Wednesday, November 18, 2020

the birthday post - 33


The age at which you really really stop caring about what people think about you. 

This is me, crazy thoughts, wobbly bits and all. 

If you don’t like what you’re seeing... well, too bad. 

This year has been all about self care. 

The most profitable investment you can make is in yourself.  

Property is also v. good they say. 

I am amazed by people my age who own multiple houses. 

I am also amazed by people my age who are semi-retired/thinking of retirement in the next few years. Planning goals! 

I’m not far behind on the planning trend though. I do meal prep and have elaborate to-do lists. 

It only seems fitting for this middle-age transition. 

Life is a looooooongggg sprint. Priority items. Unresolved tickets. Backlog grooming. Resource allocation.

Life is a looooooonggg meeting. Agendas. Discussion points. Next steps. Quick breaks.  

Life is like a looooooongggg document constantly being edited. A few tweaks. Some major rewriting. Some skippable chapters. Refine, refine. Revamp the design.

Life is like a looooooongggg…. you get the picture. 

Life is like a long holiday at times, which I can safely say are the best times.

Happiness is an umbrella term for all kinds of complex emotions that we feel. 

It’s like our safe zone. We all want to be happy. It’s like we resort to it to escape from all other emotions. Happiness is the sitcom we want to rewatch and rewatch because it’s comfortable and familiar.  

But the things that truly change us are way more than just ‘happy’: frustration, grief, exhilaration, passion, desire, guilt.  

I have a feeling I might have said something similar in an earlier birthday post. 

But I’m 33: I’m allowed to repeat myself. 

Two things I am constantly running out of: socks and spoons. 

I sent myself flowers this year. 

It came with a card that said from Ramya, to Ramya. 

A very special kind of gift. 

I scorned flowers until a few years ago: I thought it was an extremely uncool thing to gift someone: these plucked and dead things that attracted scary bugs. 

A guy getting me flowers would not be appreciated. Roadside pani puri would do the trick.  

But now I think flowers are rather pretty. And the bugs less scary. 

Ah, how we change and evolve.
I like that word: evolve.

Some wonderful/interesting things I heard this year:
“Always remember: you are not your job. You are bigger and better than what you are at work.” --from an ex-colleague

“Isn’t it just easier to believe that people can be genuinely nice?” --My mom after I told her I couldn’t figure out whether someone was complimenting me or being nasty in some twisted way. 

“You keep comparing that to this. Why compare? It's beautiful on its own. Like you’re comparing Scotland to Lakadah. Two different things. Beautiful in their own ways.” --From a friend. 

“But wouldn’t it be nice for it to have a little rest?” -- My nephew after I told him that the heart is continuously working/pumping blood. 

Some of the best moments from this year was reading to my 5-year old nephew and listening to his questions. What a beautiful mind. And a heart to match! 

We played the game of who can make a longer word until we settled on the variations of discombobulator: biscombobulator, kiscombobulator etc. Good times. 

Friendships are the most curious of all relationships: there are no rules, no obligations, no templates to follow. Yet the loss of a friendship can be as or more heart-breaking than what society defines as a “break-up”. 

Sometimes the damage is just irreparable.
And accepting that is really, really hard. 

But, as adults, we will shrug and move on. 

We have been around for 3 decades, and that has equipped us to deal with these kinds of situations. 

To shrug and move on seems like a widely-accepted solution.

When you're in love it feels like two people are part of the story. When you break up, it feels like the pain is yours alone.

It’s incredible how much of this journey we’re doing in solitude even if we’re surrounded by friends and family. 

How much we live in our own individual heads. 

How many thoughts we think that nobody else has access to.
Everything is ultimately all about us. 

Saved whatsapp messages, starred emails, experiences that are ours and ours alone, stories that only we know, memories that only we recognize.
Nobody else can really know what it’s like to be you. 

That should make each one of us feel really powerful. 

Or very lonely. However your brain is wired. 

(You’re entirely in control of the choice though. Just FYI.)

I’ve heard people say that Vipassanna is well worth the investment. But 10 days of not being able to draw or write or play music sounds really intimidating to me.
I need to find other workarounds to find some inner peace and that. 

A good swim and long walks work very well. The occasional cake. Throw in a gobi 65. 

I struggle with high expectations. From life, from myself, from people around me. I expect to be amazed. I expect myself to do something amazing. 

Next year I will lower my expectations a lot so that I can be amazed without even trying. 

