Home base

I simply cannot overstate the wonderous effects that a done-to-death routine, based entirely in ordinary homely acts, does to make me feel grounded.

Today has been an utterly mundane day, borne out of complete and basic necessity. It’s been a good, steadying day and very early on, plodding through, I realised how easily pleased days like this make me feel.

I drove to Panjim and back this morning, cooked Niyu some upma for breakfast, had myself a simple smoothie and spent the morning catching up with the Internet that I have ignored for about a week now. I finished up reading one of the books recommended for class, before we meet again next week. And then I napped, waking up in time to cook — broccoli soup, salad and garlic toasts for dinner — and pick VC up from work.

It’s rained for the most part, that deeply soothing hum of rainfall that’s become a refrain in the background, now feeling almost meditative. And when it wasn’t raining, it’s been overcast with just that little leak of light.

There is something to be said of this minimalistic life I tend to have when I’m here, in this way and in this stage, in this home that we’ve specifically made, bare bones, stripped down and inward focused.

One year ago: Is someone getting the best of you?
Three years ago: What happens when you go cycling in the rain

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Retrospect

Hi once again, from absolutely rainy, drippy, beautiful Goa.

I sense this back and forth life split between Goa and Bangalore slowly nearing its end (or at least reducing in pace and frequency of going between the two states) and the return to Goa this time around has come with an intense desire spend the next week really soaking it up.

Something really did lift for me yesterday, confirming my hunch that I’m experiencing an internal shift that is beyond my own comprehension and certainly not decipherable through words and overthinking.

***

A lot of my disorientation and struggle of the weeks past have been compounded by the some shame and self-hate that I have been directing at myself. I realised last week, yet again, how easily I forget to be kind and compassionate to myself, post-therapy. There is so much healing that happens in just meeting whatever comes up — the old wounds, the hitherto untouched grief, the completely unexpected discovery of an inner child pock-marked with memories of being worried, confused, brave and compelled to be put-together — with kindness. It’s the first step to acceptance, and then integration, and really, without that does this journey even get anywhere?

N has been pushing me, harder than ever before, to stay with the internal distress that is so quick to bubble over, when I am faced with the difficulties of my inner child. It is extremely difficult territory for me to navigate because I still doubt my capacity to be there for her. For me.

I’m only getting very slightly better with every interaction that I have, but I think the more I learn to meet her with kindness, the better this will get.

For now though, there is probably going to be a lot more disorientation. From facing so many unknown truths about that inner child for the very first time, from learning to stay with the distress, from owning and meeting the grief and sadness of it all, from fighting the urge to turn around and bolt from it all.

Most of all though, I’m learning to go easier still on myself. To remind myself that there is no fixed end goal, and no milestones that I have to hit. That there will be times when I feel like I have taken three steps back, instead of forward. To keep the disappointment at bay, and drop the need to “perform” and do this well. It sounds like a lot, and it overwhelms me in times of distress, but when the fog has lifted it soon becomes apparent that all I really need to do is be kind to all parts of myself — inner, outer, child and adult — alike. To face myself with the same empathy I extend to others. To be patient and gentle, to see myself, and to be there for myself.

***

I’m happy to be in Goa, with its bizarre golden evening monsoon light, with this new relaxed state of mind. In the peace of just today spend in Goa, I realised I need to bring back some stillness in my life, some mindfulness or grounding practices that help me stay in the moment, rather than in my head where things get sometimes unnecessarily complicated.

I need to get back to a routine of slowness and taking time out for myself. Being in Goa sets that pace for me. It means I can let it all go, chill for a few days and make a plan for setting myself up back to the bustle of life in Bangalore.

One year ago: If everything could ever be this real forever
Two years ago: Perfect love
Three years ago: Barely moving

Mush

It’s been an insanely stormy day, that’s been pretty and fascinating to watch from the inside, but downright chaotic on the outside.

Much like my brain this week.

Still struggling with coherence. The words are stuck. My limbs feel frozen. Everything feels a bit pointless.

None of this bodes well right now, because I have an assignment submission to make tomorrow.

