You have to know by now that the change theme is likely to be a recurring one in the foreseeable future.
Speaking of change, it has to be recorded that I used to be a homebody. In the last few months before I left Goa, this peaked. I’d pared my life down so much that I really went nowhere. With the exception of the gym and the supermarket and sometimes the odd coffee or drink out, I spent most of my time cooped up at home. Because that was where I felt good. Sane. Safe. It meant also avoiding people. Losing some friends. Missing out on social outings and some work opportunities. But it was all very deliberate. A conscious choice. So I’m not complaining. Merely recollecting how it used to be not so long ago.
And then I moved to Bangalore. And while the homebody in me still exists, I’ve surprised myself with how I’ve turned 180 degrees. Now, I sometimes find myself willing to brave traffic, rain, crowds, people and everything I thought I could never tolerate again, to get to places I want to see, to meet people I want to hang out with and do things I didn’t think I cared much for.
Case in point: I went to Nasi & Me on a day when it rained cats and dogs. Most uncharacteristically, I agreed to drive thru peak hour traffic, all the way across town, because I was told if there’s one Asian food place I absolutely had to try this was it.
For a few weeks now I’ve had the feeling that I need to get out of home to get into work mode. Such a swift turnaround from life in Goa where for the most part, writing in my guest room was where things worked best. But never say never and all that, this week, I tested out alternstives. And to my surprise, it worked.
Just when I was making peace with the slower, stiller life. Possible new definitions of productivity and the like. Looking at accepting a life less “busy” than the one I knew and the one I thought I was made for, things have happened.
Today I had not one but two meetings. And both took me outside of home, which meant encountering the worst morning and evening rush hour traffic getting to and back from them meant. I had more work telephone calls today than I have had in a long, long time.
I felt terribly busy all of a sudden.
On a long day like today, when I got home at 8.30 pm and still had to send out e-mails that can’t wait till tomorrow, I stop and ask myself — omg who are you?!
Things change all time. All things. Everything. Us included.
Quite a bit of the comfort and solace I find in being back in Bangalore comes from seeking pockets of familiarity. Whether it’s the closeness of meeting people I want to be with, or or the intimacy of spaces that once held a special place in my earlier life in this city, or going through the rhythm of acts, actions and rituals that lent a sense of comfort then. This old haunt has already become so oft frequented, I feel like furniture again. Some days, it’s like I never left.
This comfort overwhelms me the most, every time I find that there are still many little things that haven’t changed, even in the face of the sea-change panning out all about me.
In some ways it has been super hard for me to deal with and digest the change I see, since I was away for exactly those years that saw the most exponential change. This Bangalore I have returned to, is not the Bangalore I grew up in for sure, but it isn’t even the Bangalore I left. But it has its ways of wooing me. Especially when I find those pockets of comfort that seem to exist just as they did years ago. It’s so endearing.
Visiting Scottish Pub (that I frequented when I was in college) after more than a decade, to find that aside from retro cool coloured chairs having replaced the plastic bucket ones, the addition of an awning (so the rain doesn’t interrupt your drinking) and some really (accidentally, methinks) cool mood lighting, literally nothing else has changed. It has the same eager waiters, the funky house made, dodgy wine that you can’t stop having, watered down draught beer, a super non-indulgent, fuss-free menu that’s ended before you can say w-i-n-e and that same amazing chicken pakoda.
I spent a few hours there last week while it rained batshit crazy outside, and for those few hours it felt like I had gone back in time. Slipped back into the comfort of that familiarity of a memorable haunt that once was. Cut away from the metamorphosis that seems to have swept through everything that lies just beyond.
Yet again I realised, the more things seem to change, the more they stay the same. And I find that oddly comforting.
When I was preparing to move to Bangalore, I wondered about feeling lonely and isolated in a city of nameless faces. I didn’t particularly fancy the thought of making friends all over again. Nor did I want to continue my streak of people-less-ness. Much of the urge to get out of Goa was bolstered by the promise of new people. I’d grown rather jaded of the company I kept and was seeking a fresh energy and some new faces. And yet, 33 isn’t the most appropriate age to venture out into the school yard, to scope cliques and meekly gauge which one to attempt to break into.
