Ways of seeing

The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We’re know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet there knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.

— John Berger, Ways of Seeing

I’m really enjoying the newness of this ease in the not knowing, in seeing and noticing the relation between what is and what I know, and that which may never be “settled” in the way my mind might desire.

I don’t quite have the words for what has altered, but something has shifted within me yet again. Altering the way I am seeing things around me, just a wee bit again.

Ending the first week of the new year in yet another home away from home, in such deep levels of peace, has been everything.

One year ago: Boombox updates
Two years ago: Going by the book (and all that I read in 2017)
Four years ago: Love letters

To Mysore and

…back to the wild.

In four vignettes.

8 am at home.

11 am on the road.

1 pm at Mysore Railway Station.

4 pm en route back home.

Mandatory picture of parental unit, as seen in my adulthood, on a road trip rushing through just-planted paddy fields in that golden 4 o clock sunlight.

It’s a bit overwhelming, that I get to enjoy this peace and quiet, right here in my life without having to getaway or make space for it in anyway. I do have to physically get away to get here, but that suddenly my life is somehow fashioned so this is possible, and possible often kind of amazes me. Even now.

What a privilege and a blessing it is.

One year ago: Inhale. Exhale.
Two years ago: What is life
Four years ago: Reminders and notes to self.

Curtain call

 

New Year’s Eve has been something of a non event for years now. But this year we may have dropped even lower. And something tells me I could get used to the go-nowhere, do-nothing new year’s eve of this kind.

Snapshots from yesterday’s evening walk through the village, VC stopping for pictures and my father stopping to say hello to every single person we met.

We walked all along the river side for a good one hour, VC changing his mind and turning back halfway through.

Happy to be closing the year spending theseast few days (and the next few) in simpler ways and a slower pace.

We’ve had splendid sunsets for two days now. I hope today is spectacular too.

2020, I’m ready for you.

One year ago: December
Two years ago: Crossing over
Three years ago: December

Back to earth

This past year, I have felt drawn back to the earth in so many different ways. It has come up over and over in conversations, hidden desires, thoughts and dreams I’ve nourished privately and some that I’ve acted upon to bring into my life, in the events that have panned out and also the way in which I have strangely been on the move all year long.

Whether it’s the desire to finally really tangibly act on using less plastic, or the sudden life-altering need to grow a garden — I now see the source for both developments is the same. A need to find literal, real earth for my energies that were being directed into dropping new roots and finding new ground beneath my feet.

I realised today, happily, that this year I spent more than the average time I spend at the beach. Somehow, I listened and heeded the curiosity to see the hills for the first time in my life. And I’ve nurtured a year long desire to go back to the forests, harking back to the numerous family jungle safari trips we have made in my childhood. And right on cue, as with every other desire to earth myself, the means have opened up and happened. I’m ending the year amidst ancient trees, foggy, misty mornings and I’ve spotted two snakes, a baby crocodile and at least a dozen adorable pond turtles right in our backyard in my fathers home.

This year has given me a newfound respect for the planet, not just through these surprise desires but also through umpteen opportunity to pursue them.

I feel a deep reverence and a sense of being my own size when I’m out amidst nature. I think that is what essentially grounds me.

One year ago: Expand your mind, take a look behind
Three years ago: All the books I read this year

Friendship fires

 

Two nights of feeding a fire to keep it going long enough for us to stay snug and warm, talking intimately and candidly huddled around it, listening to the best music is what it took to end a year of massive friendship lessons on a positive and love-filled note.

There was warmth in the silences. Life in the conversation. Fuel in the feelings shared. I am mildly changed by the three days I have spent away in the company of VC and S.

Something fundamental has shifted as far as my perspectives on adult friendships go. And after months of not knowing what, this trip away illuminated that something for me.

I’m just sitting in the afterglow of it.

I’ll say this again. I’m grateful for those who left, almost as much as I am grateful for those who remained.

One year ago: Lay down all your thoughts
Two years ago: Morning song

Simple

Hike in the A.M.

Look closely, touch and feel the little details.

Hike in the P.M.

Breathe in the soft light.

Rinse, repeat.

Few things more grounding and levelling than being surrounded by nature. Waking up to sunlight breaking to birdsong, walking about the trails dotted with all things bright and beautiful all creatures great and small, napping amidst the ruccous of cicadas, waking up to walkabout the softly setting sunlight that winds all things down within.

Happy to be on this break with VC and S. That’s yet another city and state that we managed to catch up in, another set of memories. Same old fun. Rinse, repeat.