People who say they aren’t chasing money are likely to have a reasonable amount already.  I might draw comics for the rest of my life. Or write. Or keep creating in some form. Even if nobody reads or cares. I think this irrepressible urge to create and share and having that outlet is what keeps me functioning 'normally'. Space fascinates me, and I think it will be a bit disappointing once we know what’s out there. What’s out there might be really exciting but knowing makes it less exciting.

This year, success has taken on a new definition for me. 

I think it’s about loving yourself truly madly deeply.

It’s not at all an easy thing to do. 

I’ve always thought acceptance from others was important, but I suppose we should also accept ourselves.   

When I was a little kid, a nun/teacher in my convent school asked me: Do you love yourself?
Of course not! I declared, appalled. 

I loved my family, my friends, and also Leonardo DiCaprio but surely it was wrong to love yourself. 

I had no idea what it meant back then.
To love yourself wholly, complete with your insecurities, fears and safely-kept secrets, is quite an achievement. 

When you actually examine the dark recesses of your mind, you wonder how you stay sane. 

Staying sane is not entirely without effort. 

For some people, it can take an excruciating amount of effort on a daily basis. 

I sometimes feel like life is so very limiting. But it’s also so very expansive and limitless. 

I think it being content means you’re happy with the little things but not to the extent at which you start being complacent. 

A sentence that I think makes you sound like an adult more than any other: “It is what it is.” Shrug and say it in response to most anything and you’ll sound serious and enlightened. 

You’ll sound mature. Fully in control. I’ve carefully observed my friends over the last couple of years and I conclude this from my very reliable research. 

I urge you all to try it. 

I spent most of my twenties trying to figure life out. 

I’ve spent a lot of the last few years overthinking and overanalyzing and trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe. 

I still struggle to find my purpose.
I’ve always assumed that I’d eventually figure it out. 

But I am now starting to suspect that there’s not much to figure out. There is no mystery waiting to be answered, no big secret waiting to be discovered. 

I’m not sure whether that’s disappointing or elating. 

Oh well. 

It is what it is. 

So this is me, crazy thoughts, wobbly bits and all. 

Off to welcome 33, and another year of surprises and Great Big Unknowns.  

Tune in same time, next year! 

Friday, January 03, 2020

Vision 2020

It's 2020 and I'm thinking maybe it's a good idea to revive this space. Not that it ever died really, I just became awfully conscious as an adult of airing my views in public. Omg the whole world is going to read my personal thoughts and make all these judgements about me! How can I put on public display my innermost thoughts? Well, it turns out that I've got enough innermost thoughts to last a lifetime so there's no risk of exposing myself that much also. Everyone's only getting the tip of the ice berg! Ha!

So much noise online nowadays, no? I think I also contribute to it with my incessant social media presence and comics and ramblings. But maybe this white box can be my relief, a space for me to declutter. All this output is essential for mental hygiene I think. Cleanses the system. Maybe the Internet is one big garbage dump, a place for everyone's crumpled paperballs.

Anyway, so the existential crisis has struck again, this time at 32. Funnily I felt the same angst at 23. I feel the same inadequacy, the same passion, the same desperation, the same burning desire to make some kind of positive change. I've been sitting with my notes and chewing my pen thinking about everything I'd like to do this year. I've had a very blessed life so far. And now it's time to give back. Do something grand. On a large scale. Life-changing. World-changing. VISION 2020.

I think wanting to do good stems from the desire to be liked. Apparently there exists no charity in the world without some sort of selfish interest (source to be verified, I read this somewhere). Recently, on a flight, I was working my way towards my window seat, when I saw that a kid was already sitting there with his nose glued to the window. I apologetically told his mum that was my seat and then in an impulsive grand gesture I said no no, he can just keep sitting there. And for the rest of the flight the kid was literally singing "Amma look the sun!! It's heeereee! Amma the sky is sooo blueeee! Look look, the sun is here onlyyyy!" And I grinned from ear to ear to myself. I could even picture the halo around my head.

Anyway coming back to the point of burning desire. I think some amount of dissatisfaction is necessary in life. And I don't mean the kind of dissatisfaction which is solved by going on a trip to Croatia (though I imagine that must be very therapeutic) or binge-watching a show on Netflix. It's a dissatisfaction that comes from some kind of "not-okay-ness". And the funny thing is this "not-okay-ness" is always there, even if we are super content with our personal lives. We live in a world which always needs some kind of fixing. Nothing is ever OK, and nothing ever will be.

Our own daily lives seem (or mine, at least, seems) fairly selfish. Will we ever be more than what we share? More than our jobs, our daily chores, conversations with the tiny percentage of people we meet? Can we ever really make a massive difference? Is our worth defined by the number of people we are able to impact positively? I think the answer is yes. I sway between wanting to achieve some sort of sainthood status which will make me gloriously immortal (see what I mean by selfishness) and being a sour cynic, grunting about how everything is ultimately futile. I'm yet to reach some sort of midway mark or some satisfactory resolution.

