Slowly

Rainy Bangalore days abound. It’s been just the right amount of rain for my liking, restricted to early mornings and late nights. Which means it’s been enough to bring temperatures down for the most part, while not causing too much mayhem during the day. I’ve been out and about a fair bit. Walking is so easy when the weather is this good.

 

It’s just the best weather for chai, croissants, evening masala dosas, the odd bonda and the like. And this is the glorious window of Bangalore weather I remember loving from my years growing up here. I’ve written endless paeans in praise of the monsoon and all the associated moods — ranging from contemplative to moody to downright hungry and sometimes nostalgic and romantic — when Iw as growing up. This morning, I woke up to rain and almost didn’t make it to the gym because, well, BLANKET. But go I did, because someone’s got to work out all that monsoon-induced binging. It was just so beautiful outside — post morning shower when everything is fresh and wet, dull gold light, greens are greener, streets are empty and it gave me a burst of enthusiasm that getting out was a good idea. No matter that I spent literally the rest of the day, until 4 pm, back in bed doing some work, reading some.

It’s also been a high action four-day long weekend and with VC in town we were up and about even more than I normally am, so I cancelled today in favour to returning to my normal pace again. Given how slow things have gotten for me, the past four days have felt borderline frenetic and even though I desperately, achingly missed VC immediately after he left at 4 am today, I was happy for the day off to come back to normal again.

Things have been slow with me, and the four days of rushing about really put a spoke in my flow. So it’s nice to be listening in to this degree. It’s nice to have weather that fits. It’s nice to stay in, slowly.

One year ago: What good is it to live, with nothing left to give
Three years ago: Manifesting a dream

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AWOL

Talk about distortion of time! I have gone about today assuming its Saturday, which is why I missed posting. I’m also preoccupied with a visiting VC, with whom there is much to catch up on. This is VC’s first casual visit, since he moved, without any specific reason. And as is usually the case, we get totally engrossed spending time with family. I’ve already skipped going to the gym today, our meals have been excessive and late, and in just 48 hours it feels like my regular routine is completely out of whack.

So I guess this missed post is in line with that scheme of things. We have the weekend to ourselves, though. Watching Kunal Kamra (again! woohoo!) is on the agenda, amongst other things. So, when I emerge again I’ll have to give this a shot on Monday, I suppose. OOPS.

One year ago: Stay and stay a while
Three years ago: Into the blue

All my worries seemed so far away

I drove a total of 109 kms yesterday. Which is not to say I went anywhere really far away. Just the usual routes dropping and picking VC up, with the visit to the cafe and a couple of drives to my sister’s place and back, and an evening spent at the concluding showing of art work for her children’s monsoon workshop.

Driving around in the rain gives me seriously unfounded levels of joy, so a day that involved that much peacefuk driving, while the rain lashed down, was kind of a given.

But it was also a fine lesson in the art of letting well laid plans crumble away haplessly while life emerges as it should, and simply going with it.

I was a tad stressed about finishing packing and winding up ahead of time, and the only purpose that slight stress served was to ensure I finished it so well ahead of time, that I had a day that suddenly opened up the way it did.

I had been feeling a bit like even though Niyu, VC and I have spent nearly the whole month together, with the stresses of the health emergency, the travelling back and forth to Bangalore and back, and VC and Niyu coming down with the flu back to back, we didn’t really spend too much time together, doing the things we would otherwise do. The last four weeks have been tenuous, and the stressful energy has petered into every step we have taken, weighing us down and making me feel like a shrunken version of myself, almost. I haven’t had the will to do much. And even though my head has felt the longing, my heart hasn’t responded. I know it’s been the same for VC and perhaps Niyu too.

So it was great that I got a surprise day like yesterday, when coincidentally, the rain came down as hard as it did, but something in the air around us lifted. My spirits perked up, I felt energetic and willing to venture out and off we went. Brunch was had at the cafe, followed by a spot of lazing at home in the afternoon before we took off for Niyus showing which was a delight for me to witness.

I don’t often get to see my sister at work, at close quarters, but when I do, like I did yesterday it always overwhelms me to see how much she’s put together for herself, how far she’s brought this little homegrown venture full of heart, from where she began and how much the work she does means and touches the hearts of little children. Yesterday was one such day. The setting, in what was easily a 100+ year old Portuguese villa unfancily maintained with sparse furniture and plenty of skylight, was just perfect. I helped her set up the showing and we waited for the kids to arrive with their folks.

Once that was done the plan was to head home and cook some dinner and eat in peace, together. But we let that plan slide and be dashed too, to make space for the spontaneous rain-induced urge to eat gopi-manjuree. And so we went to an old favourite neighbourhood dive, sat under a tin roof that rattled relentlessly under the incessant rain, nursing whiskey-paanis and gobi munchurian.

In the midst of all of that, we chatted and gossipped and I broke into a laughing fit like I haven’t in weeks now. In fact I don’t remember the last time I laughed that hard — a big, loud, rolling, full-bellied laugh that came from the depths of my being and shook me to the very tips of my fingers. And while Niyu admitted that it was in that moment that she realised she was fit over her illness, it was in that moment that I realised my own heaviness had lifted in some measure.

I really needed that kind of loosely spooling, unplanned day to go with the wind (or the rain) just as I pleased. I really needed this cocoon with VC and Niyu. I really needed to get out.

I’m not sure if it’s some kind of cruel irony or just a strange kind of perfection that my last day in Goa was the best day I’ve had all month. Whatever it is, I’ll take it. With both arms.

One year ago: My moves are slow but soon they’ll know

Support

In case you haven’t gathered already, whether I’ve explicitly stated it or not, it’s been a heavy couple of weeks weeks. Not to say it’s been outright down and out. We have made it through with our fair share of laughs. I was in Goa for the most part, amply bolstered by VC and my sister, being around whom, I realised just softens all the hard knocks for me. You know, there are some folks who make any situation better? I think VC and Niyu are those folks for me. So much so that it wasn’t until VC left to come be with his folks, Niyu went back to her routine, and I had a day all to myself that the full impact of just how heavy and overwhelming everything really was, caught up with me.

