Tag Archives: Swimming

The Last Beating Heart

I don’t know if you ever have days when you feel like you’re the only beating heart in the world. The last real thing in the universe. Like everything and everyone around is just a prop. Paper people, hot air actions, entirely fictional situations.

And this is not a place of sorrow or pain or grief. It may be boredom, briefly but that’s only because one is used to thinking in terms of bustle and entertainment to feel alive and meaningful. Yet, if this place is to be held and beheld for a minute, the judgement shifts, the restless thoughts settle and it’s quiet. Serene, even. Peaceful. Calm. All but restless. Everything that you’ve been told life is not. And yet this is living in a very different way. Like you are all that life is and you’re keeping the universe alive.

Yesterday, I went swimming undisturbed by sunlight or crowd. I discarded paint, fabric and words by the poolside. As I plunged in, even the indistinct noises of other swimmers faded. And with every stroke, the water moved closer to the rhythm of my breathing, the beat of my heart. Underwater looks a lot like moonlight. And this night, the universe was quiet and pulsing to just one rhythm. Mine.

When I came out an hour later, the paper world stood waiting quietly for me to dry off, to forget the rhythm of my heart and to believe that all that is paper is real again. I’ll do it. Just until the next time I fall between the pages, underwater into the only real thing. Me.

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THE LAST BEATING HEART I don't know if you ever have days when you feel like you're the only beating heart in the world. The last real thing in the universe. Like everything and everyone around is just a prop. Paper people, hot air actions, entirely fictional situations. And this is not a place of sorrow or pain or grief. It may be boredom, briefly but that's only because one is used to thinking in terms of bustle and entertainment to feel alive and meaningful. Yet, if this place is to be held and beheld for a minute, the judgement shifts, the restless thoughts settle and it's quiet. Serene, even. Peaceful. Calm. All but restless. Everything that you've been told life is not. And yet this is living in a very different way. Like you are all that life is and you're keeping the universe alive. Yesterday, I went swimming undisturbed by sunlight or crowd. I discarded paint, fabric and words by the poolside. As I plunged in, even the indistinct noises of other swimmers faded. And with every stroke, the water moved closer to the rhythm of my breathing, the beat of my heart. Underwater looks a lot like moonlight. And this night, the universe was quiet and pulsing to just one rhythm. Mine. When I came out an hour later, the paper world stood waiting quietly for me to dry off, to forget the rhythm of my heart and to believe that all that is paper is real again. I'll do it. Just until the next time I fall between the pages, underwater into the only real thing. Me. ——————————————————————————- 🎶: TIME – Pink Floyd #theideasmithy #alonetime #peaceful #meditation #lifelessons #moon #fullmoonvibes #single #thoughts💭 #dream #dreamer #dreamcatcher #mood #moodygrams #swimlife #swimmer #healing #healthylifestyle #healthyliving #cancerian #magickingdom #underwater #nightswim

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The Quest For Beauty

It’s a curious thing that in our bid for perfection, we lose the essence of beauty.

I must have been ten or eleven when I first got into a swimming pool. Along with a bunch of other kids the same age, I learnt to splash and swim and not fear the water. Swimming has always been fun for me, since then. More recently, I returned to swimming as a necessary exercise routine. My yoga teacher told me the yoga exercises wouldn’t be enough for me any more and that I needed a more rigorous workout. She suggested the gym and I made a face. Walking a moving belt or repeating any other action for a prolonged period sounds dreadfully dull to me. Then she said,

“What about swimming?”

And I jumped to it. Save the year that I lost into the black hole of 2011-2012, I’ve been swimming as often as I can since then. The book got written, relationships got started, sorted and ended and my post-30 self shaped itself in those times. Obviously time in water forms a very small part of my week. But in that half an hour, I feel a combination of things that I can’t quite explain. There’s a sense of settling down the way flakes inside a snowglobe settle slowly, gently. There is the literal and metaphorical washing away of all the cares. And a sudden hunger for the new (well, for food as well). Swimming makes me feel right inside my own skin, in my own life.

I was in conversation with another friend recently, who is relatively newer to the water. He’s an amateur, something I can say with affectionate condescension as I watch his clumsy splashes and laborious strokes. He intends to get an instructor. And then, he says, he targets swimming a certain section of the coastline on one of his vacation haunts. I sighed. He’s turning something that is an ethereal, meditative, near-spiritual experience into something as mundane as a goal. Still, that’s him and perhaps the water doesn’t touch him the same way it does, me.