I felt at sea in matters of people-ing because it’s just been so long since I had to go out and make an effort in this regard. Specially since the last decade or so I’ve had things just happened — people have come and gone from my life, connections were effortlessly made and lost with equal ease — without any active pursuing on my part. Not to make friends, and not in keeping them either. I’ve let a lot of people just go. So making friends felt daunting.
Wh is friendship in adulthood such an intimidating proposition?
However, in yet another unexpected turn, things have been strangely easy on the people front. Ironically, while I still continue to struggle to come to terms with many other things about this city (including some aspects that I thought would be a good change) it’s the people who have been pleasantly warm and welcoming.
I’ve already said coming home gave me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends that I’d sworn I would never go back to, and how comforting it is to just be in the same city as the best of my friends. But that apart, there’s a third set of people-ings that I’m so happy to have stumbled on. It’s the new and unexpected friendships I’ve made. Through friends, through older connections, through people who know people. And happily, so many of these connections have brewed over home cooked meals. I’m more than grateful for these folks who just easily opened their homes up, invited me over and cooked some splendid, memorable meals.
There have been multiple such events. With D, I thulped Goan sausages and bread like it was my last meal ever. A cooked me this stunningly simple but high on flavour Andhra meal, from recipes of her very own cookbook complete with a spicy and heady bone broth that kicked my cold out of the way. With N and D I ate baingan bhartha, chapaties laced with carrots and some gluten free bread because I’ve been off carbs lately.
Each that I’ve shared a meal, hanging out over hearty hot food, huddled around a table, cross-legged on the floor crouched over a plate laden with goodies — something opened up for me.
This past weekend I ate what will go down as yet another incredibly tasty, beautifully put together meal, at yet another table in the home of someone I didn’t know just a few months ago.
It was a large, painstakingly out together array of Andhra food. And again, I felt grateful for the opportunity. For the warmth, the openness and the joy of sharing a meal.
There’s something about honest, homely food cooked straight from the heart, that reaches right inside and touches my soul.
Nothing prepared me for the kind of freshness this new beginning in an old home would bring.
I thought I was wiping the slate clean and starting over. I hadn’t the faintest clue that so much of this new beginning would involve picking up old threads I’d left behind, visiting feelings I thought I’d dealt with good and proper, and doing things I swore I would never do.
I’m the most change averse person I know. I usually find security in sameness, in old comfortable habits, in well set patterns. But Ive realised how sometimes that cuccoon keeps me from experiencing things I need to. It keeps out the possibilities that I most need. Not just events and experiences as end points, but the process of getting there too.
So much if this newness has been about relaxing a little, letting go of my staunchly held beliefs, questioning all the firm nos and opening myself up to the gentle maybes, and allowing some bits of the old back into my life, looking at it anew and opening myself up to that change completely.
What I once knew to be crippling fear that made me build my walls up high, has turned to a gentle acceptance – first and foremost, of myself – of this wave of fresh energy. Bright and green, new like the eager blade of grass pushing through damp soil, ready for life.
I seem to be dealing with a lot of this change and everything that has come with a lot more grace and gentleness. Towards myself, first. Rather than stiffen up with fear, I’m learning to relax and take a chance more often. It’s led me to stumble on new, interesting people, to some kindred spirit, and best of all uplifting friendship in unlikely, old connections I was so sure I was never revisiting.
The change then, has been within myself, than in my external surroundings.
I not sure I love Bangalore. I haven’t fully come to terms with where I am going. But for now I am utterly and completely at peace with why I am here.
With four months in Bangalore now behind me, I find myself taking stock. I’ll be honest, Bangalore is not a silver bullet to the complicated “where do we go from here” situation VC and I had been in for many months. So much about this city, the people, life here, my neighbourhood, that I have in fact returned (which has given me fresh eyes to look at many of the same things I grew up seeing), the people I used to know, the people I now know, often surprises me — both pleasantly and some times jarringly. Some times I’m irked or frustrated. There’s a lot about life in Bangalore, when compared to Goa, that really annoys me. And some times I have moments of utter clarity, when I know why I am here.
