Category Archives: The Thirty Diaries

The Lone Runner On The Treadmill

I wish I knew more people like me. I mean single Indians who’ve made choices and made mistakes. People who have broken some rules inadvertently and others because it was the only way to survive. The single Indian bit is important and come to think of it, being female too. But most important of all, people my age who are all this.

I have a world full of great folks who are at least 5 years younger than I am. Technology and exponentially leaping progress have made this a generation gap. While I find most of my tribe in the generation after mine, the fact still remains that I’m a few steps ahead. I’m past the time of competing for things that I know now to not be important. Or fearing things I can imagine because I’ve survived worse surprises and I know your mind is nothing but a horror movie that’s scary but can be turned off. I know all this and sometimes it gets tiresome being the only one who knows.

Specifically this applies to my romantic and to a lesser degree my professional choices. It’s only someone very naive that would say,

“Why do you care what other people think? Live life your own way.”

My world is full of people mouthing such platitudes, truly believing they’re wise and strong. They have not yet realised the impact of that idea, having rarely experienced it in its true brave-brutal-hostility-face-crippling-fear-be-attacked way. This is a brutally difficult path to follow for your career and I’ve managed it. But it makes no sense to me to think of relationships this way since relationships are about caring about other people. I’m tired of the glamorisation of the single life, possibly by unhappily married people wishing they could have something that isn’t actually real.

Today I had a conversation with a friendly acquaintance, on adjacent treadmills to be sure, at gym. She’s a few years younger than I am, happily married. She charmed me at our first meeting when she said she had no intention of having children and why should be the world’s business? That’s grounds enough for a friendship, I decided. It is and yet it’s not close enough. In conversations about love lives and life choices, she said,

“But do you even want comittment? I would think you’re the kind of woman who doesn’t really want all that. You’re so independent.”

She is so young, is all I could think. And yet, I know now that most men who’ve known me, romantically or otherwise echo the same black-and-white sentiment. Why does my desire to drive things mean that I do not want companionship? Why is my unwillingness to settle for abuse, disrespect and subjugation seen as comittment aversion?

I do want comittment, but with the right person. I know firsthand what a nightmarish hell it is to be comitted to someone who does not like you, does not care for you and wishes you harm. A lot of people think that made me afraid of relationships. It didn’t. It gave me perspective. If my only choice were a bad relationship or singledom, today I know which is the better one and that’s the one I’ve chosen. But I didn’t choose singledom over a promising (since that’s as good as it realistically can be) relationship because there isn’t one on my horizon right now.

A lot of the people in my life are men. My experiences tell me that if a man is not attracted to me, he is not likely to pay anything more than superficial attention to me. He’s just not interested in my life because I’m not a goal. If he is attracted to me, even faintly, it narrows the way I can be and things I can speak about because an innate need to compete and then judge crop up. Men are such limited human beings, no thank you for the socialisation, India.

Women on the other hand, can be bright, brave creatures. I love how many 27-33 year old women I know now who are single, beautiful, brave, intelligent and confident in their lives. I was the only one I knew when I was all those ages, and surrounded by boyfriend stealers, frenemies, girls who played dumb before the boys, girls who manipulated and tore each other down. I love that there are more women I can relate to now. But, they still are younger. They’re dealing with some of the things I’m still dealing with (thanks again for the rape culture, India). But they’ve not yet had to think about the biological clock and about annual health checkups, to name just two things. They’re dealing with other things I did not have to then (“Are you a good enough feminist?”). They are not me yet. Maybe they won’t be and I hope the world will be a better place for them when they’re 37.

Where does that put me? Running on the treadmill, alone. I did not choose to be here. But in life, as in the gym, if you’re there, you have to keep moving.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

And Then There Was Music

I sang today.

Actually it’s the second time this week. Earlier this week, I met a friend visiting from out of town at what turned out to be a karaoke event. I sat through an hour of people rollicking in songs I did not recognize, trying hard not to feel outdated and irrelevant. And then my group picked out a nostalgia track that took me back to when singing was fun.