I’ll just have to keep at it and keep trying.

One year ago: Slowly drifting, wave after wave
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: Sunday lunch edition

Three years ago: Like Nike, but better

Pause

Yesterday was a fairly sunny day with just bursts of downpour intermittently punctuated by bursts of bright sunshine but as I drove to Inox in the evening, it began to come down. It made me severely nostalgic for the days when J, S, R, VC and I would make impromptu movie plans to entertain ourselves in the monsoon when everything else would be shut and inaccessible. We’ve watched a shit ton of terrible movies as a last resort, invariably thinking of it with just under ten minutes to show time, as a last ditch attempt to entertain ourselves in dreary days that felt like they were slipping away. I thought about the countless times we’ve rushed to Inox, ten minutes away, running from the parking lot to the multiplex huddled under shared umbrellas and entering the movie hall slightly damp, but spirits sprightly and excited.

There was something really sweet in the simplicity and utter basic truth about having just one multiplex to go to and wondering on rainy days if there’d actually even be a minimum of five people for the show to actually run. Sometimes we’d gather ourselves in groups of five or more just to make sure we hit the target. I felt nostalgic for that simple, unadorned Goa that I had the privilege of knowing so intimately.

Anyhow, as I watched the rain come down and we fished our umbrellas out to get to Inox, I felt my plans to catch the Friday Market at Mapusa wash away. Also Article 15 while an important film about an important issue, stopped just short of really working for me because of some inherent (inescapably Desi) flaws, premier amongst which was length. It ran just too long for my liking, which meant it was well past midnight when I got home.

All this to say, my morning today was not as smooth as I’d have liked. I woke up late, and that set my schedule off. I mostly spend my days doing nothing of grave importance but my morning routine has come to be kind of sacrosanct and unexpected changes potentially throw my day off. I no longer like to just casually skip my workout, and I like to get it done as early as possible. This usually gets first priority. Today there was also some omelette sandwiches to be made for VC to take to work, and getting ready in time to leave with VC to get him to work so I can take the car to the Friday market added to the mix. It already felt like a gargantuan ask even before I’d begun.

I wrestled with it for five minutes in my head, there’s an undercurrent of the lets-do-it-all energy just waiting for an outlet to surface, any time she can. But I’m better in curbing this type A side of me now so it wasn’t long before I decided I to prioritise my workout and make VCs lunch. I ditched the plan to go out and instead VC went off to work on his own.

Today was looking like a day to stay in. The weather agreed, vehemently and it has been pissing down with a vengeance pretty much all day. There is not a single cloud to be seen. The sky a vast mass of grey streaked with darker shades of more grey which shifted and changed as they passed, like a watercolour on blotted paper, waiting to take form.

It has since been a day of silence with nothing but the rain for company. I did some reading (not the reading for learning I need to, but reading for fun), I realised I had two episodes of Big Little Lies to catch up on, so there was that. A nap that was interrupted by the early return or VC with Niyu in tow. VC who went for a meeting and didn’t think it was fun to drive back to work and back home again in the pouring rain, and Niyu who also incidentally cancelled her evening class today.

I seem to be having a string of days like this. Even when I try and make plans to get out and “be productive” things happen that make me change plans, or halt and defer them altogether. Many times it makes me contend with the parts of me that still attach value and self worth to productivity of a certain kind.

Today is what I’d really call a clear and present wash out day. Necessary autumns of our lives, times for essential pause, whether we know and acknowledge or are present to it or not. I’ve had many thoughts about productivity, success, a life well-lived and the like in the last few weeks, some of which may make it to a post in the coming future.

It’s grey out, still. We’ve just had cups of tea and Iyengar bakery biscuits I brought from Bangalore. And I pulled out the stops and indulged in my other Goa staple — peanut butter toast, with a drizzle of honey today. We’ve got our noses in our respective laptops, each doing things that need to be done. It’s a picture of silent companionship, of pause itself.

As soon as this post is done I’m going to cook us dinner, Thai Curry which has become a Goa staple for me now.

Tomorrow will be a new day.

