Day 141: We keep this love in a photograph

There are times in my life, when smack right in between being surrounded by people, having so much activity going on, loving the highs and silently tiding through the lows, putting on a big smile on my face — I feel incredibly lonely.

Sometimes I’m lonely because of the beliefs I hold. The beliefs that are getting deeper, well-formed and articulate, with every experience I have. My opinion on the world. My socio-political stance. The resulting choices I make on an every day level — from choosing lesser plastic to taking a shared cab to feeling — are a reflection of the values I have and the beliefs they have birthed. And the thing with having my beliefs grow louder in my head is also realising which of your people have similar beliefs, and why. And feeling warm and fuzzy in that sense of togetherness and a shared conviction. It also means sometimes realising the beliefs of people on the polar opposite end of the spectrum, which is a far less happy-making feeling. And when it comes down to political views about our country today, add to it the feeling of being in the minority of people who feel deeply about many things the large majority couldn’t give a rat’s ass about and that despair and loneliness, a palpable helpless and worry that we’re all just fucked at the hands (and unthinking brains) of a bunch of low IQ savages rises very, very quickly to the surface.

This is the price I have to pay for having a firm set of my own beliefs.

Many time the loneliness is because the journey of self-awareness is by nature a very personal one. And not a lot of it makes for easy sharing or cheery conversation. Much of it is in fact best done silently, in private. That isolation invariably draws lines where none existed before. Lines separating me from people I once held close, between me and the places I love, things I indulged in. Lines that rein it in and draw me inward. None of this comes from a place of really wanting to be a touch-me-not in isolation, but simply that the full benefit of the journey is best experiences in private.

That too, is the price I have to pay for being so highly invested in my self-development.

Some days I become so acutely aware of how lonely and quiet it gets now that I am offline so much. Absolutely no social network, 10 hours off whatsapp every night, lesser and lesser time spent online during the day — my world and the world around seem to be constantly moving inwards and out in waves. The means to access and stay in touch with everything is fleeting. Some days I manage it better than others. But many days I don’t even really try.

Dealing with this strange kind of loneliness — suspended in a web of togetherness — is the price I pay for getting off the grid and seeking human interaction more than any other form of interaction.

There’s a lot of other ways in which this loneliness, the price I pay for being irrevocably committed to being my own person, rises to the surface. But, I have realised that every single time that I find myself cut away from the various groups and factions I dip in and out of, every time that I find myself despairing about being alone in the way I feel, the choices I make and the things I go on and on about (that often feels like nobody gets it), I have a place to come home to. And that sense of home and belonging, that instantly dispels the loneliness, giving me a safety and security, the space to be me in all my imperfection, is VC.

VC is my person. My home. My end-point, no matter how far or away I may stray.

This past weekend particularly, I realised that VC is the only person (aside from my parents — they deserve a salutation and a whole post to themselves) who really takes me as I am. A motley mess of still-developing beliefs, weird and inconsistent patterns, a constant work in progress, a far-from-perfect person.

VC loves me, just the way I am, at any point of time. He has loved me at my worst, as much as he has loved me at my best. He has loved me through the sweeping changes in between. He has loved me because of who I am, and he loves me despite it all. He loves. And he loves and he loves.

With VC, when I pay attention and allow the inner voices in my head to shut up, I always feel like I am enough, just the way I am. With all my unfinished business, the jagged edges, the yet-to-be-smoothed patches, the contradictions and the unexpected flare-ups.

This past weekend I realised that much of the progress I have made these past few years in getting closer to myself, knowing myself and being my own person, is because no matter what happens — how much I rock the boat, how far I wander, or how much I stir the hornet’s nest, I can always come home. To him.

It is a lot to be thankful for, this solid rock to fall back on. And it is such a powerful feeling to know, and really know in the way that I have felt it this past weekend, a good ten years into our marriage, that I am loved. And I am soooo enough. Just the way I am, inside and out. To understand suddenly what it means to never really be alone.

And so today, I just want to give thanks and really feel the gratitude I am, for the crazy-ass twist-and-turn life that brought us together, and the ways in which we have grown these last ten years. And for the place we are in today.

That is all.