"Am I the only one? Am I sexual?" feat. @febwinsta and @abhishekaggy

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In case you’re wondering….the original:

Just before it was time to leave, something swung into place. A new year I realised, new resolutions, new promises and all that means the old burdens don’t exist any more or don’t have to matter anymore. The microphone is not new to me anymore and with karaoke, you don’t really expect anyone to be superlative in their mastery of the song or even memory of the lyrics. I chose this slightly (now) obscure song to pay tribute to the Angry Girl I started off as at seventeen. And it was good.

Today was Tuning Fork’s first challenge of the year. They had us write a piece in an hour to a prompt and just before going up on stage, they told us we’d have a predefined mood to render the performance. I started in fits & jerks, picking pieces of pretty lines and unfinished poetry from my stash. Then I decided to set those aside and go with a story that’s been lurking in the back of my lungs, waiting its turn while my voice, throat and mind got comfortable on stage.

This was the story I told. And the mood I picked was ‘Happy’ which felt like 2017 continues to be on my side and help me stay well, happy. I just listened to my performance and I’m so happy there’s still music inside me.

It feels like I’m seeing someone I’ve known all my life in a new light. Thank you for the music and the microphone. 2017, I thank you for your gifts.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Pop A Pill, Define A Generation

The full health check-up I got done last month, revealed a thyroid deficiency. I’ve been advised to take a pill every day. “For how many days?” I asked my doctor. “You have to just keep taking it,” he said. It’s kept me glum over this weekend. I know science understands the functioning of our bodies as well as drugs a lot better than it did 30 years ago. I have also been made aware that the pill I’ve been prescribed, is not a medicine but in fact a supplement to make up for what my body isn’t producing naturally. And finally, the fact that there isn’t an easily known cause or reason for this happening. Only that it’s common enough for most people (and medical professionals) to not bat an eyelid.

Image via Unsplash/John Towner

Image via Unsplash/John Towner

One part of me feels like something has been completed. It’s not a dramatic sense of completion. It’s more like finally finding an answer to a long pondered-over sum. Whether it is the right one or not, who knows? After a year of stumbling about in the dark, wondering if mental illness may be a reality I’d have to deal with, it may turn out to be nothing more than a (relatively simpler) hormone readjustment. I am a woman after all; my body is a test site for all manner of hormone fluctuations known to humankind. It could also explain my frequently falling sick since loss of immunity is one of the side-effects of thyroid deficiency.

There is a sense of sombreness that has settled over me this weekend. It’s not sadness, it’s not pain, it’s not desperation. It’s not even melancholy. It is a sense of things passing, of letting some things pass or having them pass over you willy-nilly. 37 is not 22.

I’m feeling something in my spirit, subconsciously drawing lines. I cannot and do not want to keep up with 20-somethings anymore. A generation gap has opened up and I’m the one defining that line. In a sense, I’ve been moving towards this for years. My solo dates, my gradual cutting down of frantic socialising, my distaste for intoxication (even while juggling the ‘no-judgements’ stance that allows one to be a part of the social circles), my attitudes to sex and friendship and relationships. It’s all there, building up to this very thing. I don’t want to live like I’m 22 and apparently, I can’t anymore either. It is a sobering thought.

I’ve also been growing increasingly aware of other people getting older. My peers are struggling with the realities of life we weren’t taught to anticipate or handle. And my parents generation, what of them? Many of them are so admirably adapting to things that even my generation finds tough.

Amidst all the jokes about ‘My mother is on Whatsapp and I have to make sure she doesn’t see me online’ and ‘Oh god, my father sent me a Facebook friend request’, something else stands out. While my generation is already giving up on Snapchat, sex and relationships, the generation before ours is still willing to embrace technology, new connections and world views. We are neither as wise nor as strong. And their generation is only getting older, frailer, tireder. Yet they solder on valiently. But like all things, that must come to pass. And then, what will happen of us? What indeed, will happen of me?