One year ago: You’ll be a good listener, you’ll be honest, you’ll be brave
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: light and life

Three years ago: June

Stay in

Okay it’s coming down good and proper now. Finally, that sound of incessant rain is here and what a thrill it is. Finally there is the undried laundry woes and general dampness in the air. Finally, it’s beginning to feel a lot like the proper monsoon I came here for.

Nothing signals this season like damp clothes for me. And this time, even with two balconies and one terrace, we still don’t have enough dry space for the laundry. What the terrace and  balcony, both adjacent to each other and both with big windows, are good for, is the wide open view of the incoming ominous black clouds as they roll and rush in before every down pour. It’s amazing how the landscape in these parts is so different from the urban parts we lived in before.

It’s mostly a time for staying in. Like a natural, seasonal shift that begs nothing else but the quiet of staying within, not just physically, but otherwise too. It feels like a time for hibernation of sorts. Everything around is bursting forth with life, the greens are popping, the constant gush of water is nourishing, and that vein of loneliness that felt embedded within me, lifts. My spirit feels quenched.

I’ve had no inclination to look at my laptop since I got here. Such a departure from my last trip when all I did was binge watch multiple things right through the day. I’ve instead been occupied around the house. I tended to my plants for a good while yesterday and then spent the rest of the day sorting the home straight because VCs help has been AWOL for over 10 days. I cleaned out the fridge and cooked myself lunch, and Niyu came over.

In the evening I went to the Panjim market to stock up on veggies. Always such a delight these fresh produce markets, but even more so the one I am so familiar with.

This time around I foresee a lot of driving up and down, especially between Panjim and home because VC and I are going to have to share the car to beat the rain and get places. I can’t seem to remember how we managed this in the monsoons past, but I certainly don’t remember dropping him to work and picking him uo everyday like I think I’m going to have to do this time around.

But it’s been good so far. If there’s one thing I love more than the rains in Goa, it’s driving around in the rains in Goa, listening to music and generally spending that time by myself. Earlier, I’d find reasons and excuses to drive out, hit the highway and get the music up loud. Now, with where we live, I don’t have to try so hard hahaha.

I’ve got some “studying” to do, an essay to submit and an intimidatingly long reading list for the course to get started with. This would have been the perfect getaway to get all that done. But somehow, I’m reading again. And I already can’t seem to get enough of the Kindle, the quiet, the solitude and the rain.

One year ago: June

The rain

Hi, from Goa, where I have arrived to not enough rain. But only just enough to inspire some Vada pav cravings as soon as I landed.

Right from the airport, I headed off to VCs office to catch up with him and head home together. Today was one of those ultra efficient days with everything operating ahead of time, from the moment I left home in Bangalore. So I got there much earlier than anticipated. In order to kl some time, I dragged my suitcase and two handbags down, two streets away, in the drizzle to Cafe Aram because the settings were just right.

The gentlest drizzle, a sniffle in my nose, a I peaceful journey, and lunch six hours ago. I ducked into the buzzing tea room. Fond memories of my last cuppa chai had there the day before welved from Goa wafting back to my mind.

The tables are snug, a little too snug for comfort. And of course one also sits where there’s place, sharing humble eating space with just about anybody. Often, this results in staring into other people’s plates as one waits for food to arrive, from no apparent reason except that, it’s there, so close.

Few things kindle nostalgia and fondness, a sense of home, as speedily as food. So as soon as my vada pav and chai had arrived and I took a bite of it, immediately I felt at home. Despite the fact that I looked visibly like an outsider. With just the way I look, and strolley in tow.

There is something about a tea room at 6 pm on the heart of Panjim. The vibe just brings you back to ground reality.

It was such a good way to begin. To come back home.

Outside, the rain began to fall harder and noisily.

One year ago: I choose to be happy
Two years ago: I need to sit with the quiet, I know that much

Three years ago: The rain, the rain

Bangalore showers

Speaking of rain, I got a good dose of the quintessential Bangalore torrential rain two nights a row. Completely washing our Saturday night drink plan out, and causing us massive detours and delays while getting back home because of uprooted trees everywhere.