One year ago: Let the water lead us home
Three years ago: Home is where the yellow roses are

Away and around

Ever so grateful for the vast expanses of this country that offer sights, smells and sounds so removed from what one gets used to, day in and out.

Three years ago: Cutting the fat

Into the wide open

We left a blisteringly hot and sunshiney Goa yesterday, and have entered overcast, grey sky weather in Karnataka today. It stormed all night with scary thunder and lightning. But it means a more comfortable drive today. For VC more than me, who is happier riding when the sun is playing hide and seek.

Today, I’m grateful for the way in which VC and I can see eye to eye and make good travel buddies. It makes even tedious journeys like this one a touch more fun.

One year ago: While the world plays for our pleasure
Three years ago: Midweek blues

Drive

Our car will be ten in the new year. And while she’s begun to look her age, thanks to nine years and nine monsoons in Goa, she still runs like a very young girl off to chase a dream at the slightest opportunity.

Many little niggling things have been acting up. The AC has been on its last legs for about a year now. The headlamps were horribly foggy until I scrubbed them with baking soda yesterday. The speakers have been in various stages of disconnection for a long while now but kat year the music system itself came unhinged and stopped working. All it’s good for is charging a phone. So this drive hasn’t been easy. The heat is a lot more intense than I expected, the air is dry as hell. There’s no music to be had so I’m using a portable speaker because I’m all alone (with two suitcases riding shotgun in the front seat) and I could do with some entertainment.

Also, this blasted curse of development just won’t let things be. Forget setting dysfunctional things right, they’re hell bent on fixing things that ain’t broke. So the perfectly decent highway between Goa and Bangalore that made for a comfortable 10 hour journey just one year ago has shot up to a painful 14 hours. The road is pretty flawless, silky smooth, but the endless diversions every few hundred metres has made it painful. Getting on and off the rough service roads, throwing up clouds of dust and dry air as we bump down terrible stretched of dangerous half-built roads, means one can’t even enjoy and maximize the good bits for what they’re worth.

As such, we as a country deserve nothing good. No amount of “development” will ever be good enough and worth it because you can’t get on a “world-class” highway long enough before a tractor lazily ambles across without warning, or a two wheeler shoots at you on the wrong side of the wrong side of the road just to avoid going the long route to make a U-turn. We’re the pits.

So it hasn’t been a fun drive. And yet, I’ve enjoyed driving. If that makes any sense at all. Because my car, my gosh, she is still so fine. And perhaps the only advantage of having a choc full car loaded up to the brim is that the weight in the tail of the car means I can take all the bumps easily. I accelerate and the car complies, no fear of people or things flying around in the back of the car. There’s grip and grounding.

Anyhow, leg one of this arduous journey is done.

***

Today and glad and super grateful for my parents who absolutely insisted (not that I needed any coaxing and convincing at all, but still) I learn to drive as soon as I turned 18. It has made making movement in my life so much more significant.

One year ago: What do you need to make your wild heart beat?
Three years ago: Holiday mornings

Like hitting reset

It’s really been a satisfying week away (VC puts it aptly here): quiet, contained, overwhelmed by the nature I’ve seen (this was my first time in the hills in the north), peaceful, unhurried, easy, slow. All the many cups of great adrak chai (tea in the south of India isn’t a patch on the north!), the many, many meals of paranthas, the forest walks, the babbling river, the astonishingly good apples fresh off the trees, being constantly watched by the mountains, the smiling faces and pink cheeks. And yet, there’s so many little, little things that have happened that remain with me and that I am slowly processing. Some experiences, some moments, an epiphany or two, some special moments (like being given gifts by hosts of both our airbnbs), some coincidences, some conversations, the two books I read, driving for a majority of our return journey witnessing the changing light and landscape.

I feel so full. And I’m ready.

The hills have been unexpectedly special and I would be lying if I said these seemingly empty and slow few days haven’t touched me in a deep way. I feel somewhat changed from this past week alone. Maybe I will get down to talking about why and how in the days to come.

I feel a new lightness and freedom as I go into a penultimate session of class for this year, with an all new level of unpreparedness. Letting go of something old, another layer of control and perfection, and testing something new out for myself. It has been freeing so far, and the fear I anticipated would kick in, hasn’t as yet. As serendipity would have it, I will be the first to present tomorrow, in just twelve hours after returning from holiday where I’ve been deliberately cut off from all forms of prep. In a way it means I can finish on my own terms, before I even allow anyone elses presentation to affect me with standards that aren’t mine, but it also means I have little time to warm up.

I’ve hit reset, I think.

I’m going headlong into this. Blind like I should. Open like a child. Small like a fresh bud. With no desire to perform or outcomes to live up to. And it is an absolute first for me.

