On sensitivity

It’s amazing to finally figure out the whys and how’s of the sum total of my reactions.

From getting affected by Kargil and much else that was happening around me in the 90s, enough to write the most amazing personal essays in my teens to the turbulence of being right brained in a college that demanded a left brain. From internalising the energy of people and things around me like only I can to making the spaces around me free and easy like only I can. From a vivid imagination that was once destructive but is now the most amazing thing about me. From the heartbreaks to the full, exploding heart. From people pleasing and related anxiety to questioning things that few around me do, all at the same time. From blogging the shit out of my feelings at/ from 19 to an Instagram account that’s all the feels. From deeply understanding all my feels to being intuitive about others’ and feeling responsible for it. And so, so, so much else.

There’s nothing quite like finally, in my mid-30s figuring out that I am what they call an HSP.

I am grateful for the opportunity and the circumstance that helped me figure this out.

Nothing quite as liberating as how this feels, truly.

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The return of the pretty little things in my life

For someone who likes to have pretty little green, yellow, blue things and wide open spaces around me at all times, the last two years have been hard. In more ways than one. As if the chaos around me – caused by life altering changes in the way I live, love, and work – was not enough, there was a sudden dip in the wide open spaces and pretty things in my life. And that has *never* happened before, not when I could control it. The aesthetics of things and spaces around me had never decreased before, and that was not easy to live with.

Two years ago, I lived in homes that overlooked vast spreads of green, roads that looked structured and smooth even when traffucked, and homes as well as offices that were built aesthetically and thoughtfully. And suddenly, I woke up with a jolt. In a Bangalore that I have come to realize is going to the dogs. While I missed its dosas and tree-lined streets even as I had access to the vast greens of my last home, one of the silliest yet necessary decisions we made when we returned was to live almost bang in the centre of the CBD. In a tree-line street alright, but an old apartment designed thoughtlessly, perhaps only to rent away to gullible fools who loved that the peepul tree from the road came all the way into the balconies. What we didn’t account for was the mind boggling, ear-shattering levels of noise in that area – the honking of horns, the trrrrrr of autos, the boooooom of motorbikes, the shouting of vegetable sellers, the arguments of married couples and such. And for a while, it was all extremely endearing. But that sure didn’t last. What didn’t help was a city around me that was MELTING. AWAY. Trees being cut, unsightly, unplanned, unrealistically ugly buildings, shops, and flyovers around me, homes with character dying away due to the lack of any desire whatsoever to live hygienically and/or aesthetically despite making pot loads of money – which you don’t need by the way to live hygienically and/or aesthetically. And for someone who internalises her surroundings like I do, living in the middle of this man-made ugliness and chaos went straight to my head. It didn’t help that travels were few and far between due to far too many personal, professional, and financial commitments between R and me. And all of this left a gaping hole in my heart, a hole that was somewhat filled by Instagram-worthy moments that served as a reminder to be grateful for the little beauty I did have around me – the tree cage on the ground floor of my building, the peepul tree in my balcony, my yellow and indigo tea cups, a drive out of town, a rainfall, a thunderstorm, a sunny December, a pot of blooming bougainvillea and the many, MANY visits to the place we were going to call home soon.

And now, we are in that house. We wake up to endless trees just outside the building complex, Bangalore’s sometimes yellow, sometimes pink, but mostly green trees. And suddenly, I can breathe. Our home, it’s white. And uncluttered. And thoughtful. And aesthetic. So aesthetic (in our eyes) that we have considered opening an interiors consultancy in Bandra. We will call it “Cooler Than GKD”. The tagline – You don’t need chandeliers, not really. We will do the consultancy for free, even, if we can get more people to see that “empty” homes sometimes make for full hearts. That lack of clutter does not mean you don’t have what you need, want, or love. It is about having only that – and knowing in your heart at all times what those things are. That every wall does not need a shelf if you don’t amass things you could do without. That smaller wardrobes mean less space for fewer things. And that translates to savings also youguyzzzz, not just open spaces, open hearts, and uncluttered minds!