Last night was no less and the storm taking down several trees including this massive one on my street along with four electric poles that knocked out the power for 20 hours.

So today was a hot, uncomfortable, achy from period day spent listlessly. I was conserving battery on all my gadgets and felt like my brain was steaming up so couldn’t get myself to write.

We’ve taken ourselves out for a quick dinner before VC leaves for Goa tomorrow. I’m nursing a tall pink sugary drink — my last indulgence in the last four days of constant indulgence — and feeling mildly better.

Tomorrow will be a new day.

One year ago: For you will still be here, but your dreams may not
Three years ago: Odd days like today

Rain

I was hoping to catch the first of the monsoon showers in Goa before I left. But that was not to be. Even though every morning for the last many weeks the skies have been overcast, clouds casting gentle shadows over us and thereby tempering the effects of what is otherwise a punishing summer, it was not meant to be. If reading skies is anything to go by, one would have been so sure the rains would have made landfall around now just a whisker ahead of what is typical.

All I got was tantalising greys, heavy clouds hanging around and just passing by, a hope that rain is on the way. But not quite.

So much teasing, that this was the sky at 4pm last evening as I drove back home. It drove home the point about perfection in timing for me. So I chuckled to myself and promised to be back in time to catch the rain. The full flourish of it mid-season if not the baby beginnings.

This morning however, I woke up at 4 am to the pleasantest breeze. And when we drove out to the airport, as the sun was cracking up the doors and making a reluctant appearance, I realised the roads were wet. All the way thru. We raced over puddles and the smell of just rained on earth was potent.

I didn’t really get exactly what I wanted, but what I did was lovely. And it was a good way to say goodbye for now.

One year ago: We ain’t perfect but we worth the pictures still
Three years ago: Rumination without a title

Day 243: After all is said and done, you’ll believe god is a woman

How quickly things change. From, spotless iridescent blue skies, to grey and watery, with noisy thunderstorms determined to wash the world out.

Bangalore rains are quite alright*. They’re quite alright.

(*I’m just glad I’m indoors and not battling traffic.)

Two years ago: Day 243: Internet things

Day 226: They paved paradise

We’re off to Goa tomorrow. Again. It’s my second time, and VC’s third time in under a month. I cannot complain.

In the meantime, I’m making the most of sweater weather by swapping my usual chai/coffee, beer/wine preference with a fiery pepper rasam instead. It’s 11:30 am and I’m on my second glass.

Look at those billowing grey clouds will ya? How is anyone supposed to get any work done around here?

Huge mixed emotions and heart-tugging feelings for Bangalore have been simmering in my heart, in case it wasn’t evident in yesterdays post (which was also yesterdays newsletter!) And then I woke up to this heartbreaking (but completely spot on) article that paints a horribly accurate picture of the dystopia this city is fast hurtling towards. I am constantly baffled and amazed and very. very exasperated by how more people don’t see it. Or maybe they do and don’t quite know what to do about it. I don’t notice enough exasperation around me. What I see is a numbness and acceptance, which breaks my heart a little bit more.

I’m thankful for the frequent breaks I’ve managed. I’m thankful for the opportunities to recharge batteries every time the city drains them. I’m glad I have the life that doesn’t depend on a gruelling commute like so many millions of people have to go through. I’m glad we can weigh out our options. I’m so grateful for how we’re happy with less. And I’m eternally grateful for the choices we can and have made, which often seem like we’re stepping back, settling for less and choosing oddly, but in the end they’re the only ones that seem to sit right with who we are.

