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I’ve never felt more alive

6 Jan

It’s strange how I’ve been almost annoyingly wide awake at 4am nearly every single day since the new year began. I made no resolutions, no active efforts, no secret hopes…just the desire for a good night’s rest, which seems to clock its time at an hour that I’m not ready to embrace yet.

Here I am, again today. However, instead of doing the usual, which is coaxing myself back to sleep again before my baby wakes me up, I’ve gifted myself a hot hug of the perfect mug of filter coffee while I wait for the sounds of dawn to tell me I’m not insane — the gentle sounds of houses being swept and washed, the whir of vehicles ushering in the presence of a new day, distant azaans from mosques near and far, and soon the rooster who will remind us, as he has been for years now, that he’s the king of all alarm clocks. The best, amidst of all this, is the silence, the stillness, and the encouraging sound of my keypad telling me to continue.

I have Michelle Obama’s autobiography lying next to me, waiting to be savoured one line at a time. It’s a book I’ve been wanting to pick up and relish, for I know I will even before I can begin reading it. There’s something refreshingly wondrous about finding people you look up to, people who seem so real despite the distance, people who exude all that you believe in. Something tells me that I’m up and about at this hour instead of cozying up to my daughter, because of the magic that lies inside this journey I’m about to undertake with MO. And I cannot wait.

I’m feeling particularly alive and positive. There’s a sense of coming into my own that I’ve been experiencing over the past few months. My silence hasn’t meant that my heart is quiet or that my head is still. Even on those days when everything felt too numb to be alive and kicking, there’s this unmistakeable fire within me that’s kept me going — my own hearth of everything that makes me who I am, and who I mould myself into for each demand and challenge that decides to come my way.

2018 has been an overwhelming year where I’ve felt elated and defeated in equal measure. There have been times when I’ve questioned my sense of self, my worth, my need to exist, even. There have been moments of blackness and zero answers to my questions. There have been days when I’ve wanted nothing more than to vanish. But those were the troughs. Troughs can be deep and treacherous. I did, for most parts, look like I was on a mission from hell. Or maybe that was my signature look for the year. But when the highs came, they were immeasurably and intensely enriching. They were the breaths of air I’d been flailing my arms for. They were intoxicatingly full of life. They made the acuteness of these troughs less sharp and painful. They made me whole again.

I guess in this world of faux perfectionism and “goals” as hashtags, life makes you feel like you’ve been dealt an unfair hand, especially if you fall into the trap of comparison. But I’m certain that 2018 has been the only year in all of my lifetime which has made me look older than I am, feel more challenged than I ever have been, and given me the realest meaning of what living life actually means. I’ve been swimming this entire year in an attempt to find some footing, some shore, some air, only to realise that that was all in me right from the start. When I say I’ve never felt more alive, it’s because I realise that I am life, that I am that breath of fresh air, that I am the footing I’ve been looking to find all this time. And that I have arrived to the shores that feel like home.

164: 13th June, 2017

14 Jun

13th June, 2017 came just like any other day did. It was a day I wasn’t particularly looking forward to, because we were leaving Bangalore, and it’s always sick to say bye. It’s a day of sorts, and one I won’t forget for some time.

It’s the day that reinforced the grander scheme of things, to me.

I always have been a planner. I plan every single thing. It’s annoyingly boring for many of you, but I couldn’t imagine my life under anyone else’ control, to be honest. Once I got married, the truth of the universe’s ways made itself present to me in more ways than one. Plans just didn’t seem to work, and making plans was beginning to get frustrating because A isn’t an obsessive planner like I am.

As time has proceeded – we’re inching towards completing two years – I’ve learnt with a greater ferocity that life cannot be trusted with your individual, minute, plans. It’s got a mind of its own, and it will conspire to make things happen as it deems fit.

And so we’re just playing along. Yet again.

145: We’re All About A Story

25 May

Yesterday‘s post still hasn’t gone past me completely. Today I found myself sharing Cory Richard’s story in class because it had some connection and relevance to what I’ve been teaching them the past fortnight. And needless to say, everyone sat in rapt attention, heat waves billowing through the windows and all. It reinforced my belief which took root in me the moment I held a camera for the first time – that we’re all about a story; each and every one of us. Of course I’d sound cheap if I said that I’ve always dreamed of doing what today is popularly called HONY. You’d most likely turn around and say, well why didn’t you do it, stupid? or you’d perhaps just laugh in my face and look at me funny, if you were more the blunt types. Perhaps one day when we need a break, I will have something substantial to offer. Someday. 