It’s been a difficult process to get to this point of actually, at long last, having the home we wanted. Mostly because when you tell your interiors folks that you are never going to have enough clothes to need a 9 feet wardrobe or that you don’t want a whole wall of shelves to say your prayers everyday or you tell well wishers that you can infact keep the alcohol inside the fridge and you don’t actually need that “gangsta bar” inside your home or kitchen shelves so large that half of them will remain empty because you have no life plans that would ever translate to needing more storage space, you will get a look. Yes, that look. It gets hard to ignore it when it comes your way all too often. I still haven’t mastered it, but I will get there one day.

But the good news is that despite being very people-pleasing sometimes, I still managed to tune out every single piece of “sane, functional, adult” advice and did what we pleased. And the return of all that open space and aesthetics as we have grown to love and want has unlocked something in my heart again. It has filled the gaping hole, and I can actually, physically feel it. And for my middle class heart, it’s also amazing that it did not cost that much. Empty spaces and full hearts usually don’t :D

But that’s not all, you guys! This is not just about home. It’s also about work. For the last couple of weeks, I have managed to face that vast open green space every time I work. And it’s been all kinds of awesome. I did eventually get tired of it and came into a new workspace today. And while there is still a lot of the manicured goodness that Bangalore knows so well how to fake, it’s nice to be in a cafe bang in the middle of trees this campus didn’t actually cut off in the process of accommodating offices and people. The cafe is quiet, there is just enough human contact I need to get by, and I am surrounded by a number of places I can get myself some decent food or just a whole lot of junk.

Change is an amazing, amazing thing. And in the middle of all of this, if there is one thing I am truly grateful for, it is the opportunity to create this change with our own four hands. It feels like a life that we are building intentionally and purposefully, and the end game unknowingly this whole time was this calm, quiet kind of happiness I have been feeling in the core of not just my heart but also my stomach. I am grateful, I just need to remember to be it more often.

Posted in adult life, change, house proud, Houseproud | Leave a comment

Almost there

I never thought of myself as the kind of person who’d buy homes and such. I am young, I am free, I am constantly raring to uproot and find something new. Apart from marriage (which freed me in ways I didn’t quite realize – yup), all conventional milestones have always felt limiting to me. Cities are my milestones. They always have been. One home for the rest of my life? It felt like stagnation where I come from. I feel the same kind of commitment phobia that people feel for relationships. And that explains the extreme levels of stress these last few months. Not only did home buying entail a lot of hard work because I wasn’t about to live in a house I didn’t like – only this time, I was going to have to make one for myself – but also because it meant putting down roots in ways I was – am – not quite ready for. On one hand, I didn’t want to put down roots. On the other, I wanted a home – every tile, every room, every light – that felt like home. And from that point onwards, it was all a whirlwind.

Over the last few months of this conflict, I have found myself wanting in areas like belonging and “normalcy”. Not just because I seem to like things a tad different, but also because things mean more to me than they do to practically everyone else I know. I have wanted to be normal, practical, meh, uncaring. I could let go, care less, be “chill”. But I have realised that things, as much as people and cities, mean (and need to mean) more to me. I think it is about time that I accept this aspect of my personality. Fighting it and trying to fit myself into comfortable labels that indicate normalcy and social acceptance hasn’t quite worked for me – ever – most of all in these last couple of years. I feel feel feel strongly strongly strongly about people, places, things. And that makes me who I am. The world tells me I am inane. I probably am. After a lot of internet browsing, I have figured out that they call people like me “highly sensitive”. It shows in my relationships, it shows in my work, and it shows in the spaces I make and call home. It makes me “ace” in a lot of what I do. Fighting it is futile.

But the good thing is that when you are who I am, rewards follow. Very soon, I am going to have a home that looks and feels like my own. It may have meant many many many many (almost 6 months’ worth of) weekends spent designing the 5 things we needed and buying the 7 things that those designs needed. But eventually, I will have an uncluttered white home which is, basically, EVERYTHING.

