Day 197: Under my umbrella

Hello from rainy Goa, which has all my heart. Two years ago: Day 197: That’s all

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Day 195: Lost and found and turned around

Meanwhile, it’s pissing down in Bangalore too. It’s so good to be feeling a chill in July. To wear full-sleeved clothes. Two layers, even. Full pants. Closed shoes. Scarves and neck things. Just some of the things I love about being here, and pretty sure they’ll be the same things I miss when I eventually leave.

Some months ago, in a reading D did for me, she said to take this time to really enjoy the good things I love about this city, without holding back. I realise it comes down to the weather, the abundance of food to try and the freedom to loiter about on my own. So, to be sitting snug in a coffee shop with free wifi, without feeling like I’m waiting to be shunted out for just ordering a single black coffee and staying for three hours. To read, work, people watch at least a couple of times a week feels like a fitting way to do it.

And while I’m waxing eloquent about the weather, here’s a rainy day song — a throwback track (and an entire forgotten album) that I rediscovered thanks to driving around in the rain in my dad’s car. His music is evergreen.

Two years ago: Day 195: 100TinderTales Reveals Dating Apps Give Indian Women The Upper Hand

Day 194: Long as I remember the rain been coming down

I’m glad for all the long drives in the rain. I could very well have been moping for Goa, which is currently getting battered with a heavy monsoon, and I could have been very, very sad for missing it. But I had this instead. And Wayanad got a record high amount of rain and insane gale winds this past week. There were furious flash floods, sinkholes in some parts and much destruction. I have returned feeling very cut down to size, and insignificant in the larger scheme of things — the canvas that has us planning big plans, when really all we need to do is go with the flow.

I’m grateful for the chance to go tripping with my father. It’s been years since it was just us, and as anticipated, it was quiet, but fun and gave me plenty to make new connections, think about and create memories from.I am a lot more like my father than I have cared to notice. In him, I see my own underlying zest to live life in a way that seems questionable by conventional standards. I know now that it is from him that I get the spark of willingness to take chances. To take as many chances as I can, whenever I can, if an idea or a desire presents itself. I share with him my absolute inability to understand or even care to understand numbers. He is every bit as eccentric, slightly compulsive and just a dot obsessive about the little details, as I am. He enjoys his food and drink to the level where they are not mere occurrences in any given day, but defining points that can guide which way the day goes.I am grateful for this gene pool.

I am grateful for this opportunity to spend time with him and see up close the sheer scale of this project he’s embarked on. I had a sense, and never doubted his determination to see it through, but to be there in Wayanad with him, seeing how far his home has come, brick by painful brick, enduring months of frustrating oddballs that continue to blindsight him with alarming regularity.Oddly enough, this was a reminder for me to realign my own focus. To go after some of the things I think about wishfully, but brandish without lending them much serious thought because I am also sometimes easily distracted by the pressure to be rational, to make things make sense to everyone around, when really the only person it needs to make sense to is me. To take those chances more often, to put everything on the line for the wildest, most impossible sounding dreams.Driving out into the forest brought, at a silvery 4 o clock, the sunlight a gentle angle casting mellow shadows, while leaves danced around tricking us into believing something moved just beyond the thicket, evoked a huge sense of nostalgia in me. My mind raced back to so many of the long drives we’ve made as a family, and I realised that some of my earliest writing that came from just the very basic need to put down in words what I was feeling, came from these road trips. There was that one short piece I wrote at age 10 or 11, about a pink sunset that engulfed us as we drove straight into it. And the other piece about feeling my heart collapse under the weight of emotions a Bryan Adams song had stirred in me loud and clear. Another one about feeling tiny and weightless under a canopy of banyan trees that leaned over to join hands across the street. I suppose one can say these were some of the milestone moments that set me off to go on to write about every goddamned thing.

I’m grateful for the ability to write.

I’m grateful for snacks. Rainy day snacks. Banana fritters, amongst other things.I’m grateful for this sense of openness that I have felt brewing. Life has opened up. I feel opened up. There is a sense of vastness in everything — from the opportunities I am exploring, to the inner ability to change my mind — and I really, truly feel like a small dot in an ocean, with the world as my oyster. It is empowering and humbling all at once.

