely special bonds shared by siblings complete with jealousy, competition and an overarching undeniable love, to the frustrations one inevitably feels towards ones parents, the ups and downs of growing up, the triumph of being an adult and parenting your parents, the growing up of owning up to your issues and solving them in the hope of being a more wholesome, integrated human being, and most of all — in knowing that family — in all it’s imperfect glory — happens to everyone. It is not something you can forget, divorce, distance yourself from and ever move on. We are all products of what has happened to us growing up, and the families who bring us up, even if we’re not bound by blood.
It’s intelligent story-telling that weaves two timelines in parallel, creative and beautiful production, has an outstanding soundtrack and background score (by an Indian!), lovely acting all-round and also ticks all the right boxes for me as far as representation goes. It had many a moment that struck a chord so deep with me, as far as theme and plot go. The second season, typically, saw a dip. Especially in the pre-holiday phase, with unnecessarily long and dragged out story lines that say so much but do little to develop the plot or further the story.
Yet, I continue to watch. Because even though the writing may sometimes falter, and the scenarios feel too white or too American, the characters are heartwarming, honest, real and very, very relatable.
When VC told me he was meeting with R and R over drinks one November evening, “to plan our cycling trip,” I dismissed it as an excuse to drink and talk bicycles. But four hours later, when I caught up with them and they spelled out their well-laid plans to cycle 300 kilometres, over three days, all the way from Bangalore to Wayanad, I ate my words thoughts and kept my cynicism to myself. Because the second part of the plan, as I was informed, included me. They would need a support vehicle. To carry essential supplies, a bike rack for emergencies, and generally a fall back, should something untoward happen. Which is where I featured: designated driver or said support vehicle. At this point, I happily joined in what I thought was a mad plan from hell. I haven’t seen VC this excited in anticipation of anything, ever. Except this time, instead of his typical hyper-efficient, over-preparedness, he just had a lot of sleepless nights. Like an over-eager kid before a school picnic. I was a bit surprised to see he didn’t even dust his bike before the ride, forget getting it services or tuned up. They’d managed a few rides here and there in supposed prep for the long distances, but really, nothing that can actually be passed off as training. Anyhow, that’s what the support vehicle was for, they said. To jump into when the going got tough.
And so, on the long weekend around Christmas, they were off. The plan was to cover approximately 100 kms a day, over three days, halting along the way. Day 1 began at 7:30, saying goodbye to the boys as they rode off to battle Mysore road traffic on bicycles — all the while wondering why they wouldn’t just allow me to drive them to a point beyond the traffic jams, and then set off. But there’s no arguing with such determination. And stubbornness.
I had happily agreed to drive when this plan was first proposed, but on the morning after the boys had left, a wave of laziness came over me. I wasn’t so hot on driving all alone anymore. Slowly, over three days. What if I had a flat? What if I got caught by the cops (the car was GA registered)? What if I was just bored hahaha? Anyhow, too late to have second thoughts, I left a good four hours after them, and we merged about 10 kilometres short of Mandya, which was our first pitstop. On the way though, turned out my worries were unfounded. The car was a zippy Honda Jazz, and with absolutely no weight to carry around, some really good music and a better drive given less traffic at the time of day that I’d ventured off, I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the drive.
I met with a very dehydrated R stopped on the side of the road, with a flat tyre, waiting for the other two to back track and come help him. We made it to Mandya by about 3, ready to check in to the hotel. It was super entertaining trying to explain to the hotel staff in a very straight-jacket, respectable lodge, why three men dressed in neon coloured lycra wanted to cycle from Bangalore to Wayanad, when a woman was driving along with them. Not nearly as entertaining as convincing the same staff that VC and I were in fact married, and the other two “gents” sharing the other room were just friends. The request to carry our bikes into the rooms with us probably did nothing to help our cause.
A terribly delayed lunch, a mistimed, extra-long nap and general disorientation from the schedule being so off meant we woke up bleary eyed at 8 pm, wondering what to do next. We drove off into the town looking for dinner. We circumnavigated the place three times before we settled for a seedy local stop that promised Bannur style biryani. It was delicious, but not the kind of place we could chill and eat slowly. In and out quickly, we then headed back to call it a day in lieu of an early start the next. But not before finishing the tedious task of fixing R’s flat – which he did in amazing sync to Block Rockin Beats that played, as we all watched, amused.