I wonder how much of my full, active, happening life is like the pill I’ve to pop every day – a supplement to what should occur naturally but does not.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Reluctant Learner

Three people have been needlessly, disproportionately vicious to me today. I’m choosing to take it as a lesson. A lesson in what?

Is it possible that I’ve been as reckless and feckless in my actions and words in the past? It is possible. I don’t think I’ve ever been a poisonous, manipulative person. My MO is more to shoot from the hip and ask questions later and that is more a flaw of firepower than poison. Yet, its impact may be just as damaging.

I don’t know if it’s a function of our flawed social systems where older generations never allow the younger ones to grow up. I am not sure if it has to do with being a very hungry nation, even for those of us in the privileged layer. But in our twenties we are definitely more like wrecking balls of sentiment. Even worse, we are heavy machinary being operated by a short-sighted and drunk/stoned driver. We have no sense of the repercussions of our actions. We have no ability to deal with multiple emotions. And we lack that vital ingredient in a sane life – perspective.

Am I better off now that I’m in my 30s? I can’t say. I’m finding thoughts such as these are surfacing alongside the blind trigger rage responses. Maybe that’s growing up, maybe it’s slowing down.

I am also finding I’m tiring of the 20-somethings I find myself around, in my creative as well as my professional circles. They are full of these poisonous situations, on breakneck speed down dangerous pathways. It’s all I can do to get out of the way and not get hit too hard, too much.

I’ve been suffering from a strange ailment this month. Well, that’s not new, is it? This seems to be a year where my body shouts out in languages that it hasn’t so much as bothered to whisper in before. First the recurring cold-cough-fever of January. Then the blinding nausea (yes, that is a thing) that was diagnosed as migraines. And now a voice that’s just GONE. No throatache, no cold, no cough, no fever. I just can’t speak anymore. I open my mouth and a stranger’s voice rattles through my voicebox, when it does. If I’ve forced my way through the day with that (performances, classes, webinars), I’m suddenly unable to utter a full word.

It seems fairly obvious to me that this is a call for me to slow down and speak less. I do live a rather vociferous life, after all. So I’ve taken a break from performing and phone calls. I cannot cut out work but I’ve been able to deliver those a lot better since I cut out the first two.

So what now? Let go of people. Let go of situations. Let go of pride. Let go of a sense of justice. Let go of the things I love doing. Let go of speaking. Can you imagine how hard this is for a Cancerian whose first instint is to hold on, a Leo Rising whose being revolves around expression and talking?

Sigh. Maybe this is not permanent. Perhaps as with the situations that started off this day, there is just a lesson to be learnt before comforts and loves are earned back again.

A lesson in letting others live out their crashes. A lesson in not get hit and run over. Lessons of goodbye. Lessons in silence. Shh.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

No Generation Of My Own

I was 30 before I got into a ‘proper’ relationship and it was with someone younger. Someone asked my father,

“Doesn’t it seem like Ramya is five years behind her generation?”

He said,

“Or maybe, she’s five years ahead of her generation.”

Yes, that is a wonderful reference for a parent to set and sustain. I didn’t see it that way myself till I heard it.

I never identified with my age-peers. When I was 16, I couldn’t see what point there was in getting into any manner of flirtation or relationships. I could already see that there would be all manner of drama, family, friends and self-caused. Weren’t there already enough things to torment a teenager in India in the 90s?

I also never really ‘got’ the marriage thing through my 20s. Why are you marrying him or her, I’d ask my friends and get answers like, “Because it’s the thing to do”, “because my parents said so”.

And finally when I first quit my important corporate job to stop, think and catch my breath (the term ‘sabbatical’ was not common then), NOBODY got it. But a few months in, surprised at my okayness, people would keep saying, “Oh, lucky you, I wish I could do that!”. Why not, I’d ask, do you have a family to support or loans to pay off? None of these conversations ever happened with anyone who would have to say Yes to that.

All in all, I’ve never gotten the generation that people say I’m a part of.