Two years ago: Day 141: Malleswaram market things

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Day 130: Simple things

Postcard from Goa 8.

Aaaand. It’s done.

I suppose this ought to feel really good, but the darn thing took so much longer than anticipated, and had so many untoward delays, and the waiting has taken forever, that neither VC nor I knew what to feel when we were handed the key.

I’m grateful for everything that’s gone into making this possible. Mostly for VC, because on my own, left to my own antics, I’m not sure I’d get down to doing anything to own a little place of my own.

Now, to let that sink in a bit.

Two years ago: Day 130: April

Day 103: I got mad, mad love

This past week, I felt immensely grateful for all the work coming our way. We had multiple meetings, an unusually high number of leads land open up out of the blue, and a fun and satisfying shoot on hand.

I am so grateful for the luxury of being our own bosses, reporting to nobody but ourselves, planning our days the way we want, doing the work we love most days. And I’m so thankful for the clarity and for being on the same page about the value of time we both need off. And the ability and privilege to take it when required.

I’m grateful for the shift in my definition of being busy/productive and for new clarity, new boundaries and new realisations in this respect.

I’m very, very grateful for my family. Especially my mother who keeps the “normal” going when I hit these busy spurts. I’m thankful for the hot home-cooked meals, her concern for how we may be overworking ourselves, and for her comforting company when I am chilling at home. And my sister for her endless love, warmth, entertainment, and ability to make me laugh and cook a darn good meal.

I’m so thankful for VC for having taken the professional calls he has these past few months. It’s not always immediately apparent, but I love when things slowly work out for the best. Being in that spot watching it unfurl is lovely.

I’m thankful for coffee. It’s been such a booster every morning this week.

I’m thankful for the beer and dinner with S, despite threats of being unavailable to meet me before June. And the unbelievably fantabulous (non-alcoholic and veggie) dinner she and I managed to catch with the other S. Burma Burma, if you’re interested to know.

I’m grateful for the connections that were rekindled quite unexpectedly this past week.

I’m thankful for N and our sporadic intense conversations. I love the ease with which we can take to whatsapp with our bouts of verbal diarrhoea and unburden/unload, knowing fully well that we may not get immediate responses, but when we do they will be conscious, heartfelt and thought-through. In these days of limited engagement, and wanting to only really talktalktalk about a handful of things, I am grateful for this channel being always open.

I’m grateful for my kindle.

Two years ago: Day 103: Lucid

Day 73: The real, deep-down you is the whole universe

I’m grateful for the opportunity to revisit boundaries. I’m grateful for the timely reminder for constant improvement.

I’m grateful for a completely ordinary but wonderful Monday. It’s not often that I acknowledge the non-fancy benefits of being self employed. Along with my husband. It means Mondays can sometimes be happily spent at home. And may sometimes involve an afternoon nap, punctuated by a meeting on one side and a concall at the other.

I’m really glad for the chance to realise yet another kind of acceptance last week. I’m grateful to be able to notice the changes as they happen.

I’m so thankful for a constant listening ear in N. I really feel a no-pressure, no-holds-barred kind of friendship with her, because of the way in which we talk about matters that are top of mind. There’s no method or system, no obligation to always respond, especially given we’re in wildly different time zones. But I always, always feel heard. And it helps that she always gets me! It’s a connection I really cherish.

I’m so thankful for the cards. The messages. The affirmation.

I’m so happy it’s shorts weather again.

I’m grateful for a week of guilt free recharging of batteries and energy.

I’m immensely thankful for the conversation time I’ve had with VC. Which made me really acknowledge that I actually have the space to bring up and discuss pretty much anything with him. No topic, emotion, opinion is off the table.

I’m grateful that the weekend gave us time to do nothing at all for the most part.

I’m grateful for all the halwa. And my mother-in-law who always saves me my share of things I love to eat.

I’m thankful for the serendipitous plan to have breakfast with D, that materialised minutes after I was contemplating breakfast out by myself.

I’m really glad the family holiday in May is finally fixed. Because I was at the end of my tether discussing the possibilities to death.

I’m grateful for the suddenly busy weeks ahead. At work. And personally.

I’m glad we made the time to go watch Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missourie.