On the whole, I think it's time to pay it forward. Time to give more, create more, share more. Care more! As I chew on my pen and chart out the plan for the next year, I hope to take small steps towards doing something bigger than my limited everyday life, and grunt less about the pathetic insignificance of it all. All I need to do is make sure that the list doesn't end up as another crumpled paper ball in the World Wide Wastepaperbasket.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

the birthday post - 32

They say it's all officially over now. 
No more fun and games, only serious adult life. 
But I feel pretty enthused only. Full steam ahead.

I debated putting an end to this yearly ritualistic rambling posts.
Because people say you should be more wary of putting out personal stuff on social media. 
Everybody will read and judge you and all it seems. 
What rubbish. Who has that much time? 
Most stuff on social media is here today, forgotten tomorrow. 
Much like many things in life.

Maybe next year there will be no birthday post.
Will be cool and secretive and mysterious and all. Ha!
It’s funny how we spend a lot of our twenties trying to prove that we’re adults.
At 32, there’s no need to prove anything to anyone. Time to chill.
I’ve spent time in my twenties trying to understand the meaning of life.
But I don’t think about it that much these days.
I’m now armed with some (possibly misguided) confidence that I’ll figure it out.

This year, I’ve learned the art of planning.
If you live away from your home country, the crazy wild impulsive take-a-train-tonight travel doesn’t work.
Got to check all the three-day weekends and holidays beforehand, book tickets in advance, etc.
One must plan stuff. There’s a good chance that it’ll work.

Out of the 500+ comics I’ve created, I just like one.
I hate my work on most days.
I feel like what comes out in words and pictures is just a teeny fraction of the universe in my head.
Music is a far better outlet.
If I could choose to do it all over again, I would choose to be a pianist and perhaps nothing else.

It seems to me like friends don’t talk much in their 30s.
I think the distance grows startlingly with the passage of time.
Everybody is busy working, taking care of themselves, taking care of others, figuring out stuff, hating their jobs (or loving them), getting married, getting unmarried, having babies, writing long rants on their birthdays.
Or maybe everyone but me has learned the art of being cool and mysterious.

I was asked recently what advice I would dole out to school/college kids.
A few years ago I would have said follow your dreams, chase passion, blah blah.
But after much thought, I’ve figured out what it is:
Don’t waste your brain.
It’s a marvellous, marvellous thing.
It also needs to be constantly monitored for optimum resource usage.
I’m learning to be careful about whom I lease out the space in my brain to.

This year, I’ve decided to try to be more objective.
I’ve found myself (in more situations than I like to) admit always choosing to believe some fantasy version of the story in my head rather than what’s actually happening.
Forever deluded.
But I guess we all are, no?

Choosing our own filters and lenses, subconsciously or otherwise.
Maybe it’s better that way.

I struggled with settling down in a new country a few years ago.Friends worldwide seemed to do it with apparent ease -- passport stamp, stamp stamp.
It was only when I spoke with a friend that I realized he was going through the thing.
People should swap stories more.

There should be entire events built solely with the purpose of story swaps.
Real, meaningful stories. Not the “All good”, “Not too bad” kind of rubbish exchanges.
I’ve learned that being an adult means nobody wants to get into details.

We like to say “All good”, irrespective of the truth.
It turns out that it’s not cool to talk about things you think it’s not cool to talk about until you actually talk about it.

I want to put an end to this “makes me happy” language.
Gimme the full range of emotions, gimme it.
I always ask for trouble.

Meaningful conversations seem like rare gems nowadays.
Quick, put them in a box.
Revisit occasionally.
Precious savings for a rainy day.

There’s way too much hate speech in the world.
On some days, I think we’re a bunch of pathetic idiots.
On others I think the world is full of kind and wonderful people doing fantabulous things.There’s so much crap yet there’s so much hope.
My heart aches when I see lovely, kind people in thankless jobs.
We say thank you far too less.

An adult can never really think like a child.
We know too much.
And there are so many problems that come with knowing too much.
But the more you know and discover, the more you realize just how much more you don’t know…
I find it bizarre that we accept that we don’t have answers to fascinating things like space and god and why mobula rays jump but we can drive ourselves crazy about why someone won’t talk to us.

Apparently you can’t really see the sun rise over the waters in Goa because it’s west coast and you can’t see sunrise over the sea in Chennai because it’s east.
I’ve had trouble digesting this newly acquired bit of info. Never thought of it that way.