***

Grateful for access to therapy today. For N, for how safe and accessible she has made this journey. For how therapy is down the road and a short walk away from me. For the ability to have a session over skype. For the gentle and judgement-free space that it has been.

There are some days, when I look back, wayyyyy back, and I realise how far I’ve come. So far, I almost feel like a different person. Today is one such day and I realise I couldn’t have done it without therapy and learning.

Three years ago: New eyes

Where love and wonder meet

Grateful for the (travel)partner I have in VC. As interested in the world as I am, but in a wholly different way, with a very different outlook and eye with which he sees things. Eager but rooted, curious and childlike, he is the steady to my floaty and the sense to my whimsy.

It’s only in recent times that I’ve discovered the need and place for both and the deeper need to find a balance. And I’m only just learning to make space for the two to coexist.

In VC, and in being and journeying with VC I have learned where (and how) love and wonder can meet. I have learned of the spaces between us, the give and take, the push and pull. And how love ebbs and flows inbetween, not in the evenness and the plateaus. This is a feeling I have sensed and known for many years now but have resisted, holding on tightly to my very limited knowledge and sense of self that sought comfort in sameness.

It’s only now, as I have loosened my grip on myself, and I’m learning to live a little, am I able to see the unbound joys of flowing where life and love take me. And I’ve only just found the words to articulate this old, old feeling that has always bubbled just beneath the surface, guiding me on silently, even when I wasn’t ready to pay it any heed.

Three year ago: Silver linings

Mornings

The new season of Coke Studio is here and I’ve watched the first (and the only) BTS video they’ve released half a dozen times already. It has Atif Aslam speaking some super refined Urdu (that makes me weak in the knees and gives me major heart-eyes) about knowing and feeling grace in the ways in which it shows up in nature.

The immensity of the universe and the ways in which the magic is seen, unseen, known and unknown, including all that we can understand and have a knowing about, and all that is beyond our limited comprehension, all that is tangible and everything beyond that is nebulous and intangible. Sometimes just thinking about this immensity is overwhelmingly joyful, almost intoxicating.

Mornings here in Manali have had me really feeling that.

As I heard him speak, I immediately felt a resonance with that inexplicable sense of quiet awe and contentment that I’ve been sitting with every morning as I draw the curtains open to undisturbed views of these mountains towering over us, kissed by the rising Sun.

I’ve been sunbathing hard for the short window that I can. Sitting in the balcony khaoing as much dhoop as possible because the sunlight in the mountains is different. It’s bright and harsh but so gentle on the feel. But most of all it’s been invoking that sense of awe and smallness in me. There is a constant distant hum of the Beas rushing by endlessly, punctuated by the occasional thud of an apple falling from a tree in the orchard. The birds singing, the doggie on property frolicking chasing fruit flies, a low rumble of traffic whizzing by, someone doing their laundry on a nearby washing stone, the smell of morning tea brewing, a smoky fire kindled in the vicinity.

It’s been peaceful.

It’s felt like grace. And sometimes, especially in the morning light, divinity.

***

One year ago: They’ll be making sure you stay amused
Three years ago: When the going is crazy

Meditate

Been devouring Devotions and I can’t help but think this was the right time and the perfect place to lose myself to the full force of Mary Oliver like it engulfs you in this book.

On Meditating, Sort Of

Some days I fall asleep, or land in that
even better place — half asleep — where the world,
spring, summer, autumn, winter —
flies through my mind in its
hardy ascent and its uncompromising descent.

So I just lie like that, while distance and time
reveal their true attitudes: they never
heard of me, and never will, or ever need to.

Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints —
all that glorious, temporary stuff.

The more I learn about mindfulness through my own experience, the more I want to discard everything that it’s become in its modern Internet-ivised form and the less I want to rely on anything at all that I’ve read about it online.

The more I experience this zeroing in to the present, no matter where I am and what I’m doing, the more I value my own keenness to discover and deepen it for myself, in my own way.

Mary Oliver has a gentle, unaffected way of putting the loftiest ideas in words so simple, the melt into your skin and slip through the pores reaching that spot only you have ever gone to before.

***

Yesterday while VC climbed over rocks and streams to get to a vantage point to take his evening picture, I found a rock for myself. And then I just sat and stared at the river for nearly a whole hour. It was easy to just do nothing, watch a bulbul dip in and out of the icy water, listening to the continuous roar of the water as it gushed over the rocks stopping for nothing, and watching the glistening surface of the water change as the sunlight changed. But it was also really hard to resist pulling my phone out to snap pictures to instantly share with my family and some friends. It’s just so easy to slip out of the moment like that. And it took some effort and deliberation to come back. And just breathe.