It’s been pouring buckets in Goa, the kind of weather I love. And I was all in to sit back and enjoy it. But the day VC left for Bangalore, I had a realisation that for now, he is the only remaining connect I feel with the place, the only reason I can get myself to spend any time in Goa at all. Without him around, even the rain, the solitude, the freedom felt a bit insipid and pointless. Because as soon as he left, I was all Okay what am I doing here ya very nice rain amazing weather beautiful lush green nice nice but can I just be with him thanks?

And so, it was also easier to follow and spontaneously book myself a ticket to come back to Bangalore a few days after.

Once here, felt ably supported to just do what I came here to do — to dive right in and be there for VCs family, sans distractions, because amma provided all meals — everything from hot rasam and rice, aloo buns to snack on, idli-vadas from our favourite breakfast spot — even though she is down with the flu herself. It meant I didn’t have to think about stocking up, cooking or managing anything at home, especially given that VC was recovering from the flu at home.

I managed to also squeeze in meeting with S for breakfast. It was meant to be quick and breezy, but it became a relaxed, drawn-out catch up because a turn of events allowed it.

I’m realising the importance to lean on my own resources and to take care of myself, so I can be there for others. The idea of giving from a full cup and all that. To recognise and acknowledge my support system, even if to myself. All the things — people, my routine and habits, comfort foods — that help me stay afloat, whether the going gets tough or not. I’m realising that I am less shy to ask for support when I need it, and a bit unabashed in stepping forward to take it when it is offered.

Recent developments with a friend, have really made me aware that sometimes the silence of waiting (for support, for help, for attention, for love) can be so detrimental. To the self, to a relationship, and to the other at the receiving end of it. I used to embrace silence — sometimes because I felt ashamed asking for help, or I felt indebted to step up and take help when it was offered, or I was hurt and offended that it hadn’t come anyway without my asking, or I just plain wanted the other to figure it out themselves. But all that ambiguity creates absolutely nothing but a lack of clarity about the truth. And quite honestly, sometimes it stemmed from my fear of stepping up and asking for it when I needed it — my fear of showing up as I am. Very often, in fact more often than not, it is my ego that keeps me from showing when I need support or what I feel the desire to connect.

In some ways, slowly being comfortable with myself, including all my imperfections and pleasant and unpleasant aspects, I cluding those that I once thought were “weak” or “shameful” in good times and in bad, has meant being able to take in all the love and support that I have, in a more fuller and wholesome way. And being comfortable with asking for it when I need it.

I really feel the difference that this has made to my life, during this time that was heavy and could have otherwise being very confusing, isolating and lonely. What a relief it is to know I can lean, and lean fully, on those who are there for me without having to be asked, and who don’t assume that I will come around when I need it. And what a pleasant surprise to realise that in the event that I need something extra — breakfast with a friend just for a few hours of normal talk, for example — I can ask for it unabashedly with confidence and without feeling lesser or shameful about it.

One year ago: Under my umbrella

Reflections

Things I’ve enjoyed this past week:

Bonus time with VC, who arrived in Bangalore as soon as his uncle passed last week. He stayed on for the weekend, coinciding his date of departure with mine, as we headed to Goa on separate flights on the same day. It’s been a while since I’ve seen VC chill like he did in Bangalore those few days, and even though I was away at class pretty much the entire time, I enjoyed the time we had together.

One rainy evening, we camped out at Koshy’s chatting (VC is suddenly into chatting, elaborate, detailed conversations and I can’t get enough of this) and drinking while we waited for the rain to subside, before we took ourselves for a dinner of soba noodles and stir fry. Bangalore is nicer, and more complete for me, with VC around. This surprise trip was well-timed, and solidified some things about us, in my mind.

Being in class again and feeling my brain stretching beyond control. Feeling distressed with a muddle of jitters and mild intimidation, with the delicateness of this new learning that sits in my hands, while I know not how or what I am going to do with it. Staying with the jitters anyway and finding joy at the very end of the short cycle of distress, and feeling a sudden surge of energy almost, at the excitement of what lies ahead.

Catching lunch with D and S, chatting about all the ways in which the work and the learning permeates our lives. While we’ve been in touch after L1 ended, we haven’t met — all three of us — as much as we promised we would make the time for. So there was a lot to really dive into and take apart. Later, on Saturday evening when we were finally done, S and I walked to Airlines where we chatted and chatted, over a Maddur vada and coffee (after ages!), in a conversation about marriage and womanhood and making space for both to coexist.

A marathon two hour conversation with N on Sunday that was preceded by a card reading. I realised my readings are only as deep and insightful as the clarity and intent that the questions bring with them. The ripe way in which N asked, and the lithe keenness, opened something up and resulted in a very powerful message that felt like it was as much for me as it was for her. No surprises there, considering how much our individual journeys mirror each other.

Then we had this never-ending, freewheeling conversation that touched upon so many different, varied, sometimes disparate things that matter to us right now. Things we’re experiencing, things we’ve understood, all that has come to be, and the greatest trepidation about what will be. I found great resonance in N’s words about how deeply personal, intangible and utterly indescribable the nature of what she’s doing as her self-exploration feels. And the consequent loneliness of it too. And yet we get each other, I thought.

D came over on Sunday evening, bearing gifts — kheema samosas and khoya naans from Albert Bakery — and VC made us chai, that we enjoyed with chatter and giggles (as per usual). I’ve been off tea and coffee for about three months now, and even though I have indulged in the odd evening snack, the milky, sugary beverages have been missing entirely. Last week I had that craving for aloo buns, and today too I tucked in a few bakery biscuits. The snacks on Sunday were just perfect, the tea was sweet, and if we had even the slightest rain, it might have been a perfect Sunday evening.

This was the icing on the cake for my weekend. Closing the week, and the month in Bangalore before I left for Goa with this banger of a show that I had booked myself for two months ago, was everything I anticipated it would be.

Kunal Kamra is astonishingly precise with his humour and he delivered a cracker of a set that was bravely political, didn’t shy away from intelligently bashing the current Saffron regime for all that they must be criticised for, while also keeping it light, funny and even touching in some parts. There’s something deeply touching about honest art delivered in this unfiltered way that crosses all kinds of barriers. I may have teared up a couple of times, not just at the bitter truth that he delivered, albeit in a funny manner, but also at the purity of his work that touched me.