On the other hand, my work, my hobbies, my love life and my life style are populated by people about 5 years younger than I. Since they came into the properly adult world in their mid-20s, they’ve felt more like my rightful generation, my crowd than the people I shared classrooms, playgrounds and career levels with.

But there’s something else. Haven’t I often said I feel old? I do. I carry the point of view of a 37 year old in a generation of 31 year olds. I have the memories and lessons of an 80s upbringing in a world of 90s and noughties kids. This is not about maturity because I don’t think that is a linear thing. Maturity has a great deal to do with personality, with experience and insight and time doesn’t exist on the same dimension as those things. This is about perspective and priority.

I tire often of the younger men I date because they are struggling with managing time, health and newfound economic freedom. I’ve already gone through these teething problems and woes and I know what works best for me. I have no desire to relive them in someone else’s problems this time.

I find myself getting impatient with my younger friends for their ineptitude, and in what silly ways they let ego blind their promises and work quality. It’s not that I was any better when I was in my late 20s. But I’ve passed through those tests of fire and I don’t struggle with them anymore. Even the very natural insecurities and diffidence — it’s starting to wear me down, how much there is in everybody around me.

Were we also that scared of everything? I’m sure we were but we were each so consumed in our fears that we scarcely paid heed to each other and the world around us. And therein lies a ‘we’ that I dislike. I suddenly have something in common with a generation that I never felt I fit in with.

But they don’t feel like a comfortable fit either. They’re grousing about struggling marriages (well, what did you expect with the reasons you got into them?), deadend careers (again, follow the rules not your independent mind and are you surprised?) and how ‘today’s kids’ spend so much time on Facebook and Twitter. I’m shutting that door already, saying oops, I entered the wrong room.

My two closest friends are both six years younger than I am. One of them has moved across the country for a girlfriend then moved back and changed careers. Another has quit a super prestigious corporate career, gotten married, started an unconventional (and seemingly uncool) business and then changed. These experiences undoubtedly put them beyond their age-peers in terms of perspective. They are exceptions as am I. It makes it possible for us to be very good friends. But exceptions have to be loners because we tread such unique paths.

This isn’t an angry or even a sad place. I don’t anymore feel like I don’t know my place in the universe. I know that it doesn’t have to do with what other people say and each day I’m getting a little closer to knowing what it is. I’ve gone a full circle from sitting by the phone with no one wanting to speak to me to switching off my phone to hide under hoods so I can get some private time. No, it’s not a desolate place at all. But it is a lonely place, waiting for the world to catch up, knowing maybe no generation ever will.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Designing Your Own Happy

I primarily left the corporate world because of the people. I couldn’t bear the idea of living the rest of my life, centered around pettiness and politics and that’s all I saw around me. I drifted gradually into more creative circles. I met artists, writers, musicians, actors, performers. I also met a lot of people who were doing other things independent of the corporate world. Entrepreneurs, new industry pioneers, people who had either quit or said no to more traditional and lucrative (read responsible) life choices. Yes, there is no such a thing as a compartmentalised career, especially not in a place like Mumbai. What you do for a living defines the other aspects of your life and the roles you get to play in society too.

Here too, I found disillusionment in human beings, in how often we allowed ourselves to fall into small-time manipulation and bickering instead of chasing things that really inspired us. My sabbatical hit shock after shock. My father said,

“What do you expect? It’s people. You’ll find that everywhere.”

I had had about a decade of people experiences before I walked this path. Why then, did I expect the world outside the corporate structure would be different?

Here’s why. No one becomes an insurance agent or a market researcher or a project manager for the love of it. Sure, a lot of people find tremendous satisfaction in the jobs they are doing. But how many of them would continue doing so if they didn’t have to or if they didn’t get paid to do them?

On the other hand, I left what may have been a more comfortable life behind because I saw a tiny opportunity to spend it doing what I loved instead. I would have and I did write even when I wasn’t getting paid for it, even when I didn’t have to do it. Much before the internet and blogging were realities, I was writing. I imagine these worlds are populated by people like myself, who were pulled out of their steady lives by the dream of something that touched them more. I didn’t expect to find the kind of spiritual fatigue, the weary psyche that causes people to politic rather than inspire, here.