Day 2, despite good intentions, began late. It didn’t really matter to me, but the boys needed to beat the rising sun and make it to the next stop ideally before lunch time. But that was not to be. Traffic, a horrible head wind and then cross winds, plus the sun beating down hard, meant they took it nice and easy. I sped off, drove through Mysore, and found a nice little spot just 20 kilometres short of our next pitstop, where I pulled over. I popped open my kindle and read for the next 2.5 hours waiting for them to catch up.
It was a glorious day, had they got that early start, but with the sun soaring and the wind to beat, the boys looked completely wiped. At this point VC threw in the towel, mounted his bike on the rack and drove with me for the remainder of the journey to Gundlupete, our stop for the second night.
200 kilometres done, I couldn’t believe they were still up and gunning for more. Crazy, crazy boys. While the other two caught some z’s, VC and I ducked off towards Gopalswamy Betta, to catch the sunrise, but ended up mucking around trying to catch light trails, on the drive up instead. Which is to say VC pitched his tripod up waiting for the right light, and that trail you see are my tail lights speeding off into the distance.
After some much needed food, drink and rest, we convened for a round of drinks and other downers to set us up for a good night’s rest. The evenings were getting progressively cooler and I was excited to get to Wayanad the next day.
Day 3, the last third, commenced late once again. But, in terms of terrain and landscape, it was probably the best, most enjoyable drive for me. I know the boys thought so too. Undulating stretches of road, driving through not one but two states worth of national forest reserve, which meant a constant canopy of trees to hide under, gave them sufficient shade from the sun.
And thank god for the nice and refreshing first half of the ride, because the second half, once we entered Wayanad, was gruelling. Arduous ups and downs, punishing climbs, narrow hill roads in bad shape, unruly traffic. By the last stretches, we were halting every two kilometres or so, so they could give their legs and backsides a rest. VC, being VC had called it a day soon after the good bits riding through the jungle were over. He drove shotgun, and grabbed his camera to film what little he could of the ride. R and R powered through, all the way till the goddamned end.
We’d booked ourselves in a lake-facing resort with tented accommodation, which looked very promising online, as such things tend to. In person, it left a lot to be desired. Also, the resort was attached to a government tourism facility with boating services in the lake, which meant we had noisy, selfie-taking tourists traipsing around us all evening long. However, the view made up for it, once the facility shut shop for the day, we ventured out to sit by the lakeside, watching the sun go down, and a ghosty fog descend over the lake. The morning was supposedly gorgeous we were told, so despite three mornings of rising early, R, VC and I managed to drag ourselves out of bed while it was still dark, waiting for the sun to rise. It was stunning, and worth the few hours of missed sleep.
Wayanad is quite the stunning part of Kerala, and it takes a little scouting to find a nice spot tucked away from the humdrum of mainstream tourism, much like any popular destination in this country. But once you do, the sights and scenes are a feast.
The acres and acres of banana and areca-nut plantations, blue skies, palm trees and winding roads, are all reminiscent of the slow life. It was easy to decide we wanted to stay another day. And so we decided to delay our return, and set off on the look out for a place to stay the night. A place that wasn’t as “public” as the lake-facing resort.
We found another tented accommodation set along the steep slopes of a coffee plantation. A setting and a price that was honestly too good to be true. Happy for the opportunity, we settled in. Pretty much all day was spent indoors, and we only set out before sunset, for a walk that took us from the wild and rogue growth of coffee plantations to the immaculately neat style of tea plantations just across a winding village road.
A splendid sunset sealed the deal and we returned, to repeat our evening routine – drinks, downers, dinner.
The next morning, R and VC trekked off once again to catch the sunrise, and apparently had the best hike of the trip. R and I missed it. Because, sleeeeeep.