Day 225: Heavy mottled love

It took a rainy, blissfully just-the-right-kind-of-cold week and a fair bit of commuting in the rain last week, to realise that Bangalore rain is amongst the top things I love about this city and living here. Yes, I’m often stuck in traffic when it starts to rain (yes it annoys the shit out of me that stupid traffic jams are a given, an obvious consequence to even the slightest shower, while the city helplessly succumbs to this giant mess) even while I’m quietly snug in a cab or car, plastered to the window. Beneath the irritation though, is a quiet love for this snarling mess of a city that even with its gazillion imperfections has somewhat had an impact on me these past 18 months. So when I think back to the time I have enjoyed here, I’ll remember the rain fondly. Especially the moments spent stuck in traffic watching the patterns trickle down the window, drenching me in an inescapable melancholy for a city that’s dying faster than it can deal with. I feel soaked with a grief for this city I used to, and once again do, call home. For how it has morphed into this colossal wreckage. But I will also remember that it is often in the rain that has inspired me — whether those soft epiphanies that come like the drizzle and neatly punctuate this self-discovery, or the gushing waves of the unquenchable need to write things down — words, sentences, thoughts, all of it. I’ll remember how I frantically pull my phone out and note it all down. Thoughts on the world outside that threatens to swallow us whole, and the solid centre of peace I’ve found within. Within myself. Even as the chaos comes in great amounts when a downpour hits Bangalore, I have found moments of stillness right in there. Stuck to a window, watching the city be washed over by an evening shower. I’m glad for this time. For the lilt of this mad city and how it has shown me that there is joy, even in the unlikeliest, most ugly spaces. Most often that joy is within me. And so I snap pictures hungrily. Because it is the only way for me to remember. Remember what it has been like to be hungry for happiness, and so utterly committed to a journey I cannot put down in words. A journey I have nothing to show for. Nothing but my irrevocable joy of course, at having found my way back home to myself once again.

Two years ago: Day 225: Ele day

Day 213: If it is written in the stars, then it can be read

With the promise of more Goa days dangling ahead of me like the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick, the idea that lures me the most, strangely enough, is of cycling again. Cycling in the rain, to be precise. I read this post yesterday and felt especially nostalgic, the pangs of a time gone by never to return, yanking the soft spots in my mind.

My time in Bangalore has been so full and otherwise occupied, I haven’t actively had the space to mourn the lack of cycling in my life. I haven’t really missed it. I don’t. Until I am in Goa of course. And the empty roads flanked by paddy fields fills my chest up with the kind of openness and calm that I know I am missing even when I don’t realise it.

VC has actually attempted to cycle around in Bangalore. He’s far more determined than J am to give it a go every now and then, despite every attempt fizzling out sooner than later. I, on the other hand, haven’t even assembled my bike back together since it was taken apart to be transported here. In retrospect, I feel I should have left it back, so I could use it whenever I visit.

But even before I dismantled it to pack and move, I hadn’t been on a ride in a long time. It’s been nearly two years, collectively. The very last time I was in the saddle was the 100km ride I completed in October, 2016.

Incidentally, that was also during the last of the rains for the year, making way for October’s punishing heat, a little bit of an excuse of winter where temperatures dip just enough to make it hard to rise early and get out, and then summer again. During which time I moved. So yeah, I’m really suddenly thinking wistfully, of the times we’d take off on weekend mornings. Managing to wake up earlier than normal, riding off in the dark, with some music and a few 100 rupees between us. That’s all it took. And the levels of satisfaction were exponentially high.

The promise of Goa days loom large and right up there, at the top of the list of things I miss and can’t wait to go back to, is riding my bike. Preferably in the rain.

***

Meanwhile, in Bangalore too, we’re enjoying the best kind of Bangalore weather. Grey, sunless, sometimes-raining, great-to-be-outdoors kind of weather that is making me reach for my shawl and book at midday.

Day 207: Weather changes moods

Here it is, everything to eye-hurtingly green. A shimmery freshness in the air. All colours fluid. Every edge blurry. Everything is awash, and sprouting new life. Reaching out through the cracks and crevices, bursting forth to life. And around every corner, along every pock-marked laterite wall, every overgrown gutter I see signs. Reminders to not just bloom where I can, when I can. But a reminder to try and thrive. In every little, seemingly insignificant way that I can.

Goa in the monsoon is a surprise, a fresh delight every single year. Everything is breathtakingly new, yet comfortingly familiar. Like being born again, an all new avatar, in a same old place.

Like new breath, in an old, snug and very accustomed body.

Two years ago: Day 207: Gym rant

Day 197: Under my umbrella

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

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