I’ve known a poet whose primary objective is to play victim. I’ve spoken to a standup comic who spends more time brooding over how his successful peers only got that way through contacts. I’ve been with a performer whose sole objective is to maintain the identity of an angry, downtrodden rapper to the exclusion of all else. I’ve hung around with countless entrepreneurs who’ve used their business/project as an excuse to write away all kinds of terrible behaviour (cheating, disrespect, fraud). And I’ve met countless writers who are — plain and simple — assholes. That’s it, that is their whole entire identity. An asshole who happens to write.

The last gives me a little clue into what’s happening, perhaps because I know this group best, being one myself (writer, I hope, not asshole). Most of us don’t really, truly know what we’re chasing. We give it the best, easiest or most socially acceptable label we can find. It’s not cool to say I’m seeking more popularity than I have here. Or that I want to be pampered and my life doesn’t give me that. Or that I think the world owes me a favour but if I have a regular job, I’m expected to give as I take so that doesn’t work for me.

It’s really the same things that people in the corporate world are searching for — fame, money, success but also acknowledgement, belonging, approval, respect, identity. The kind of structured universe that the corporate world is, just enforces some kind of order and following of rules with or without enrollment. Maybe it’s true. Those who can’t abide by that have bigger problems.

Then again, I guess it’s okay as long as you get what you’re looking for. There’s nothing poetic about a drama queen but that’s fine if you’re looking for attention, not beauty. Resentment is not funny either but maybe you’re not looking for a reason to laugh yourself. As for the angry rapper, well, maybe my idea of unhappiness is his idea of fulfilment.

Me? I chose peace and happiness. I’m not the best writer around but I’m being the best I know how to be. I’m not the most successful or even the best known but I try to remember that I was inspired by the thought of a lifetime of writing, not a fat bank balance. It’s feeling like things are more better than worse and I feel that way. Happiness is not a 24×7 party and I’m just glad I get to go to it.

On magic and stories

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I Want To Stop Counting But I Don’t Know How

I turned 36 five days ago. All I feel is lost, weightless, formless, restless. Less. Less. Less. Since my last birthday, I’ve had a half-year of frenzied work and I managed to rack up again all the stress and related ailments that I accumulated during my stint in the corporate world in the 20s. Friendships were made and lost, love found and gone.

And I started 2015 feeling adult and peaceful. Health was my big drug of this year. I started waking up earlier, trying to go to bed on time and after years of scoffing at the neon, synthetic brigade, I joined a gym. I’ve been plodding and I’ve seen some results. But I don’t feel happier. I feel like I’m watering a dead plant. What is the point?

Good things have happened. I’m now officially, a published author. It was anticlimactic. I feel very little.

Three men expressed an interest in me. I navigated my way out of it, ungracefully but I made it out, not wanting to succumb to temptation just because it was offered. And literally days after that went away, two more men, both friends this time showed up, affections in hand. I feel nothing but a big crease of a frown weighing me down. As my friends, I am able to see them as funny, intelligent, caring human beings. But when love, relationships and sex come into the equation, before my eyes, they grow into selfish, brutally cruel monsters who don’t feel the need to keep their promises and who will never be punished for hurting me and the brunt of which I will have to bear. It all makes me feel so tired, I just want to curl up and go to sleep forever.

I also did an Art of Living program in the weekend just before my birthday and felt very mature about doing so instead of putting alcohol, junk food, loud music and forced smiles into my life in the guise of a party. All we did was breathe in different ways. I think it brought up a lot of things (or at least I hope that’s what it was). I can’t otherwise explain the unaccountable sense of depression I felt all day through my birthday.