The boys, of course, had their share of fun. High on adrenalin from the ride, and the thrill of having finished what was only an idea just few months ago. However, it was a really good three days, for me too. After ages, I found myself amidst a gang of boys — a feeling I’ve forgotten. I realise it’s a different kind of easy-going, hassle-free fun. Maybe it’s my own newfound fascination to let-it-go and go-with-the-flow and see where it takes me, and these boys were probably the best boys to tag along with on this kind of trip, but I surprised myself. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t feel lost or left out, so much so that I didn’t even open my kindle for the rest of the trip. Whenever they were off the saddle, we chatted, listened to music, ate some good food, drank and made merry late into the night. Road trips of this kind, are the best kind.
This is a pretty accurate picture of what the holiday did for me.
My memory was jogged back to days in Goa, with the same gang (a couple other boys sorely missed) when doing this kind of spontaneous thing — a random road trip to a faraway beach, an unplanned but miraculously well-worked-out barbecue, a secret trip to a campsite in a neighbouring state, a monsoon trek upstream a river — was so passe, so normal, so regular. And so I took it in, happy to have had another chance to experience something I had pushed far back into my mind. Like I also said here. And here.
The best part, for me was how relaxed and devoid of rigid plans the entire trip was. Aside rom setting off to cycle every day, little else was fixed and we played it entirely by ear. There were several stops for chai, coconut water, pazham-puri, and on our return journey, toddy — which I’d never have ventured out to try on my own. I’m glad I did because I really, really loved it.
It was truly a trip that was more about the journey than the destination. And perhaps because I was meant to tail the boys and always stay within accessible distance, I was forced to slow down and enjoy it that way.
VC, he made a film, so we can always go back to it and remember the trip for what it was.
As it happens, VC and I hadn’t taken a holiday together in a couple of years now. The last trip that comes to mind is Sri Lanka. There have been several weekend getaways in and around Goa, but my privilege doesn’t allow me to count any of them as “holidays”. And so this December, we decided to take off on NYE. Two reasons. In all our years away we’ve never “celebrated” the day with a typical bang. Save for the one year we went to P’s for a small party of close friends, we’ve always only ever stayed home, cooked something nice and had an evening by ourselves, or with a friend or two – tops! It would be nice to get away, I thought. Second, being in Bangalore I was deathly afraid of getting dragged to VC’s annual family get together. So I figured, anything would be better than being here.
Having woken up very late to this eventuality meant we were left with little choice. It’s Bangalore, and every single getaway destination within driveable distance was naturally booked up. So we made multiple bookings in multiple places, because we really didn’t have the luxury of choosing. Unsure till the very end where we’d actually end up. The week before NYE, we received a strange email from the hostel we’d eventually locked down on, asking us to make a final payment to confirm the booking. In it was a clause: a no-alcohol clause.
Now, I’m not the biggest drunk around. I can go entire holidays without drinking actually. But I’d definitely like to have the option to choose. Especially if I’m on holiday with my husband, over NYE. It was a dealbreaker. And that’s how our final choice too went out the window. Back to the drawing board again, I was frantically hunting for a place that would have us. Even if just for one night, we thought. All we needed was a clean bed and loo, some peace and quiet. I’d manage the rest, I thought. Our standards were really dropping.
Suddenly, a property we’d never stumbled on in the weeks of hunting before popped up. A home nestled amidst tea estates, aesthetically designed, small and cosy, not housing more than 7 people at any given time, and available over the long weekend — it seemed too good to be true. So without much ado, we booked it.
And so it was that we decided to be in Coonoor. I was super excited. It would be my third time there, the second being just one year ago when S and I took off for a blissful week in the clouds, with no plan but to stay-in.
I realised that over 2016, I took many holidays, none of which were with VC. 2017 was dedicated entirely to settling in, and despite considering several opportunities to go away, somehow nothing materialised. It really was beginning to feel like it was time to go on holiday. Together.
My new-found excitement about going to cold places (even though I’m petrified about turning into an icicle) peaked when this trip came through. I bought myself woollen gloves and a beanie, in addition to the ridiculous number of warm clothes I’d packed.