We’re all a bunch of experiences that make a marvellous story irrespective of how ornately we present it. For once words, fancy gadgets, apertures, camera angles, and privileges don’t matter – just who we are, what we do, and what we’re made up of that counts. It boils down to our innate need to feed our curiosities, our voyeuristic tendencies sometimes, and even just our plain love for stories. Some of us lap it up in the form of books, poems, movies, tv shows, novellas, even photographs and songs, and more. I guess it’s one thing that will always sell because we always want to know, even when we don’t want to know.

This was from one of my favourite visits, somewhere in a town steeped in history, mythology, and a stopped clock.

On our visit to commemorate my grandmother-in-law last year, we stopped by to feed a small settlement that had made its home around my mother-in-law’s generational family temple. And this, by far, was my most prized privilege – having this child speak to me with nothing more than a mouth stuffed with puris and halwa, his eyes, and his smile.

With every street in this mythical town lined with sweetmeat shops, because this is the land of Lord Krishna, the lover of all things milk and sweet, I chanced upon this vendor during a cool summer evening walk as I explored the gullies less travelled. He didn’t have much, and neither did his shop have the sheen of the religious wealth this town boasts of. But he smiled, allowed me to click him, and wished me as I went along. Again, a lot said, with not many words.

My favourite, after meeting the child, was stopping midway and running across wheat fields to this. The irony is that we come from the same land, the same lingual roots, but couldn’t communicate with language as I was so confident we would. But then, on she went, in her own striped shirt with her bundle on her head, off with a smile that just the two of us shared with each other.

I’ve come to believe that we really are a bundle of stories, each with a different fingerprint, and a legacy that is ours and ours alone. And we all do fall asleep to these stories, unaware that grandma’s tales are yours and mine and each other’s equally.

For more pictures from this trip, please visit my post here.

144: Inspiring, Everyday People

24 May

I woke up with an unexpected sense of inspiration this morning; once I could muster getting myself out of bed i.e. As I waited for A to get ready, I logged onto Instagram where the source of my inspiration grew deeper and richer. As is with most things social media, a trail sketched itself across the profiles I flitted past till I found what made me stay, and feel like it was a good morning to wake up to indeed. For those of you who have been reading my posts, and for those of you who haven’t, here’s something that has really found a nook in me and settled down very comfortably in the momentum of my thoughts and curiosity – the entire experience that is the Himalayan expedition. I’ve written about it here, here, and here when I got hold of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” after obsessively watching the movie Everest, which, upon further investigation, I found him trashing completely. But I’m thankful for the trail nonetheless. It was serendipitous then, and still is, today, when I clicked on the Instagram radio button and found the magnetism of the Himalayas drawing me to them, yet again.

It’s already been a while since Himalayan expeditions began for the year 2017, with many attempting a successful summit experience during this spring-summer window. Now when I find people talking about this, I feel more (theoretically) knowledgeable and aware. In fact, when BBC confirmed the collapse of the famed Hillary Step the other day, I felt oddly zapped by the new monumental hurdles alpinists would now face; not that hurdles defeat them, and not that the Hillary Step and the peak itself were not enough. Of course it also made me frown in the face of this global-warming destruction we’ve brought upon ourselves, but it seriously seems like we need something more drastic and severe to wake up. Anyway, and moving on, today I found myself following two people who are right there as we speak; and one of whom I found fascinating because of how profoundly beautifully and simply he expressed his thoughts and emotions coupled with the most breathtaking photographs.

Cory Richards; photojournalist at Nat Geo, swirled me into his world of words and expressions in an instant and so effortlessly as well. If my fascination and borderline obsession with the Himalayas wasn’t enough, along came this person who gave my perceptions, beliefs, thoughts, and curiosities a space to free-flow and merge into what was that ray of same inspiration I felt brightening up my morning today. Here are his words that made me feel heard, understood, capable, and not alone.