Everyday, though, slowly and calmly, I’m adjusting to it. I find myself still just coping, getting by from one day to the next. But, (and I suspect this is the newfound adult in me talking) I’m makingpeace with it. By focusing on what I came here for — familiarity, security and kinship — which thankfully, I don’t have to go very far out (or brave the maddening traffic) to find.
The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.
I’ve found new meaning in making peace. I’ve realised it isn’t a shiny thing that you just find and hoard. It takes cultivation, active seeking and building bit by bit. And it takes practice. In doing things to create it for myself I’ve found a strange inner satiety (for the lack of a better term) I can’t name, a warm quietude in the pit of my heart, taking over me.
There, in the depths of the addictive, gummy, don’t-want-to-let-go-of-it peace is the reason why despite all the madness and recurring chaos this change has brought externally, I’m finally happy to be where I am.
Before I moved I had a long list of pros that I enumerated in convincing myself that coming back to the city wouldn’t be as scary as I imagined it would be. That list featured many things my life in Goa didn’t allow — friends and more work topped it. But today, irony is having the last laugh, as I slowly slip deeper and deeper into accepting the real place I want work to have in my life. That, and the fact that I haven’t met or hung out with my friends nearly as much as I imagined we would.
In a brief moment of introspection the other day, I realised that on a literal day-to-day level, my daily routine, the motions of every day life here, is not even a little bit different from what it was before. I still spend a bulk of my time alone, at home. Either working, or reading, cooking, catching up on things I want to. The only difference is, in Goa, I was alone for the most part. Here I have the constant company of my parents and my sister through the day, VC – post work hours, and his family when we go over to visit (which is shockingly more often than we imagined it would be). I cannot begin to describe how much I needed this.
All my life I’ve been running, escaping the present in search of something or the other. Even up until I upped and left Goa. For the first time, choosing to stay is coming easily. All that I am in search of is right here, within the walls of this place I call home.
And this has been the change I needed. The one I feared. It was never about this city or the next. Or where better work opportunities lay.
I’ve never been good with change, I’ve said this numerous times before. But perhaps it isn’t change I needed to fear. I’ve realised that it isn’t change itself, in it’s purest form, that is challenging. It is my own resistance to blend and bend, my uncontrollable need to control and own it, my urge to plan and fight the inevitable that creates rigid, inflexible periods of pain and flux.
For the longest time I shunned the sense of continuity, of eternity, the word home brings. And here’s the thing — home used to be the place that binds me. The space I fled some years ago. And yet, today, it is that same space that has set me free.
I’m completely absorbed in making the most of this opportunity I’ve been presented, when after a decade of being in different cities, my family is under one roof again. I’m greedily taking in the comfort of being surrounded by the silent company of people I love. People who get me. People. Just hanging out. Doing simple everyday things. Going about our daily lives, just together.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to meet my friends often, all the time. But this has been the most painful realisation of stepping back into the city life. Nobody has the time. And because even a simple catch up takes time and effort, nobody owes you that time or effort. It sounds naively idealistic when I hark back to the simpler life I had in Goa, when I say it was just truly so much easier to get out and get going. Whether with friends or alone. Granted, I didn’t have as many real people whom I could truly call my people, but it was very uncomplicated to meet. It’s bittersweet to realise I’m in the same city as all my people, and we’re still more in touch on whatsapp than in person. But it is the way it is. I have no complains.
It’s the nature of life here that involves navigating through the biggest hurdle of all, the traffic, which ridiculous as it sounds, dictates all schedules. Every outing involves planning, a predetermined plan of action, and some amount of praying that things go to said plan. I’m never really fully sure if a pre-committed engagement is going to actually materialise, until it does. I’m still not used to the significant coordination and pre-planning that goes into orchestrating even the simplest of outings. And that is when I sorely miss my life in Goa where getting out was as easy as that – getting. out.