VC laughed, but within mere hours of landing in Coonoor, the sun setting and the evening mist settling in, I had the last laugh when he gingerly asked if I’d perhaps packed any extra warm things for him. I had. An extra sweater, a muffler and lots of socks. So there I was, in two jackets worn over my teeshirt, socks, gloves, a shawl around my neck and my beanie — snug as a bug. While VC had to make do with a double-barrel sock arrangement, a sweater inside his jacket and a muffler. Before long though, he appropriated my beanie.
Google told me night time temperatures would drop to 3-4 degrees. I had that exhilarating combination of thrill and worry when I read that. But when we got there, the homestay owner pointed at his very dead looking tea estates and told us how bitterly cold it had been this winter. Temperatures had dropped to -3, causing the tea to be bitten with frost, dying a slow bitterly cold death.
But this is the wonderful realisation I’ve come to so late in life. Like the Danish saying N told me about goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” if you’re adequately equipped, you’re mostly good to go. I used to think I was completely incapable of handling the cold. This was confirmed by short brushes whenever I’d travel to cold places in the years I was away, but it was exacerbated because I simply didn’t own the right clothes. I’ve been too afraid to consider travelling to Ladakh for this reason. For years I’ve nursed the dream, but stopped short of committing several times over. This trip though has been a bit of a game changer.
We planned to leave early on a Saturday morning to try and beat as much outgoing traffic as we could. Anticipating that most of Bangalore would be on the Bangalore-Mysore highway, an early start was crucial. But it was not to be. We celebrated VC’s birthday the night before, had a late night, and stupidly forgot to set our alarms (forgetting that the auto-set ones only goes off on weekdays!) so I woke up with a start, a good two hours later than the time we planned to be out the door.
This put us considerably behind in our schedule and extended our drive time by three hours. But, since we weren’t on a deadline, VC and I decided to just relax and drive. I had a playlist ready and it was a long, but comfortable trip up, despite considerable traffic along the way.
Once we were in tea land though, the landscape is just so gorgeous. Rolling gentle slopes of green, so green it makes your eyes hurt, achingly blue skies, with the of fluffy clouds scattered, mist floating in and out casually, with tea pickers huddled under the weight of their baskets, tea stalls selling piping hot tea and vadais, the narrow hilly roads made us relax and enjoy the ride.
In Coonoor, I had no agenda but to put my feet up and chill. We had the house completely to ourselves the first night, and on NYE night, we were joined by a group of five people from Chennai. The hosts were incredibly lovely, hospitable, and cooked us simple homely food. The rest of the time, VC was determined to be outdoors shooting pictures. Having recently rekindled his love for still photography, he wanted to make the most of the best two slots of any given day — sunrise and sunset — so we ended up driving out everyday scouting for vantage spots. I’d carry my kindle along, and when we found a spot, VC would take off to set up his tripod and begin his patient wait for the right moment and right light. This would take anything from 1-3 hours, during which I’d listen to music and read. It’s how I finished the last book of the year in two days. I like this part of our life where we manage to make our love to travel and be outdoors merge, only to get there and have the freedom and space to enjoy it the way we please.
NYE itself was a very quiet affair, that surprised me. I had no expectations actually, and was fully prepared for another simple meal eaten between just the two of us, and an early night. However, the other house guests got chatty, invited us to share their daaru and maal, and were delighted when we offered them ours. It’s not usually like me to happily join a crowd like this, but I know now that that’s changing. So we joined them quite willingly, the hosts got a big fire going, and we huddled around it. Me in all the layers I could possibly have thrown on, of course. It was an added bonus that they had speakers, and remarkably good taste in music (they had a lot of Coke Studio Pakistan on their playlists, aside from some Beatles, good old classic rock and a few staple new poppy trash favourites). Dinner was simple, but it was all that was needed. I was high on the ambience, and the experience. Deathly silence, with our music playing softly, while we chatted — smack in the middle of a tea estate in a corner of Coonoor, with no humans for miles around us — it was like no other NYE I’ve ever had. Our house guests joined us half an hour before midnight, and entertained us with stories about interesting guests — of the human and wild kind — and by the time the fire began to die down, my energy was flagging. It was just before midnight when I called it a day and crashed. A hot water bottle snuggled into the sheets was such a welcome little touch of hospitality, in Coonoor!