I’m so so so grateful and stoked to be beginning my course tomorrow. I’m excited for new beginnings. For the opportunity to learn something in a classroom again.

Day 61: Hit the road, Jack

Things I love about working with VC:

  1. Being on our own time, bending weekends and weekdays to suit ourselves. The agility and ability to get up and go whenever a project demands it.
  2. The opportunity to hit the road and travel to places I wouldn’t otherwise go to on my own. Salem it was, this time. Road tripping with VC is always fuss-free and easy, and I love this chance to make work and play blend.
  3. Going really local, wherever we go. Last night we hit a super local mess and sampled some of the most amazing biryani, and assortment of meat specialties — essentially a lot of mutton and naati kozhi so goodthat made us declare, for the first time ever, that the chicken outshined every mutton dish on the table. There were spicy gravies mopped up with egg dosais, and stories of breakfasts of steaming idlis and meat curries that I really wished we were staying back for.
  4. Learning on the go, things I wouldn’t have even attempted to try in any other “job” set up
  5. Being our own bosses.

One year ago: Kitchen soup for my homesick soul
Two years ago: Day 61: Just go with it

Day 53: Let it blow through you, don’t let it move you

I’m grateful for the music. All the time.

I’m so grateful for how frequently I’ve been finding myself spending early mornings at Cubbon Park these days. I love how the temperature feels like it dips inside there, in the shade of bendy bamboo groves, large rain trees and the like.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to partner with VC at work. It’s been an enlightening, challenging and eye-opening exercise. It throws up opportunities to surprise ourselves so often, I’m savouring it while the newness lasts.

I’m grateful for my car that has stood by un for nearly a decade now, and promises to keep going even though the age is now beginning to show. It was an utter saviour in a week so full of meetings in such far flung areas of Bangalore, I wouldn’t have made it otherwise. I’m grateful for the extra time it gives VC and me to spend together. To be able to chat and laugh our way through painful traffic jams, makes it a tad better.

I’m grateful for how the tide seems to have turned and we’ve seen an upswing with work. From several dead ends, flogging dead lines of communication and witnessing some seriously shitty behaviour from prospective clients, to suddenly be flooded with opportunities that put us in a position to chose from, is all kinds of reassuring. I’m grateful for the opportunity for yet another new beginning that VC has been presented with.

I’m grateful for the pav bhaji S made me last week. I’m grateful for the beer we had with R. I’m grateful for the Andhra meals we snuck in. I’m grateful for yet another taash party that ended too late.

I’m grateful for the Sunday I had — sleeping in, then pottering about the house setting it right again, and for the homely meals enjoyed in silence, and the bulk of the day spent reading.

I’m grateful that amma got to experience a weekend of family constellation. I’m grateful for the ice cream we shared.

I’m grateful that Niyu is back from Goa and that our collective shenanigans have begun again.

I’m grateful for the visit to the Mallu mess A and I finally made it to, after talking about it for only like forever. I’m thankful for the comforting meal, the conversations we have, that never disappoint, and always leave me thinking.

I’m thankful for my gym that always stays the same. No matter the ups and downs in my motivation or the energy I bring to it when I step in, I always feel welcome. I’m thankful that I have almost never ended a workout regretting it.

One year ago: Roads and Kingdoms
Two years ago: Day 53: Playtime

Day 43: You guys, I must be the luckiest alive

I’m super duper massively thankful for my body and what it seems to put up with. I bounced back from the walk rather quickly, surprising even myself. But while my muscles seemed to have healed fast, my general exhaustion lingered on draining out very slowly, with every night of good rest I had this week. And through it all I’ve just been giving thanks for this marvel, the machinery and the workings of this complex body. And it’s incredible capacity to stretch.

I’m so thankful for all the rest and great sleep I’ve had this past week. It’s at times like these that I fee grateful to be my own boss. No work to wake up to. No office to be at. Save for a few meetings and a couple of deadlines I had the luxury of taking it easy. Which means I’ve slept like a beast, having these epic pass-out-like-a-light nights, and the occasional afternoon nap from which I emerge feeling as good as new.