I’ve learned to be OK with liking another country without feeling like a desh-drohi.
I love cow parsley.
I love studying the shapes of leaves. I’d like to be a nature illustrator.
The thing I love most about the UK is the freedom to walk pretty much anywhere.
It’s impossible not to fall in love with the English countryside, the wide open skies and trails along the coast.
Trees are cool.

Discovering birds has changed my life. I don’t think I can ever be bored again.
I think knowing that birds exist (and I mean really knowing, listening, watching) makes you feel less alone.
One of the highlights of the last year was watching a massive starling murmuration. Tears happened. 
Birds are cool and clever and kind of hilarious at times.
I love watching blackbirds sunbathe in the garden in summer.
I don’t own binoculars and don’t use bird-tracking apps but being a bird-watcher and bird-listener has made me use my eyes and ears like never before.
What powerful faculties we have at our disposal! Lucky us.

Interesting things I heard this year:
“If you ask the right questions, you’ll find the right answers,” a friend, after I said I was going through existential crisis. (I’m still waiting for someone to leak that question paper.)
“Zameen ki khushbu nahin toh baarish ka kya fayda?” a friend, after I mentioned that the rain in the UK didn’t smell like the rain back home.
“Nobody is worthy of such adulation,” a friend, after I said that I was mesmerized by someone who was indifferent to my existence.
“Lower your expectations,” from a friend, after I grumbled that I’d been struggling with the same paragraph for over two hours.
“Sometimes you have to put yourself first,” the wise Amma, who else? ;)

I’m incredibly possessive of my time.
I never thought I’d say this but I’ve grown to love spreadsheets. 
I’ve got better at dealing with crappy days. I tell myself: It’s just one bad day.
Life is more than one bad day.
I’ve got better at making decisions. I tell myself: There’s only one way to find out.

I like how we don’t have to make an effort to get night to fall or the sun to rise.
Many things happen automatically.
A lot of the big stuff is taken care of.
We just have to get better at filling in the blanks.

It’s nice to be in control.
There’s no other option, no?
It feels pretty good.

Hello new year, brace yourself, I’m coming hurtling at top speed.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The blahness of adulthood: Musings of a 30-something

Loans and EMIs and Big Decisions and Big Responsibilities and Planning in Advance. That’s what I thought being an adult involved. And it turns out it’s exactly what I had anticipated.

I feel like an awful lot has changed from my 20s to my 30s. It seems to me that I’ve spent the first three decades of my life having the good fortune to be wild, carefree and impulsive. Had my head in the clouds, but feet on the ground, was a little lost but incredibly driven, hopelessly romantic but reluctantly practical. Somewhere along the way, the scales tilted and I find myself a less wild, less carefree and less impulsive person.

One of the first thing I noticed as an adult was a startlingly conspicuous drop in the number of calls from friends (and the calls I made to them). Suddenly there were Bigger Priorities. To-do lists got longer and longer, not just my own I suspect, those of others too. Social media, if it’s anything to be trusted, confirmed that some friends were alive and kicking. Those who dropped off social media were in touch once a few months or a few years, mostly for major announcements. Nobody talked about anything serious they were going through. Only good news was broadcast.

While I struggled with settling in another country, I was amazed to see friends shining in a nomadic existence — passport stamp, stamp, stamp. It was only when I spoke to a dear friend who shared my new-country loneliness did I realize something. We are so careful about what we share as adults. Our troubles and frustrations are to be battled with as lone warriors, when everything is quiet in the dead of night. We are fiercely proud, with only our pillows as witnesses to our tears.

One of the reasons we hesitate to share and swap stories frequently as adults is perhaps because we never know what’s going on in the other person’s life. We tread carefully. Things are great, I declare. All good here too, the friend says. I hesitatingly say that things have actually been less than great. She is concerned. I go first. She then admits that she’s been through a rough patch too. She goes next. It’s like we need to confirm that we’re in the same boat, and that’s the signal for us to go ahead and share. If one of us didn’t make the first move, it would have been any other grown-up conversation — bullet-pointed life updates and a quick exchange of pleasantries.

In a way, it’s because we are simply more considerate I think. You don’t want to make a new house announcement to someone who just lost their job, you don’t want to talk about your divorce to that happily married friend. I’m always a little nervous before catching up with someone after a long time, like they’re going to tell me about what a horrible year they’ve had, but they’re all better now, and I’d feel like a terrible, helpless and absent friend.