I’m grateful for amma who is the glue that keeps us together, even when she is not around. I’m grateful for Niyu who has surprisingly become a source for as much food for my body as my soul. I am grateful for VC who is, just there, solid, all the damn time. And for how he, even at his polar opposite best, is the partner I need. Even when I don’t realise it. Even when I realise it, and don’t acknowledge it.

I am grateful today for my family for everything that they do intentionally and unintentionally for me, with me.

Two years ago: Day 194: Pedalling again

Day 193: You ain’t been blue, till you’ve had that mood indigo

I’ve been mostly off the grid, phone gone quiet only to wake up when we drive between towns where suddenly my network throbs back to life very briefly. I post quickly, when I can and allow the silence to take over for the rest.

My dad and I have been mostly staying in companionable silence, chatting some, listening to music, driving around and getting some things done when we can. I’ve finished a book in two days, cooked a couple of meals and spent most of my time just chilling. And while some work is piling up waiting for me to return, I don’t feel rushed to.We’ve had yet another utterly washed out day that rendered us house-bound and caused my father much worry because it’s another day without work done on site. But, who can complain with a view like this. And rainy day spoils that include sugary tea and a local doughnut like delicacy that is crusty crisp on the outside, dense and mildly sweet on the inside. Crack it open to let curls of steam escape from the innards of banana melded dough speckled with cumin. Dunk a piece in the tea and eat quickly, while it’s still hot. For all that we city bred people wax on about the slow life, turning it into a hashtaggable lofty concept that is so out of our natural rhythm that it is worth aspiring for, all it takes is a visit to a village. A real village, not ensconced in a resort in a village or any such manicured vehicle of experiencing this short term. A visit to a village is all it takes to get a view into what it means for people to live off the land, in sync with the forces that be, going with the flow, living small and being just so happy. Here, there are no plans to be made because nature is making them for us all the time. We have been forced to simply surrender and go with it.

I’m all kinds of humbled and am going away with a renewed sense of awe and a reminder of the taste of just how much more smallness I have yet to bring back into my life and being. It’s time to go back.

Two years ago: Day 193: Like Nike, but better

Day 192: Slowly drifting, wave after wave

My third day here and the rain is going strong. It’s been this way for the last ten days I’m told. Oddly, I feel at home like this might as well be Goa. But, it’s just the precursor before I actually head to Goa next week.

One year ago: What coming home feels like: Sunday lunch edition

Day 191: What about sunrise, what about rain?

Plastered at the edge of a car window to post this, just seen. The river is brimming over. Everything bears a silky film of lush wetness. All around the fields are eye-poppingly green. The pepper is lush, tapioca thriving, the ginger is perky and fresh.

If life had just one, single colour, green would be it. Green, so green. This must be what abundance looks like.

One year ago: Books-shooks

Day 187: Did you fall from a shooting star?

The weather let up just a wee bit today. Muggy cloudy days have meant the temperatures have been steadily rising. The stillness in the air has been stifling. But today, the clouds broke a bit. And we had overcast skies, the gentlest drizzle and cool wind. Perfect for a brunch date specifically to have deep fried carbs that turned into a gossip sesh over way too many cups of chai. That is all. Two years ago: Day 187: June

Day 165: After the tears have washed your eyes

A couple of dry-ish days with temperatures creeping into the late twenties, is all it took to have me say, “It could rain a little now, right?”

Almost as if in response, it started again yesterday. With cloudy skies, giving in and scantily showering down on us.

It’s been almost a month since we have stopped using the AC and the weather has been immaculate. Splendid enough to make me say the L(ove) word.

Amidst all my Bangalore rants, there is this redeeming factor. The rain. And I have to give credit where it’s due. I love Bangalore when it rains.

This is the weather for coffee shops. For books. For naps. For slow dreaming. For anything that doesn’t involve being stuck in a vehicle navigating through the city. It’s the weather for staying indoors and eating pav bhaji, if you will. It’s the weather for thick hot chocolate. For soup dinners. And even if just momentarily, for most everything in this city to feel bearable.

Two years ago: Day 165: About yesterday

Day 162: Only happy when it rains

Today, I just didn’t feel like writing. I have six drafts in the works. And I have so much to say about my course last week. But I’m just settling into it, letting it seep in slowly.