I’m thankful for both my mothers. My mother, who had dinner ready for us, packed and delivered at my house, when we came home bone tired from the walk. Within ten minutes of turning on both geysers (because all we really, really wanted was a piping hot shower) we had a power trippage that rendered our house pitch dark. So I hobbled over to hers, where she had filled a bucket full of hot water already. I’m thankful for my mother in law who tirelessly commits herself to giving all her children the littlest joys. She made us a massive dinner of chaat, for the day after my walk when we visited them. I ate what felt like my body weight in sev-puri and dahi-batata-puri and came home with a doggy bag of gajar-halwa. So satisfying.

I’m thankful for our home. For how despite its perpetual state of WIP, it feels like home. I’m grateful for the feelings that makes up for the absence of stuff I might have otherwise tried to fill it up with.

I’m as grateful as I am surprised and fuzzy-hearted at the return of my itch to entertain folks at home. This once habitual side of me had all but died a slow death in the last few years in Goa, but seems to have made a comeback in the last few months.

I’m so thankful for D. For how she was instantly available to pull some cards for a reading. I’m thankful for her way with words, and her gentle patience and how it has a persuasive effect on even the most sceptical person of us all — VC. I’m thankful for the affirmations we’ve received, and to have them up on a wall for easy visualisation.

I’m thankful for the quiet conversations I have had with VC this week. The opportunity to work at something together, nurture it slowly, to pick at the challenges and examine the ups and downs. I’m thankful for the team that we make. It’s all kinds of humbling to have a partner who fights tooth and nail for what he believes in, even if it means he’ll sleep over it and come back eight hours later to admit quite easily that he was being a child. I hope I am able to reach that level of honesty someday soon.

I’m thankful for the chance to play parent to my father who called me for instructions on how to make dal. He’s staying all alone in Wayanad at the moment, and as I gave him step by step instructions over the phone, and I could hear him wildly sautéing the onions in the cooker, I became acutely aware of how the roles had momentarily reversed. I’m thankful for the opportunity.

I’m thankful for the plenty of relaxed time I’ve had this past week, to read, read, read and read some more. I’m thankful for the great recommendations I got and how much I enjoyed each of the books I finished this week.

I’m thankful for people. The electrician, however cocky and over-friendly, who came over on a Sunday to ensure we wouldn’t go another day without power. For my house help who works tirelessly. For my security guards who can be banked upon any time of day or night.

I’m thankful for the rather absurdly delayed extended winter, which is only now slowly showing some signs of fading away. February, and I’m still in a jacket or sweater most days, enjoying hot cups of tea and coffee, and feeling snug as a bug at home.

Two years ago: Day 43: Beach bum

Day 40: The heartache lives on inside

Thanks to my over-stretched muscles and full blown recovery mode, the weekend post The Walk was spent mostly like this.

Which meant I devoured two books — one that I started earlier last week, and another immediately, which I finished in 24 hours. Or less. I love lazy days like these, with no agenda, no demands, and where time just spirals on out of my control. While I slip into a book and forget to come out until it’s done.

Us, David Nicholls
I love an endearing, absorbing love story. But what I love more is an endearing, absorbing love story told by a man. And Us ticked that box perfectly. Having already read, thoroughly enjoyed and loved One Day, David Nicholls other best-selling novel, I sort of knew what to expect. Nicholls has an engaging, flawless voice. A subtle, understated yet rib-ticklingly funny sense of humour and a great sense of observation for the littlest, most mundane details of everyday life.

The story opens with Douglas’ wife of twenty-something years, telling him she wants a divorce because their “marriage has run its course”. The timing couldn’t be more off — with their rebellious 17-year old son ready to set off to college, the three are about to embark on a vacation through Europe. What was meant to be a happy last family holiday, suddenly becomes a last chance to win his family back.

It’s a simple, endearing and at times touching story that covers love, relationships, how relationships grow, marriage, parenting et al. It is peppered with many simple truisms you’ll likely nod along to. A quick and heart-warming read too.

The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy
Every time I read a good memoir, I realise it is likely my most favourite format. I absolutely love reading first-person, personal stories that bring out the gory, lurid, emotional, taxing, peaceful anecdotes of real lives, to paper. When I memoir is told in a series of essay, it’s even better.