“Surrender is a funny thing. We do it constantly without thinking…when we board planes, get in our cars, or cross the street. We surrender to each other blindly all the time. Surrender in the mountains however has a unique texture. We stare up, calculate the risk, and surrender to the potential consequence. A decision is made to engage with fear and move with it. Fear is rooted in the future…an idea of something that could occur. In that sense, that which we fear isn’t real. The goal then, is to surrender to both the potential consequences and the sensation of fear. Only when I embrace it rather than fight it, am I able to move through it.”

If there was any fear holding me back, it felt more loose and less destructive. And that’s maddeningly insane coming from a normal, everyday guy, sitting somewhere in the Himalayas sending vibes to thousands of people scattered across this planet of ours. No?

Here’s his most inspirational and true (to him) story on Nat Geo as well, in case you’re interested. Enjoy. :)

137: Rooted

17 May

It happened sometime last week when A was working unpredictable and horrible hours which left me home alone longer than I usually am. It was also the week when I fiercely tried making a physical cut between my work and home; when I tried finishing all my work at work and bringing back just empty tiffin boxes and myself home. Naturally I had time at hand to while away, and that’s when it all happened.

I revisited a yoga video series that I’d ditched early this year or late last year, I can’t remember, to make myself feel more physically useful and productive. My evening walks, whenever they did happen, had been stopped as well because of this weird hay-fever I’d developed thanks to the season. Besides, it’s not fun to walk in a 38 degree environment (even post 730pm), so there just had to be a way out when I wanted the comfort of physical movement.

Back then I gave this up because I’d naturally overestimated myself and underestimated the potential and power of feeling, being, and engaging in yoga. Oh, this looks too non-challenging and blah, or, yoga isn’t for me, is what I’d always say, and that’d be that. Basically I guess I was just too out of whack to even admit that I couldn’t even comfortably do something that looked so darn easy; the false ploy of ego, I tell you.

But I desperately needed some grounding, some calm, some mindspace to give myself all that I’d planned to give myself. How could I fathom giving my mind a breather if I didn’t allow it to breathe, and how could I feel energised or even connected and rooted without giving my body that energy it needed? It took a couple of days, but I could begin to identify these minute but very evident changes that slowly took root in me. To feel grounded, rooted, connected, energised, a conductor and channel of positive flowing energy is something my body and mind were thirsty for. Back when I did yoga in school, I’d learnt the power of its mysticism, except I never stuck on with it for innumerable reasons. To understand the supremacy of a single breath and the potential it has in it is quite fascinating. Not that I’m here to get philosophical or yogic with you, but here I am, five days (I started this more than a week ago but it’s been just five days) of yoga later, feeling a feeling that I haven’t a long while.

On the floor, in what I can assume is a yoga posture, and sipping on cold water under a tireless fan, I sit, writing this blog post for you and me. It’s just us, the hustle of these keys, the distant sound of a pressure cooker, and the choir of silence that has me exactly where I want to be.

Namaste.

94: Resonance

4 Apr

Today’s all about perfect indulgences…of which some of them are:

 

 

 

 

 

(drifts away)

93: Looking Back

3 Apr

Here’s one from a while back that I found when I was scrolling back to my posts from way back. I’m not sure if I wrote this or posted this as a source of inspiration. It’s got to be the latter of course, except I’ve been mad and not mentioned anything on that post, and neither can I find any references online. Sometimes looking back can be embarrassingly cringe-worthy, and sometimes it can make today feel embarrassingly cringe-worthy, because go ahead and indulge in this. If I’ve written this, then woah me!

 

ये आसूं, इनको न बहने दो
ये जो मेरी ज़िन्दगी है,
मुझे जीने दो,
मुझे जीने दो.

पास आए ये पल जो लेहेरते हुए
इनको ख्वाबों में बट जाने दो,
ज़िन्दगी के
ख्वाबों में बट जाने दो.

न अकेली में
न अकेले तुम
यह जो हमारे ख्वाब हैं
तैरने दो, इन्हें तुम.

पल हसीं है,
जवानी अमीर है;
इनको न ठेस पहुचाओ.
न रहो अलग तुम
न रहे अलग हम.

 

Happy Monday! :)

83: The Magnetism Of Realness

24 Mar

I’ll admit that I’ve been taken over by Jon Krakauer’s work and style of writing. I’m still admittedly hugely absorbed in his telling of the 1996 Mt. Everest tragedy, scouring each word and expression to immerse myself into, not that his work warrants much effort. My experience with this book has been the realest thing I’ve read in the longest time; as if I was there, watching it all unfold in front of my eyes, undergoing the sharpness of each emotion felt by the ones on that expedition. I can’t remember when a book made me feel this way.