Anyhow, before this sounds like a litany of painful comparisons and like I’m complaining, let me say, I’m merely acknowledging what I’ve come to realise and how it has made me feel – a bit disappointed. On the other hand, it has forced me into a very comfortable shell. And in retrospect, I realised this is the place I needed most to be. At home. Literally, if I think about my folks’ place where I spend most of my days, and figuratively, when I think of the sense of feeling at one, or at home, in my own mind.
There is an ever pervading feeling of gratitude I feel for where I am. A feeling I didn’t know I was missing all along. It comes in dense doses that swoop in and sit snugly in the base of my heart. Heavy, leaden but bright and luminous.
When I try and talk about what I feel, I cannot find the words to quantify or describe the quality of that peaceful gratitude. At first I was unable to find the words, and it crippled me in moments of excitement and wanting to share it.
Nowadays I find myself not wanting to necessarily talk about, describe or even share it.
That in itself has brought a sense of calm.
This, is honestly the best I have felt in all my life. Happy, healthy and balanced — right into the depths of my very soul.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this. It took leaving a seemingly quiet life, where I had a noisy fire raging within, to move to the madding urban existence. It took giving up the exclusivity and embracing being lost in the cacophony of crowds. It took leaving the home I thought I’d never leave, to come back to the place I never thought I’d return. To assuage that fire. And find the peace I never knew I was missing.
The key has been to find a rhythm and balance. To go it one step at a time. Gently stringing together days of hope, punctuated by pops of stillness, weeding away my fears one at a time.
Perhaps then this wasn’t a homecoming, but a becoming.
I firmly believe we have entered a time of being grotesquely overfed and unnaturally preoccupied with food. Nothing confirmed that for me as much as moving to Bangalore did. I realised very early on that meeting people had to involve a restaurant or pub. The number of events and happenings in the city revolving around food boggle me. A visit to some of the happening hubs in town make my head spin. Take 12th main road in Indiranagar, for example. I cannot get over how dazzlingly chock full of restaurants and night clubs and pubs it is. Each one seemingly bursting at the seams, and most of them running full house on weekends with business roaring.
I’ve been conflicted about this lately. As I think of alternate ways to engage with people — a walk in the park! a play? a concert? meeting over tarot cards? book club, anyone? I find that despite the largeness of a city like Bangalore, and the variety of opportunities to engage with the culture one might imagine it to present, to service the varied interests of this people-infested place, I’m struggling to find avenues that don’t revolve around food.
So in these times of overfed everything — from our instagram feeds (I’m so over the here’s what I ate for breakfast/lunch/dinner updates :-/) to the fetishization of meals we put in our bellies, it feels a bit self-indulgent and vacant to say food brings people together. And yet to not state it, in the manner I mean it today feels a bit fraudulent. Because it’s true what they say, food brings people together. At its most fundamental level, so many of my memories are bound by flavours, and nostalgia stirs when certain aromas or remnants of events surrounding food are evoked. It could be something as simple as the baby food I’d wait for my 6-month old sister to waste so I could wallop, or it could be the ginormous indulgent buffet i ate for five days straight over my honeymoon, or my grandfather’s very own mutton stew. Food memories have preserved my sanity on more than one occasion.
Flying out of the proverbial nest gave me wings in more ways than one, and one of the bittersweet joys of being away was creating my own set of traditions and rituals — many of which were around food. Festival sweets, Sunday breakfast eggs, nuts to start the day, supaari to end the day. And I’ve missed the grounding and centering effect of many of these simple habits and homely traditions, followed almost too tediously, week after week.
These are the same rituals I sometimes resisted participating in, many times when Iw as young. And stupid. But I was too naive to fully realise how much lingering over a shared meal, letting conversation unravel sometimes, or disappearing into comfortable pockets of silence, mindfully eating the complex outcome of someones thoughtful, deliberate labour, played a role in keeping me grounded, together.