Arriving in Goa to find that the plants that had nearly died have been mostly lovingly revived in VC’s patient and regular care. The crazy bougainvillea has in fact suddenly sprung to bloom in most uncharacteristic fashion (they prefer the sun to rain) and has in fact changed shades, now dressed in a heart-tuggingly bright pink, rather than the beaming, gentle salmon I thought we had.

One year ago: I wouldn’t change a single thing

Powerlessness of love

Last minute, rushed brushing-up texts from last year’s course, as I prep for class again this week, I stumbled on this stunning description of “primary emotions” that I don’t remember reading last year. Or maybe I read it, merely glossing over it, not taking it in the way it stumped me this time around, simply because this stuff has come to mean so much more in recent times.

The author describes primary emotions as being so intense that there is a powerlessness in the experience of them. He speaks specifically of love, and how it, like most pure, primary emotions have that quality of lightness, ease, and of loosening up something within us, to the extent that they render us powerless.

I realised this only in context of how when we move into the realm of secondary feelings, what drives us is actually the desire to subvert that which makes us feel powerless. It is our inherent human tendency to attempt to control, to actually exert power over anything that tends to take over us — as most primary emotions do. It is what we all do, in order to make sense, in order to navigate what we’re feeling and in order to sometime just “feel” through the emotion.

I’ve consciously and unconsciously done this believing fully that it is what is to be done with emotions. But I’ve recently realised this is futile. It is counterintuitive and that the only way to move through it is to do nothing at all. To surrender to it’s power. To really wholeheartedly experience primary emotions like love and joy, are to surrender to the full impact of their inherent powerlessness, and how they invoke the same powerlessness in me.

In other words, let it all go.

I’ve been trying to let go, let loose a little bit more than normal when I feel primary emotions wash over me of late, to really see what happens when I do, what am I so afraid of. And the observations have been interesting to say the very least.

Gratitude for love and people in my life, this week. For the numerous small, daily opportunities my life presents for me to connect and feel this love in so many different ways.

Meanwhile, and as I speak of love, under a week to go before I see this face and get to do this IRL, than with screens between us. Gratitude for VC and for everything that he is to me, and this strange, magical place we are in.

Gratitude for the opportunity to be in a classroom again starting tomorrow. To learn. For no other reason except to itch the scratch of curiosity about something that has drawn me in so fully. To learn for the sake of learning alone.

Gratitude for the epiphanies this work and the learning continues to bring. For the numerous daily aha moments that abound. For the slowwww way in which it unfolds, creating the gentlest ripples in my life. For the incessant lightbulbs that go off and on from time to time. For this experience of learning that feels vast, endless and like I will take it through to the rest of my life.

Gratitude for exercise once again, this week. I realise the days immediately after my period ends are when I am at my lightest, most agile best. And I don’t mean this in terms of weight at all, but more in terms of how nimble and springy and ready to get up and run, I feel. There is a literal spring in my step that makes me quicker, feels like it transforms me into this lithe, subtle being that can fly.

Yesterday, at the gym after a four day break, fully expecting to take it slow an easy as I ease back in, I surprised myself by bursting into a spontaneous quick run that was faster and took me farther than I have been in the recent past.

I’m slowly figuring out the key to making myself sustain anything in a healthy way. The ways in which this works for me are to focus on consistency and ditch all the numbers. And this isbfinally how I’ve become about the gym too. I started in March and all I have done is very mildly streamline my food inake and get diligent about getting a spot of exercise six days, every week. I haven’t measured or held myself to any numbers or measures of progression as yet. I didn’t stand on the scales either. Until yesterday. But in the way that I feel, in the way I can run, in the way that I have been lifting weights again, I can feel myself getting marginally better every week.

I stood on the scales for the first time in years today, and was shocked to see I am back to my pre-wedding weight. This has happened entirely when I wasn’t looking for it. So I felt mighty thrilled and I treated myself to a slice fo flourless chocolate cake.

Gratitude for little surprises that break the monotony of this city life. D said to look out for signs in the form of bright, unexpected yellow flowers today, and minutes after I read the post, I realised I’d stepped into the midst of these.

And as it happens, I had extreme flow, zero obstacles on a day when there could have been many, a delightfully happy day.

One year ago: It’s just this thing that seasons do

Tough love

Last week, in an unnecessarily heated conversation with VC, I realised I have so much work to still do in the gracefully receiving his (acts of)love freely and fearlessly.

The conversation had me being thoughtlessly sharp, defensive, and plain mean. It took many hours of conscious rethinking, going over the conversation again and again in my head to realise where I had slipped and why I had heard what I had heard even though the words VC had used were totally different. It took many days of processing too, before I realised how I had unconsciously projected the inner tussle caused by my inability to receive freely from him, on to him, very quickly (and unnecessarily) turning a gentle and love-filled conversation into a bitter one.

When I realised the full extent to which I had slipped and the consequences the conversation had had on him, I was of course filled with guilt, shame and regret. It’s been several days and even though we’ve had our truce and life has moved on, I still haven’t said the words I’m sorry.

This week, I realised I have so much work to still do in freely and fearlessly saying sorry and being accountable for every time that I behave like a child, or a jerk. Or sometimes both.

One year: A serious kind of something new
Three years ago: No words today

Onwards and upwards

Clambering back to regular programming today after four rather unnecessarily hectic days. This tends to happen when VC visits because his folks and family like to behave like he’s returned from Timbuktoo (and not just the next state). So our days get filled with obligatory meals out, hanging out with various parts of his family and with a short break at hand, consumes all of the days.

Perhaps it was the sharp contrast to all the quiet downtime we have had, but I’ve been spent from all the social activity, and I felt a real lack time to ourselves. Suddenly, I realised that this is my city now, and it would be nice to spend some time with VC here on my turf, which is quite different from life in Goa. Of course I mustn’t complain because I’ve just returned from an extended stay together. Or so my guilty conscience made me feel for even thinking this. But it did make me wonder about possible future trips that he might make, and how much it is my tendency to brush my desires aside in favour of what’s “right”. Even after ten years being married, it is still the default to step back and make space for his family to take over. To shrink my needs and desires, make myself take up less space, be less demanding. And to do all of this much more than I am genuinely willing, comfortable or happy to do.