I’m not saying I’m not tempted to do that myself. I am competitive after all, and a writer’s life doesn’t provide enough opportunities to run in crowds and eventually, outrun them. Besides, it is a physical activity for health and it requires me to push myself, ever so minimally, every day, every stroke. Still, I keep this in mind and try and swim the balance between getting somewhere and being one with the water.

~O~O~O~O~O~

The above conversation happened earlier in the week. But the thought really came to me only after a simple exchange with another friend. Samir posted the following status update (picture shot by him too):

Samir update

We’re each provided a blank page, to fill unfettered with love or rage, to cower and fear, blame the sky, or stroll the Earth with head held high.

It had been a difficult day after a brief promising flare of hope in March. I was discouraged but reading this made my spirits rise. I wanted to say something to explain everything in my mind but it felt too personal to share on a public Facebook conversation. So I wrote him a short email saying thank you. I knew he would understand.

His reply was as wise and profound as always. But what struck me was that, unlike my email which bore only the thank you message, his began with a “Dear Ramya,”. It was also laid out in concise paragraphs and neat sentences. Beautiful thoughts, well-expressed. I had thought writing an email was a prettier, more artistic, heartfelt way to express my thoughts. But Samir’s email, even as it was a routine reply carried the basic elements of beauty that make people like us fall in love with words.

It also reminded me of the lost art of letter-writing, something I had commented on, when I was reviewing ‘The Other Side of the Table‘, a novel in letters. We seem to have lost the connectedness, the intimacy of communication, even as we accumulate new ways to converse. And what is the worth of a conversation but to bind the two people having it, together? I know I’m sounding old-fogeyish and that is not my intention. Communication must evolve as people and cultures do. Digital communication in shorter units are the way of the future and I do not intend to stand in its way. However, it wouldn’t hurt to remember that conversation is an activity of relating rather than just exchanging word-pieces. It is a creating, not just a stacking of sentences atop each other. It is the art of communication after all, and what is art if it is not beautiful, if it does not touch and inspire and thus, better life?

Reverb 10.15: Five Things To Remember From 2010

Here’s another Reverb10 list-prompt! And this time with a fantasy-time travelly theme to it!

December 15 – 5 Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

(Author: Patti Digh)

  1. Mr.Everyday (of course!) – Specifically, I never, ever want to forget that one magical autorickshaw ride in June. We’d been on nodding and smiling terms with each other for months, even spoken on a couple of occasions. But that 30-minute ride changed the course of both of our lives, hopefully forever. 🙂
  2. The first week of October – September ended gloomy, grouchy and with no promise of better weather (which always impacts my mood). Then October came in with writing projects. A column. A commissioned article. Another writing commission. And the book, again. Magical week.
  3. The best friend moving across the world – Goodbyes are never pleasant memories for me. But this move marks an important milestone in my 16-year friendship with Lady P. She moved to a new country and a new life, one she had been needing for a long time. We fought, we cried then we made up. And true to our history, we came back stronger than ever.
  4. First draft – If I never manage to get the novel published, if I have to go back to working with that horrible tag of ‘failed writer’ looming over me, it will not take away from the fact that I managed to plow through and toil over a complete first draft. YEAAAHHH!!!
  5. Swimming.

And….there’s the timer. That’s that. Five wonderful things about 2010.

Reverb 10.12: One With All

A health-related Reverb10 prompt. I guess it has its place. I’m doing this on the run before I rush out to meet a friend on this uncharacteristically cold December evening in Mumbai.

December 12 – Body Integration

This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

(Author: Patrick Reynolds)

A few weeks ago, the boyfriend decided to pick on his fitness regime again. After a round of the local gymnasiums, he signed up for a membership at one of them and has been regularly working out, working day or not. I can’t understand that. Few things feel as boring to me as repeating the same action over and over again, whether it is running in place or moving an arm up and down or doing crunches. And yet, he seems to really enjoy it.

I realized then that a fitness regime has to be personalized, not just according to the bodily needs but also the person’s requirements. Gymming is not for me. But a lot of other things are.

A lot of my contemporaries find yoga really boring. I’ve been exposed to yoga when I was a child and I can see how that would be an unimpressive experience for most people. But I started a tri-weekly yoga routine five years ago and I revelled in the experience. Not only did I love how I felt later, I really enjoyed every minute that I was actually doing the asanas too. That’s what a good exercise routine should feel like.

I was aided by the fact that I have a very good yoga instructor. She doesn’t just demonstrate and teach the asanas, she also explains the spiritual associations and the relationships of the body’s movement and state to the emotional well-being. For example, when I started the class, I was plagued with chronic lower back pain and stiffness. She explained that a lot of my stress was going straight to my back and what’s more, I had literally made myself more rigid to deal with the situation I was in. I pondered that and I realised that I really had accumulated ego, envy and pride as if they were necessary tools to compete in the corporate world. Through the asanas, she showed me how to release them and let them go.