And that is amazing. Photos will follow. I can’t wait to have a home that’s all us. And I couldn’t be more grateful for being who I am. Touchwood.

But what I have also realised or rather, remembered, is that no move, no home, no life milestone means more than it does in that moment. Marriage, I thought, would bind me. It didn’t. Leaving India, I thought, would make me a lifetime “NRI”. It didn’t. Leaving full time employment, I thought, would make make me a “gareeb lekhak” (just to clarify, I only wanted to be lekhak). It hasn’t. Buying a house and moving me, I thought, will make me “a settled, rooted, Bangalorean for life”. I don’t think it will. Because nothing has :D So maybe, I could remember this more often in the next half of my life. And I could remember that I force stupid labels on myself even as I fear them. It would make everyone’s life easier, most of all my own.

Posted in growing up, home | Leave a comment

2017, you were badass!

For someone who writes for a living now, I sure haven’t done much documenting this last year. So many, many reasons for it. I will start with the first one. For the first time ever, I have had a truly adult year. I grow a little every year, sure. I say the same thing every year, sure! But the number of lessons I learned this year – about myself, about my marriage, about family, work, money and finances, about people in general, about what “home” feels like, what freedom really, truly means to me, about contentment, discontent and happiness, about life being a zero sum game. About feminism. About writing. About the difference between responding and reacting. I always thought I could articulate what I need to when I write. But nearly half of the lessons I learned this year can’t be articulated in words. These lessons have no form or shape. They just have impact on my mind in ways I didn’t know was possible. It wasn’t a bad year, not really. But the high highs and low lows of this year? They are going down in history for changing something inside of me. Maybe that’s what coming of age really is. Not how little or how much you lose your temper, not how much or how little you are willing to be there for others. And definitely not how much or how little you “achieve”. True coming of age comes from a strange kind of self awareness and this shifting of priorities. It comes from a deep need to be there for yourself first. Of needing to balance your own ambitions and needs with those of the people around you who you think need you. As a woman, I am starting to realise just how fine this balance really is. And how easy it is to cross over to the side of forgetting about being true to myself vs the person I need to be in the different relationships that I am part of (except R, who deserves an award for the sanity he brought to to my inner chaos and conflicts, the almost-robotic, no-nonsense straightforwardness he brought to my “I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT I WANT”).

Or maybe, that balance is just harder for someone like me, who thinks too much, loves too deeply, and throws tantrums like a 2 year old whose mother is trying to drag him out of his favourite toy shop. Except my toy shop was the need to find closure on a couple of ongoing themes in my life – motherhood and true, unadulterated freedom to choose selfishness and discontent that comes from drifting further and further away from what may have been an easy, relatable, convenient, and socially acceptable choice.

While I am not going to get into the murky or glorious details of how the year rolled out for me, I need to put down the highlights for posterity.

2017 is going to be the year when I became truly self-employed. It wasn’t very hard because things practically fell into my lap. But the year did its bit to reaffirm my belief that if you have been committed, loyal, and reasonably sturdy in your past professional relationships and work, people will remember that no matter how those relationships ended or how long you worked with them. Life will come a full circle, they will give you chance, and it is up to you to say ‘yes’ wholeheartedly and see where it goes. Professionally, 2017 was a mixed bag of amazing surprises with a little bit of impostor syndrome thrown in for good measure. I am working on the latter and I will tell you this – it is harder to overcome it in your mid-30s but you’ve got to keep trying. I know I will.

2017 was also the year when I realised that it is rather impractical for me to expect to be everyone’s top priority at all times. Throwing in another syndrome here – the older child syndrome. I was a bit of a people-pleaser and the strong independent type rolled into one and boy did that suck the life out of me. But for once, amidst the madness, I stood my ground on monumental decisions. Despite my mamma-pleasing tendency. It was hard, it was full of conflict, it was liberating. All at the same time.

