In saying ‘yes’ to life, you say yes to it all; how life can crumble you, and how life can surprise you. I stayed in on New Year’s Eve not because I didn’t have anything to do, but because there was nothing I particularly wanted to; some years deserve a quieter salute. The noisier the year, the quieter the salute?
Staying in on New Years Eve, allowed me to wake up early. I caught the year’s first sunrise as we drove out of Bangalore, and stopped at Mayura on the Bangalore-Mangalore highway for breakfast- dosa, idli-vada, chutney and kaapi. A little later we arrived in Chikmanglur. I spent the first day of the year eating too much, serenading a swing, in a machan giggling at a sky full of stars, playing a board game and then another, mulling over life as we sat by a bonfire, in a place I had never been to before. A new beginning cannot be more beautiful.
The weekend lingered on. With a map, a car and a search button, we were able to spontaneously discover places around Chikmanglur, Halebidu, Belur and Badra, and the stories behind Bangalore’s beautiful and unforgotten temples. A few thousand years later, Bangalore’s temples stand tall; a testimony to beauty and time that stands still, even as everything destructs.
We were filled with hope. We were filled with hope and laughter that comes only from discovering beauty that stays in a world that loses so much of much of it every day. We were filled with hope from discovering new places, god knows this world has an endless supply of it.
May all new years begin in new places…
I used to be a writer.
I used to be a writer. I used to be that girl hanging off a train, a head throbbing with words I knew I had to tell. I used to take the local train. For the stories it relentlessly held. (Now, I take the short walk by the lake to work.)
I used to attend poetry readings. My head wrapped around other becoming poets, my hand wrapped around a whisky glass, my heart around a piece of poetry I had hurriedly crafted for the evening. I used to recite my own poetry and wait for an audience to react.
I used to hurry off work to a book club meeting. A writers club meeting. A favourite authors’ book launch. A play. And sneak in that cup of Suleimani Chai, and then another. (Now, I barely sneak in a filter kaapi from the neighbourhood store.)
But, I’m a marketeer now. An online brand manager even. A teacher in parts. A bit of an exercise junkie. A traveller. A home-keeper.
But, I used to be a writer.
I am privileged in my upbringing. We grew up in a household that thrived on paying for experiences; the bigger car was always shortchanged for a holiday to a new country. On each of our holidays, we always had a little big budget, my sister and I could spend that money on any one thing we wanted to take home.
When on holiday in London, Kurt Cobain had died. I was much too young, and far too naive to have discovered Kurt Cobain and yet deeply affected by a cousin’s morbidity, and unstoppable tears. There was no more Nirvana. In tribute, I decided to spend my 40 quid on baggy, hanging rasta jeans, the kind punk stars wore with hand-me down tees cut up to show belly. I had little use for them back in Bombay, ounces of denim could hardly handle her humidity. Over time, I lost those jeans, but not the memory.
When in Chicago, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a hundred-dollars than an American Girl doll. I was fascinated by the artistry, the legacy. The attention to detail. Several years and a broken doll-limb later, I still remember her. Her intrinsic features, not the name I gave her though.
Years have passed and I chuckle at the memory; what I would do have a little big budget now, and how much better I would use it!
But, it has been a privilege. To have been able to make those little, big choices growing up. To have been been able to explore and bring back a culture quite unlike my own.
My own heart-shaped-box of memories.
I fell asleep last night in a warm, fuzzy daze; we’ve been strangers for so long, happy and I. Sleepless, harried, tired, dreamless, sad they’ve all come and gone..& I’ve always had trouble being happy in the moment, in life as is.
Last night warm and fuzzy stopped by; little has changed, or perhaps so much has, I’ve finally learned to be happy in the moment. There’s a joy in singlehood I’ve only just discovered.
Maybe its the homes that let you in. Into their kitchens and their hearts. The people and couples that adopt you, calling you over for dinner, insisting you stay until breakfast. The girlfriends that never go. The new ones that come by, the fun, lighter, single ones who’ve learned to embrace life like you. And finally the men that linger on, who understand that friends stay on. That men and women can be friends, after all.
The shop windows that take you in; there’s nothing quite like learning go dress for one. The take-away delivery boys who smile; the neighbours who stop just a little longer to ask you, “how you doing?”