“Attitude is the most important thing in yoga, not the physical asana itself.”

was her adage and it really worked. I also learnt to empty my head of the various conflicting thoughts that clamoured for attention and focus my mind. It brought me peace, resolution, clarity and confidence.  A few years later, she was describing my body type as extremely flexible which made me :-).

The yoga sessions have stopped in the past few months as my schedule doesn’t match my instructor’s. But on her advice, I took to another exercise that I’ve enjoyed almost as much and for even longer – swimming. I swim 2-3 times a week. Working for myself means I have the liberty of a 5p.m. swim in a virtually unoccupied pool.

I try and do 20 laps crosswise. I usually start with a freestyle with my face in the water, which means I reach the other side out of breath. Then, instead of stopping, I flip onto my back and float back to the other side. The 90-odd seconds that this takes is a time when I feel like my ego, my worries, my ambitions, my pride…everything that creates barriers, problems and structures for me, is easing away. All there is the core, the very essence of me, that can’t be bounded or contained any more than a beam of light can.

That’s integration with myself, my universe and my body.

Reverb 10.11: What I Don’t Need In 2011 (And How I’m Avoiding Them)

A list! I love lists! And that’s only the first reason why this Reverb 10 prompt has me singing.

December 11: 11 Things

What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

(Author: Sam Davidson)

Fooo…..yes, I was all enthusiastic and eager and ecstatic (and other good-sounding ‘E’ words) at the thought of a list. But having discovered the list is (again!) about things that one has to bid goodbye to, my E stuff feels D’ed (dampened, defeated, disgusted, demeaned, disillusioned, devastated…).

11 Things My Life Does Not Need in 2011 (why not and how I plan to get rid of them):

1. Writer’s block:

I’ve faced this enough of times in the past year and can testify to it being the vilest, most horrible, uncomfortable, lonely, sickening feeling ever. It’s like being constipated for days on end and watching everyone else eat sumptuous tasty meals. It’s like being pregnant for eighteen months, watching your belly bloat to alarming proportions and wondering if the only way out will be for you to burst. *Shudder* Never, ever again, please.

I don’t really have a plan to get rid of the possibility of this but I guess I can keep my proverbial medical kit handy. Good friends, other career options and enough of distractions to tide me over till it passes.

2. Financial worries:

I’ve never been poor. But there have been times when money has felt a little stretched. Add a generous dose of good South-Indian girl guilt to that. That’s when if the outgoing includes items that are not mind-enhancing and matrimonial-prospect-inducing, they’re considered wasteful. Incoming has got to be a steady, predictable flow, no windfalls-followed-by-empty-periods for this one.

Considering I’ve chucked up a sensible, respectable career for a newfangled, alien venture like writing, am well past my sell-by (as prescribed by the Southern powers-that-be) date and show no signs of making up for it, pressure is high. Much of this of course, is self-induced which is the beauty of any childhood-implanted guilt. The recording plays on inside your head, long after the originators of the voices have fallen silent. Anyway, I really do not need the cringing self-doubt of dwindling savings with no albeit tiny-but-definitely-incoming money flow in sight. I don’t believe I have the nerve to go through with being footloose and income-free for very long. Which just means, I’ll run back to the safety and uninspiring boredom of a respectable job, again. And that’s the end of my writing career, my dreams and my self-worth.

How I plan to keep this wolf at bay is by thinking ahead and keeping open to income-generating options. Naturally, I have my pride and conscience and I don’t intend to resort to get-rich quick schemes. But I have chalked up a number of things that I can do and do well. There’s writing of course (all kinds) and also number-crunching, business analysis and a number of other things I’m still discovering. It’s still a tricky thing for me, marketing them in a way that doesn’t sound like I’m full of myself. But very simply, these are retailable skills. Money earned for work done is a simple enough mantra. And fingers crossed that there will be enough of takers for what I’m selling.

3. Emotional distance

One of the first things that I decided I wanted to do, when I quit last year, was to go back to being the person I was a decade ago. Starry-eyed, idealistic, passionate, uncontrollably alive. Also unfashionable, socially outcast and totally uncool. But I wanted that and I wanted it all, no exclusions.

A big revelation happened over the course of the year (through the novel and many wine-soaked conversations with E Vestigio and long distance phone calls with P, L and others). I cut out sarcasm. Then I whittled away at cynicism. I chipped off bitterness. And I’m gnawing away at polite behaviour.

