My Kerosene Lantern & My Flies

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person that you are”
– Kurt Cobain

Have you ever seen a kerosene lantern?
Have you noticed it burn?
When you light the wick, it glows with a warmth so strong. The glow attracts hoards of flies and moths like kids around a candy cart; they crowd around, buzzing and dancing as if in an a-cappella. The flame moves like an enchantress at the heart of a party. As the enchantress puts in the hours, the gathering begins to dull down and the insects scatter. A dark blanket covers the enchantress that continues to glow, as if unaware of her lost grip.
The lantern is blamed for being a possessive lover who hides away her spirit, refusing to share her with the rest of the world. This love story is, however, one of melancholy.

So busy entertaining and enjoying, the enchantress never realises that the sooth that envelopes her is her own creation.


The lantern is my physical being. The glowing wick is my spirit. The flies, bees and moths are all the people that have come and gone; the ones that have been around.
What’s the sooth then, I wondered?
It is the only proof that stands witness to all the effort, burning and wear and tear that has gone into the process of being me.

Do I like who I am today? Of course I do!
Am I the perfect version of who I wish to be? Well I am the version that I wanted to be sometime ago. Now my plans have evolved.
I once read somewhere:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; Remember what you now have was among the things you only hoped for.

-Epicurus

Why is it then that the work that was put in to make me- me, shows itself in the form of a layer that also sometimes suffocates my light?

I’ve always been a people person and yet it burns me out from time to time. For the first time I recently heard myself ask a friend, “Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe Social Media is just Media. There is more to my everyday than what I choose to put out there?” While it did give me a false momentary celebrity air, but it spiralled down on me just as fast. I realised that I was losing touch with myself and becoming irritable. I realised that the line between my primary and secondaries was getting blurred.

To my own surprise I was at ease on realising that I had been pushing myself. The road to this realisation had un-timely outbursts and un-necessary emotional breakdowns for over a week with highly confusing actions, the realisation itself came as a moment of comfort. As if my body was showing signs, like the sooth in the lantern, that I’d burnt myself well and needed some cleaning.

What followed was pretty much me pampering myself to comfort through music, food, sleep and everything else. I spent a couple of days being everything that I needed, un-bothering by the social code of conduct.
Took a day off work with no other plans for the day. Got into bed a little early and stay there a little longer. Stood under the shower and let it all out. Painted my toes an electric purple and spent time moisturising. Didn’t indulge in small talk or conversations that weren’t helping me. Looked at the moon and tried counting the stars till my neck hurt. Ate by myself. Played with the strays. Watched movies in languages that I don’t understand. Played dress up in the middle of the night. Re-read parts of books, just because. Said ‘No’ to polite tasks. Listened to groovy dance music at the crack of dawn. Ran alone. Called up friends whom I’ve not heard from in a while. Laughed until my eyes spilled. Wrapped fairy lights around my body and sat with a tub of my favourite ice cream to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. re-runs.

And just like that, with a little effort and time, the glow of my lantern has begun to return. The weight of the sooth is lifting and I feel more at ease with myself. Finally able to feel my thoughts flowing and more in tandem with my surroundings. Ready to be with people and feel entertained by the buzz of it all.
It is a small amount of time invested in cleaning which is going to last me quite a while and has also earned me some added comfort. If I had to do the math, I’d say I’m looking at some great returns on investment.

Don’t waste another minute thinking that you’re failing when really all you’re doing is growing.

-Chani Nicholas

Hey!
The last few days for me have been all about thinking, re-thinking and sometimes over analysing. I wouldn’t say it was all dull, grey and dark but there sure have been showers of gloom. It was this period of looking at myself that had me sharing this piece.
If you’ve read it till the end and felt like you understood what I’ve been upto, then maybe you have been there, are headed there or are there right now. Treat it like a cleanse, it makes you dirty and uncomfortable but you only get out better; so hang in there!

Viet Weak

Ever since I remember traveling, I know I’ve enjoyed it.
Ever since I remember enjoying travel, I have romanticized about it.
Ever since I’ve romanticized about travel, I’ve tried making it a consistent in my life.
And ever since I’ve been able to travel often, I’ve started to learn a little more about myself.