Being an adult means being more private, more independent. Being an adult means we don’t really want to get into details. Everything’s okay, we say. All good. Nobody needs to know the nitty-gritties, we have no time and even less patience. The standard response to ‘What’s up?’ becomes a casual, offhand “Nothing much”, which could mean anything from nothing much to massive life-changing events.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that everything needs to be Planned. Ugh! There’s less scope for taking off as you please. In January, think about where you’re going in summer. In summer, book your tickets for the Christmas break. If you’re not going anywhere at all, think about what life goals you’re going to achieve. Make a list. Plan your retirement. Plan your savings. Plan when you’re going to quit your job and run off to the mountains like everyone else supposedly is. Plan the concert you want to attend. Plan your studies. Plan B. Plan that house you’re going to buy. Plan for the future. Plan for just in case. Plan for yourself. Plan for those dependent on you. Plan the next career move. Plan what’s for dinner. Plan your three-day weekends.

We plan because we want to Be Prepared. We want to be ready for the what-ifs, ready for bad news, ready for change, ready with our resources. Forget about being ready when the sky falls or when the aliens come or when the world ends, we’ve got to plan for the next hour. Some of us try the no-planning plan, which only lasts until you burn out of the weekday-work-weekend-Netflix routine. Then you get up one day with renewed resolve and say, Ah Yes! Today I’m Going To Plan.

Lastly, the most disturbing discovery of my thirties: so much of the romance is dead. Maybe this is also because I moved out of a dramatic tropical country to a stiff-upper-lip, colder country. But yes, I think we become decidedly unromantic as adults. We are far less accepting of the outrageous. We frown upon people who seem flippant and frivolous. We are proper, we mind how we behave, we try to say the right things. We look out of windows saying, oh look, it’s raining, but we don’t let loose and dance in the street with abandon.

The scary part is that it gets astonishingly easy to be an adult and do adult-like things. Mostly because everyone else does. And the easier it gets, the more comfortable we get. The more comfortable we get — -oh we know it already: it’s all gloom and doom from this point onwards.

I hate to admit that in my thirties, I seem to have become a new avatar altogether. I revisit my older crazy self in only bouts of Sunday nostalgia, when I bellow the lyrics to an old song while in the shower. I drop my guard less frequently, I care about what others think. I’m more integrated into society. I’m painfully conscious about what I let show. I sweep all the stuff that matters under the sofa and say “all good” and “nothing much”. I only look at my phone in the mornings, not at 3 am, when I want to have a long meaningful conversation with whoever’s awake.

I reflect on everything I’ve written and it seems like this transition into adulthood is for the better. I’m more in control, more considerate, more cautious, more independent. I plan better, I try to say just enough. I mind my own business, I help when I can, I drink lots of water. I stop thinking the world revolves around me, I stop trying to change the world. I’m wiser, more confident, better prepared.

But in spite of all of this, I feel like I’m less than half the person I used to be.

Friday, November 23, 2018

the birthday post - 31

(For those who don’t know what this is about, I have been writing notes on every birthday since I was 21. Oh just some silly old tradition :))

I almost didn't write a post this year.
I started these posts when I was 21, and ten years seemed like enough. Nice round number. 
But it's great to keep at something I started a decade ago. 
Otherwise I'd have to say, "I used to write these articles..." - and then this would just become something I used to do. 

The first year of 30 has been a mixed bag. 
In my late twenties, I thought a lot about how I defined home, happiness, friendships and relationships. 
I experimented, rebelled, travelled, and was a passionate nonconformist. 
Post 30, I watch a lot of TV and try not to think. Other people can do the nonconforming. Goodnight sweetdreams. 

I'm very lucky to have found my passion -- something I think will sustain me forever. 
I think learning music/any form of art always gives you something to fall back on -- it keeps you sane, healthy, rooted.  

There's nothing like sitting at the foot of a roaring waterfall in the Western Ghats. 
What a magical range of mountains, these. 
What is it that's so therapeutic about water? 
I recently discovered I've been swimming wrong all my life.
But I love swimming all the same, and no matter how I feel when I get in, I'm in "bring it on!" mode when I get out. 

How many houseplants is too many houseplants?
Monstera is a fascinating plant. It just sits there and looks pretty. 
It continues to look pretty when nobody's looking. 

I'm slowly starting to understand privilege. 
I'm grateful to have had an immensely supportive family, good health, and the resources to do everything I've been able to. 
One person's good fortune is perhaps another person's sacrifice. 