As far back as I can remember, biographies and non-fictitious works never called out to me. The only real-life tales I ever participated in were those of Jim Corbett, thanks to the influence his works had on my cousin brother, and therefore on me. I’ve never read Anne Frank, neither have I attempted a biography, no matter how well talked about or moving. They just couldn’t lure me back then. Of course I chanced upon the movie Everest after which I felt drawn towards Krakauer’s book for reasons too mysterious even for my comprehension.

Last night as I ensconced myself in this piece, I was unable to keep it aside, for how could one just leave when members you’ve come to know over so many pages lay in a Godforsaken place waiting to die or be saved? It’s not the drama, the eeriness, or even the incalculable struggle which kept me in my spot, I realised later as I drifted into sleep (talk about letting go and trying not to think!). It dawned upon me that a lot of me connected with the realism of what I was reading. Books come to you, like everything else that’s meant for you does, I believe. At a time when I’ve innumerable questions threatening to exhaust the last stock of my sanity and concrete (or so I thought) sense of self, here came a book that helped me find a path towards some answers, if not give me answers itself.

This strange existentialism that grips us all in myriad ways has its grasp on me too. Where am I going? What am I doing? Who am I? What is my calling? The questions are many, and overwhelming. Some people have their answers because of their sureties. I’m not one of them because I’ve never felt so nomadic before. I’m from everywhere and nowhere, I tell whoever asks me where I am from. Somehow that answer fits my understanding of this question best at the moment. And so the path continues.

Strangely enough, my course of thoughts, actions, questions, and behaviours already seem to have taken a deviation taking into cognizance this need for more realness than the imagined. The gears have changed and it’s a refreshing phase, that’s for sure.

79: Pages

20 Mar

Sometime during the final stages of my unemployment, after I’d received confirmation of my next job, I dared to slink into the couch on a bright sunny afternoon to watch tv. It’s not like anything unusual or appealing ever shows on tv these days, which makes it less likely to happen on a weekday afternoon. But I was in luck, by such a freak chance, because Everest was playing, and it was a movie I really wanted to watch ever since it released. I managed to stay glued to the television, then oblivious of the setting sun or how its disappearance meant gearing myself up for colder evenings (we were still in the throes of winter). Perhaps I’d already been vicariously acclimatised thanks to the movie. Never had I felt this absorbed or engaged with a movie in a long time; and naturally, it stuck to my thoughts prominently enough to make me watch it twice more. Poring over client interviews of the 1996 expeditions ensued, and I never really stopped thinking about it. In fact, I made my family watch it and sat through the movie again with them, and happened to write about it over here as well.

But that wasn’t enough. I found myself hunting for Jon Krakauer’s retelling of the experience, which I’ve soaked myself into; savouring it a day at a time, sometimes keeping it aside intentionally just so it lasts longer. You’d say taking over 1.5 months to read a book you’re that connected with is a joke, but here I am, still just a little short of the 3/4th mark, and making quite the effort to tear myself away from it for selfish reasons. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that’s really made me want to come back to it without force, or even compulsion. Into Thin Air, is just that, and a lot more that the reader in me was thirsty for. Call it the influence of this fascination with the Everest that I’ve been unusually drawn to for years now, or the magnetism of a book that speaks to more than just the reader in me.

At this juncture when a lot of my “free” time is conjunct with life’s larger questions and ideas, here’s this book which feeds my need to find answers like a well the thirsty me has been craving for. Like Charlie, I want this treat of mine to last as long as it can, to stay with me and make me feel like I do belong to a tribe that has fascinations beyond the ordinary. Getting lost in his words, his encounters, his expressions, it’s not so much the writer but the magnanimity of it all put together which calls out to me. I do believe we all have our own quests dotted with our own mirrors and empty spaces that need filling. Past the horizon of everything that is tangible and known lies this radiant energy that makes me want to find answers via this book, this movie, and my general obsession with the Himalayas.

Sometimes pages stand still, sometimes they flurry past with no resolutions of answers or a way forward. Settling into the expanse of a space that is mine and mine alone, all in the suffocating confines of a page, lies that x factor which I’m unable to name or put a label on. The only awareness I have is that at the end of every single day, when the last thing I want is to look at a book, this particular one is the only thing that’s been calling out to me stronger than ever before.