Gratitude for words, silence, breath and presence today.

One year ago: September
Two years ago: Things change
Three years ago: Shifting gears

Cold but happy

It’s the strangest thing, but I — with absolutely no threshold to bear cold weather — have been more than okay on this trip. My pitiable capacity to brave cold weather has kept me from going anywhere in the North of India. For ten years we’ve nursed plans to go to Ladakh but I literally chicken out every time they materialise.

I don’t know what actually pushed me to do this. But obviously something has changed. BecauseI’m usually the one with absolutely no threshold. Even with multiple layers on it takes some braving on my part to get out in a cold place and see the sights and enjoy myself. The experiences I’ve had so far, as amazing in their own way as they have been, have always been tinged with some level of misery from the cold. This time around, I came well prepared with the right clothes. Lots of options and layers and many manners of warmies have been involved in keeping me comfortable. And yet, I don’t think it’s just that.

Within me, I feel an easing up and a settling in that’s making a difference. I feel this has a lot to do with my state of mind, and this utterly new place I am in where everything is easy and nothing feels like a burden.

Especially on holiday, I’m finding space to take in everything slowly, to be present and to be in the here and now in its fullest. Even if that means braving a 7-degree morning. I don’t know if it makes sense but I think this is about an inner alignment of some sort. Maybe I’m wildly wrong in making this direct connection but in a long, slightly convoluted way, I’ve been noticing how much more at ease I have been on this holiday, than most others. All the usual suspects like the bitter cold (with crazy winds and rain to boot yesterday), unplanned lazy days, last minute cancellations of our agenda, sleeping in beyond sunset have not phased me the way they usually do.

Driving up here was a long and arduous trek in a new, unfamiliar car. We left Chandigarh at 4.30 am on day 1 of my period. I was also fasting as per usual. I was uncomfortable, yes. But nothing life-changing. It was the strangest sense of ease. There were no loos for miles and the lone toilet stop we made had me holding my breath and gagging by the time I was done. There were some roadblocks and the journey that was originally expected to take 8.5 hours took nearly 12. But we made it. And I was largely alright. This is not who I used to be.

In another strange reversal of roles, VC is the one struggling a bit in the cold. Despite his thermals and three layers over, he’s visibly uncomfortable. Whereas I’m in two layers and actually, enjoying the chill, I’m almost afraid to admit.

We were thinking back to Brugge one year ago and how we arrived on a rainy, bitterly cold morning, stranded on a bus terminus with nowhere to go. I was distraught to say the least and I couldn’t wait to get indoors.

This trip, just one year on has been drastically different. I feel easy going and a bit unstoppable, like little can get in my way. I think I might just be ready for that Ladakh trip after all.

***

Gratitude today for my body, it’s resilience and adaptability. And how much of that’s stretch it just takes on and manages without my knowing.

One year ago: Wandering through life will love come home to you
Three years ago: Escape

Come rain or shine

In an interesting role reversal, VC has been pottering about busily since we arrived while I have mostly been lying flat in bed under the blankets that are as thick as mini mattresses, reading.

VC had three alarms on last night. One for 12.30 am to check if the skies were clear enough to shoot the stars. Another at 5 am to check the light. And finally at 6 am when he woke up to actually shoot. Since then he has been in and out of our room, doing this and that, connecting cameras, switching lenses, setting up tripods and shooting, then back in again to transfer pictures, drink some chai, then out again to shoot some more, back again to eat breakfast. And I’ve just been horizontal and unperturbed, observing his restless excited energy.

It used to be quite the opposite. When we’d visit a new place I’d be the one wanting to get out and about, exploring, eating out and walking around while he’d want to lie around lazily.

I am enjoying the turn of events.

This is the view from my bed. Why would I want to leave?

We’ve woken up to rain this morning, which also means we’ll have to slightly improvise and things may not go to the plan we had. I’m strangely okay with that.

To be surrounded by silver tipped, shiny edged snow sprinkled peaks that stand so tall is as humbling and perspective altering as walking into the great wide ocean. While I’ve done that easily a thousand times before, this is the first time I’m within what feels like touching reach of snow capped peaks of this size and stature.

Since I arrived here last evening I’ve been feeling the age of these ranges around me. There is something extremely old, a sense of wisdom and so many things known that I have been feeling like I am sinking into.

***

I’m grateful for the sun today. For the light, the warmth and for the capacity to fuel life itself. I don’t stop to think about this everyday but since coming here it hit me just what a force the sun actually is and how much it matters.

One year ago: Try to remember the good times
Two years ago: What coming home feels like: revisiting old haunts II