It's amazing to think that most everyone in the UK has access to clean air, water and healthcare. 
India feels like an impossibly complicated gigantic knot that can't be undone. 
Sometimes, sitting here in the comfort of a nicely warmed UK home and watching the politics back home, she seems like a beautiful lady helplessly trying to untangle her matted hair. 
My heart aches for India sometimes, so much I love. 
Reading about the work Goonj does has had a profound impact on my life. 

I've often wondered if social media is bringing out the worst in people. Or was it that people were always this horrible? 
Someone I know once said (about a political figure he disagreed with) that she 'deserved to be raped'. 
Hmmm! The end of the world is coming. 
Kalyug, Amma says. No hope etc. 

I once received a comment from someone on Reddit who said my comic was the emptiest, worst piece of content he's ever seen. 
I wrote back to him saying that I try my best. He immediately apologised and said not to take it 'personally' and that he didn't really mean it. 
Anonymous people are brutal.
But that's just what they are -- anonymous. 

Being sensitive is a blessing. 
But I guess apathy can be wonderfully insulating? 

It surprises me how little we can do for the people we care about deeply. 
You can reach out, be there, talk to them, console, lend a ear, offer a shoulder -- but sometimes, I think. Is that it? Is this really all we can do for another human being? 

Appreciation, or rather the hunger for it, can kill the artist/creator.
We live in an age where writers are optimizing for SEO, artists are running after the 100th like, and everybody is a white-text-on-black-background poet on Instagram. 
That end of world? It's coming soon. 

This year, I hit upon the magic formula. It's to "Zoom out". 
Zooming out of a situation makes you realize how stupidly inconsequential everything is. 
It can empower and liberate you. 
Losing sleep over something? Zoom out. Had a bad day at work? Zoom out. Wondering what people will think/say? ZOOM OUT. 
It's the secret to true happiness. Take it. 

If that doesn't help, watch Planet Earth 2 over and over again. 

Good health is something to be grateful for, each and every day. 

It's so sad that we become more careful and more reserved as we grow up, always thinking about how much of us we can let others see.
It's great to do something with abandon, with no self-consciousness. 
There was a time when I put myself all over the Internet without really caring... 
Those were good times. 

I think social media is killing friendships/relationships. 
We think we have some insight into somebody's life because we know that they've had noodles for dinner. 
Haha! We have no clue what's going on. A simple "How have you been?" can lead to many surprising responses and the realization that we make wrong, wrong assumptions. 

This year, I found that while friendships can sustain and nourish, they can just as easily fade away. 
It always takes two. 
Living with one of the nicest people on the planet has enriched my life. 

Snail mail can be immensely comforting. 
Growing your own vegetables can be super satisfying. 
Plant a seed, watch it sprout and peek through the soil, look at those tiny leaves -- simply miraculous! And surprisingly easy. 
I spent most of the summer tending to lilies and herbs and chillies and carrots. 

You can't see it when you're in it. 
We can get all judgy about someone else, we can offer advice, we can think how stupid they are, but it isn't till we find ourselves in the very same situation that it hits us: 
You can't see it when you're in it. 

Success means different things to different people. 
It's mostly comfortable people who say that money doesn't matter. 

I would like to care less and less about what people think. 
I would like create content that is enduring, that people will read after years and years, and still find meaningful. 

Interesting things I heard this year:  
From a doctor in the UK: "You can show us your reports from India. You can get them translated."  
From a friend, a new mum, about her daughter: "She's all I want." 
From a friend after telling her I draw 'just' stick people: "Don't ever be dismissive of your own art." 
From a hair stylist who was doing my hair: "Oh, there's nothing I haven't tried. I've dyed my hair pink, orange, been bald, had leopard prints, everything. You should experiment when you can. That's what hair is there for, right?"  
Overheard at the hospital: "Just because you couldn't do something the first time doesn't mean you can't try again," a mum to her 1-year old, who was unable to poke his sound-emitting teddy bear hard enough for it to squeak. 
Response to an article I wrote about doing something for the love of it: "But why would you do something unless you want appreciation? That would be a waste of time, no?" 
From my doctor: "Don't anticipate pain."

I think I've changed quite a lot over the last year. 
Amma says it's all about evolving, something she's been remarkably good at. 
Quite a nice concept, this evolution. 

I think I still have some bits of leftover youth.
Must put to good use. 

Hello, new year full of promise. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

the birthday post - 30

This is my tenth birthday post, so here's to a decade of keeping this tradition alive :)
I've taken in the world for 30 whole years. 
I must say it's been altogether intoxicating. 

I'm immensely grateful to be part of this world and to have experienced so much of the wonderful things it has to offer. 

