Friday, December 31, 2010

The Obligatory Year-End Post

(A painting by Philip Imti, Lizzie's dad, that I particularly loved. The painting that he told me is of the rainbow of dreams that translates into solid reality.)

I don't quite remember what I was doing on New Year's Eve last year, maybe I was home, I can't be sure. I have never been the partying kinds, so I was definitely not out on the dance floor. It has always been just another day, and this year is no different.

I went back to my blog archives and saw what I had written. I had just finished my big speech at the trust function. This year too, the event went on much better. Last Dec 31, I chose not to dwell on the events of that year, by far the worst I have lived through. It was a year where I was left gasping for breath but managed to see through, of course with scars that you would not see outward. I wrote about hopes for 2010. Did they work?

Well, this year has been a year of changes as well. For one, I quit my job to face the uncertain. I travelled extensively, tried to write, prioritized and embraced the fact that my family comes before anything else, went through ideas, people, lessons.

2010 was a year spent trying to recover from the after effects of 2009. In the process, I dare to say that I emerged with bruises, but as a stronger, hopefully better, human being. I learnt, the good and more importantly, the not-so-shiny side of things. Through all that, I lived a life. And won that battle of waking up every day and putting a smile on my face.

I dare to say that 2011 will see more goodness and love and more changes. I don't make resolutions. But as with every year, there is fresh hope. And the key word is going to be to 'Let Go'. There is much on the mind, not just emotional, but otherwise too; many ideas, things, people that I need to get off my brain.

I just got off the phone with a dear friend who called up to say he had decided his new year's resolution. Weirdly, he was talking about the exact same thing! There are rocks that I feel we carry in our heads, pitfalls that strangely translate into the accumulation of another load on the mind. Here is hoping 2011 will be a lighter year, light from letting go of the too-many things on the mind, including the fear that there might be hurt again, a crippling fear that allows not to move forward. Here is hoping for openness and for the courage and strength to keep steps ahead. Here is to letting go.

Let the sun shine. Happy new year everyone.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Do It for Pain

Cycling is so hard, the suffering is so intense, that it's absolutely cleansing. You can go out there with the weight of the world on your shoulders, and after a six-hour ride at a high pain threshold, you feel at peace. The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain. At least for a while you have a kind of hall pass, and don't have to brood on your problems; you can shut everything else out, because the effort and subsequent fatigue are absolute.

There is an unthinking simplicity in something so hard, which is why there's probably some truth to the idea that all world-class athletes are actually running away from something. Once, someone asked me what pleasure I took in riding for so long. "Pleasure?" I said. "I don't understand the question." I didn't do it for pleasure. I did it for pain.

From Lance Armstrong's autobio It's Not About the Bike.
Words that are partly why I seek to climb so much. Partly why I do the things I do.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Well, What Do You Know!

I like to believe that I live my life with passion. I try to do that which I have the passion for, try being the operative word. Passion for work, for people, for things and activities. But when I apply it to people and my relationships with them, I recently discovered that passion and giving is NOT the way to go. This end of the stick always, always falls short. A certain coolness is perhaps more advisable.

And this is one of the primary lessons for 2010. It was also for 2009 and several years before that. I seem to have a stubbornness in not learning my lessons right.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Super Great Travelling Happened

The last two weeks have been utterly amazing. The best friend Lizzie and I bonded some more, did more of the 2AM routine and had a fabulous time. Ma and I travelled to Nagaland, Shillong, Cherrapunjee, Mawysnram and several little villages. Cherrapunjee was especially great because several years ago, I had promised myself that one day I would go there.

Mom loved the whole trip. Even for the seasoned me, it was one of the best trips ever. Officially, the east is now one of my most favourite places to travel to! And I think I found something there in the last two weeks. I think that something might just be inspiration again!

A travelogue will be up soon. Watch this space, dear readers :)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Me Thinks

Me thinks that a tide just turned over.

Me thinks things may finally be working out, good or bad, I can't say. But working out. There are a lot of things that are happening, moving ahead.

Me thinks there is great momentum at the moment.

Me thinks the Great Northeast trip that starts later today will be a happy one.

Me thinks me is mighty excited.

Me thinks Orhan Pamuk's The Museum of Innocence is a tad too long, but good nevertheless.

Me thinks me has to sleep, it is 3.01 AM!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Surviving a Non-bloody Battle

It is a battle, a battle that stops short of turning bloody. It is a battle between me and my body, between the mind that urges on and the body that threatens to stop following orders. It is a battle in which, I like to believe, both of us win.

The morning is fine enough, fresh after a good night's sleep, I wake up and dress hurriedly. It is nice to dress up warm, with a long shirt in muted colours and a jacket that I zip up close to my neck. I wrap around a stole next and lace up my shoes. The blue backpack is filled with some food, sunscreen, glasses, crepe bandage and pain spray, for I no longer trust my leg not to tear up a ligament yet again.

Soon thereafter, the preparations for the battle begin. It is slow going, initially. After a while, my legs get into a rhythm, it is left after the right, the right after the left. Once a while I look up and around, and my eyes set on the river snaking around the fields, the trees in the distance, a lone eagle gliding by. An insect almost hits me square in the face, unable to control itself when the wind blows hard. I put up a hand just in time to swat it away, the reflex is fairly good.

So are the instincts. We give those less credit than they deserve, I believe. Instincts are the first on the checklist when you are treading the path, or making your own. Instincts that were once, in ancient times, the only survival kits around. Instincts to judge which rock is OK to step on, which blade of tall grass might hold the weight of you pulling yourself up, which part of the rock might not slip and land you several feet below with broken limbs. I rely on my instincts, they, yet again, don't let me down.