This realisation hit me quietly, this past weekend. Like a gentle nudge in the right place at the right time. One of the side-effects of developing a new sense of self is growing clarity about what I want and an awareness about how much I tend to put myself aside for “the other”. Conversely, how much I am no longer willing to put myself aside has become very apparent.

Given that the last two months have been all kinds of favourable for a growing sense of self, some significant milestones and a very cohesive coming together of some threads in this story, it has given me a very real experience of the impact that healthy individuality that can have on us as a couple, in our marriage. So naturally, I experienced the very regular set of events that occur when VC comes home, in a whole new way. It was like seeing the same things but with very new eyes.

This is not to be mistaken to mean that I have been a docile, submissive daughter in law, or that I have quietly taken all things meted out to me. But even so, I am suddenly aware of how my default tendency has always been to push so many little desires to the back burner, to put myself behind to allow space for other agendas. In the name of being adjusting or sometimes to be the bigger person or sometimes just to save myself the hassle of a conversation to explain myself. This past weekend I could trace this pattern from the smallest insignificant things to some larger things that could in fact impact our relationship, and it worried me.

The thing about indulging in discovering myself, is that it sometimes brings me to unexplored territory and it sometimes presents an invitation to re-visit the old and to meet it in a healthy way, from a place of wholeness that I now inhabit. I feel this way about our marriage too. It feels like a second opportunity to do-over everything again, with a deliberate and purposeful focus on the sense of self I have now. That we have now.

I am not the same person I have been for the last decade of being married. VC isn’t either. And the more things change, the more I feel compelled to rework templates, fixed habits and patterns and ways of doing things. To evolve in a direction that makes sense for who we are now.

In just the last four days alone, all of this has brought up a lot of thoughts about belonging, love, commitment and values. I feel a palpable shift for VC and me, new roads opening, and multiple new ways in which we can steer our relationship up for the taking. At the moment, aside from the basic foundation of commitment, love and understanding, I’m really beginning to feel we can go any where from here. The options and avenues are unknown and aplenty. There is quite nothing like slow and steady, one step at a time, one day at a time — leaving a lot to providence and fate, but just as much to deliberation and mindfulness. This is a process that was at one time my worst nightmare, but is somehow today a thrill and excitement.

One year ago: I’ll take a quiet life

I’m ready

Today is my last day in Goa. This has been like a proper summer vacation of yore — when regular programming was interrupted, annually, to make space for a total and complete state of relaxation. That’s what the last two months have been like. Waking up easy, getting my workout in, pottering about the terrace garden, settling in to stress my eyeballs out with excessive screen time, napping whenever necessary, chilling all day basically, rising only to cook dinner, eating early and turning in by 8.30 pm on most nights and getting back to TV — most days in a nutshell.

Ever since I fired this client, I’ve been out of steady retainer-based work. Being here in Goa already in a holiday state of mind I decided not to begin hustling for other/new work immediately. I have instead watched copious, and I mean some seriously colossal, amounts of all kinds of TV. Netflix and the works, TV shows, movies, and a shit ton of YouTube — binging on entire channels and playlists mostly in the food, fitness and gardening departments. It’s been so excessive, I haven’t ever abused my eyes this bad, so bad that I’m going to go get my eyes tested as soon as I’m back because, let’s just say I’m beginning to feel the effects of it. Some days I may have done some writing, very little reading, but mostly I’ve done nothing of real consequence aside from the bare minimum. Spending a majority of this time all alone has also meant something to me. Once VC gets home in the evening, we chill, chat, eat and retire.

Serendipitously discovered these pictures undoubtedly taken during summer vacations, just as I was packing today.

It’s been just right in the most simplistic sort of way. We managed to eat at all my favourite places that I had shortlisted to a pithy bunch. But I’m actually happy about how much we ate at home, how willing and enthu I’ve felt about cooking, and how often VC managed to take leftovers to work the next day.

Those were home days, which was a bulk of the trip. I also spent many days with D, and we did a bunch of things that really brightened up my stay here. The pups of course, they bring so much joy. And I feel hanging out with them always does me so much good. So there was that. I hung out with A several times, eating meals with her and the family, and we had D and UT home for dinner one night and VC’s work folks home or a barbecue night, but aside from that there has been little socialising.

What there has been is solid days — and entire weekends — at the beach, but the highlight of my stay is all the time we got to spend at home, with each other. The quiet, deliberately mundane life that isn’t numbing or distracting from anything with a hectic busyness. We’ve had a lot of conversation and discussions this time around, a development for VC haha!

This is life, externally, though. Mosrly a time of stillness and near-nothingness. Internally though, a lot has happened and this trip has given me so much to be grateful for, so much to ponder, so much to hold close. If you’ve been reading this blog for the last two months, you might have an idea.

Sometime last week though the bliss of all this relaxation turned to sloth and really got to me. I haven’t had this sort of an extended time of doing absolutely nothing, probably ever. There is only that much not doing anything a girl can take, and since I am not so interested in random wandering around to places to eat and drink at the moment I haven’t really entertained myself around here like I might otherwise have. So I was bored and I began counting the days down to returning to Bangalore — a first for me!

Perfectly timed like a summer vacation, I’m headed back tomorrow like I used to in the days of yore. Pre-June days in a coastal place, when the heat is wilting and the promise of rain lingers in the air. There’s a slight dullness about fun-times ending, but a gentle excitement bubbling under about new beginnings. Like a new term at school, a pair of fresh shoes waiting to be polished, crisp new notebooks waiting to be cracked open.

It’s been a good time to reboot, hit refresh. It might seem odd to say I’ve gained a lot from this seemingly mundane routine of nothing really, and I’m leaving feeling fuller and richer from it, somehow. I can’t put it in words really, to explain how emptiness can feel fulfilling, but that’s just what this summer has been like.

Yesterday I realised I was in Thailand at this time last year, and felt mildly soppy that we didn’t get a summer holiday this year, until I realised very quickly that a summer holiday is exactly what I got. Right here at home.

June in Bangalore has some schoolish new beginnings for me — level 2 of the course I did last year commences. I am delighted to be going back to my other home and I’m looking forward to so many things including an extended wardrobe that is more than shorts and tees, full meals a la amma, South Indian food, running and my gym, hanging out with S and A, Sunday walking ritual with D, hanging out with my family. Okay I could just go on and on and on. I didn’t think a day when I’d be excited to return from Goa to Bangalore would ever happen, but here we are and the odds stack up nice and high, it seems.

