A special place in your mind
Home isn’t just a where
It’s a why, a how, a who
Also a with whom.
Home is where the heart longs to beat.
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I haven’t written anything new through October. It wasn’t a bad month though. Far from it. The rains petered out and I think I dealt with my least favorite season a lot more gracefully than I usually do. I know it often seems like I’m endlessly complaining. But only I know, within me, there is less being shaken up and torn asunder by life’s events.
A couple of interesting things happened.
I went cycling, twice, both on events that I saw advertised on Facebook. This wasn’t fashionable, professional adventuring or even glossy tourism. It was quite simply, going around places I’ve known my whole life, on cycles. The first trip was in South Bombay, through Colaba, Marine Drive and Nariman Point. The next week took us through Bandra’s winding lanes and slopes – oh, slopes! I never realised Bandra is such an up-and-down suburb. It was quite lovely. I took to cycling the same way I took to swimming, even after years and in a way that I’ve never quite taken to gymming. I was thrilled at my own body memory, my fingers moderating speed, my body angling for turns before my mind even considered it. And finally, I realised, just like swimming, this is an activity that allows you to be completely alone even in a crowd. You can cycle through a road full of people who don’t think like you do. You can share a swimming pool with other human bodies that are violent, petty, angry, sad. And in the water (or on a pair of wheels), gravity treats you the same. You have your own tiny universe of one in the midst of these million others. This is my favorite revelation of 2016.
And finally this accidental click. I haven't cycled in about 20 years, save one time in Goa in the early 2000s. Cycling really is well, cycling. You never forget. I found myself skating along, my thumb pressing the bell at turns and my left hand gently nudging the brake, working with my feet to slow down rather than stopping violently. It is also such a wonderful way to see the city. We covered a lot more ground than on foot. In addition, while it's a group activity, you're also in your own little cocoon, your cycle and you. The closest I've come to this is swimming, my favorite physical activity. Maybe it's time I buy myself a bicycle. bike #ride #rideout #helmet #cycle #bikelife #streetbike #bicycle #bicycling #cruisin #cruising #cycling #cyclist #cyclists #citysights #mumbai #SoBo #southbombay #Bikeurious #travelmastergogo #latergram #oldbombay #oldbombaycharm
The second thing to happen, was my phone conking out this past Friday, just before the big Diwali weekend. To my own surprise, I didn’t panic, get angry or really well, even think about it. Four days passed before I even thought to initiate repairs, find a replacement or tell people around. It was a kind of automatic silence vow that just happened on its own. Was it a coincidence that Diwali didn’t seem as loud and scary as it usually does? I had an allergy attack late Sunday night but I went to sleep and then it was all okay.
Something is definitely happening. I’m slowing down, calming down. It’s not that I don’t feel as intensely anymore. It’s just each time an emotion surges, another part of me seems to look on and say, “Hmm, okay. Too tiring. Not worth it. It’ll be gone in an hour or two.” Is that a good thing? I know it’s certainly more convenient to the world around. But you know something? I don’t think I care that much about the world around me anymore.
There are people I care about, of course. But somehow mixed into my caring, I can suddenly see boundaries. I can see their limitations, I can see how my caring is conditional. And it seems to make more sense to not do, say or express certain things because these would be attempts to change something that cannot be changed (like people’s innate nature).
I am lonesome. It’s not a gnawing, desperate hunger, though. It’s that sense of walking through a roomful of friendly strangers who are not it. I don’t even know what it is. Maybe it’s a person or a place. Maybe it’s several people. Maybe it’s a job. I know the situation I am in is not immediately hostile. It’s not threatening as much as it’s annoying occasionally. And even those annoyances don’t feel worth getting upset over. I’m in the wrong room but it’s not a horrible place to be. Yeah. That’s where I’m at now.
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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.
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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I am saying goodbye to two people this week. It hurts so much my eyelids are blurring into my cheekbones. Luckily Adi is in town and close at hand with a hug. And Reema is back. I am so grateful for life’s big mercies.
Truly, these are mercies. Not a solution but mercy.
I have been considering vulnerability recently. Holding the thought in my head, examining my own experiences of it, watching how I behave with it and how it sits in my psyche. I have not enjoyed vulnerability, haven’t welcomed it. I’ve treated it like it’s weakness, like it must be covered or hidden or toughened in some way. If I’ve treated my vulnerability this way, I have probably been cruel on the vulnerability of other people. But I’ll think about that in a bit. First, me.