Intoxicated on all the relaxation, and the perfect, best end the best months of the year, that I could ask for, I woke up on Jan 1st feeling physically energised. Happily grateful for where I am, excited for where I am headed. And just so happy deep into my bones. So happy, that we decided to extend our stay by another day, and drive out to Ooty, in the hope that the crowds would be on their way out.
We checked into a hotel there, spent the day roaming around, took an extra long nap, and headed out before sunset, grabbed a drink of thick hot, rich hot chocolate at Moddy’s and went off into the hills because VC wanted to catch one last photo opportunity. We topped that off with a hearty dinner at a rooftop Chinese restaurant in a hotel that VC has lots of memories from his childhood spent there. I was happy for the extra day and the chance to share this slice of nostalgia with him.
The next morning we woke up super early to hit the road back to Bangalore, only to find our car frosted over. Pretty soon I realised the grass all around that was looking oddly pale was actually encrusted with a layer of frost. I’ve never seen snow in my life, so this came pretty close and excited me no end!
It was a happy three days of peace, lots of snuggles, plenty of good hot tea and biscuits, soaking in winter sunshine, enjoying the mist and finishing off a book and just re-grouping all that I have been mulling over in my head. I cannot explain it, but the last six odd weeks have been so high on mental activity, I have felt like I have really crossed a major landmark and stepped into all new ground as far as self-awareness and growth goes. My heart was just so full. I came away with all the sights embedded in my head, and not more than half a dozen pictures. So almost all the pictures here are courtesy VC.
On the way home, the otherwise not very expressive VC gently shared how the holiday, simple and unplanned as it was, had unlocked something in his head.
“We’ve got it all wrong, Rere,” he said. “We can’t be working our asses off so we can travel. There’s got to be a way to make this our work.”
I’m summing up a conversation that lasted a good hour, of course. But I think he’s on to something. The same thing I’ve been on to for years now.
I heaved a sigh of relief, and ended the holiday on such a good note. My workaholic husband has come home to me, and is finally on the same page as I am.
Most days, I write because I have so much to say and I want to be heard. Contrary to popular belief, being articulate in writing doesn’t always mean a writer is articulate in speaking. I’m not very good with those words, so I choose these.
Most days, I write because it’s the fuel that keeps me going. Thoughts turn to words, words turn to thoughts and on and on and on.
Some days I write to silence the voices in my head. Some days, to give the meek whimper struggling to stay alive, a breath of fresh air, and a mouthpiece.
Some days, I write because I feel like I’m a part of a tribe of likeminded people. Writers. Women. What have you. Some days, it’s to remind myself that even at my loneliest, there are people who will read my words and some times write to say they could relate. Or that they’ve been there too. Or that they liked what they read.
I could go on and on.
These days though, I write as a means to conserving my emotional and mental energy. I write as a means to finish every thought that I kindle. I write so I can journal all that I’m figuring out, fully, before I make heedless utterances. I write to jot the stops and starts on this path that I’m on. I write to mark the milestones, the small victories and the dips that define it. I write because at the moment, I am selfishly committed to looking inwards — writing helps me converse with myself.
I write because it is a very good way to sit still and be present with everything that I think, feel and process. I write because it helps me make sense of this fascinating process. I write so I can journal it in long-form. I write because this is for me. I write because I’ve only just tasted the sheer pleasure of this intensely personal experience. I write because I’ve woken up very late, to the bliss of going this way alone. I write because I choose not to snap a picture for Instagram every time, or shoot out an update on Whatsapp, to make a declaration, every time I arrive at a noteworthy moment. I write because it makes me slow down and savour every memory better, twice over.
I write because it is the only way I know how to record my truth. I write, so I can look back someday and ponder over how far I’ve come (or not). I write as a means to drop crumbs along the way, so others can follow if they find themselves in the same place. I write because words speak, connect and bridge distances. I write so my mind can go the distance and arrive at the destination I’m headed to, even before the rest of me can.
Mid-November or so, the weather in Bangalore turned. Nothing unusual in these parts. Winter was coming. But for my sun-fed, humidity-aged Goan muscles of the last almost-decade, it felt like an insurmountable challenge to take into my stride the nip in the evening air, the dark mornings and the perpetual cold fingers and tip-of-nose.