I’m ready!

One year ago: How fragile we are
Three years ago: Monday this week

Happy bytes

The instructor on my workout video has this refrain whenever the workout hits a particularly tough or burn-inducing spot. Right when I’m wincing at that last rep, about to give up, he’ll go Just go to your happy place! and two months ago when I began using this channel, I’d chuckle, roll my eyes and have a giggle at his morbid sense of humor.

This morning though, right in the middle of all that burn, something like 45 burpees in, when he said Just go to your happy place! I suddenly got it. Even in that eye-popping, muscle-stretching moment, while I was melting nose-first, when I could have been seeing white spots in front of my eyes, I had such an endorphin rush I burst out laughing. In a truly happy, full-body guffaw of sorts.

I’m so happy that I’m back in this old familiar zone, even though I feel like a whole new me this time around. Where the exercise isn’t a pain or a chore (like it had become through 2017-18), and is in fact a joy-inducing, happy-making activity I am willing to put other things aside for, dedicating myself mind, body and soul.

***

Speaking of happy places, it’s been five years since P and I made the Goa Happy video, our little contribution to the literally thousands of local spin-offs to the Pharrell Williams song that took the internet by storm in 2014. So I revisited it!

If you watch closely you might even spot me hahahaha.

***

I spent the weekend with D, because VC went away on a bike trip with work buddies to Gokarna. I think after food, therapy and tarot, the thing we’ve started to discuss the most is plants and gardening, and as usual (as always — I realised I’ve always left her home with plants or cuttings or both, on this trip) I came home with so many new things to pot.

I came away earlier than I usually would have. Ostensibly to catch a Sunday nap, wake up in my own home so I have the mojo to cook and settle back in, rather than be washed out by Sunday evening blues as it tends to happen to me.

What followed though made me want to stop and think, What Sunday blues?! because I woke up from my nap and went straight out into the terrace. I planted a whole bunch of fresh cuttings of plants I wanted that she’d painstakingly made for me, I repotted some plants that have grown too big for their pots over these few weeks, and I did sundry round of tending to everything, picking out dead leaves, watering, loosening soil and the works. All this while listening to Coke Studio that has made a timely pre-monsoon comeback in my life, right on cue.

The evening light was beautiful, and we’ve had a warmer couple of days so there was the residual heat of the day, as the sun is getting the full effect of the last of it’s rays in. My terrace was strewn with picked weeds, dry leaves, piles and trails of soil from all the dirty work, pools of water, muddy footprints. The sun set in a glorious pink yesterday, and when I looked up I was a sweaty, muddy mess. Such a joy. Such bliss. I didn’t realise I had kept going long after the sun had set, until VC walked in and laughed at how engrossed I had been.

***

Last weekend I cooked pork ribs for the very first time on my own. Following no recipe, winging it as I went along, throwing things in intuitively. And it turned out beyond delicious, if I can say so myself.

This has been happening a lot of late. The draw to go experiment, without too much planning, going in and going all the way. Some days are for the simply comforting givens like khichdi, and some days we pull out all stops and go the whole hog.

Either way, the kitchen has been a huge source of comfort for me these past few weeks. I’ve said so much about the peace and quiet and solitude staying in Goa offers me. And as much as I have enjoyed it, last week I realised I am ready for the hustle of my Bangalore life again. But this kitchen joy, the steadiness and joy that it brings to me, is something I want to try and keep going in Bangalore. Even if I am cooking in Amma’s kitchen, or even if I’m cooking for just myself at home.

Today, I’ve just cooked a marinara sauce, fortified with minced carrots and smashed stove-top charred red and yellow peppers, with smoky cumin and coriander and lots of red chilli flakes. I tossed up some frozen meatballs in some olive oil, and I will put them together right before we eat, mopping it up with millets and a salad.

***

After the bursts of those quintessential curly edged long green leaved mango trees, delicate frangipani and bougainvillea, we’re at that time of year where the gulmohar trees have come alive in all their glory. Literally everywhere, there are these clouds of fiery red, leaf-less trees, curvy and orb like when seen from a distance, eye-hurting flaming red when seen up close.

***

I’m all set to go back to Bangalore. I feel like this time of rest has been amazing, and well-timed and I am so refreshed and ready to get back to regular programming. I’m excited at the blank canvas sense I have for the next few weeks, and I feel certain I need to be in Bangalore as it unfurls.

Looking back, I’m so happy for the unexpected twist that brought me to Goa earlier than time, and kind of set a very different tone to the way the last two months have gone. It was unpleasant and challenging at the time and induced a fair bit of anger, frustration and resistance within me at the time, but as usual, as always, I can only connect the dots looking back.

It’s abundantly clear to me that there was no escaping this time, or the gifts it has brought, foremost amongst which has been the quality of the time VC and I have had together this trip. It’s been different. There was a quiet, reassuring and steady quality to it that hasn’t been there for a while — probably ever since we moved to Bangalore two years ago — that I didn’t know was missing until we somehow have regained it while not even looking for it. And so while I am looking forward to going back to Bangalore, this time around I am already feeling the pangs of missing him that I am anticipating will follow.

This is new. I have been so busy and involved with myself for the last six months, there hasn’t been a lot of room to sit and miss him really. I’ve been having a really good time in Bangalore, too much to let the usual longing dampen it. So this is going to be interesting.

Three years ago: Malleswaram market things

Renewed relationships

It’s easy to get that comfortable in a relationship that we feel we have each other all figured out. And maybe we do, to a large extent.

If there’s one thing spending these past 6 weeks in Goa with VC has shown me, it is how refreshing it to also allow for growth, evolution and surprises from your significant other. I’ve been so consumed in my own growth, so much so that I had to physically remove myself from our partnered life and live separately, that I may have forgotten that the space and time apart could have done him wonders too.

In our eleventh year of being married, and almost thirteenth of being together, I’m surprised, humbled and so grateful that there is room for freshness, still. For surprises, for new developments, for renewed excitement, and the possibility of uncharted territory opening up once again.

I did not see this coming. But somehow, here we are.