Quickly gaining popularity, for all the right reasons, is a country with perseverance like no other. Vietnam is home to a large number of motorbikes, so much so that crossing a street felt like an adventure sport to me. One of the last to fight a war for independence among 195 countries of the world, it is a land of farmers, workers, intellectuals, youth and soldiers.
I had the fortune of visiting this admirable country for a week and here is what I found out!

Here’s how the itinerary looked:
2 days in Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh (the commercial capital)
1.5 days in DaNang (a beauty by the coast)
1.5 days in Hoi An (lantern town)
2 days on Phu Quoc Islands (blue waters like I’ve never seen before)
(I know I skipped some of the must-go-to provinces and places, but there’s only so much I could see in such little time!)

Did you know, Vietnam is the only country that fought a super power for two whole decades without once folding?
Yep! Apart from the preliminary research that one can do from sitting at home, it is amazing how the country proudly showcases its history, struggles and achievements across museums and preserved strategic locations. The country and its people are nothing short of warm and hospitable. Serving bowls of the world’s healthiest food, they are brewery lovers through and through. As a communist country, there is no official religion but there is always a Church, a Pagoda or a Shrine, in whose beauty you can wallow.
With a blend of Communist and Non-Communist beliefs, the country proudly houses underground bunks and pathways (Cu Chi Tunnels) that were developed to convert their limitations into strategic strength during war. With Mekong river in the South and Red river to the North, Vietnam has very fertile lands and houses a large number of flora and fauna.

~that’s where I stop with the over whelming fact file~

Lets Talk About The Experience!!

Every time someone has asked me “How was your trip?”, “How did you find the country?”, “Tell me all about your week long getaway to Vietnam!”, etc… I’ve been consistent with some of these:
“I truly under estimated the country for its beauty and everything else that it has to offer.”, “I’m so glad that I got a sneak peak into it before it became an overly crowded tourist destination.”, “I’m in absolute awe with how someone (referring to the entire population) with such great strength and prowess can continue to remain so grounded and simple.”
Well, its true! The flowers look a little extra bright, the fruits and vegetable are a little extra juicy, the people are a little extra nice and the country is a little extra amazing.

The day I was to leave from DaNang and get to Hoi An, I wanted to visit the Marble Mountain, en route. The only issue was that I couldn’t drag my luggage along with me for four hours up a hill, into the caves and under the sun. So I decided to ditch it all in the truck of my taxi apart from a backpack that held my passport, some cash and a bottle of water, and paid him off for the ride thus far. I was a little skeptical and knew I was being extra crazy!
Now fast forward to: 4 hours, a drenched t-shirt, a few scars, dusty knees and elbows, parched throat, drained mobile battery and a gallery full of pictures later… My phone is hanging by the thread for life and it begins to ring!
Its my taxi driver calling to ask me if he should come to pick me up from the coffee house that we had decided upon. He needed 30 minutes to get there and that’s as much I’d need to get down once I started to wrap up. With our wrist watches pre-matched, we met at the point agreed upon and there he was smiling at my sun baked cheeks and my speed of drinking fresh coconut water!
(Some precautions/ safety tips, if you may)

Living with a local in Ho Chi Minh city, I was briefed about the country in general as I was about to step out for my first ever solo travel in the forth coming days. And this is how it went:

  • Always stay hydrated
  • Do not second guess the street food, if the spot is crowded you should try it
  • Avoid carrying your belongings in your land as snatching is a possibility (thank God for pockets :P)
  • Do not hesitate to ask for help, just smile and ask patiently
  • Its a trusting Country but you should do so responsibly and wisely
  • Women dominate the country in almost all fields and are well respected
  • People here are always willing to have a good chat and get to know about you, that’s just who they are
  • There is free Wifi almost everywhere!
  • Make sure you bargain; everything without a printed MRP is subject to price reduction based on your bargaining skills

This here is the summary to what I think about Vietnam, in an overview format.
I’m looking forward to sharing some more specific experiences, soon!
I hope you now know why I’m feeling Weak For Viet!!