It comes with the typical tell-tale beginnings. The sun setting sooner, casting gloomy evenings upon me. Disoriented, I’d rush off into the kitchen too early, thinking about getting dinner started, prompted only by the too-early sunset that brings night time sooner than I’ve experienced in a long while.
Much as I loved the balmy climate in Goa, and luhhhved the rain (heck I have a whole category dedicated to it), I’ve been obsessed with devouring every little bit of the winter I’ve had. Maybe it’s time to jog my memory, and get more than my muscles to feel it and start writing about winter in a way that deserves it’s own category too.
The thing with being in tropical climes for long enough is that you body changes adapts beautifully. My muscles always felt stretched and well-oiled, my skin supple and perpetually sticky from the humidity. Here, it’s not strange to wake up in the morning, your limbs feeling stiff, my skin is parched and turns white and scaly if not adequately oiled and lotion-ed. At the gym, it takes awfully long to really warm up and break a sweat.
Because muscles, they forget.
I’m quite sensitive to the cold, quick to feel it and in need of warm clothes and socks in no time at all. This typically meant that in Goa, in December, I’d wear a jacket and people would look at me oddly. In Bangalore, it means I have been revelling in winter clothing again. I’ve discovered things in my wardrobe that have been stashed away in suitcases relegated to the loft for the last eight years. I’d forgotten I owned some of this stuff. Extra jackets, scarves and shawls. And still, I realised in shedding stuff from my wardrobe over the years, I’ve lost some of the winter basics one tends to keep when you live in a place that has more than one season.
It’s no secret, I love winter in Bangalore. So I was already really looking forward to this time of year. And lucky me, we’ve been blessed with a colder than usual winter, I think. Nippy mornings, bright blue winter skies with no clouds for miles, chasing spots of sunshine and snuggling into them, wrapped in warm clothes.
So, with great glee, I stocked up on a couple of warm tees, a woollen pullover, a new jacket (with a hoodie!) and a couple of warm accessories. When I step out, it’s nice to have a while new kind of clothing to dip in to. And then there’s the extras — jackets, stoles, shawls, sweaters! I may have spent a lot more time and energy than necessary being excited about the winter, and winter clothing. And don’t even get me started on the joys of socks and closed shoes *eyeroll*
Ever since I’ve gone off carbs at dinner time, it’s been complicated thinking up things to eat for dinner. With the weather turning I no longer felt inclined to eat cold, crunchy salads, even though it is the best time for winter veg. Soups have made a comeback, into my kitchen. And my life!
Now that I’m back, it has taken a handful of weeks to get my sun-loving body to get used to the biting nippy mornings that feel sharp, turning my fingers and tip of my nose perpetually cold. We’ve been sleeping without the fan for the most part, unthinkable i an older life. Even now, though it’s necessary, it feels odd. I’m torn between having the fan on slow and layering up to stay warm, or having it ff and sleeping easy, only to wake up in the middle fo the night feeling claustrophobic.
Waking up in the mornings is a huge task. With the sun refusing to peek out before 7, and even then, being a slow, hazy rise, it’s been an everyday battle to face. I like to get o the gym by 7, which in this season means waking up when it’s still dark out. Something about that just feels illogical.
I realise muscles have a memory and perhaps ours have forgotten what it is like to be in the cold. VC quite literally forgot. And he went around for the first few days claiming he was feeling feverish. After some medication and befuddlement when there was never a real temperature spike, when I asked him if maybe he’s just feeling cold, he replied with; “I’m not cold, I just feel nicer when I’m covered up.”
Mystery solved. Yeah. He’d totally forgotten that that’s what feeling cold is actually like. So I had to re-introduce him to the joys of jacket-wearing, sock-donning, soup-drinking, chappals-at-home Bangalore winter habits.
This winter, I’d like to think I’ve made the most of being out and about too. Lots of evenings out, walking about, a crisp sunny morning or two at Cubbon Park, drinks in outdoor places, warm soup and Asian food galore. Lots of chai and the like too.
There is something lovely about being in a Bangalore watering hole in the winter, and it’s filled me with so much happiness that I’ve been around to really enjoy that this past winter.