Today I caught up with some reading instead.

It’s been going so slow of late. Today I guzzled what was actually a delightful book, but one I was labouring over for no reason but that I needed time, time, time. I took the time today. Over ginger and lemon tea. With this amazing hill station weather out, that we have going.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll write out that long pending book post sitting in my drafts.

Two years ago: Day 162: New Tricks

Back to base

Every now and then
when I feel the need to pause
I’m so glad there’s home.

Same time, last year: Day 263: All you need is less – projects

What coming home feels like: light and life

The monsoon has hit Goa with all its might and fury and my social media feeds are filled with envy-making pictures, videos and words that are doing nothing to make me feel better for being so far, far away from the best time to be in Goa.

Last year I had an inkling it was to be my ultimate monsoon living in Goa and even though part of me felt like I was inching closer to the reality of it, a larger part of me wanted to remain blissfully unaware. And in denial.

My facebook memories have been brutal in throwing up images and blog posts from all of last year and monsoon nostalgia has taken over me considerably this week.

I miss Goa terribly. I’m hopelessly and inconsolably homesick for Goa.

But. There have been small joys. Silver linings, if you will. Moments of pure surprise or happiness. Everyday realities that have grown on me unconsciously. Until suddenly I woke up to see the light.

After living in west-facing homes for literally all my life, I’m now on the other end of the spectrum. Enjoying 6 am wake ups thanks to the burst of light that no curtains can keep out, loving how the entire home is always bathed in a soft, gentle yellow, and low-key obsessing over watching day-long shadows as they morph on the hour. The sunlight is doing wonders for the plants we got and I’ve gone over six weeks without killing anything.

Daily surprises happen with fair consistency. I’ve got to start looking and acknowledging them more often.

Same time, last year: Day 187: June

Day 273: I had to talk about Coke Studio, just a little bit

So it came to my notice that I have let this entire monsoon pass without a single Coke Studio post. Baffling because this is the time of year that I miss, relive and enjoy my annual CS-Pak binge. As it happens, it is also the time of year when a shiny, new season is unveiled. This time, said new season had come and gone. And that should tell you how little it mattered to me. How it made close to no impact, and didn’t send me into raptures of love for the show, as it usually does.

I could go into miles and miles of analysis about why it didn’t work for me, as I have so many times now with various folks who share my ardent love for the show. We’ve dissected it to shreds, given our VTs and watched as the current season plummeted to irrevocable lows. But I’m going to spare you the analysis, because it’s a personal opinion and I know not everyone needs feel the same way. Long story short, I found this season lacking in clarity of thought. With a new director for every song, way too much instrumentation and the so-so production quality that Strings can deliver, there was just way too much happening this year. Every song felt loud, mish-mashed, noisy and not a single track stood out with a distinct character or a unique sound of its own – which is what I clung on to as the shows forte, for so many years now.

Yet, even in the noise, these tracks stood out for me. They’re not fantastic by any stretch of imagination. They don’t match up to the legendary level that some CS-Pak tracks from the past have achieved. I know this for a fact because none of these have consumed me in the day-long-loop fix that I usually find myself in with every season. Still, these are the only songs I enjoyed. And I think it’s only fair to share the love. However little it may be.

Best track of the season, as far as I’m concerned.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Unplugged version of a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan classic. It was hard not to like this one. Despite the fact that I think the starlet here is completely unnecessary and doesn’t have a patch on the bucket-fulls of personality RFAK brings to this track.

Because, Javed Bashir. I don’t need much else. I managed to even get to a point of listening to it while blocking out the abomination that is Ali Azmat.

For old favourites Sanam Marvi, Saieen Zahoor and parts of one of my most favourite folk songs.

Go, Enjoy?

*****

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Day 267: Moarrrr books

It’s a drippy, rained-all-night kind of Friday morning. 8.30 am and I have the lights on in my room. I’ve just finished reading the last book that had me so engrossed I’ve been waking up, turning over and grabbing my kindle to read a few pages even before I get out of bed or brush my teeth.