There’s a lot of surprises that came from this trip. All totally unexpected, some very wild, but I think this has been my favourite surprise of them all.

One year ago: April

35

This has been a pretty significant year for me. But quite unlike significant times in the past that have had an unmistakeable flourish, this has been a quiet sort of significant year, with flecks of change, the tiniest shifts and movements flowing in, unnoticed. The sort of change that mostly only I and the people I am closest to know about or will likely notice.

For far too long I’ve been very shy about admitting how much I love my birthday. But the honest truth is that I love having a day dedicated to me, to look back on how far I’ve come, to give myself a good pat on the back, and to take stock and feel optimistic and really hopeful about the future. I’ve been fortunate to have this happen every single birthday thus far. So, even though I haven’t really admitted it in as many words, my folks, my sister and my husband already know how only too well, how much I love this day. To the rest of the world, I’ve always played the omg-it’s-just-another-day-it-doesn’t-matter act pretty damn well.

So, today is that day again, and I’m off to the beach to celebrate how grateful I am for the gift of another birthday, another year to travel around the sun.

I’m grateful for all that this past year has been — for the lessons it brought, for making me see that growing up sometimes requires looking back, accepting transgressions, grief, hurt, difficulties, but absolutely looking ahead and making amends gently, slowly.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to temporarily disengage from the forced cohabiting arrangement of marriage, and for all the realisations and insights that came out of this experience. It’s been quite the game-changer this past year, enabling me to stretch myself and come into my own. I’m so grateful for VC’s understanding, support and acceptance of this and all that came, and continues to come out of it. I really cherish and hold close his ability to accept me as I am, as much as the woman I am becoming (which I am sure sometimes feels like not at all the woman he married hahahaha), and the constant state of work-in-progress that is our lives at the moment.

I’m grateful for therapy that has so wonderfully tied together the various threads that currently bind my life and being, in a way that no amount of conversation with friends or family can, no amount of reading the best books has, and no amount of trying to figure this out on my own could ever have.

I’m grateful especially for my body. In the past year I have seen what happens to it when I deliberately, totally let go, allowing it to balloon and flourish in surprising ways. I began to notice age in some places — in the way the suppleness and flexibility I took for granted now resists when I push it, the way the skin on my face doesn’t spring back as easily as it used to, the way my digestion has visibly slowed, the tiger stripes that really stand out now, the way getting back to exercise was a bigger uphill task than I ever imagined it could ever be.

And yet, I’m grateful that with a little work, my body still does the things I want to do — whether it’s working my way up to a 5km run again, nailing push-ups again or doing a cartwheel on a whim. Yes, still got it.

I’m grateful for the awareness that all of these changes have come gently, slowly, with little to almost no panic for a change. There has been a very conscious awareness, yes, and it’s made me prioritise taking care of myself and my body in a way that feels very intentional. I’ve always had an eye for eating well, a penchant for fitness and staying fit and healthy, but somehow this feels very different from before when I held many fantastic (unrealistic) notions about my body.

I’m grateful that the rush has died down some. The rush to get somewhere, do this, be that, do more — that constant buzz in my head reminding me of time rushing by and there being so much left to do is dormant for the most part, and I’ve figured out how some tricks to shut it down, when it tends to get active from time to time.

This past year, I re-discovered deliberation. It’s brought a certain slowness and a calm, an ability to move with intention, that has really been another game-changer. It’s made me free-er in choosing which way I want to go, more open in accepting everything that has come my way, and just light and easy going in embracing it all.

A younger me might roll her eyes and scoff at me for turning soft. Maybe she’d balk at how little I hold on to anymore, and how fluid I’ve become. But it is what it is and it seems to work for me.

***

Just one birthday ago I wondered about whether I’ll ever really feel my age. For most of my life I haven’t felt exactly my age. I’ve always felt extremes — either too wise and old beyond my years sometimes, or just so young and naive for my age. This was mostly brought out in situations where I had other people my age to compare with. I’ve lived a large part of my life feeling like I never quite fit right.

This is changing, ever so slowly. I realised recently, that thanks to this newfound comfort I have begun to feel over the course of this past year, I have truly begun to feel my age. Not that I miraculously make myself fit, but that I am comfortable just the way I am, whether I fit or not. And so more often than not, it does feel like I fit.

Nothing feels out of sync, things don’t stick out and irk me as much, differences don’t hinder my experiences. I hold desires for doing more but the desperation to get there fast is slowly fading. I’m re-learning patience all the time. I’m comfortable in my skin, in my body, in the way I am, and the way I feel for the most part.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age or growing up, but I’m keenly aware that my time here is limited. So limited that I feel a strong need to make the most of it. Which is not so say I’ve drawn up a bucket list of impossible things like scuba diving and bungee jumping or visiting 10 countries in the next 10 years, I must tick off. I want to focus my time in spaces that matter to me, on things and people I love and am drawn to. I want to try and always say what I absolutely mean, be more honest, articulate and truthful in the relationships that matter, and try more and more to tell those people just how much they really mean to me.

I’m being constantly shown how often I need to redefine the many catch words that I hold on to — markers of things that are important to me — Peace. Success. Happiness. Care. Love. Strength. Joy. I’ve also learned that happiness and joy is not, and never needs to be, linked with perfection. Or success. Of any kind.

I am mostly bumbling along and stumbling over myself along this journey, but if there’s one thing I’m truly proud of, it’s how much I have been able tame that inner perfectionist in me. I’m grateful for having learned that it’s okay to change my mind. I’ve embraced softness as far as possible, in every area of my life that I can — softness with people, towards myself, with my body, with my dreams, with my emotions. I don’t see the need to be the kind of strong or hard that I once aspired to be.

This past year I relinquished control over the grand plans, a lot. Life has become so much about living the small everyday things, cheering myself on for the little wins, revelling in mundane daily happinesses and the utter smallness of it all. I’ve really been feeling this is where that joy — that I’ve so long believed lies in chasing the grand plans, the big picture, the distant future — is at. Right here. Now.

The nowness of life hits me on a daily basis, and it stays and lingers in a way that has made me feel very, very secure and steady. I put this down entirely to the course I did last year that altered my compass, pointed me closer to my true north. It’s made me see things so very differently, shifting my very perspective on everything, on life itself, 180 degrees. And there is just no unseeing it, no turning back. It has been like opening the curtains on a view I’ve known all along, but suddenly everything is brighter and beautiful.