18 Going 25 Something- looking back and moving ahead

Dear 18 and mid-20s,
Its okay, you are Fabulous!

As an 18 year old, fresh out of high school and waiting to start college/university, I remember being excited to have finally grown up.
There was a little extra bounce in my steps and extra swing to my ponytail. There was an air of confidence and my eyes glimmered with hope. The clarity of thought was unparalleled and my shoulders a little extra squared to take on the world!

I was willing to go down to the minutest of details of everything that I was asked, expected and even wished to do; simply because, you know… everything I did then was supposed to turn and mould the rest of my life. Every decision supposed to solidify the path that I follow for the rest of my life, every relationship I nurtured was to last till the end of my days, every belief system that I adopted was supposed to define life for the rest of my living.

I knew that by the time I was in my mid-20s, I would be an independent being with a certain professional stability with nowhere else to go but rise higher and higher. I knew I was going to be this person who would be wise and generous, witty and intellectual, smart and funny, attractive and well-built.
I would have a Masters degree in Economics and a passport full of stamps, speak two foreign languages and have friends across the globe, play the guitar and read minimum three books a month, have a walk-in closet and people whom I could trust with my life, a labrador with a person to share its warmth with.

Today, it’s been eight years since I was first 18, and to my comfort I haven’t really done most things that I had planned out for myself.
I’m a Psychologist who writes to understand myself better and somedays to just get through the day. I read, but more on the rate of a book a month and sometimes it takes two months to complete it. I have an inconsistent workout pattern and an unparalleled love for food. I’ve not yet filled my passport with stamps but love looking through the Atlas every now and then, and I know i’m collecting experiences to share with my kids and their kids in the future.
I don’t play any musical instruments but have a diverse playlist that caters to my every mood. The only amount of foreign language I know is what Narcos has taught me. Somedays I wonder what is it that I’m doing? But one thing has become abundantly clear, that I’m not looking at breaking any glass ceilings, professionally.
I do drive a stick pretty well and have made friends from different walks, ages and beliefs. I do not have a dog, but do take every opportunity to play with one when I find it. I still love dunking my cookie in the milk and finding shapes in the clouds!

Not wanting to start my 27th year on a low note I asked for help on my personal Instagram account (because that’s where we are the most responsive, as a society).
I asked for people to help me see me through their eyes.
I mean, looking into myself wasn’t looking very promising and uplifting in comparison to the 18-something’s image of current me, because you know- self doubt and esteem issues.

Surprisingly, what started with the intention of licking my wounds turned out to have more of a therapeutic effect. There were responses that spoke of my physical appearances and other socially polite things that we all do at some point or the other. Then there were those that put a smile back on my face and made me realise that I might not have become all things that I’d dreamt of as an 18year old, but I surely on the right road no matter the destination.

It began with “It takes a very secure person to do something like this”; it made me realise how I’d been open to all kinds of responses and willing to go on. But this response just prepared me better.

Some said that I have grown up to become a sensible woman, understanding and simple. I realised that I do have quite a few virtual friends whom I’ve rarely or never had the chance to meet in person, and real ones whom I meet as often as I can.
There is family who are like friends and friends like family, and I couldn’t have wished for more. They find me annoying and incorrigible, but adore me none the less. I do have sour patches, but I know in my heart that I’ve done enough to sweeten them before I gave up; no regrets there.

It was repeatedly mention that I do travel quite often and that helped me make peace and hope for more in the future.

To think about it, the most rewarding feeling was the realisation that I am happy. Inspite of all the things that I’ve not achieved, received, earned and created in comparison to my dream for myself. I’ve been blessed with more than I could have asked for.
Not everything has panned out the way I believed it would, somethings never even materialised. After all, what did I know then when compared to now?

I’ve lost people who I thought would last forever and have company in the ones whom I never thought I could understand.
Plans have changed multiple times. Some of them have felt like a train wreck, like hitting a dead-end with no where else to go. Very rarely does anyone ask me for my grades from high school and college, even though at the time it meant like the world depended on them. But everytime I meet somebody now, they want to know what I do; as do I about everybody.
Things that seemed like the indicators of the quality of my future at one point, seem so frugal now!