Growing up, our Sunday lunch at home was one such event. It was where the stories of the week were shared. Where sneaky giggles, tired sighs and everything on between came together, in long belaboured detail, for everyone to chew on. The meal itself wasn’t necessarily large and sinful. Sometimes a simple khichdi, sometimes an egg curry with fluffy white rice and a naked salad. But sometimes, like today, it was a leap of faith into a previously untouched cuisine. It was larger than usual, felt fancier than the familiar fare we were usually fed. But no matter what it was, it has always been the heart of Sunday afternoons in my home.
Post lazy oil-bath mornings usually spent tidying up or hurriedly ticking thru homework, after a tiring dance class, there was nothing I looked forward to more than a meal with my folks and sister.
A meal is a magical thing. So much a labour of love, putting together a meal is an energy sapping activity. And yet, when it is done and finished, it is only the memories that linger as aromatic evidence. I realised this on Sunday, as I sat at the table we dragged out into the terrace garden at my parents home. I’m beginning to like that peaceful feeling of acceptance that washes over me, like like telling me I-told-you-so, every time I notice I’ve come full-circle. And it happened again the other day, back at the table on a Sunday afternoon. Even though our family is larger by almost-two and life has taken us all in such divergent paths. We’re louder about some things, clandestine about others. And yet, when we come together, the laugher, the noisy munching, the clinking of spoons against bowls and plates and the hearty fullness of a shared meal remains much the same.
The monsoon has hit Goa with all its might and fury and my social media feeds are filled with envy-making pictures, videos and words that are doing nothing to make me feel better for being so far, far away from the best time to be in Goa.
Last year I had an inkling it was to be my ultimate monsoon living in Goa and even though part of me felt like I was inching closer to the reality of it, a larger part of me wanted to remain blissfully unaware. And in denial.
My facebook memories have been brutal in throwing up images and blog posts from all of last year and monsoon nostalgia has taken over me considerably this week.
I miss Goa terribly. I’m hopelessly and inconsolably homesick for Goa.
But. There have been small joys. Silver linings, if you will. Moments of pure surprise or happiness. Everyday realities that have grown on me unconsciously. Until suddenly I woke up to see the light.
After living in west-facing homes for literally all my life, I’m now on the other end of the spectrum. Enjoying 6 am wake ups thanks to the burst of light that no curtains can keep out, loving how the entire home is always bathed in a soft, gentle yellow, and low-key obsessing over watching day-long shadows as they morph on the hour. The sunlight is doing wonders for the plants we got and I’ve gone over six weeks without killing anything.
Daily surprises happen with fair consistency. I’ve got to start looking and acknowledging them more often.
I’ve been fighting the worst creative block for weeks now. Work is slow. Both because the energy I’ve directed towards the pursuit of it has been flagging, and also because I’m being a hopeless procrastinator over what little I have going.
I’ve tried everything — locking myself in my home away from distraction, taking myself to the comforts of my parents’ home where Amma plies me with filter coffee, working at night, working early in the morning, tempting myself with afternoon naps as a reward for a morning of writing, reading to get the words going, silence to get the words going. But nothing has really pushed me out of this stupor.
Until today. And this chance visit to an old haunt.
I had a meeting close to MG Road and a few hours to kill until dinner time (which is also happening this side of town, making it pointless for me to trudge home and back again in a few hours). So, I made the wise decision to carry my laptop along. It’s a fabulous day out and I enjoyed a lovely walk from one end of MG Road to here. When the weather stays this way, and it has been splendid, I’m rediscovering the joys of a walkable city again. Little pleasures that make being back in this monstrous grind, just a wee bit more bearable.
And for now, a glass of kadak milky super sweet tea and a plate of smileys seem to have done the trick.
After ages, ages, ages we’ve had a slow Sunday with no plans whatsoever. Just like many of our Sundays in Goa. The thing with being back home is that there have been ample welcome distractions. I’m dangerously close to my folks, where the promise of an open kitchen and warm home cooked meals and their company is ever present. We’re also not too far from VC’s folks, and there have been weekly visits over to theirs too. With friends around, I’ve been out at least 2-3 times a week – a welcome change from the way life was in Goa – and it’s been a tad tiring. More than tiring though, it has contributed to my not feeling fully settled and rooted.