I think I’ve been very, very afraid of anger for the past three years, since my relationship ended. I’ve not allowed myself to feel it and I’ve walked away from situations where it could come up in other people. Things have been very civil these past few years. But I’m realising my anger is as much a part of the positive things in my life as the negative. Anger has been my way to cope with crippling fear. Anger salvaged me when the love of my life dumped me with all the cruelty a 20 year old can muster. It gave me clarity when my family went demented with grief (my grandfather’s cancer). It carried me through and out of an abusive relationship with a bad, very bad man. It gave me the impetus to battle gender biases in college, uncomfortable journeys during my early work years and the twisted politics of the corporate world. With anger gone, all I feel is dread and soul-sucking fear. All I am, is a painted shell.

There was much more substance to me when I was writing whiny poetry about a lost love or picturing horrible things happening to mean bosses in cartoons. I feel like the insides of me have nothing, only stale air. All there is room for, is fear. Fear, unlike anger is not a filling emotion. Anger consumes you, like lava churning up inside and spilling out, bubbling over in tears, words and actions. Fear, on the other hand, sucks you in smaller and deeper and tinier and lesser. I fear losing everything and everyone. I fear I have already lost everything and everyone. I fear that I never had any of it in the first place. I fear that I’ve fallen off the treadmill called life, called career, called love, called friendship. I fear that I’ve lost the ability to trust or care for another human being. I fear that I’ve lost the ability to work, succeed and sustain a comfortable life. I fear that I’ve made a mess of everything. I fear that there is nothing left to go on for.

Thirty-six seems like a very old age to be. I’m not married and I can’t anymore see the possibility of a loving, trusting relationship in my life. That can only be possible if I can give at least some of that back. And too much has happened. I feel twisted in ways that I cannot come back from. Damaged and broken. In 13 years I haven’t been able to get past my paralysing fear of Delhi men (after the bad, bad man). I think I’ll live my whole life being petrified of abuse survivors, fearing their pain, fearing they will punish me for it, the way it happened the last time round. And then again, since every new experience has brought fresh pain, what new horror will life wreak on me? I fear it all.

Career and money are slipping away and I feel like it’s a matter of time before I wake up and find myself standing by the side of the road, desperately hungry and with no money to buy food and no way to make any money. I’d be Tom Hanks in the Terminal, only without his unyielding spirit, his absolute faith in home. Where is home? I don’t know anymore. Everything hurts, everybody hurts. Attention, negligence, good health, bad health, fixedness, mobility, noise, silence — everything causes pain.

The organisers of the Art of Living program said that a lot of things would come up and that meant there was much to be resolved. I just feel so tired. Tired, but unable to sleep or rest. I can’t even summon up the energy to be angry. I don’t know if I want to see to 40. What’s the point? It just seems like a downward spiral.

Happy birthday to me. I don’t wish I had never been born. But now that it’s done, can we get it over with soon please? I’m finding it really difficult to go on.

When A Writer Falls Silent

It has been awhile since I wrote. And it has been a long time since I wrote an entry in The Thirty Diaries. I have of course, been growing deeper into the 30s. But for the first time in over 11 years, I’ve gone such a long stretch without writing.

I just couldn’t bring myself to write. The writing engine in my mind has been getting slower and slower and eventually just upped and died some time ago. And each time, inspiration seem to flicker, the thought of writing made my heart sink.

But I have been meditating a lot. Not just in that wise-old-man-in-yoga-pose way. Letting silence settle. Inside me. All things seem clearer in silence.

Writing, I realise, is not healing. It’s catharsis. For a lot of us, it starts with an outpouring of things, usually negative things that find no expression in the outside world. Especially on a medium like the internet, the immediate response is validation. As one of the first people to play in this space, the almost instant celebrity that hit with it was addictive. I got lost in the echo chamber of dark sentiments that found immediate validation and craving that, I wrote more of that. Every writing takes you to the place in your mind from where the sentiment rises. And each time you relive it, it becomes a little more firmly rooted in your head. Break-ups, death, politics, broken friendships, disappointment, anger, pain — all of these and more found a place in my blogs and my writing. Voices came to resound with mine. Voices of equal clamour and pain. And in our multiplied frenzy, we kept each others’ pain-addiction enabled.