The Rules Do Not Apply opens at a point in Ariel Levy’s life, where within mere days she goes from being married, pregnant, financially secure, and making a life by her own rules, to losing her child, home, spouse and sabotaging her career. What follows are a series of essays traversing her entire life that is tied together by a strong sense of making her own rules, living by her own means and making a life that makes sense to her. It’s energetic, rebellious, brave and inspiring, but also gets very real, heartbreaking, and downright tragic.

It was empowering and inspiring to read the story of a NY Times journalist, who balances her less than ordinary life with all its ups and downs, with a demanding career, while also embarking on a journey of getting to know herself.

Levy’s craft is stellar. Like top-notch word-wizardry that kept me completely rapt. The essays jump back and forth in time, and sometimes it gets a little tedious keeping track of the sequence of events. Even so, I couldn’t put the book down because it was just so compelling.

One year ago: Commitment issues
Two years ago: Day 40: Begin again

Day 30: We are children that need to be loved

I’m thankful for the ride VC and I took, on his new bike on Monday. It was so nice to be out on two wheels, the (very polluted) wind in my (non existent) hair, and the general ease with which bikes tend to navigate Bangalore traffic. It was even nicer to see VC so excited about his new toy.

I’m thankful for the date with A on Tuesday, that ended with a visit to Blossoms, via the spanking new cobbled/paved Churst Street. I’m really growing to love the CBD area in this city. So much.

I’m thankful for the sensory treat that it was witnessing Nirtyagram’s performance of Samhara on Wednesday.

I’m still in awe, and I can see scenes from the performance stuck in my mind if I just close my eyes. I’m baffled by the exquisite blend of lines and asymmetry, of fluidity and structure, of rules that were meant to be broken, of geometry in the art, of the energy, powerful presence and the sheer prowess of holding their space, the dancers brought to the table.

I’m thankful for the taash party we hosted on Thursday.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how easy it was, to prep, to cook, for all of us to get along and have so much to chit chat about, for how late we ended up playing, and for how much fun it actually turned out to be.

I’m thankful for the early morning walk practice I managed to squeeze in on Friday. Despite the late night, and running on four hours of sleep, I met D at Cubbon Park for the only session we managed to fit in, before our big walk next weekend. We topped it off with breakfast at Airlines, of course. But would you believe that was just the bonus?

I’m thankful for the evening coffee date with P. For howit is sometimes so easy to share some of my deepest feelings with ease. I shocked myself with how I was able to articulate so much of what has happened in the past few weeks, and how it has made me feel. I’m thankful for our vibe, and how we always seem to have parallel situations in our lives, that make it easier to talk about it.

I’m thankful for the shoot we had on Saturday, which took us once again to Cubbon Park.

It was downright ridiculous to be at work covering an event, and have three different people attending it, recognise me off this blog. I’m thankful for the love.

I’m thankful for a the butt-crack-of-dawn early morning ride to Nandi Hills with the R, S, H and VC, on SUnday. I’m thankful for the early start, the breakfast of parathas, the laughter, the bike ride back.

And I’m thankful for the slow rest-of-the-day spent mostly in bed, reading.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to catch up with A in the evening. I’m thankful for how relaxed and refreshed he seemed, despite having just lost a parent. I’m thankful he always makes the effort to stay in touch, despite how much I suck at it. I’m thankful for how we always have so much to talk about. I’m thankful for the vulnerability he presented, and the chance for me to share, to listen.

I’m thankful for the pizza dinner I had with Amma. It took me back to our impromptu dinner dates to Casa Piccola when I was a child.

I’m thankful for the spontaneous, and unplanned running-into P in Koramangala on Monday. I’m thankful for the surprise opportunity to catch coffee with VC, since that is such a rarity.

I’m thankful for cancelled plans that led to a delayed dinner of greasy Chinese with VC, in a cute, quaint little restaurant near home.

I’m thankful for the dosa and chutney dinner I had today. I’m thankful for feeling like my body is slowly becoming mine again. I’m thankful that the ghosts of diets past seem to be leaving the building.

I’m thankful for the feeling of being overpowered by emotion almost all the time these days. I’m thankful for how I’ve started noticing every little act of love that I receive. I’m thankful for the goodness.