Year 36, I’m so very ready for you.

Past birthdays: one year ago, three years ago, four years ago, five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago, nine years ago.

Acceptance

It’s been nearly a month since I made a sudden, unplanned departure and came to Goa. It has been an interesting, sometimes challenging month since, for VC and for the both of us. We’ve been mostly going about life, letting things unfold and pass in their own time. There have been some tremendous changes for me, during this time, and it has been interesting to see evidence of old patterns fall to the side, making way for new ways of being. As individuals, of course, but we’ve also seen how much that impacts what we bring to the table as a couple and how our relationship can change for the better. The biggest learning for me here, is how much work I have to do in taking him as he is, for the person he is, knowing where to let go, understanding what is not in my control, and that so often my love and adoration (no matter how well-meaning) for him cramps his style.

So this is yet another appreciation post. For VC. For many, many things — and I don’t want to go into listing them. But mostly for his mammoth levels of patience and acceptance of me, in taking me just the way I am. In all my ever-changing, ever-growing glory.

For as much as I chide him for being impatient, in a rush and for how he never gives anyone a proper chance in life in general, somehow, with me he is this gentle, patient being, with an immense capacity to just let me be, and watch from a distance while also always having my back.

Everything that I have been going through on my own has not all been easy for him, or on him. Not immediately and certainly not in the moments as they happen. So I like to take pauses like this, to pull back and to really acknowledge the goodness in him that makes so much of being me possible. If today I believe I have the space t be this version of me, it is because he has absolutely made space and accepted it. And for this, he has had to grow in slow and silent ways on his own too. I love you, VC. I don’t know how you do it, but time and time again, you do.

One year ago: Looking back, over my shoulder

Chance encounters

One of my big fears about coming back to Goa used to be facing some of the people I left behind when I moved. I say left behind because it’s what I did. My moving cities coincided with a gradual moving away from certain people. It was an inevitable, gradual shift in my mind, but I can see now how and why it must have seemed to them like an abrupt kind of abandoning. And so every time that I am here, I wonder about what it might be like to meet them again. Goa is a small place, and thanks to my workplace, my freelance work, the gym I went to my circles were all very mixed and I was in a social space where everybody knew everybody (that in itself was too much for me, and a big reason why I just wanted out). On past trips here, I’ve been unusually stressed about possible encounters, getting riled up at hearing about things they’ve said about me post my leaving, and such. But I underestimate myself, and the capacity of enough time having passed and the wonders it can do for growth.

It is my tendency to protect myself when I feel vulnerable and my insecurities are exposed, and so in the past I may have done things like measured and calculated my wandering within Goa in the hope that I do not encounter someone I do not want to meet. I didn’t realise when this phase had passed, because on day 1 here, I didn’t even think twice about walking to VC’s office and waiting at the entrance for him. This was unthinkable last year. I was engrossed in an email when a friend from back in the day approached me with a tap on the shoulder. I turned, and when I saw it was her, I instantly expected a wave of panic and rage to come over me.

But it didn’t come.

We chatted, exchanging mundane pleasantries. And then she said those dreaded words.

Let’s catch up sometime.

Again, I waited for the polite response to make its way out with extra faked gusto: Sure!

But it didn’t come.

In its place was a measured, polite It’s alright.

And maybe I was saying that more to myself than her? It’s alright to be me. It’s alright to be honest. It’s alright not to put myself in a place I know will not make me feel good. It’s alright not to want the company of people I have chosen to move away from. It’s alright.

I’m grateful for whatever it is that’s happening with me that has suddenly brought forth this ability to put myself first. Even if in little, seemingly minor ways. I’m enjoying cutting away a lot of the unnecessary politeness, that stemmed from wanting to be seen and known in a certain light, fall away. I am grateful for the openness to discover this confidence to be seen as I am.

Sometimes distant. Sometimes impolite. Sometimes aloof. I am all these things sometimes, and it’s been freeing to let these sides be seen too.

***

With VC, I feel like I’ve come home to a whole new-old person. Does that make sense? Do you know what it’s like to know someone, deep in your bones and be so familiar and used to it that when a big change strikes it sweeps you over and knocks you down just like the charm you felt the very first time you met them? Maybe he’s changed as much as I have and I needed to be here to really see it. Maybe I’ve changed and I had to be here to see how it all plays out and what possibilities it now opens up for us? Maybe this is the beginning of something new and there was no way to unlock it than to come here. I’m grateful for the visible changes. I’m grateful for VC. I’m glad I came.

***

The very next day after I got to Goa, I visited A who has suddenly taken very ill. Last week, I sat in Bangalore, worried sick, helplessly wondering what I could do to make a difference. Distance is such a bitch at times like this. I’ll be there in two weeks. I’d said to JC then, feebly, feeling so inadequate and hopeless for not being able to be around when they’re dealing with so much on their own.

I guess it was just meant to be because here I am two weeks ahead of plan, and A got out of the ICU and came back home the same night that I landed. Which meant, I could see her immediately.

I know I went there for her. To be present, to offer support, to check in on her. But it was oddly fulfilling for me. There is an openness and welcoming nature she has that always, always makes me feel so warm and happy. I think even if 20 years go by and we meet again, I will feel this again. As I often worry about friends in Goa and having to start over in a pool that is already small, made smaller still by my very efficient first round of selection, I’m grateful for people like A who make me time and time again feel that it will be okay.

***

Of course I also went to visit D, Olive and Lego on day 1. The pups greeted me with exuberant jumping and many licks, hyper sniffing and loud demands for biscuits. All of this lasted much longer than usual. I am tempted to say it was the doggy bag of tandoori chicken that was parcelled in my bag, but I also want to say maybe it’s just that they remember me. And they are always so unabashed in showing that they remember, and welcome me back home. As per the norm, D and I chatted on and on and as per the norm, I caused her to miss her siesta again.

I like that we can pick up from wherever, whenever. Despite being emotionally all over the place in our own respective ways of late, I like that the prolonged silences do not get in the way. I’m truly grateful that I don’t have to pretend, or make extra overtures to bridge them. I can be what I am, the way I am and we still have a world of things to talk about, or sit in silence together, equally.