I’ve been on the other side- embracing their loneliness; its been good to finally embrace mine.
I’ve been mulling over it quite a bit now, how life evolves and brings you to all the places and people you’ve up until then only heard about. I spent a lot of my early twenties gleaning off stories of Bangalore, her weather, the chicken rolls in old city alleys, the coorgi pork chilly, Pecos. I had a notion then, of visiting Bangalore with the people who most talked about it. It is always funny how life turns out.
This week, I finally made it to Pecos. It took me a whole year of living in Bangalore to finally make it here, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, in better company. The chicken curry and dosas arrive; we are not sure how many beer pitchers are ordered. There are three types of Pork on the table, one a chef’s special Indian masala, and Veena calls out to an old, familiar waiter Shashi who brings us our Pecos card. The famed popcorn is out of stock, our stories are not. Conversation traverses stories of religion, old loves, old fights; strangers turn friends.
I am in love. With Pecos graffiti walls, etched chairs, unabashed decor. Everything I heard about, yet so much more. There is an unexplainable joy in this- rediscovering people’s stories as your own. Sometimes it’s without the people in it – and sometimes it’s just this- a testimony to a life well-lived and despite everything, not forgetting to do so.
I’ve never really had a happy place, except maybe airports in general, their bustle, sense of purpose and anonymity, abundance of love, airplanes taking off and airplanes turning down. And, Goa, perhaps. Easily among the most beautiful, diverse, places of peace in the country.
Growing up, we always turned to Goa for a few hours in the sun, hours riding the waves, prawn curry and rice. When I grew a little older, we discovered a Goa for all seasons. A November Goa for a whirlwind girls trip before a wedding, a Goa in the rains, and on more recent occasions a Goa halfway into summer, hot in the day…mellow at night, a happy place just the same.
I no longer know where Goa is lost, or perhaps where I lost Goa. Where it stopped being my happy place- comforting, and unending in every discovery, and easy. Goa, this weekend welcomed me with a hundred odd pot-bellied men in a swimming pool, their Harleys roaring for attention, their music anything but that which rhythms with sea. Goa’s nightlife had morphed into catcalls and much too much alcohol; we spend hours watching drunks being carried into their hotel rooms.
The beaches boast red flags, but really it is her streets, I cannot remember being more comfortable in a Goa in my jeans? The night sings in catcalls, men alternate between grinding into each on the dance floor, and ogling at women. Women occasionally, uncontrollably fall in pairs to the sand.
We are admittedly disgruntled. We want to soak in the night by the pool, but cannot help but think… What have we done? What have we done to our wild and free? What have we done to Goa?
Or maybe everybody’s happy place can never be ours.
Not too long ago, I had a ticket to Bali, and now like everything else that passes too quickly, that too is just a memory. But, what a happy memory it is! Of sunset weddings, and nights and days in a swimming pool, and a happy-reckless revelry that can only ensue when several cultures collide.
I cannot think of Bali without thinking of Eat, Pray, Love, and I cannot help but think of how her hope has failed me; in the two trips I have made to Bali, ravaged just as deeply from life, she has offered little love. Eat, yes. And, pray yes. For there is nothing as soul-stirring as the perfect Nasi Goreng on Jimbaran, watching airplanes cross over sea and on to an air-strip, nothing closer to God. But, love has lost its way.
In Canggu, the night of the bachelorette, I am admittedly awkward. I am the oldest, and the most staid: my stories of recklessness are about as bold as hopping onto the bus to Pune one Sunday morning! In twenty-nine odd years you’d think I’d have a better story to tell…
We really let go that weekend. Sink our feet into the sand, swim in the rain, make friends with strangers in a night club, buy shots for everybody at the bar, and walk into a supermarket at 3 AM to make our own mi goreng. We ride Bali’s unfamiliar streets, wind in our hair, climb down to a lonely beach at night, spend a whole evening giggling over unmentionables and exchange poetry with people we will never meet again. Then, I grab a coffee alone, and at ease in a bar…
In that moment, I vow to live freely. Hop on a plane, miss it altogether, try everything & let loose…
In Bali, I learn, to finally, lose.