(In case you haven’t guessed already, these I’m-thankful-for posts are the Haiku posts of 2016.)

Day 17: You’ve been on my mind

Fresh off the back of a long weekend, that also brought with is the unusual first-time that both my parents, and my sister are away, I realised how much VC and I are out of the bubble that was our default mode of existence in Goa.

Physically cut off from family, alone, in a home where we called the shots, had no social obligations even in the city we lived in, had a life devoid of most other sorts of obligations — we were really left to our own devices.

In Bangalore, the bubble doesn’t exist. With my parents living in the building adjacent to us, I’m more often than not tempted to go hang out with them. I spend entire days with my sister, with my folks around. More often than not, I choose going over to be with them, even when VC is home. This was not the case before. So, when either/all of them are not around, I physically miss their presence. Of course, all this is compounded by the fact that I am so ready to get out and go, these days.

We’re about a fifteen minute drive away from VC’s family, which also means we go over at least once a week. And we’re subject to invitations to lunch, dinner and other family hang-out scenarios, more often than we’re used to.

But this past weekend was different. Slightly under the weather, I chose to stay in, made no plans and had nowhere to go. VC, as usual, indulged in a lot of TV. But it was after absolutely aeons that we were alone. Together. And we had a weekend to ourselves like the ones that were the norm in Goa.

There is quite nothing like a weekend like this, extended time spent in quiet companionship, to reinforce and reaffirm my faith in the absolute, critical need to have someone in my life who is there for me wholly and completely, even as he gives me space to do my thing (while he does his). Who doesn’t need the noise and fanciness of plans and dates and conversations and the overtures of love. Who revels in the smallness of the rhythm of everyday life. Who is happy to just be beside me. In silence. And who still comes out of three days of just doing that and only that, to tell me he had a “fun weekend”.

I love the synchronicity of seeing in words the exact representation of what is otherwise just a jumble of feelings, a tumble of emotions on spin dry in your heart. Even as I was sitting down to write about this, and finding myself unable to pin down the right words, I opened The Artidote today after forever, and saw this —

I love when you become so close with someone that you can see parts of each other in one another and you begin to say the same things and steal lines from one another and have a similar sense of humor and can exchange an inside joke with just a glance you don’t even have to talk because you have such a strong connection with them and you can sit in comfortable silence but also talk for hours it’s really hard to find that kind of compatibility

Compatibility, while accurate, feels like a small, limiting word. Caging the immensity of togetherness — a far bigger, open, expansive word, in my mind — into a small cubby hole. If compatibility feels like the two parallel columns finally syncing with a ka-ching! when the right elements find alignment, togetherness feels like massive rivers gushing down from parts unknown, tumbling together in a noisy ashen blur, only to collide and find a peaceful merging, even in the cacophonous union.

Compatibility does the trick, but togetherness goes several layers deeper. It digs in to the depths of my soul. Touches and kindles a fire that fights through the hubbub of regular life, throbbing to stay alive even when we’re turning the lights out.

Compatibility is just the tip of the iceberg. To have this kind of comfort, connection and peaceful coexistence with a single person feels like so much more, I actually don’t have the word/s for it.

Day 2: Gratitude. That is all.

It’s just the second day of the year and already we’ve had a super moon. Silly me, it didn’t occur to me to check that first, while I pondered about the sudden surge in emotions and the very contemplative mood I’ve been in. The last month has been a lovely end to a rather special year. A month of deliberate silence, lots of stolen quiet time, enough busyness with work, plenty of socialising, food drink and cheer and to top it, some really needle-pushing realisations that have given me some much needed clarity and reassurance right in time for the new start. It’s made me look back at the absolute ride that 2017 was and my heart is full like it hasn’t been in a long time. Combine that with the obvious new-start shininess that has kicked in and I’ve been a bundle of gratitude for a few days now.

I’ve been wanting to take stock of all that I am thankful for. A couple of nights ago under a misty sky with a moon so bright, it allowed no stars to shine thru, I realised with humbling coherence that the only steady, unflinching, silent, unwavering and absolutely constant support I’ve had this year has been my family. My parents, VC and my sister have consciously (when I vocally asked for help) and unconsciously (by just being there and giving of themselves) seen me through a year chock-full of uncertainties. The morning after, I woke up feeling content and utterly filled with gratitude.