A curious thing happened. For a change, I didn’t respond with rage or force. I didn’t hurtle into working harder, talking faster (which are my ways of aggressively running away from problems). I stayed. And I said, “I’m hurting.”
Immediately, I received a phone call. And then tweets. They were all gentle, solicitous, asking if I was okay. I didn’t use my default deflection tactics. But I said,
“No, I’m not. I don’t want to talk about it. Is that okay?”
When I put the phone down, one of the two people I was saying goodbye to, fumbled, perhaps seeing some clarity through the things weighing down on her. She said,
“I’ll write you a mail. You can choose to read it or delete it.”
I opened my mouth but before I could even say a word I saw her flinch. And I realized she just couldn’t see or hear me. There was too much clouding her judgement. Anything I said or did would only be distorted by the voices in her head.
I told her I would not delete a mail from her without reading. But that this whole thing, us, was just becoming one more thing weighing in on her. “Deal with what you have to deal with,” I said, “and just cut out the me part of your life.” I don’t know if she understands what I mean by that but I really don’t want this ending between us to become one more reason she feels victimised by the world.
I know what that feels like. I have reacted to most things, notably to disappointment, with blind pain. I’ve raged I’M HURTING HURTING HURTING HURTING so much I can’t hear or see people around me who love me, offering support or hurting too. I’ve been there. It’s delicious and heady, that burning, that pain.
Perhaps she will resurrect from that place. But I fear I do not have it in me to take people back. I don’t. It doesn’t come from vengeful anger. But I can’t bear to let people back in once they’ve broken me by putting barriers of self-obsession, delusion, disrespect or betrayal between us. Yes, it’s probably true that I hold people up to very high standards. But it’s not judgement that comes between us; it’s the walls. Weakness brings up the walls. Walls hurt. I guess I don’t like boundaries either.
Someone else who discarded me last year is trying to come back into my life. I don’t want him to. It hurt so much when he left as if I meant nothing at all. I’ve built my life back into a place that feels complete without him. There’s no room for him in it now. And any room he makes will drill a hole in a nicely created life and what if he decides to cut loose again? I’m tired of walking around with gaping holes created by people who leave on whim. One hole, one time per person is all I am willing to give the world.
I felt a lot better after I went for a walk in the beach. Sad, very sad, but not weighed down anymore. Maybe it’s this generation, maybe it’s this city, maybe it’s us. Our lives are too burdened by fears and pain collapsing in on us that we lose sight of the things and the people that matter. I cannot judge anyone for that and punishing the people I love for getting lost – is neither love nor fruitful. Perhaps vulnerability doesn’t make me weak. It makes it possible for me to see human nature as just what it is; not the universe conspiring to wound me. Acknowledging my vulnerability makes me acknowledge it other people too. And it makes it possible to accept it and move ahead without being ripped apart by the ties of pain.
Maybe goodbyes are safety valves for this very reason. Once I accepted that there’s nothing else to do but say goodbye, something odd happened. I’m awash in a very strange sense of relief. A big part of my life just opened up again. Who knows what or who will sit in it next?
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Here’s a post from a long time ago. I’ve tidied it up but the memory remains (anyone get that reference?). Here’s to my discovery of myself, to my finding home.
When people ask,
“Born and brought up here?”
I have to pause to think how to answer. I’ve tried various versions of ‘Born in the Capital and grew up in Island City’. That’s so pretentious, isn’t it? But it doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel fair to either city to say anything else. I could just nod my head. After all, who cares where you spent the first month of your life, if you’ve lived elsewhere after that? But it is the first month of my life (actually more, if you count the months my mother was pregnant with me). It’s the place on my birth certificate. It’s where my mother hails from. How can it not be important to the question of where I’m from?
It’s an odd feeling to belong to two different places simultaneously like this. Just like our relationships with people, there are invisible bonds that link us to places too…places that contain strong memories, places we’ve experienced life most in..
Each visit to the capital brings up parallel voices inside of me, conflicting, contradicting and highlighting the differences in the two places. If a city could be the motherland, I’m the proverbial Krishna, originating from one and flowering in another.
Mumbai has left an undeniable chappa on me, shaped my thinking and attitudes. Visiting Delhi however, invokes odd feelings that I’ve never quite been able to explain. I suppose it is a symbolic return to the womb, a reminder of how life could have been, still could be. Having a birth certificate from a city links you to that place for life. Mumbai is in my every waking moment and movement, in my brisk ‘lets-get-down-to-it’ attitude, my indifference to crowds and noise and precision-honed efficiency. Delhi however, whispers its hidden influences in my intellectualising, my love of the good life and long conversations.