I still look for approval and validation every now and then, but I’m also learning to segregate the feedback. I’m learning to find it within myself rather than the world; and to the ones who are seeking it elsewhere, trust me pleasing and appeasing the universe inside yourself makes you more beautiful and appealing to the world outside of yourself.
To the 18 year old me I’m a grown up now, but today I’m still growing. I’m yet to make mistakes and learn new things about myself. I’m still setting goals and targets for my older self and setting my heart out to wander and understand itself better. I’m not perfect, but I know that there is no single universally accepted definition to perfect, either.

Making yet another time capsule for the next five years and allowing myself to be swallowed by the world. the world lead me. They say ‘Maturity is the price you pay for growing up’, I think I’m just keeping the child in me alive!

When you’re 20, you care what everyone thinks,When you’re 40, you stop caring what everyone thinks, When you’re 60, you realise no one was thinking about you in the first place.

-Winston Churchill

And this here feels like my theme song!

Responsible Travel

For a few days or a good portion of your lifetime, if you’re spending time somewhere, then at that point in your life that place is Home!
And taking responsibility for your home is only fair.

Before we dive into this one, I thought I should ask you a few quick questions-
1. Do you like to travel?
2. Have you ever moved around (for work or leisure, for short or long term)?
3. Do you think the world is a beautiful place, full of surprises?
4. Do you take responsibility for your surroundings?

Now that you know your answers, lets talk about the most amazing teacher that the universe has offered us and how we can begin or continue to show it our utmost respect!
The chance to experience life from different perspectives teaches us things that most libraries fail to. To witness cultures different from ones own, makes us more accepting than any diploma. A rendezvous with a heterogenous crowd is sometimes all the spiritual awakening needed.

As promised to myself earlier, I asked for insights and help from people around me and I’ve had the most absorbing learning experience. To hear someone passionately talk about things close to their heart rubs off a certain sense of high even on its audience and that’s exactly how I felt. Be it scaling mountains, finding off-beat locations, swimming around the corals or creating experiences… it has been intoxicating.
While my three points of contact had me giddy with the information and the imageries they painted, I’ve tried to summarise and make a list of things that they couldn’t stress enough and are simple to practice.

I got in touch with each one of them individually and they have re-affirmed my approach towards travel and tourism. To me, travel is when I visit a place and let the place submerge me into itself, from the folks to the lores, its economy and cuisines, all of it. Travel lacks the fear of missing out, which for me is usually associated with tourism; the need to finish my checklist of places-to-visit, not necessarily taking the chance to truly enjoy it. (1)

Before I start with their insights, let me list the 7 outdoor ethics that the world should live by.
1. Plan ahead and prepare
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
3. Dispose of waste property
4. Leave what you find
5. Minimize campfire impacts
6. Respect wildlife
7. Be considerate of other visitors
These pointers form the framework of responsibility and remain universal. These are further explained in detail by Leave No Trace; an organisation that is working towards sustaining the outdoors by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy the nature responsibly.

Moving on, here are the super obvious seeming things that most of us could easily over look while planning the next getaway, but should not. Things that were suggested by these super amazing travellers, and I know I’m going to adopt as a practice in my travels and life in general.
1. Research. Research. Research. Know the rules and laws of the land that you’re visiting. Acquaint yourself with their culture and practices so as to not offend anyone. Know the climatic swings and the culture sensitive points.
2. Travel Insurance. Its always better to be safe and protected.
3. Maps! Network and connectivity over mobile data could restrict you from exploring isolated spaces, but these will keep you from being lost.
4. Eat, Stay and Shop Local. The best way to support a community and enjoy it to the fullest is by being a part of it.
5. Do Not Feed Wild Animals
6. Carry your waste with you. If you cannot find a waste bin/basket on-site, then carry it with you until you reach one; plastic, cigarette buds, food leftovers, packaging wastes, etc.
7. Bring Reusable Bags. They are always handy and do not occupy space in your luggage.
8. Skip Straws and Single Use Plastic Water bottles. Use a water purifying system as and when possible.
9. DO NOT LITTER. Even if the locals do, and should goes without reason.
10. Lights Out. Everytime you leave a premise make sure to switch the lights off and other appliances, and try to use electricity mindfully.
11. Use Public Transport or Carpool. You never know which interesting story you might hear or become a part of!
12. Conserve Water.