I wont lie. These are some of the things I’ve really missed in my life before the return to Bangalore. And to be able to experience it all again has done a number on me. Making me love being outdoors, rekindling memories from my childhood, and making for good Bangalore silverlinings, when I often feel overwhelmed by it all.
Because muscles, they remember.
The icing (literally!) on the cake was ending the year with back to back trips to Wayanad and Coonoor in the last week of December. But that is the stuff of another post (or two).
And because it’s Wednesday and I promised music at least once every week, and because I’m not sure how many of you have picked up on the fact that I’m trying to cheekily title every post with either the name or a line from a song I’ve heard or loved, here’s today’s aptly titled track.
is admitting that you were wrong. But once you’re over that hurdle, it’s like walking into the light, or unlocking the next level of a mystery you’re desperately trying to solve.
For someone so convinced I was an out and out introvert just over a year ago, the past year has seen a big change. The developments of recent time, specially the last six odd weeks have only confirmed what I have known to be true for a while now: I have changed, in ways I know, but more so in ways I am only getting to know slowly.
The more willing I am to sit still and observe, question and think about the changes I see, the more I know this to be true. And that willingness is the hard part. Because it means accepting that it may be time to let go of some rigid truths, or that I might need to soften up on some of my staunch aversions, or it means letting go of the safety of labels that I use to define me. It means instead, to look at the very real circumstances that are shaping me in entirely different ways.
It means finding new connections.
It means sometimes standing alone.
Daunting as it sounds, and is in some part, it is also incredibly energising. Nobody talks about how refreshing and life-giving the process can be. It is not without tedium, and there’s really no escaping the bitter realities that you’ll have to stare in the face, but once you’re over that hurdle, it is like a breath of fresh air. Light, rejuvenating, and puts the spring right back in your step.
Perhaps it is the mistaken ideas of adulthood and becoming-who-you-are that we have inculcated, that makes this journey seem one way. The pursuit of prescribed ideals, boxed definitions and perfection itself makes looking back, revisiting old versions of yourself and admitting less than ideal facets of yourself impossible, and a waste of time. Shame, envy, inadequacy, confusion become bad words we don’t want to believe are parts of us.
But the truth is, growing up involves going back and forth all the time. It is acknowledging these unsavoury parts of ourselves that unlocks the potential to plummet ahead. Never before have I valued retrospection so much. For it has helped revisit so much, only this time with a softer eye. Less self-loathing. Less judgement. More acceptance.
With every passing week, I realise I’m not the introvert I was in the months before I left Goa. It was circumstances that made me withdraw and seek my own company, closed in from the world. But I didn’t understand why or how it was happening. It was simply the playing out of what N articulated perfectly — Everyone can’t go with you everywhere — a truth (and several others) I’m only realising this now. And I’m changing, because of it.
Even until weeks mere ago, it was hard to say if it was a change brought on by changing circumstances, or if the shifts brewing within me in turn were reflected in my circumstances. Mostly this has been a revelation about how wrong I was.
I noticed around the middle of last year how suddenly I was much more willing to go out, be with people, socialise and do things outside of the four walls of the introvert cocoon I’d settled into. The frequency with which I’d surprise myself by volunteering to do something I thought was uncharacteristic began to rise, till I realised it was too frequent to pass it off as “exceptions to the rule”. It was, in fact, the new normal. Try out a new restaurant, I’m in. Want to come to xyz, with abs, def, (who you don’t know), sure! Want to try out a reading club where we’ll read a book on self-esteem, why not? Poetry reading, yes. Movie with the family, yes. Dinner with extended family, okay to that too. Cooking for fifteen people over two days, count me in.
Slowly I found myself feeling a lot more energetic and willing to to put myself out there, in situations I’d told myself were never for me. The clincher was willingly joining VC in his new business, and taking on a client-facing role.
Conversely, I don’t fancy spending as much time all by myself at home. It helps that amma’s home is in the next building, so I always have a cocoon of comfort to jump into when things get overly solitary around here.
This is a big change for someone who in Goa barely ever left home, and loved being alone. The most joyous moment on any ordinary day then, would be when VC left for work and the help finished for the day. I would savour the solitude slowly over the course of the day, wearing my space and isolation like a comfortable skin.