It’s cold. But not coooooooooooooold. That’s the first thought that hits me as I alight at Nizamuddin. I remember the dire warnings I’ve received over the past week about the winter in Delhi. Sure, everyone looks plumper (and that’s saying something….the average figure pays testimony to well-fed stomachs) and brighter draped in woolens and feathers (And I always thought these were the grey things that pigeons shed!).
As the day progresses, I can’t help reflecting that in Mumbai food takes longer to cool than to heat up. And oh, what an odd feeling to keep feeling hungry every hour! Mom is delighted and hints that my weight-gain plan might succeed if I shift here.
Shopping is always a great experience in Delhi, even for shop-a-phobics like me. I love the colour, the sheer feel of the ‘arty’ look, kurtas, jholas, mojris and trinkets. Idly I muse that I’ve never seen Delhiites wear any of this, though its considered the ‘Delhi look’. And oddly enough I’ve only seen all of this stuff on Mumbaikers who proudly say “I picked it up on my last visit to Delhi”.
The people look different; even their skin ailments look different. I can’t see any of the familiar pimples and acne that adorn Mumbai faces. There are instead, red splotches and little bumps which I assume must be a combination of colder weather and skins endowed with far less melanin.
Every single person I arrange to meet offers to pick me up or drop me back or both. Hmm, I think, I can’t imagine my Mumbaiker friends doing that any more than I can imagine my permitting them to. As always I hate not being able to travel around freely but I take note of the gentle solicitousness it seems to invoke in people here.
Books, books, BOOOOOKS!!!!! I’ll never be able to hate Delhi so long as it has its books. Mumbai’s workaholism drowns out any possibility of culture appreciation. If Mumbai is the place to make money, Delhi’s the place to spend it. I also see a band playing in one of the corners of Connaught Place. Intrigued I stand and listen to the music belting out of the makeshift speakers. How wonderful, the drummer’s a girl! I can’t imagine amateur musicians making music at street corners like this. Come to think of it, where would they play….Churchgate station?
I gape, all open-mouthed wonder at the neat manicured lawns, shining signboards and broad roads all through our jaunts. I make snide comments about how Mumbai pays at least 1/3rd of the country’s taxes and gets so few benefits in return while the Delhi lives off the rest of the country’s earnings in splendour. I remind my co-passengers of the meaning of the word ‘parasite’ and get muttered threats for reply.
No trip to Delhi is complete without the mandatory visit to the chaatwala. Yum, yum I drool as I watch potatoes and unidentified stuff being mauled in as unhygenic conditions as possible. Oh, to hell with hygeiene I tell that nagging voice and tuck into the ‘halka masala mixed fruit chaat’. My mouth was on fire for an hour afterward. Grr, Delhiites must have cast-iron cauldrons for stomachs.
Somewhere in the back of my consciousness floats pictures of homeless people, victims of the tsunami. I wonder, if a natural disaster had struck up north, would Delhi have been so complacent and matter-of-fact? Out of sight, out of mind is a phrase that springs to mind.
Not that there aren’t conversations. Politics, politics, does every single Delhiite from age 7 upward own a degree in Political Science??? I feel woefully ignorant in all this chatter. That’s until someone mentions a movie and the talk turns to Bollywood. Then I inform them that I’ve stayed within a kilometer from the Big B’s residence and that Vivek Oberoi was my senior in college. HAH! I love the grudging admiration that shines in their eyes as I throw out these facts with an air of disdainful nonchalance.
Saturday and its time to leave. As the capital gears up for a weekend (what’s a weekend to a city that seems to be either lazing or partying during the week?), I pack my bags. I’m so relieved, so relieved, so utterly delirious to be coming back to Mumbai. On my train I’m glad that the other family in the cubicle is from Mumbai and I won’t have to endure declarations of ‘Dilli sabse number one city‘. I spend the journey reclaiming my Mumbainess. I take an almost devilish delight in graphic details of Mumbai trains to a group of youngsters on their first trip. I see one gulp and I smirk. I chase every stereotypical notion of Mumbai and wear it almost desperately to prove my origins. As the train whizzes into Borivili, I sigh, home sweet home. Nothing reminds me more about how much I belong here, than a visit to Delhi. Yeah, Delhi does that. It’s never very far away and I’m afraid it’ll claim me someday. But for now, my Island City holds me safe.