TRAVEL FUN FACTS…. because, what better way to prove the above point!
Driving without your headlights on is illegal in Denmark, even during the day time.
It is illegal to spit in Barcelona.
Eating during Ramadan when in UAE is illegal.
You cannot frown in Milan.

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Much love and power to Mountaineerz, Wandermile and The Lume Weaver for being my points of contact, source of information and sharing their insights.

The picture is by Prakritee Sandilya, thank you love!!

My Religion, My Resolution

I got in bed an atheist but a conversation made me a believer before I could close my eyes.

One more year is about to begin with one more box full of memories to look back upon. With the temperature dropping and the festivities picking up, I’ve been feeling all sorts of things.

You know how I’ve spent nights being grateful* to this year. I’ve been introduced to a new phobia- the fear of not having any travel plans finalised, and have internalised it more than necessary. The RJs and everyone else are singing the jingles and discussing New Years Resolutions.

As a person in dilemma regarding my New Years Eve plans and a higher chance of spending it in my fuzzy socks and beanie with a book and some music, I’m gladly surprised that my procrastination over making resolutions has lead to an enlightenment of sorts. I’m a person who can day dream situations, events and detailed conversations. One such episode had me waking up with a religion while I’d gone to bed an atheist by general definition.

It was an episode of an imagined debate, backed by my take on religion (that it’s a tool of instilling fear in order to create order, which has long been used against the society for power), I realised something about my own belief system. While I’m not a believer of any specific, well-practiced school of religion and way of living, I do identify with bits and pieces of the religion that my family ardently follows.

In an entire debate staged in my mind where I’m arguing against the idea that all non-believers of the textbook religion are atheists, while my alter ego is trying its best to tell me that I’m an atheist and that’s all right! I knew that the debate was quite useless as it wasn’t leading up to anything. But hey! what better place to have such a redundant chat than the thinking seat on a winter night, when the touch of the ceramic against my backside had sent shiver up my back?

So I entertained my own banter, assured that this was the best way to take my mind off the weather and my cold seat. In no time, the banter spiralled and I was telling my alter ego that I’m a person of science and humanity, and that comprises my religion. This new turn of events made everything all the more interesting and suddenly it followed me into my bed at the dead of the night.

For the first time that night, I became an active observer to the antiques of my mind. i was now of the viewpoint that the world can do with one less parameter of division. Instead we are in dire need of a common ground to come together. While climatic change and cruelty against animals is doing their bit, I advocated that right now there is a need for something bigger!

And that’s when I mouthed the word ‘HUMANITY’!

I’d suddenly convinced myself in the charade of this day dream, that Humanity is the religion that the world needs. Don’t get me wrong, all the existing religions are amazing in their own way and I in no way think that they need to be done away with. All I mean is that the primary religion of each individual should be humanity while their sub-religion could belong to their choice of God and Scriptures.

While I haven’t yet the clarity of what this religion will entail, I do have something that are pretty clear.

This would mean placing people and their feelings before things and my attachment to them.

This would mean being more considerate and less demanding.

This would mean sharing rather than scavenging.

This would mean being polite…

POLITE.Yes, that’s what it’s got to mean!

And quickly I came up with three basic ways how I’m going to be polite and try to spread my new found religion.

1. Instead of saying “sorry I’m late”, I’m going to practice thanking “Thank you for waiting for me”.

2. Instead of letting someone know that “Hey, you’re real bossy”, I’m going to try “You have great leadership skills and I just had an idea…”

3. Instead of losing my mind and saying “Leave me alone” I’m going to attempt a “Can I have a minute/some time to myself, before we continue to/with…”

Of course, three changed habits are not going to change the world, but I’m willing to believe that this attempt will change one heart at a time.