It’s true what they say, the company you keep really does reflect your state of mind. And maybe this, in some measure also explains the dissonance and distance I’ve felt with those I’d most easily turn to for daily kinship. I’ve carried this feeling, that something has changed, but I’m not quite sure what to do with it, around uncomfortably for a few weeks. Eventually, the truth dawned on me: in the face of all this drastic change, I feel less and less inclined to stick to fixed anythings. My faith in the rock bed of certainties has shaken, so I’m finding it very counter-productive to stick in places I am feeling restless. Whether that is a pattern of friendship, the habits I think I need to have, or fearing breaking them because it means being alone.
The last few weeks saw me do both. And surprisingly, it got easier. The fear subsided and I felt charged with an energy I didn’t know possible.
Do you know what it is like to watch yourself move from being a somewhat passive, this-is-who-I-am-and-I’ll-just-stay-here-until-the-right-stuation-happens to a let’s-go-out-there-and-find-a-way-to-make-this-work state of mind? It has been like dipping into a secret reserve of self-worth I have suddenly discovered.
We really underestimate how much we are capable of growth. How much we are in fact changing all the time. Drastic growth brings with it such significant shifts in the mind and body that inevitably, it leads you to the reality of leaving things behind. By definition, it is what movement entails.
So whether it’s a time (it’s futile being torn up about moving on from the perks of full time employment, for example, because it doesn’t have a place in my life or in my current reality), place (similarly, so meaningless to wistfully long for my life in Goa when this is where I am now and it is what I know is most necessary), or even company (If I am changing all the time, surely every body else is too. So what then am I hanging on to so tight?), the need to loosen the grip and ease up on expecting a pre-defined kind of certainty has slipped under my skin.
Much like hanging on to older ideas of a version of myself did nothing but delay the movement that was waiting to happen in my life, I’m realising that hanging on to a fixed, rigid idea of the kind of friendship I am made for, or what I am capable of in relatonships, has made it hard for me to find deeper, authentic connections suited to where I am now.
One of the things that has become utterly clear to me in the recent past is that my life has little meaning without connection. I’m craving it all the time. In people, in activities, in experiences, in spaces, in habits. I’m only now learning how believing so hard in the fallacy that I am a complete introvert, has held me back in this respect.
It was hard to acknowledge that my introvertism was a temporary shield I donned, while I waded through emotions I didn’t want to face. I mistook a streak of introvertism to be a personality-defining thing, when actually it was just me seeking safety in numbers, in memes that scream relatable truths that made me feel like I belonged. Because I wanted to belong anywhere, but to the real self that was desperately running away from feeling all the feels.
Until, I was ready to break out and do all of that — face those scary feels, be as vulnerable as I possibly could, acknowledge how wrong I was, look at new and intimidating ways of being that my situation now required.
Now, I’m less afraid to make connections.
Similarly, I am less afraid to stand alone.
This shift in my attitude has already brought tremendous positive change — I see it in the most significant things like the way I was able to accept moving to Bangalore to the smallest, seemingly insignificant things like suddenly embracing hot pink lipstick with a casual comfort that was alien to me.
I see it in the way I am suddenly more outgoing. Accepting invitations to meet new people, pushing myself out to events, trying out new restaurants, making plans to beat traffic and increasingly seeking new experiences, over the comfort of mundanities, when it comes to people. I’m reluctant to keep going over the same motions out of habit. I have little to share in terms of mundanities, and the lack of conversational sharing does mean I’ve fallen out of the loop. But I’m dealing with that, and even with its difficulties, I feel it’s better than the hollow, exhausting efforts of continually trying to flog a habit I’m clearly not in the space to hang on to.
I am so not that person anymore.
Accepting that was the hardest part.
This business of looking back at the trail we’ve traversed now seems like an essential healthy practice, one that I should probably do more often. To see where we were, how far we’ve come, to ask crucial questions about where we’re headed, why, and if we’ll actually be happy once we get there requires so much reworking of of our old selves, to take what’s best for us and to let go of all that no longer serve a purpose.