On top, the wind is fierce. You stand firm on your feet or it pushes you about. The body is silent even then, there isn't a word, except for a break of sweat. All it is asking is that you take deep, loud gasps of breathe and feed it. You take them in, breathing deep. Way down below, there are cars, very tiny. A train chugs by, looking like the ones that you had in your toy set in childhood. It lets out a whistle and you count the number of wagons. A pair of eagle circle above your head for a while, then fly away, for you are uninteresting to those that fly free. A little cloud waves by as it goes to the east of you. There is the wind again, blowing fierce, drowning all attempts at conversation. But then, you don't want to talk, you went there for the silence and song of the wind below a blue sky.

You have won half the battle. The second half demands more strategy, more use of those instincts that you are so proud of. It demands control of the body your mind is in battle with. The instincts are to be sharper, a slight waver of concentration can be fatal. You step on a stone, the hand goes up to control balance. After a while, you think you have won again, and let go a little of the control. The body is quick to punish with a nasty bruise, a dozen thorns that go deep into your feet and a footing that slips. You gasp and reach for a rock in haste; another bruise on the palm appears, a deep red.

After negotiating with the legs to keep walking despite the thorns that are going in deeper, you promise them a good rest later, it is flat ground again. Another long walk. A bus journey back. A hot bath. That's when the rebellion starts.

On safe, flat ground again, my arms and legs don't listen to me anymore. The face is burnt and so are the arms; I have anti-tan skin, I don't burn till severe exposure; but the winter sun, deceiving, has burnt the skin off my forehead and nose. I cringe when water falls on the burning skin. The arms don't move to the back, the leg muscles are locked in. Climbing up the stairs to my house is excruciating. The head is throbbing. I have to sleep on the hard floor that night, that is the only thing that will give relief. I wake up with several locked in muscles. It is cold and I have to sit in the whole day, working. I do not do myself a favour by not walking about. The body is taking its revenge.

The battle is addictive, so is the pleasure in that pain. It is quite a soul-spa.

I cannot wait to trek and climb some more again.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Who Can Say Where the Road Goes....

Who can say where the road goes,
Where the day flows,
Only time...
And who can say if your love grows,
As your heart chose,
Only time...

Who can say why your heart sighs,
As your love flies,
Only time...
And who can say why your heart cries,
When your love dies,
Only time...

Who can say when the roads meet
That love might be
In your heart
And who can say when the day sleeps,
If the night keeps
All your heart

Night keeps all your heart...

Who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose
Only time...
And who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows
Only time...

Who knows?
Only time...
Who knows?
Only time...

Only Time, Enya

Thursday, December 02, 2010

More Writing

Been busy usual.
Here is a quick update.
Now, Tribal Health Initiative is the organisation I work with, they let me call myself the Communication Officer! The organisation does some serious good work up there, in interior Tamil Nadu.

Starting yesterday, I will be updating their blog/website every 15 days, with some lovely stories, once in a while, something newsy, but mostly cute stories, incidents and what I hear and see and feel when I go there. Do click on this: to read them.

The first one is about training of health auxiliaries in the thicker, deeper forest regions of Kalrayan Hills. The HAs are crucial for the health of several remote villages. Next up is a cute love story! Watch that space! :)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Good November. Tripping.

There is no sun out today. I like that, though of course it is not as cold as I would want it to be. I sit and watch The Motorcycle Diaries, fatal a thing to do when my mood is the way it is. And then I went and bought a book on Trekking Holidays in India. I don't seem to learn some things. Not stopping there, I go yesterday and buy one of the most professional trekking/ mountaineering backpacks there is (I remind myself not to think of how much I paid for it), plus another small bag and some other outdoor gear. My Quechua backpack sits by my bed, already looking accussatorily, for it is ready and I have yet nowhere to go. Suitably forlorn, that's what I am.

I look back at the years gone by and I don't remember a single time when I was comfortable to sit in one place/city for long. Itchy feet. Maybe that has been the last nail in many a box for me, but it has also led into roads that I would have otherwise not known about. Well, that's the story of my life.

As for now, the backpack sits and I wish, more than anything else, to be away from civilisation and to be close to the feel of the earth, to climb, to walk where there are not many people, to be quiet and listen to the wind and the souls, to feel the physical pain and after that, that feeling of nothingness when you go beyond pain, when you stop feeling the pull of muscles and all you do is walk on. I wish, more than anything else, to be somewhere far away, walking.

I wish, also, more than a lot else, to have a team that is just like me, with backpacks by their beds, plotting to walk off the maps all the time. That is much easier to ask for than world peace, aye?

That said, a week from now, I and ma will take a train on a 4000-kilometre trip to one of the farthest states of this country, Nagaland. It will take us nearly 5 days to get to our destination, Mokokchung, a name I had to memorize a dozen times over. We will tour the villages and see a world very different from what 'India' looks like. I will, needless to say, have much to take in, once there. We will hopefully see a famous peak there, then go further south-east to see root bridges, maybe some rain and many more wonders in Meghalaya. Needless to say again, I am mighty excited.

The last time a major trip happened, it was after planning for three years with three different sets of people. This time, it is a year old plan. Last December, I tore a part of my leg and couldn't go. Next time a big trip is on the cards, I hope, for my sanity, it doesn't require YEARS of planning, weeks is just about what I am ready to handle.

After three weeks of work madness, I have time to breathe again. November was good this time. First was a lovely Deepawali at home, then a week of films, then a nice time in the forests of Sittilingi and then a lot of work back in the city. Between that, I went and judged some kids on their creative writing skills (much fun, a separate story that), bonded with family, planned a trip, went to the hills and celebrated my birthday. The birthday was good, with a day trip, many calls and text messages, though there is nothing much happy about growing older. It was a good November. December promises good times too.

Today, for a change, it is cold in Bangalore. Hope it gets colder.