So here’s The Hazy Whisperer signing off for this year and looking forward to a more engaging and productive new year with all of you!

The above have now become my resolution for the years to come and if you have any thoughts to contribute to Humanity- a global religion, please do share.

A fruitful and comforting new year to all of you!!

Late Night Gratitude

I’m feeling good, particularly about nothing and yet about everything.

Lying in bed at the owl hours of winter night. Spread out like I’m making snow angels. Staring at the overhead fan, trying to count the number of rotations it makes in a minute and miserably failing each time. I laugh to myself and start over; there is no mad rush for doing something better. The strays on the streets have finished their scavenger patrols and the moon is glowing bright enough. It’s a strangely fulfilling feeling, to not be worried about wasting away time on mindless tasks.

It could be the weather or just the effect of watching multiple hallmark movies over the years. After having a full Wednesday and snoozing through most of it. But for now I’m just happy to be wrapped up in my washed-up comforter, wearing yoga pants from when I was two inches too short and a t-shirt I’m not sure how I procured. The night air is a bit chilly, but I’m just too comfortable to get up and reduce the speed of the fan.

Tomorrow is a workday, but for now I can only think of all the things that have been good and great. My mind is swell and humming a song I heard in an Italian movie with subtitles. I mean, we all have our days; I know I do. I have a range from Buttercups to Lisa Simpson, from Olive Oyl to Roadrunner, from Merida to Cinderella. But today, I’m just feeling good.

I’m feeling good, particularly about nothing and yet about everything.

On last new years’ eve I had made a resolution. It was to make sure that I’d try out all activities that have brought joy to me in the past. Why did I make it? I’m not sure; maybe I was just lazy to think of something new. Or maybe becauseI knew I would still find simple pleasure in some, if not all of them. And here I am, feeling content at the end of the year, making lists for the year to come and mostly feeling grateful.

If the past year were a book, its cover would be a vibrant blend of colours light and dark, all thrown together to create something abstract yet so beautiful. If it were a music piece it would have the music of a saxophone, electric guitar and a violin, all together. If it were a garden it would have grass in shades of green and brown, with some weeds and beautiful little flowers.

The opportunity to meet new people, from different places, has always interested me. I’m not big on socialising, but every once in a while I enjoy getting to know someone completely new and preferably very different from myself. I’ve had the privilege of befriending many people this time. Took a weeklong trip with strangers who became friends and some even influencers in their own way.  Took multiple weekend trips and re-connected with old friends and got introduced to some more. Travelled with family and had the chance to re-connect.

I took up many challenges, aced a few and failed a few, but tried all! Started the blog on the word of a stranger who is now a well-wisher. Tried to shrink the waistline, but that never panned out. Learned how to cook something new.Found some of my work targets unrealistic after having have dived headfirst. Defeated my sweet tooth and gained better control over my impulsive binges. Spent another year desperately wanting for a canine companion. Joined the management class and am actually enjoying it. Enjoyed some beautiful sunrises. Missed quite a few night outs and events. Lost my phone.  Ran the 10k I dreamt of. Read very little by comparison. Exploited netflix subscription. 

I found inspiration and admiration in nature. Learned to be more accepting of others. Struggled a bit with my self image. Mended some fences, lost track of some others. Indulged in self-care, gained some sunburns. Sprained my ankle. Developed better calf muscles. Started being more sensitive towards the environment. Dabbled in make-up. Cried till I couldn’t remember why. Laughed until I was doubled up with pain. Danced by letting it all go. Stayed hydrated through party nights. The year has been a ride, not a very smooth one for sure. But today when I look back at all that has passed and everything that I’ve learnt, I know it’s been a beautiful one.

Taking stock of everything that’s putting an aimless smile on my face sure feels good. While the fan continued to reel over-head, I can’t be bothered by the ramblings of the world. For once I’m not in a hurry to fall asleep or do anything else,because right here everything seems to be comfortable.

The song that I’ve been humming  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk8oSNMQ6xU

The First Run

You haven’t run in a month. Do your best. Remember this isn’t your only chance but this IS your only body. So, be a bit considerate.’