What do you do when you don’t want to dwell in a place of pain anymore, I asked my digital universe? How does a writer survive? None of the answers satisfied me. And eventually, I knew the only way was for me to accept that I might have to give up writing altogether. I hesitate to call it a decision because that would imply that I had choice. Does a leaf caught in a current have a choice in where it is headed? Well, neither did I.

Who am I if not a writer, I wondered. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered confusion again. I say pleasant because I also remembered that it was a place of possibility and peace even, not fear. If I don’t have to carry the label of writer with all the heavy expectations, fears and tangles that come with it, I am free to float and in whatever part of me floats away, I come a little closer to discovering who I am. And in that leaving behind, I looked down and saw all the nice, pretty things that I could take happiness from, in the life I was saying I was willing to leave behind, as a writer.

My longtime dream of being a published author came true this year. In the least dramatic and most stable, contented of ways. One of the projects I’ve been working on completed a year and my client decided to commemorate it by asking me to write a piece of my own choosing (“Basically anything at all that you want to say”). I did. And then, they collated all our work into a book that was circulated to some people within the company. It’s not a book that I can talk about since it is company-internal. It may never reach the numbers and climb to a bestseller list. But it is a bonafide book. Most of the work in there is mine. It became a book because what was written in it, reached people, touched minds and hearts. It is a book because it did what it was intended to do and showed the promise of even more. It even has my photograph at the end with an endnote (the commemorative piece I wrote as an open letter to the people I worked with). How much better this is than the vision I had of myself as an author, sandwiched nearly apologetically on an overcrowded bookshelf. I am very grateful for life’s surprises. Author? Me!

Alphabet Sambar, my most recent baby grew by leaps and bounds of its own accord too. There have been several difficult nights like all new parents have. Tears, fears and pain are a part of any writer’s journey and we’re talking about a community of tens of writers. But it grew nevertheless, reaching people only by word of mouth, growing in new directions with every new member who brought in their perspective. We grew in numbers but also in genres, experiments and what we saw as possible. Twelve members attempted their first novel via the group last year. A student decided on writing for her future studies, after a year at Alphabet Sambar. A wide-eyed young woman dared to dream about writing, then novel and most recently standup comedy, becoming one of the small but growing number of female performers in the medium in India. She credited the group with giving her the space and the confidence to try it all. One of my longtime writing mentors who I’d never have imagined would be interested in this group, joined and built a relationship between this group and the bigger writing community she straddles. A writing compatriot wrote about us in a local publication, listing us as one of the top community entertainment options in the city. What an uncommon thrill it is, to have been a part of all these journeys in my own way. This totally happened by mistake, a very very happy mistake and I can’t believe the opportunity to be here and do this just fell into my lap.

Love became a possibility, if not a reality last year. I got trapped in fear and confusion and medication. But it was all a process of healing and growing. And I came out of it filled with sadness but with the grim hope that love still could bloom in what I thought had been left as a barren heart.

Do I find myself wiser? I always visualised wisdom as this gigantic encyclopaedia of answers, all of which I would know. I have even fewer answers now than I did ten, five, two years ago. But I’m finding it easier to remember the simple mantras. Breathe in, breathe out. Really, that’s the only one. And at the end of a few breaths, the world looks like a more manageable place to live in. If that’s wisdom, I guess I justify the white in my hair and the tooth that I had to have extracted.

And while I was having all these thoughts in silence, I realised I needed to say sorry to someone. Before the impulse vanished under pride, fear and distraction, I sent a message. And an evening meeting materialised. Perhaps because I had began dropping away the trappings of ‘writer’, it felt easier for me to not go around in circles trying to find the best words to express what I felt.

“I just wanted to say I am sorry,” I said.

Curiously, he understood. It was a very different evening from any I’ve had in years. I let myself stay in that place of not knowing, of feeling desperately vulnerable, of handing someone the chance to hurt me with rejection, condescension, pity or malice. And none of it happened. There was no dramatic flourish either. But it did not hurt.

And when I came back home, suddenly, I felt like I could write again.