I read out this post at the Caferati Open Mic at Prithvi day before yesterday. Coming on the heels of a 2hour commute, it felt especially apt. 🙂 And the evening ended on a lovely note.
Let’s take a trip, you & I. Let’s go looking for home.
HOME. Home isn’t just a where.
It’s a when. It’s a why. It’s a who. And also a with whom.
Home is in somebody’s hug, when they hold you in just the right way. Not too close, not too tight. When arms but also face, torso and stomach fit into you or onto you. Without design but perfectly right.
Home is in an old song that you first heard in happy times.
It’s a scent that brings back a good memory. Like your first boyfriend’s cologne. Frying fish like your Goan neighbors used to cook. Talcum powder from the baby you’re holding, reminds you of your own childhood.
To a reader, every library and every book store is home.
But home isn’t just memories of pretty things. After all, memories are tangled messes but unique messes nevertheless. A room that is messed up exactly the way you define a mess, will feel like home. Is it clothes that fall out in bundles when you open the cupboard? Newspaper tatters? Food drippings on the refrigerator shelves? Or intricate pencil marks on the wall? The messes that we learn to live with, follow us loyally and make a bunch of bricks seem like home.
Having somewhere to go back to, even if you don’t, is home.
And then people. People who recognize the same references that you do. People whose skin is the same colour when everyone else is a different hue. People who think in the same language. People who call God, the same name. People who sometimes have answers to your questions but mostly, have the same questions too. You may not like them, but hey, they’ll sure feel like home to you.
This blogger calls her blog, home.
Home is objects that have moulded themselves to you. Worn-in shoes. Old undergarments aged to comfort & holes. Hair of the texture and colour you were born with. Toothbrush bristles bent to the contours of your mouth.
The bed you wake up in, after a good sleep will feel like home.
Home is the numbers on a clock and a calendar that carry many stories. Hot summers when everything tastes of mangoes. June approaching with the mixed dread/excitement of back to school. The date of your birth in every other month of the calendar.
Home is having the happy birthday song sung to you.
Home, where you’re used to reaching without thinking and finding just what you were looking for. Mints in the middle drawer. A pen wedged under the keyboard stand. A crumpled handkerchief in your right pocket. A phone number listed under 1 on speed-dial.
Home is who you call when you have nothing to say.
Everyone and every thing that inhabits the world of your vices, has a place in your home. Cigarettes, alcohol, toxic relationships or bad eating habits. Home is every person who shares your vice. Also the objects that fuel it. And finally, the reason you turned to vice in the first place – that’s home too. But take heart, the ex- once felt like home. In conversations & experiences that heal you, there’s home again.
Home is the person you list as your emergency contact.
Home is what stays with you after you’ve shut the door. It travels with you in your suitcase, your pocket, your mobile phone and even in the smell of your own hands. It’s a hard thing to know yourself but it’s easy to know what you recognize.
In a long life of shifting structures and changing addresses, I hope you’ll always find your way home.
The picture above was shot in the study of my last house. It was the first home I’d ever created of my own. This room was my ‘safe space’ in the house. My favorite space in my favorite place. It was peaceful and overlooked an overgrown, untended garden with no disruptive city sights or sounds. At exactly 4pm, a pair of parrots from the house (yes house, not flat) down the road would start chirping. That was my cue that the sun had ceased to attack and the curtains could now be opened. And each evening as I’d open the window, the herb plant I’d kept on each window sill would send up a whiff of its own special scent.
Occasionally, when a close friend would stay over, they’d sleep in there. It was the warmest, most welcoming haven I could offer someone I cared for. I felt like I’d taken the softest, loveliest part of my heart and built a room out of it.
A month and a half ago, I was made to leave by someone I trusted innately. I miss it a lot. I feel like something valuable has been stolen from me. I feel like a huge gaping part of me has been ripped away and I’m finding it really hard to forgive the person responsible for it. Maybe I never will.
But there’s another feeling, a new one and that’s something for an intense, feeling person like me. Every time rage builds or pain, I find it catching in my throat. Instead of letting it rip out, I stop in my tracks. I find myself gasping, my chest racking for breath that seems a few clawing steps away. I let it wash over me. Then sometimes and it’s only sometimes, I feel it ebb. And all there is, is silence, the kind I’ve never experienced before.
I’m still looking for that safe space, that spot of serenity inside me. But since I’ve seen it a few times, it has to be in there somewhere. Serenity has to be something no one can take away from you.