***

I know why I resisted coming here sooner than planned so much. It’s because the circumstances brought out these latent fears full force, and I was just not ready to face them. But today I think maybe I needed this. As much as VC did. Because it’s been just a few days and, I felt it the very next morning. I felt like something very fundamental that I was missing in the last few weeks has suddenly been found.

In many ways I feel like I have come full circle, and I feel today, like I did one day two years ago when I finally made some sense (and peace) with moving to Bangalore.

I just had a strangely serendipitous conversation with VC about how sometimes one has to really go the distance to learn something very basic. It seems like an unnecessary journey, and sometimes the upheaval seems disproportionate to the truth learned, but it is how it is.

One year ago: A life of stranger things
Three years ago: Busy bee day

New ground

It’s going to be six months since VC moved to Goa and I decided to stay on in Bangalore. I have travelled here a lot, and we have actually not been apart for very long periods during this time. But even so, I feel it has impacted us in many positive ways.

Sometimes I feel I cannot get enough of this solitary life and I lose myself in thoughts about the future, the worry that this blissful new-found joy will come to a premature end eating me up. But there are also moments when I miss the everyday togetherness of our life, the comfort and intimacy of a life together, the familiarity in a rhythm that renders words redundant, makes mere movements suffice, and I long to be with VC enough to want to impulsively buy an overpriced ticket to fly off immediately.

I suppose those are the two most obvious, yet opposing feelings. They both exist, and accepting that two equally has been a journey in itself. Nonetheless, this time away and apart has been transformative for me. I have had the luxury of a support system, a city that I have grown to love and that really works for me just now, three homes to choose from, and abundant company and bodies around me whether or not loneliness strikes. VC on the other hand, has lived the truly solitary life, shuttling between work and his home-for-one, and pretty much staying afloat all on his own in the way he knows how. The experiences and effects of each have been drastically different for the both of us.

Our lives now look entirely different. Not just from the way they used to be when we lived together, but also from the way each others lives as individuals are. And one of the things I have enjoyed observing is how far apart our disparate lives can and have moved. Conversely, thoughts about whether they might meet again, and when and how that might be, follow close after.

Back in 2016 when we first contemplated the idea of living apart to see what a little space could do for us, VC was the first to suggest it. I wanted to move to another country and VC was undecided. I wasn’t entirely ready for the distance. I was open, but apprehensive. I’ve ended potential relationships in the past because long distance relationships frightened the hell out of me. So to actively choose this of our own volition, when it would be the easiest thing for us to just be together has been interesting.

As I work on myself, I’m slowly discovering the many, many misconceptions I have about the idea of space. In life, in relationships, in my physical world. What it is to give and take emotional space? How can I make space for love change and growth and all the many things I want in my life, even as I give of myself to people and things around me? As I navigate my way, finding new sense and context to the aspect of space, I realise the work is in finding what works for the person I am today.

I’ve watched in fascination as the changes have slowly crept in. Into my life, into some key relationships in my life, into my marriage, and certainly into my physical world too. Whether it’s the little act of taking up two cupboards instead of one, or going out all on my own, how I carry myself, how I feel within the space my body occupies, or feeling unabashedly, righteously upset to have the flow of my routine upset by this unexpected travel — I’m seeing surprising shifts all the time.

***

The predominant reason for the muddle of anxiety and fear that I have unconsciously harboured over the last few weeks has been the sinking feeling (almost a premonition) that sooner or later something will happen to make me move to Goa. And it’s something I am not ready to do, yet. I’m not done soaking up all the space I’ve made for myself. Whether physically — enjoying living alone, exploring my city and my interests on my own, travelling, or even emotionally and spiritually — experiencing what it is to be alone sometimes, lonely sometimes, how it is to be tethered to relationships even as I hold my space and play with re-making  boundaries in this new reality.

In essence, this time apart has given me the space to be me again. The me I’d blended away and mushed up into marital roles, gender stereotypes, stuffed into the only kind of life I knew to live in Goa (where my adult and partnered lives both really began). The time apart has given me the space to dig out old facets of me that lay in hibernation, and it has given life to new facets to emerge, alike. Sometimes, on an idle moment when I catch myself saying or doing something I would deem so “uncharacteristic” of me, I take myself by surprise. Quickly, I remind myself that perhaps this is in fact not our of character at all. It is characteristic of the me I am now.

The claiming of space, cultivating it and nurturing it slowly over the last many months has been precious. Through therapy, writing and constant witnessing of my life, I have built this step by step. And I’m only getting started,

So the fear is real. The fear 0f having to lose this new, hard-won space, freedom and being, so quickly. I’ve only just dipped my toes in, and I want to deep dive in this, still. So the question arises again — when and how will our disparate lives meet again? And can they meet without either of us blending away into each other once again? What impact could a life bound by a certain geography (Goa) have on me? Will it bring back the inherent compromises to my life that it did back then? Or will this new me navigate these same spaces differently this time around?

***

Just two days ago when I was experiencing heightened anxiety, I felt hollowed out and like I was melting away, at the mere thought of what this sudden trip to Goa means, and if maybe it’s the beginning of the inevitable move that looms large. As I fought it hard and even as I found myself digging my heels in, I had vivid images of having to jump back into a life and an existence that feels so small and constricted, that I wanted to do nothing but dissolve and disappear through the gaps and cracks.

But the new me has surprised me yet again. Just two days of being here already, there has surprisingly been no talk of moving back (in a hurry or otherwise). I find myself at peace. Where I felt hollow and like I was dissolving, I now feel full and alive. The shaky ground beneath my feet now feels solid and sturdy. I’m here now. I don’t have to run.

In the smallest ways, I can feel my body adapting to what it is to really be with someone, to share space, without having to dissolve myself or melt away to make space. I’m discovering what it is to be a support for another, without destabilising myself, how it’s possible to relate but not at the expense of myself. I can be whole, even as I am with the other. I can be myself, even as I am being there for the other. And what a frighteningly refreshing way to be this is.

For now, I’m taking small sips at it, rather than rushing to gulp this experience down greedily. I’m taking tender, gentle steps, my body slowly taking shape and space, yet again. I feel like this is a whole new opportunity to grow, yet again.

One year ago: March
Three years ago: Because everything is never as it seems