I didn’t rush into it immediately. I’m learning to take deep breaths. Nothing seems very urgent or frenzied after a bit of oxygen. But a few weeks later, the words seem to flow in my bloodstream. Not pounding through in place of blood as they once did. But there’s something there. And look, I’ve written an entire essay! I am writing.

But mostly, I’m still discovering who I am. And I’m alive.

Hello 2015, Welcome In…

Hello 2015,

Welcome in. You are going to occupy my life starting now. And I’m welcoming you in. I have been looking forward to seeing you for a long time now.

You see, you end with a 5 which is a very nice satisfying number to be. I wouldn’t call you a multiple of 5 because the 0 ending years are those too and we both know they’re really overrated, aren’t they? You come exactly midway through the decades and midway points are quite delicious to me, personally. You know I was born almost exactly midway through the year. Which is why end of years always seem like personal midway points to me. So you see why I’m particularly happy to see you?

I’ve been looking forward to you getting here because you represent hope. Every day, every new minute is hope, of course. But with you, I get to change the title of each day a little bit. Instead of something-something-2014, I will now be saying 2015. Changing the names of days is like changing haircuts for a slightly dispirited girl.

No, 2014 has not been a bad year (that was 2012). But it has not been an easy year or even one that was a lot of fun. It has been a lot of hard work, much biting pressure and some crushing disappointment too. It has been the first year where I felt age crunch down on me and seep into my bones. Literally, with a broken foot bone, then a twisted ankle, several white hairs in my always glossy black mane and general fatigue and listlessness.

Here’s a highlight reel of the best moments of 2014:

(in no particular order: apple cake baked specially for me by Reema, Adi’s birthday, Alphabet Sambar meets, the Mumbai metro, my Mumbai Secret Santee, Ayurvedic treatment, dinner with Sonali in Bengaluru, Christmas with Aditya, Goa getaway and my 35th birthday)

I am now 35, that age where age does become relevant to healthcare professionals and related life decisions. This is the year I start doing periodic check-ins with my body to assess how close diabetes, cancer and a number of other scary things are. This is the year I get a health plan, not because it is the wise thing to do but because it is the survival thing to do.

I am sitting in my room right now typing this out. Fireworks are going on outside. I’m not going to lie and say that this is so amazing. It’s not. I’ve brooded through an hour and a half of miserable memories and various iterations of if-that-hadn’t-happened-then-this-wouldn’t-have-happened. I’ve yanked myself grumpily into work to drown out that. And at exactly midnight I stood at my window watching the fireworks for exactly 20 seconds before shutting away the cold air. This is what I’d rather be doing than be out burning money, watching strangers get drunk and make fools of themselves and sacrificing my safety. But that doesn’t mean it is not lonely. Lonely is dangerous for one and only one reason — it’s the kind of emptiness that welcomes dark, broody thoughts in.

Somewhere two people I once called unimaginably close friends, are ushering you in together and without me. Elsewhere someone who thinks they love me, is looking for and finding happiness in things I can’t comprehend. In yet another part of the planet, a once-soulmate is reveling in the staid comfort that they see as happiness. In sundry other places, the group that I partied with last year is doing various things, separately. I looked at them an exact year ago, y’know and thought, “This is temporary. Nothing ever lasts. I wonder how long this will endure.” And it didn’t last even upto the next party. So, friendships have weathered and waned.

And then again, in a few hours, I have a breakfast date with someone I met a few times in 2014. So new friendships await too, not yet ready to be born, but waiting.

When I was a kid I used to think of the solar system as an athletic track, complete with parallel tracks culminating in a finish line. At that finish line is where I believed, new years began. Now that I know that’s not the case, I realise you’re nothing great. You could be just about any other random point along earth’s orbit around the sun. You could be any other random number from 0 to infinity.

But you stand for something. You represent the acceptance that everything that has passed, has, well, passed. You represent the wait for the unknown, waiting in trepidition but also in excitement. You represent hope.

And for that, I say, welcome in 2015. It’s so good to have you here finally.

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