This year has been one of the most insightful so far. 
I feel like I've grown years in this one year, and like I've travelled mentally to far-flung areas. 
This year, I've been on a journey of self-discovery. 
I've had a short stay in the 'Lost and Found' box -- but it was well worth it. 

Ever since I've moved, I feel like I'm constantly travelling. 
Things still jump out at me and take me by surprise.  
I'm deeply in love with the countryside here -- the swans, the streams, the sycamores. 

Home travels with you. 
Home is about freedom. And acceptance. 

I love cane and bamboo furniture. 
I have a weakness for plants, especially on window sills and desks and bookshelves.  
Peace lilies are still my favourite plants. 

I've spent a great amount of time this year watching the various creatures in the garden -- especially the birds. 
The best way to never get bored in a house is to install a bird feeder.
My favourite bird this year has been the pied wagtail. 

Your thoughts can wreck your body. 
The easiest way to lose weight is by being really, really happy. 
You will never be thin enough or fat enough or fair enough or good enough for society -- something will always be wrong. 
With them. 

I really miss the days when blogging was about writing honestly. 
Now writing, at least on an online public platform, seems to be marred by SEO optimization and character limits. 
I've even seen people voluntarily add a "Tweet this!" button next to sections of text. I cringe at that. 
But then again, I hashtag the life out of my comics on Instagram, so who am I to complain? 

I have over 300 comics waiting to be sorted, but I use up all free time to keep drawing new ones. 
Seems like an awful waste of time to be sorting out stuff from the past. 
That applies in other contexts, too. 

I am highly attracted to driven people. 
I don't think I can ever stop drawing or writing, irrespective of what people think of it. 

Social media has also made us more conscious of ourselves and the image we want to create. 
The more driven we are by external likes and shares, the less likely we are to write something which isn't measured by how readers are likely to react. 
I think there is some kind of manipulation involved there, even if we are not aware of it. 

I believe that good creative work comes from an internal impulse. 

I always come home to writing because I feel like I have nothing to prove. 
I have nobody to please. 
It's such an enormous relief. 

I've become awfully conscious of what I let out of myself online. 
But I read so much online, and the best lessons are from others' personal experiences. 
It's an age where we can no longer be completely free -- every move is being watched. 
At least when we were younger, we only thought that God (and sometimes Santa Claus) was watching us. 

Contentment is overrated. 
I'm a little scared of being content -- I feel like it will be the point where all this passion and motivation dies down. No?  

I love making music. 
Jazz is complicated. 
The more you don't understand it, the more beautiful it gets.
I guess that's what draws me to it so much. The mystery. 
Other times, I just listen to disco. 

I'm an email person and I would pick email over phone conversations with clients most of the time. 
Couples often tell me their long and complicated love stories (to be illustrated), and each time, I feel so awed by the power of love. 
Love moves mountains. 
It causes enormous upheavals on the ground beneath your feet, for sure. 

No matter how many clients I work with, the best rewards come as emails from people who respond to a particular comic or piece of writing. 

Sometimes I wonder if I've been 'too nice' in the past. Especially to people who've not been so nice to me.
I had someone say something really mean about one of my comics on Reddit this year. I responded to them, and they quickly apologised, saying they had no idea the OP would actually read all the comments. 
Funny what anonymity can do to people. 

Working from home can be both liberating as well as isolating. 
With a remote job, I always fancy that I'll work under the trees in a park, or run off to some fancy mountain resort. 
But what I really want is a desk in a quiet corner within four walls. 

I really want to explore India...  
... On a deeper level. Live in longer periods in the villages, lose myself in busy towns, be overwhelmed by the cities. 
Mostly interact with the incredible variety of people and learn from their experiences. 

I love meeting new people. 
I love house parties. 
I like reading books and watching movies about space. 

I learnt only two years ago that hens lay eggs every day, and that not all the eggs we eat were meant to hatch. 
I also learnt only this year that there are gigantic cables under the sea that connects most of the world, and these were actually used for telephones/telegraphs earlier. 
That's quite mesmerizing. 
The more new things I discover, the more I realize that the number of things I don't know about is actually much more than I thought. 

This year, I've watched a ton of life-changing movies. As a book-over-movie person, never thought I'd say this! 
We evolve. 
I'm uncannily like my mom in many ways. 
Time doesn't heal. Not as much as willingness does. 

"You have a great future." I heard this sentence first when I was 13 and then again recently at 29. Got me confused -- isn't this my future already? 

I've realised that I write to remember, not to forget... it's not so much of a vent than wanting to hold on to a moment or an experience.  
I write to capture a feeling, a story or an emotion that I don't want to lose. 
Then I forget all about it, with the comforting knowledge that I can now revisit it at any time. 
I never do. 