This book:  This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
A book of essays about a huge range of experiences and topics from across Patchett’s life, this book was first recommended to me by B, when I met her in Singapore last year. I have fond memories of a couple of hours I spent with her in her chatting about life, writing, reading and books, over home style chai and pakodas, while intermittently chatting with the incredibly cute Bobo. I snapped a picture of the cover of her book, and made a mental note to get to it at some point. Of course that point, of reading in earnest again, only came earlier this year.

So, about the book: it’s an incredibly diverse collection of essays about such a range of things that the writer in me, who hopes to be able to someday write an essay about any dang thing in the universe, is in serious awe. Entirely a work of non-fiction, this is a collection of her essays from over the years contributing to an array of magazines like The Atlantic, New York Times, Gourmet, Vogue. They cover everything from making a life in writing, to choosing to remain child-free, heartwarming essays about her relationship with her father, a particularly moving one about caring for her grandmother, her complicated first marriage, eventual divorce and her how she made marriage work the second time around. Some of the essays were hyper focused to a context so American, that I read them without really getting a feel for it. But 80% of the book was a sheer delight.

I found her essays about writing particularly relatable. And reassuring. Patchett is considered one of the seminal writers of essays in the ilk as Rebecca Solnit and Joan Didion, so I’m glad I could read this to start off on exploring her other writing.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Some books need the right time place and pace of reading. Clearly this was one of them for me. I’d picked it up about two years ago, read only about 20% of it before abandoning it entirely. I just couldn’t sink my teeth into it, for some reason. Which was odd because I’d really loved Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim.

Anyhow, when I finished reading The Bell Jar and was contemplating my next read, I found this already on my Kindle and decided to give it a second go. This time around I breezed thru it and enjoyed large parts of the book. Mainly because I’ve realised I enjoy this brand of wry, almost sardonic humour. I don’t do humour, and I know how hard it is to get it right, so when I chance upon writing that is simple and funny, it makes me very happy.

This is a very simple memoir of humourous anecdotes that — and this is the bit about Sedaris’ style that I enjoy — display his  ability to turn inane, everyday observations and events into fully fleshed-out anecdotes. The events are relatable, even though he masks his cynicism with humour that’s witty, yet wry and almost acrid and may only sometimes make you LOL, but that you will otherwise just breeze through with a chuckle here and  grin there. Again, the context is American, so it takes a little familiarity to really get it. This, I suspect, is why I didn’t enjoy it so much the first time.

It’s not a book that’s going to deeply impact you, or stay with you and linger in the back of your mind for a long time to come. It’s a fun, quick read and that’s another one struck off this list that I’m still aiming to work through.

Where’d you go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple
This one has been on my to-read list forever, and when I found it on this list again last month, I had to pick it up.

Bernadette is an oddball. She’s a woman with too many loud opinions about everything, wild unconventional ideas about life and her work (she’s an architect), and has what could be naively considered a strange relationship with her husband and daughter. She goes against the grain in every set up — professional, social, familial — and this is what makes her loveable. And then she goes missing.

The mystery that then unfolds as her daughter and husband take an epic journey to the end of the earth (literally!) in search of her is quirky, funny, yet moving. In searching for her, they’re somehow also searching for themselves, and the relationships between them. Between the mystery and the emotional bits, this one was hard to put down.

It helps that it is written entirely as an epistolary narrative and is cleverly put as the story unfolds through letters, emails, blog posts, magazine articles and flashbacks. The writing is simple, but satirical and very relatable. I later found out that Semple has a career in TV too, writing for shows like Arrested Development and SNL – so no surprise why I enjoyed it so much.

The weekend is upon us and I have no idea what to read next, even though I’m up to my gills in reading reccos via friends, Amazon and all these darned lists I keep finding.

Day 236: Farewell to the rain

We are in what I call the dregs of the monsoon. The time of year that makes me ache for a way to extend time. Prolong it, pickle it and stash it away in a bottle for a rainy day. And I mean that entirely metaphorically because a “rainy” day that needs a monsoon fix would actually have to be a day completely devoid of rain. Like the kind we are heading into. I know this because I’m seeing the telltale signs of the waning monsoon that make me yearn to, like I said, find a way to preserve this goodness for good.