The results are that I’m exploding more than once. I’m often caught at a loss for words or saying the most horribly inappropriate things at the wrong times. But I feel so very alive! The sense of being weighed down is going. Even though I’m actually a few kilos heavier than when I had a rigourous daily schedule, I feel lighter.

I’m not completely there yet but I intend to keep at it. Emotional distance from people and experiences is what I thought kept me sane. But it also kept me stifled, tiny and mostly dead. I’m letting go. Be warned, much madness up ahead but it’ll all be authentic, 100% me.

4. Poor health

Rheumatism. Spondilitis. Diabetes. All things that doctors have been threatening, are creeping up on me.

Malaria. Gastroentitis. Low blood pressure. Vitamin D deficiency. Weak bones. All things that have already made their presence felt in my life.

I was always a skinny kid but also a bundle of energy and I recuperated quickly. The most ironic thing about my health in the past decade was discovering that I was overstressed and vitamin-D deficient. On asking what I could do to get better, I was told to work less and play more!

That seems like wonderful advice to follow (even doctors say nice things sometimes). So I intend to worry less, laugh a lot more, eat well, run around like crazy in the sun – and hopefully live not just longer but better.

5. Unhealthy weight gain

As mentioned above, I was a skinny kid and I grew up into a lean adult. But shortly after I quit my job, I discovered that I was alarmingly fleshy for my snugfit jeans. I ended up getting a new wardrobe (of dresses and skirts) but that niggling belief that I was bloating hasn’t left. Of course I’m duly grateful that it’s only a little weight, that actually does look good on me. But I’m alarmed by the idea that it could just inflate (pun intended) out of control. What’s more, I really don’t want to add cholesterol, heart disease and other things to the repertoire I’ve listed above.

What I plan to do about this, has actually already been set in action. I signed up for yoga six months ago and did follow the regime for a good while. But the schedule didn’t suit me and I fell off the bandwagon. Mercifully for me, I also started swimming, an activity that brings me even more pleasure than health benefits. The weather has gotten a little too chilly to enjoy the swim much but I still managed to get into the pool 4 days last week and complete around 15 or more laps before shivering my way back to the changing room. Maybe I’ll sign up for a dance class too.

Persistence and patience are my friends and I don’t intend to let those sneaky kilos get the better of me.

6. Boredom

The killer of all things creative, happy and joyful, who would be scareder of boredom, than a storyteller (an entertainer)? Thankfully for me, the world is a treasure trove of interesting things and people and experiences.

I’m not going to deaden this by putting a schedule on it. Suffice to say that when something occurs to me, I explore it. A new hobby? An interesting person? A novel idea? I’m a sleuth for interesting experiences and each one I pick up only leads to bigger and greater delights.

7. Control

This is the other card in the evil side’s deck, supporting the first card of boredom. Control by family, by employers, by social norms, by stereotypes. It kills the spirit, it kills my soul and it damages my creativity.

I don’t have a plan to avoid every instance of being controlled by another person or entity. But when I do face one of them, I intend to stand my ground and not cave. Enough died, already.

8. Other people’s problems

Egos. Insecurities. Complexes. Weaknesses. Negative sentiments. I’ve had a strange affinity for all of these from other people. That, coupled with the ability to absorb and expand on all, I feel like I’ve been quite a bundle of other people’s nerves.

It’s rather tricky detaching oneself from these things without imposing emotional distance from them. I don’t get it most of the time. What’s more, standing up for myself has never come easy (no matter what the image may dictate).

No plan on this one either. Just the will to oppose it and hope that practice will make perfect.

9. High bills on clothes, makeup and socializing

This I really, really don’t need. I am no shopaholic but after a decade of denial, I decided to indulge. Now I think, enough of self-pampering and now for some balanced restraint.

This is the other aspect of keeping away financial worries – curbing the unnecessary outgoing along with building the possible incoming. I don’t really have to have expensive shoes that only last a month. Mumbai roads make dust of everything and none of the big shops guarantee any quality on this terrain. High-voltage partying has never been my scene and mercifully the social circle I move around in, doesn’t really cotton to it either. Mostly I am now okay with saying that I can’t afford it and so I won’t. Out with the fabulous lifestyle, in with some peace of mind.

10. Goodbyes to people I’m close to

This is more a fearful wish than an intelligent item on the planning list. Six months of 2010 were spent in trying to cope with saying goodbye to good friends, to notions of loyalty, to dreams of greatness. I know I learn from each of these experiences. But I’ve had a rough, really rough enough ride of it. I’m not sure I’m ready for another dose, just yet.

I can’t think of anything to put under 11 so this is going to be a list of 10. That’s my bit for letting go of control (even my own OCDness)!