The compulsion to write seems to stem from wanting to hold on. 
I feel slightly upset when I can't remember my dreams. Guess that follows the same pattern. 

Falling in love is so hard on the knees. 
But real love doesn't bring you to your knees. 

Self-control is a wonderful thing. 
Just knowing that you have the power to pick and choose how you react (or how much you are affected by something) can make a huge difference. 

I've been incredibly blessed to have the most amazing support system anyone could ask for -- my family, friends, well-wishers, relatives, mentors, teachers, readers, and more. 
I'm really grateful to have all of you in my life. 
I've taken in the world for 30 years. 
My eyes are not the least bit tired. 
I can't get enough! 
30 is going to be awesome. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

the birthday post - 29

This year, I faced an overwhelming amount of change. 
All those annoying quotes about change being constant are starting to make sense now.
I've redefined the meaning of home. 
I've found that you can be rooted even if you're transplanted. 

India is home. 
Well, so the redefinition hasn't helped all that much. 
Much as I romanticize the idea of a nomadic life, for me, home is always one place. A steady, strong presence that's waiting for me as much as I'm looking forward to it. 
Home is the place I can make a cup of coffee or tea to my preference, put my feet up, and sing as I wash the dishes. 

There are many different kinds of people in the world. 
Everywhere, people are the same. 

Emotional attachment can wreck you. 
Letting go is freedom. 
But I think the ones who get attached are the ones are lucky to have experienced it. 
Because too many of us are unfeeling. 
Or maybe we become like that eventually. 

Falling in love can be hard on the heart.  
There's joy in losing your senses... for some time. 

You could either go crazy or choose to be Comfortably Numb. 
Either way, you might get Marooned. 
And then you'd have to Run Like Hell. 
From the two constantly haunting problems – Money and Time. 
Very soon, we'll all be Lunatics on the Grass. 
But there's no harm in having High Hopes... 

Gosh, I've got to stop this now. 
Or else I'll Keep Talking. 

Not everything you do should have some grand motive. 
We should all do a great many things just for jolly. 
I want to grow lots of plants. They make the best decor, no? 

I hardly ever doodle... but don't tell anyone that. 
I can't work without to-do lists. 
I can't live without coffee. 
I mean, of course I can. When you really think about it, our actual needs are very less... I'm slowly leaning towards a more minimalistic lifestyle. 

Interesting stuff I heard this year: 
"Don't be stupid." – when I told a friend I was homesick and wanted to move back to India. 
"Never be afraid of anything." – the better, unafraid half. 
"This is ghor kalyug." – Amma after Trump's win. 
"Put that machine away! It's very dangerous. We were better off when we didn't have those." – an elderly gentleman sitting next to me at the hospital, referring to my mobile. 

I made a fuss when my mother wanted to send me 100 kgs of stuff from India. 
But I had the most delightful time unpacking all the goodies. 
Family = full glowing happies. 

I love long, long walks. 
I'm a terrible swimmer – but I love swimming. 
It's the only sport I ever liked this much. 
It's a great reminder that you've got to keep your head above the water. Periodically, at least. 

The world is incredibly unpredictable and we're all living in our own little bubbles. 
2016 has been a shocker. 

An ideal way to spend my birthday would be to delete the 2000 unread emails and 3000 drafts in my inbox. 
I've drawn about 400 comics so far. 
I will draw and write for the rest of my life. 

It seems the aim of everyone in the UK is to live in a sprawling home in the countryside, with sheep for company. 
I would feel really isolated in that situation. 

We've all got to take it easy. 
Slow down, you crazy child, he said. Why don't people take the advice of these great musicians? 

Age is just a number. 
And a wrinkle here, a double chin there. 
We underestimate the importance of a good slumber. 
Five years ago, I would've said sleep is distracting me from all the wonderful things I've got to see and do. 
Now, I feel those wonderful things can wait till next morning. 
The world doesn't end overnight. Really. 
Try dropping off the radar for a while. When you come back, in all likelihood, things will be the same. 

I've rid myself of FOMO. 
Try it people. Do away with all these weird acronyms and you'll be happy AF. 

I always used to think that one's got to prepare for the worst...
But I've learnt to trust that nothing will go wrong. 
It's easier to believe that anyway.  
Confidence is your best weapon. 

A friend of mine always used to say, "So what? It's okay. You'll survive." 
I used to get offended back then. 
Now I understand what it means. 

The most important thing in life is life itself. 
That in itself calls for a huge celebration. 

Here's to another year of madness.