52: Everest

21 Feb

There’s always been something about the mountains that has drawn me to them. It was only till very recently that I arrived at this insight, or even found my answer to this question I was asked in casual conversation sometime ago – are you a mountain or a beach person? This awareness also arose when I was winding my way across a range of them, not so long ago. The arrival of this answer came without conflict or second thoughts, even. It was plain, simple, uncomplicated, and unprecedentedly obvious – I was always, it seems, a mountain girl. It’s astounding how some answers seem to always be around; marked, perceptible, and in plain sight most often. Perhaps it was the role of time which lends this search a hand. Anyway, I had the answer, and I scoffed because it was so unbelievably obvious. A lot of me always concluded that I was a beach bum; after all who doesn’t love the experience of being sprawled on balmy, coral beaches? Heck, my entire idea of romance revolved, and still revolves around beaches, sea sunsets, and sea breeze. Nowhere in my fantasies or desires did I ever imagine wooden floors, fireplaces, snow, and stews! Beaches, it always was. On the other hand, I associated mountains with physical activities, which were predominant during my school-going days. A visit to the mountains always included treks, nature walks, rock climbing, and every single other activity that didn’t spell comfort, excitement, or even happiness to me. For someone who has a fear of heights, as much as she does of water, visits to beaches didn’t enforce any encounters with these fears, as our mountain trips did.

Yes, I was a complete ignoramus even when these weird connections and associations with the mountains were enormously present throughout my life. For one, I do not have a bucket list of places that are imperative for me to visit; in fact, I have just three that I desire to see; of which all of them are related to the mountains. A lot of me thinks it’s some sort of an enigmatic spiritual calling. The more I analyze these thoughts, the greater they pull me towards them. For example, and I cannot explain why, I have this fascination with the Himalayas. This enchantment, I’m certain, stems from no religious foundations, because I have none, when it comes to religion. But there’s a magnetism to this entire experience which makes it progressively inexplicable, and more intense as time passes.

When A first told me about the place he comes from, and consequently over many more conversations we had before and after we got married, the one coincidence that shone out to me was that these magnanimous mountains could be seen in plain sight from his home. I saw it in his photographs, and I saw it in his eyes and expressions. However, whenever I’ve visited home, they’ve either been shrouded or fractionally visible, unlike their usual track record. If I were to lead these incidents on, I’d say that maybe I’m meant to actually visit them at their feet and not from afar. If I was to be spiritual, I’d say they’ll call me when we’re ready to meet face-to-face. If I was serendipitous, I’d lay everything in the hands of time. Perhaps it’s all, or none, or a twisted amalgamation of all three.

A couple of weeks ago, I chanced upon the movie Everest, which I’d been meaning to watch when it released in 2015, but couldn’t. To say that it absorbed me completely and wholly, would be an understatement. I proceeded on to catch this same movie twice more, by chance, I promise, and watched it again. Every watch taught me something new. Every watch felt like it was the first time. Have you seen it? Do watch it. I proceeded on to reading up about it, and about the many auxiliary topics that revolved around it. My search led me to read up about the incident in itself, about the tourist season, about the climb, the experiences, the attempts, the failures…in fact, it was just yesterday when I watched the interview with Beck Weathers; one of the survivors of the 1996 incident who miraculously made it back to the camp after being left to die/considered dead for two days. If there’s one consistent fact that highlights itself, then it is that this range of mountains, has in its keep, a plethora of lessons for every single person who crosses paths with it. The evidence of this is beyond doubt or contest. Of course everything in Nature has a lesson to teach us all, and that’s unarguably true. It’s just about where, when, and via which means, these lessons make their way to us.

I urge you to watch the movie, even if you’re not into the Himalayas, or a fan of the mountains. It’s undoubtedly inspirational on all counts. Yesterday saw me randomly browsing the internet (I actually wanted to shop), when I came across Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”, which I now want. He was one of the participants and survivors of the 1996 expedition which took the lives of many; and also has to his name another fantastic work of art titled “Into The Wild”, which was adapted into another movie that moved and worked on me in indescribable ways. I’ve written about it, here. They all speak of life, and most importantly, of its journey.

Someone great did, after all, say that life is not about the destination, but its journey.