Reverb 10.3: Life In A Moment

Another Reverb 10 prompt that made me think and think and come up with an answer I feel is less than satisfactory. But then again, I think the purpose of this exercise is to engage in such questions and be surprised by what comes forth.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

I first thought these should be the happiest moments and that gave me enough of grief (!) since there have been a wonderous number of them, especially in the second half of the year. But I realized I need to stop feeling guilty about that. Okay, so that’s the touchy-feely Chicken-Soupy bit of it out of the way.

As I started to type out this post, it also occurred to me to wonder whether happy moments are the only ones in which I feel alive. Undoubtedly the first six months of the year were shrouded largely in gloom. I felt like everything was slipping away, not just out of control but out of reach – health, family, friendship, career, creativity. Every single thing that mattered to me was vanishing into a black hole. I felt like I was being stripped away, layer by painful layer and what would be left of me in the end?

This was among the first things I talked to the boy about. He found it difficult to imagine having a crisis of identity of the sort I was describing but he was wise enough to conclude that it indicated our differences not my problems.

I don’t quite know if I felt alive in those moments. Actually it felt more like what I had thought of as my life was just flaking off, chipping off, peeling off in ugly, painful ways, the ugliest, most painful sensation being the fact that they came off so easily. I think this poem from my past captures the feeling perfectly. That time was about one person leading a crowd of others. This time, it was true of every single emotion, way of being, person and relationship. A winding down, a closing out, an approaching full stop.

And then there was life. Just as it is hard for me to understand completely what happened in my head in the first six months, it’s equally difficult to sort out what’s been happening since then.

Mornings are usually my favorite time of the day. I’ve stayed awake through nights often and the subtle start of each day is always one that lifts my spirits. It’s still an odd feeling, sometimes having to go to sleep right after that. But the glory of the moment hasn’t been lost.

Then there are specific moments when I’m swimming, a more recent occurance. I usually swim a number of laps, going one way freestyle or breast stroke. At the other side, I’m usually out of breath so I flip onto my back and float back, my legs gently pedalling and my arms loosely drifting along the sides of my body. The sky is usually a pale greyish-brown, the colour of ash as it falls off burning paper. I often see crows flying in V-formation overhead. I can’t hear the usual sounds overground, of voices, car horns and daily life. But I can hear splashing, bubbles floating by as other swimmers splash past, muffled sounds which is what water does to voices. And it feels like the water washes away the confusions and strains overlaying my thought process. Then the top of the club building comes into sight, which is when I know I’m nearing the edge of the pool and need to be careful not to bump my head. And as I touch the side and drift up to vertical place, I am ready to turn around and swim another breath-challenging lap. Or walk out of the pool into whatever waits for me next.

That’s alive indeed.

Reverb 10.2: Redundant Habits

Yesterday’s Reverb 10 prompt had me thinking for awhile without a satisfactory answer.

December 2 – Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)

Could I really be that efficient? My days aren’t all the same but most of them involve the following activities:

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Hygiene & grooming
  • Swimming
  • Email
  • Facebook/Twitter
  • Blogging
  • Writing for deadline-based assignments
  • Working on the novel
  • Phone conversations
  • Meeting friends
  • Cultural activities (movies, events, literary discussions, festivals)

Even when I’m not writing, I am doing something that either triggers off ideas or rekindles inspiration or relaxes/supports my system in being able to stay creative and energetic.

And this is a tremendous realisation. Last year, after I quit my job, I agonized a great deal over the inefficiency of my schedule. Being used to as I was, to a tightly-packed day with at least 8-10hours of work ending in tangible deliverables, it was a paradigm shift. I found it very difficult to accept the idea that I could not, try as I might, write for 8 hours a day or even daily. I could not set a daily word/chapter goal and hope to realistically finish it.

It’s been over a year and I’ve made my peace with some of that now. I do something involved with writing every single day. Some days I’m just bursting with new ideas and I spend those just listing them out or spinning unfinished pieces. There are odd moments, concentrated bursts of creativity where I can see a story or a chapter or a post literally materialize in front of my eyes. Since I now have the luxury of time and a computer at my disposal, I usually get up and jot it down immediately. These don’t happen often but often enough to keep me hooked to the pursuit of the creative spark. And finally, the majority of the days see me able to write a little, think a little, talk a little and work a little. The bulk of the boring stuff like fact-checking, housekeeping, mail management, editing, cleaning up and actually posting happens then. It’s a more fluid rhythm than I was used to in the corporate world, but it is a rhythm nevertheless.

I guess I don’t really have a redundant habit that doesn’t contribute to my writing and that I should drop. Which can only be a good thing. 🙂

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