The downturn begins to show in the slightest, most subtle ways. An extra ten minutes of daylight before the sun goes down. The sun fearlessly shines through the cloud cover that struggles to hold it’s ground. People are ‘forgetting’ to carry their umbrellas. Some are even trading them in for sun glasses. The crispness of clean air gone, humidity makes a comeback, weighing down on everything. The light turns from a dull grey to tinged with blue, sometimes yellow. Long strokes painting the views in hues of post monsoon glow.

I find myself unwilling to let it go. Longing for the sounding if water tumbling outside. The lull of a day heavy and dripping with a week’s worth of rain. The sea a marbled vat of shades of brown and red, churning on furiously. The newness of baby leaves giving way to the confidence of growth. The pristine, clean air hazy once again with specks of dust and grime.

I realise the monsoon is more than just the sum total of the years precipitation. It’s a bit of a production. With us grabbing it as a legitimate excuse for the extended hours of sleep, deep fried snacks, weekends staying in, kickstarting that lost reading habit, taking longer afternoon naps dead to the world, pulling out the stops in creatively reimagining your laundry situation — it is about so much more than just the rain.

It’s that time of year again — the monsoon is ending, the rain is leaving. And I’m trying to hang on to it while it’s still throwing some scraps this way. I want to make the most of going riding in the rain, wearing my rubber slippers all the time and everywhere, eating a warm snack at 4 pm with my chai, using my oven to grill meat and veggies again. It’s like a much needed time of restoration and regeneration. As much as the monsoon forces you to slow down, stay cooped up and recuperate, it is a time for the energy to gather itself, bubbling beneath the surface. Come September-October, the sunshine life will kick in again.

We’re already getting our share of brisk days, with a steady feathery drizzle, cotton candy clouds and eye0popping greens all around that beg you to get out just a little and begin to get used to it again.

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Who can resist a the-monsoon-is-ending kind of day like this?

Day 235: What my Sunday morning was like

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Somehow, this year I have skipped the entire phase of frustration with the monsoon that typically follows the initial days when I’m in raptures about how amazingly beautiful everything is. I usually go from revelling in picturesque views, accompanied by monsoon-perfect soundtracks that usually always make me super nostalgic, to working my way out of an insurmountable pile of undried laundry that just wont relent. But, somehow it’s August and the rain has suddenly slowed down to less than a trickle already. The temperatures are rising again. But there is clean, dry laundry and I realised I have skipped that rigmarole entirely, moving swiftly to complaining about how the best of the monsoon has gone by all too soon.

It was meant to be a good monsoon this year. They even issued warnings about its possible severity. It did lash down for the first two months. It lashed down so long, so hard and so incessantly that all of June and July have gone by in a blur of rain. I don’t know how they’ve just zipped by. When I left for Bangalore last week, it was pouring like there’s no tomorrow. I had to endure some tremendously unsettling turbulence on my flight out and back in, but I returned to bright, oppressively sunshiny weather. The laundry is drying to a crisp in under 24 hours. The doors and windows are remaining open all day. We’re back to using the air conditioning. I even dug my sunglasses out of hiding. Needless to say, I have not been happy about this super speedy sequence of events.

I wondered if it was over. I felt a tad sad too. I complained loudly to anyone willing to listen. And just when I was writing it off as the close of monsoon 2016, it began to come down in little spurts again yesterday. Reluctant, uncooperative bursts of mini showers just enough to bring the temperatures down a notch, and to tease me into believing there is more to come.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, that a piddly shower or two is all it takes to make me happy. A brief sprinkling, like a parting shot is all it takes to induce a full blown monsoon-induced sloth. Yesterday, I woke up way earlier than usual (for a Sunday morning), stirred by the patter of rain outside. Of course wake up is a bit of a stretch, because I literally only got out of bed to make myself a cup of tea and reheat a paratha, both of which were taken right back into bed. I got right back under the covers and stuck my nose tight back into my book. For the next four hours or so. The next thing I knew, it was noon and there was lunch to be made had.

It takes very little to change the mood around here. I am so easily distracted. I am so easily pleased. The slightest smidgen of cozy comfort returning to my cocoon makes me feel so content, that sometimes I wonder if it’s the situation that makes a moment perfect or a moment that can make a situation perfect.