There are umpteen reasons why moving to Bangalore made, and continues to make, sense. Depending on various variables and situations we’ve thought this back and forth and through to the heavens and back a bazillion times over. Sometimes it is to reassure ourselves of the decision, sometimes it is to find reserves of courage to plod on, sometimes it’s to take stock and see where we’ve come. All of the time, though, I pat myself on the back for how we managed, and I feel grateful it’s worked out. But really I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t acknowledge the kind of help I got. I’d be doing the entire move and the effects it had on me such a gross disservice if I didn’t acknowledge how much therapy for my soul it has been to just been in such close proximity to my family.

I mentioned finding belonging yesterday and this has been the missing piece in the puzzle that I’ve only recently uncovered. Whether it’s the daily home cooked meals I enjoy with my parents, the sharing of workspacebwitb my sister, being just around the corner from my mother, or always having a home to come too even when the city still deceives me with its homeliness, I’m convinced that this pivot in my life came at the right time, and for reasons I didn’t fully understand earlier.

Now, I do.

It’s late, we’ve just touched down in Bangalore after a long drive back from holiday, and I want to get this post out before I call it a day, so this acknowledgment of gratitude will have to do for now. But I will be taking stock and giving thanks soon. It’s such an important part of moving on and stepping ahead, I don’t want to miss out.

For tonight, this is gratitude for where I’m at, and excitement for where I’m going.

Two years ago: Day 2: Love

More Goa postcards: yellow

Walking through Fontainhas always gives me a sense of stillness. Like time stopped for a bit, and then picked up again, but the effects of that lag, those missed moments linger on indefinitely. Casting a cliche old-world hue, not just on the way the place looks, but energy it carries. I always feel like I can feel right to my bones, the yars and years of lives, histories and experiences that these buildings, little streets, tiny shuttered windows opening on to groaning balconies must have witnessed.

If I had one word to describe the afternoon we spent back in Fontainhas, it would have to be S T I L L.

And then there’s the beach of course. It doesn’t get more Goa than this. Peachy sun-kissed sunsets, a lilt in the air, beach dogs befriending you and succeeding effortlessly, and the smell of seafood and tandoori everything in the air as the shacks get set for dinner service.

After this trip, where every dog that passed us made a beeline for VC, and instantly struck a friendship and unreal levels of intimacy with him, I’m convinced he might be a dog whisperer.

Same time, last year: Day 301: Notes to self

Postcards from Goa

It’s been such an overwhelming week. Sensory overload. Hectic, tiring, physically taxing. Mentally and emotionally too, Ive felt stretched. But it has also been so satisfying.

Details to follow. But for now, thank you Goa, for a sparkly time, yet again. And before I head off to location two, here’s a few postcards from the past week spent wandering in spots I’ve roamed countless times, that I got to see through new eyes.

As a traveller. As a visitor. As an outsider. As an assistant to a film maker. As a professional on assignment.

Looking at everything anew sometimes makes all the difference.

Same time, last year: Day 293: Stuff

Nine

Nine. NINE! VC, it’s been nine years. I remember writing this post, overwhelmed that we’d hit the half-decade mark, like it was just yesterday. And this morning, I pointed out that today we’ve officially entered the double-digits. Next year it will be a decade since we got married.

The more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. It’s a old and overused cliche, but I can’t think of a better way to describe what it’s like being married to you. The change bit holds only too true for the past year. 2016-17 will go down as the year everything changed. Our professional paths, the painful changes in the run up to accepting that we’d have to leave Goa, moving back to Bangalore, figuring stuff out in the city once again, all the teething issues – physically and emotionally, setting up your new business — never before have we experienced such a huge quantum of change in such a short span of time.

You know what else changed this year? Our communication. I’ve always taken solace and quiet comfort in the knowing that we’ve always had a healthy level of honesty and good communication, but with everything that happened last year, I feel like we were thrust into a whole new level of brutal honesty that we didn’t know existed. I’ll admit it gets very tiring sometimes being the one to initiate us on this path, and constantly be the one digging deeper to find out what lies beneath the surface — our feelings, our opinions, our desires, our dreams — but I’ve realised there is no other way I’d rather have it.