It was also the year I dealt with amazing amounts of change-related anxiety and drama. Working from home didn’t help, because it meant that if the internet didn’t work or if the neighbour’s renovation didn’t end at the prescribed time – both major peril here in desh – I was stressed out more than I needed to be. I got over it in bits and pieces, but there is still work to do there. At another time in my life, I would have been stressed out about not being able to put an end to the stress. But not anymore. I am learning to be as forgiving of myself as I have been of others. It is not easy but nothing worth doing ever is.

2017 was also the year I made more feminist choices than I ever had before. I told off body shamers instead of shrugging and laughing at the fat jokes directed at me, walked away more often, uttered the word patriarchy way more times than the patriarchs around me would care for, and supported and stood up for more women than I ever have before. 2017 was the year I figured out that while men may not always be the enemies and while I continue to love the the lot of them in my life like I always have, there is nothing wrong or hurtful about pointing out the ways in which they have inadvertantly internalised patriarchy/ gender roles as the absolute truth, even when it doesn’t affect or inconvenience me. It costed me a few showdowns, sure. But they were all well worth it, eventually.

2017 had its share of immense highs that had me in a pool of awesomeness. From the baby sister becoming a bride to realising the fluid nature of my personality and life in general but also that of family, I felt more life in my pulse in 2017 that I had these last couple of years.

2017 was when everything changed. And I am glad about all of those small and big changes, significant shifts, and the ability to stay as steady as I could have been in the face of this whirlwind. My hope for 2018? Hopefully more travels and outdoors, a little less conflict, a lot more letting go, and restoring a little normalcy after what has been the year of 14 flights, five family functions and reunions, and the dramatic highs and lows that come with them. I know I could do with some equanimity and peace and some of the coldness of KL days that I had grown to dislike so much. Some balance would be nice, god. Can you please?

Posted in growing up, learn-unlearn, lessons for life | Leave a comment

Second coming.

Fear is such a common, common thing. I am probably stupid but I find it hard to wrap my head around this one emotion. I did, for a while. But the foolish bravery has returned after a whole year, almost. And I can’t let it go. Won’t.

A whole lot more to follow, let me just make sure my head’s *finally* all-clear.

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I don’t need period leave

So we have yet another raging debate, this time about period leave. And of course I have a take on it. Just that I can’t put it in a story for a website I write for on similar topics. Because my take is a little violent and a little offbeat, given how we seem to think that our employers own our time. They don’t.

Women (and men), if you have cramps, mood swings, even just a not-feeling-upto-it day, I am not sure why you need to wait for a exclusively labelled leave for it. Call in sick! Refuse to turn up. But do a stellar job on days you do turn up. And if someone still calls you out, eat them. Or – and this works better in my experience – explain your stand and be firm. The stakes are almost never as high as authority would make you believe.  Trust me. Been there, done that, and all that jazz.

I don’t understand this obsession we have with going to work when not up to it. Why would you not put self care at the very top of your list of priorities? What exactly do you do at work that the world will end if you don’t go for a day? Why are you behaving like you don’t have better options if your employer doesn’t understand the concept of work life balance? Whose standards are you trying to live up to? Don’t.

Tell you what. If you don’t behave like leave and work life balance are rightful entitlements, your employer won’t either. And till the time you are clear about this – and more importantly, united with your peers in this endeavour instead of using whining over Friday drinks as a tool to survive and get along – no business will give it to you. This is India, doston. Even newfangled, gender-neutral leaves like birthdays, adoption, paternity “duvet” days come with hazaar conditions. Your period leave will be no different and trust me, it will not have that much to do with your gender. The solution is not to wait for businesses to one day suddenly start practicing empathy. They won’t till you claim your share and protect it with all you have.

That’s all.

Posted in work ethics, work life balance | Leave a comment

Black Mirror

Remember how peaceful life was before WhatsApp forwards and Twitter hate? You gave too much tech to a bunch of explosive, over sensitive, emotive fools and look what happened.

Now with the likes of home pods, I don’t know where we are headed.

Black Mirror was real.

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