In order to feel really at home in my home I realised last week that I needed to get into my own routine and do the homey things I’m used to. Potter about, change the sheets, laze around without bathing all day, work into the night if inspiration strikes, cook something spontaneously, stock up veggies and groceries – you know, the little things that go into creating a space to call your own.
Last night, I had a massive attack of Goa homesickness. Something about the weekends in Bangalore brings them closer than I am willing to deal with. Every weekend I feel the stark contrast between life in Goa and life here – and I suppose it’s natural and going to be a recurring event to keep comparing the two – and when I realise there is literally no peaceful, quiet place to go to, where I can slip away with a book to read or write in and sit by myself for a few hours. This is something I did almost every weekend in Goa. Either with or without company, the closest beach was a three minute ride away. I could always choose form at least three cafes that were perfectly silent to go and sit by yourself. A glass of wine or a beer, a plate of fries or a chorice-pao, it was really easy to just order something simple to pass the time when you really wanted to just sit and read.
Alternatively, finding a spot of green, a cliff with a view, a quiet beach, a lonely road winding through green fields was a matter of driving out of Panjim which no matter what part of town you lived was never more than a 10 minute drive. And many a weekend we’d venture out to get some fresh air and a slice of the outdoors. And lets not forget all the cycling. All the cycling.
Bangalore poses a serious dearth of that kind of peace. The kind that’s suited for solitude. And that too has contributed to me feeling a little out of my depth, unsettled and not quite at home as yet.
So finally, this weekend, we vegged out and stayed in. Meals were cooked together, conversations we’ve been dodging because of a lack of time together were had, long naps were taken, I even snuck in a long overdue salon visit to unwind a little, and managed to finish a book I began in May but hadn’t touched until Friday night.
I may be back in the big city, but I think a part of me will always be the silence-seeking, solitude-loving, small-town person Goa taught me to be. I guess I’m going to have to learn to recreate a pocket of peace right here at home for when the weekend blues strike.
In Bangalore, the sky speaks. Not just in October and in February (which are supposedly the months with the best skies) but off schedule too. In summer with its stunning, blindingly blue hue and puffed out cotton candy orbs of clouds jetting by. In the monsoon with an audacious grey hunkering. In spring, when it gets staggeringly lucid and clear. The sky sends messages. Sometimes in love notes, whispered gently. Sometimes loud, boisterous declarations made recklessly. And sometimes it speaks in signs. Quietly, showing more than saying. And it’s when I look up and I’m convinced there’s a message begging to be deciphered.
It goes without saying that moving back to Bangalore has resulted in a major case of a lot many different feels. If that is not your cup of tea, now is the time to unfollow. Or else you’ll have to bear with me while I let some of it spill over here.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably already seen the hashtag series — snapshots of Bangalore things, home things, moments that stand out and make me want to remember them — that sort of just happened quite organically. They’re usually moments that are so Bangalore, or something that happened which made me feel overcome with emotion, or swell with words building inside me just dying to trail out. So I make do with a snapshot, and a line or two because Instagram on the go only allows for so much.
I’ve also been so full of emotions, but having no words to explain the way I feel. It feels like a massive creative block. And I thought maybe posting some of these vignettes here over time, and allowing myself to go beyond a glib line or two, might be a good way to get back in the flow of writing.
What makes this time of transition special for me is how even though we have been in a moving-on state of mind for two years, Bangalore was literally not even amongst the cities in our consideration set. When it began to creep in to the list, we firmly told ourselves it would be an absolute last resort. But eventually, through ways quite surprisingly not our doing, we made what can only be called a u-turn and headed home.
Anyway, long story short: it’s been equal parts comforting, overwhelming, heartwarming and maddening. And now that the panicked butterflies in my stomach are done dancing around, I’m eager to see what comes of it.