I’ve seen far too many examples of marriages falling apart of late, where the fundamental reason boiled down to the inability to either face and voice the truth, or to accept and embrace it. So I’m extremely grateful for the space we share between us, where pretty much nothing is taboo. I can’t think of too many other relationships that give me this sense of safety. This space for extreme honesty is so, so, very cherished, and you have to know how much you (unconsciously, perhaps) have done to encourage me to speak nothing but the truth. Even when it was to finally realise and admit to myself, and you, that given the way my life has traversed this past year, I do feel that maybe we married too soon.

I broke down momentarily in therapy when I came to this realisation, because I expected to feel the predictable sense of regret. But to my surprise tears made way for relief. I felt so oddly free to be able to see what I had just articulated for what it is, and immediately I knew I was absolutely going to be able to share it with you. I know and believe and feel so thankful to have the kind of relationship with you that enables me to speak this, right to your face, no words minced. And to have us look at the fact with enough distance that is needed to learn the lessons in here, but enough keenness to know what to do with this awareness, and where to go with it. And that’s just what we did, it’s how we embarked on this most unexpected turn of events that has landed us in Bangalore. I do believe this is just the beginning, though, and that a change in cities has so little to do with the city itself, but that we have been presented an opportunity t dig even deeper.

This year, I feel stronger, more whole and at peace than I have ever before in my entire life. Therapy (with all the upheaval it brings in its aftermath), through which you have stood by me like an absolute rock, turned me into an absolute blithering mess at times. I talked nine to a dozen, rambling, losing the plot many a time, voicing and airing a lot of rubbish on the way to finding my clarity. Even as I was going through many of those sessions of verbal diarrhoea, I remember wondering if it might be painful to be at the receiving end of this all the time. It didn’t stop me, though. And it didn’t make you stop me either.

I’m where I am largely because you supported me entirely in getting here. I said last year that much of this exploration began because I was able to give myself the permission to do so. I allowed myself to let go of so much, because you constantly reminded me how important it was to put a premium on myself and do whatever I needed to, to feel whole again.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

I hope you never muddle your sense of responsibility towards me and this marriage, to lose sight of your personal goals and dreams. Which is why I want you to know that my wish for us this year, and going forward, is that you remember all those things you keep telling me. And I wish and hope that I can be there for you, like you have for me.

This year, I see you at the start of your journey of self-exploration, similar to the spot I was in a couple of years ago. I hope you’ll remember that I’ve always got your back. I may not bring home the bacon, but I’ve really, really, got your back. You can lean on me. I’m here for the talk as much as I am for when you need the silence of comfortable companionship. I’m here for the ride as much as I am for when we need to stay still. I’m here for the plateaus as much as I am change.

I want to go back to one little thing I said on our anniversary last year. It was a liberating, life-changing realisation then. And it holds true even today.

I feel like today, more than ever, is a good day for a reminder.

This year, more than every before, I realised that being together has little to do with being together. Not to take for granted how wonderful it is to have a roomie to come back to, someone to hold at night when the fear of the dark envelops me, someone to lean on when I’m scared or lonely, someone to share a laugh with in a way that only we can understand. But I realised that growing old together involves taking routes that aren’t always going to run in parallel, or end up in the same place. It is possible to be together and yet give each other the space to be apart – in what we do, in where we go, and in how we blossom. And for the first time in all our years together, and my vehement stand on long-distance relationships, I have opened myself up to the idea of living apart. It will mean spreading our wings in different directions, and I don’t mean that just literally. I hope we explore it someday, because I think it will only take us a step up from here.

Happy anniversary my superstar. I haven’t done a very good job of being around the last few weeks and months since we moved to Bangalore. But I want you to know you’re a champ, my absolute trooper and I can’t wait to see what the months ahead hold for you.

As for the ride taking you there, I’m all in.

You’ve got me. I’ve got your back.

I love you so very much.

***

Same time, last year: Day 252: Eight

Past anniversaries: sevensixfivefourthreetwoone.

2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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