Heart racing at an exorbitant rate, a parched mouth and eyes burning due to the invasion of sweat.

A kilometre short of the finish line, my mind began to make notes of everything that I had to share.

Today,when I woke up before sunrise and got dressed for the long awaited event (read as: very very long awaited), I consolingly told myself, ‘You haven’t run in a month. Your body has been out of touch for way too long. Do your best. Remember this isn’t your only chance but this IS your only body. So, be a bit considerate.’

With acceptance in mind I went ahead and followed all the procedure before the finish line. Before the start mark I took a deep breath and told myself to remember to be at a comfortable pace. Slowly but steadily kilometres passed. I over took a few co-runners and was overtaken by a few. And the longer I ran, the more I wanted to run. After every checkpoint, I wanted to see if I could continue running until the next.

Just like the climax scene of most movies, things started to go on in a slow motion in my tenth kilometre. I could see the finish arch. There was a reinstalled sense of confidence and it felt like a secret packet of energy had just been released in me because my steps were more rapid than the last few kilometres.Oddly enough, while everything was getting faster, my thoughts seemed to begetting clearer and time seemed to be passing slower.

And in the final 1000 meters I started to make a list. A list of things that I had done right, things I was going to get better at and things that I’m going to keep doing.

  1. Wearing a pair of shoes that my feet were familiar with rather than new ones seemed like a great advise I’d implemented.The comfort of wearing the right shoes was an added support
  2. My first stop was because my shoes suddenly felt too tight. I’d forgotten to factor in the swelling up of my feet once they were strained
  3. I lasted more than I expected because I made sure to slow down every time I felt out of breath or exhausted
  4. To stop running and just walk for a bit seemed enticing, but I remembered that it would also make me lose my momentum. So I reduced my pace instead
  5. To avoid an excessive raise in body temperature,I shifted to breathing with my mouth as soon as I felt hot and continued the same.
  6. On seeing my fellow runners fidget with their sponsored t-shirts, I was glad to have remembered to wear an old t-shirt under the new one
  7. Halfway through I realised I should have carried my own Gatorade. While there were multiple refreshment pit stops, your body isn’t conditioned to get dehydrated based on the proximity to a re-hydration supply
  8. ‘Short-term goals’: That was my constant mantra.I was constantly setting short distance and visible goals based on landmarks or objects (not once on the basis of time or distance). Only after crossing the current short distance goal, would I pick the next one. Yes, I was tricking my brain into regularly releasing dopamine along with the feel-good endorphin. But I didn’t want my brain to feel cheated, so I only set the next goal after I had put the current goal behind myself (literally)
  9. Short steps reduced the load on my knees and also improved the frequency of my steps
  10. A regular and longer arm swing improved my momentum at the times when I wanted to be a tortoise. Thanks to stationary, arm swing exercises that we were asked todo, by a marathoner, with 1kg of weight in each hand
  11. During the last few minutes, when I was only a few hundred meters away from the end, I knew I’d superseded my expectations. Being the fickle person I am, I wanted more than I had and knew I could have had more only if I’d been more consistent
  12. SMILE!I remembered that I could release for feel good hormone by smiling and I did that. As the run got more taxing I started smiling larger- as was suggested tome
  13. The last 200 meters was a single sprint. I’m not sure of the how I could do it butI know why I did it. Maybe because I was so excited to have completed it!

WhileI sit washed, in the comfort of a sofa while writing this, I have mixed thoughts about having have had enjoyed every second of the salty water running down and entering my mouth when I first got into a shower. It was strangely exhilarating.

(With all things said and done, I feel gratitude towards an inspiring friend who started off as being my mentor 10 months ago. He has always shown faith and supported me despite my inconsistencies. Thank you!)

Afloat in Mulki

And just like that she knew that even though she had rested, she never really had parted from the sea and it was time to be back in it!

Back flat on the grainy floor of a front porch, eyes closed, she truly enjoyed the burning of her skin under the sun. It was hotter than usual but her body continued to feel like she was bobbing on the river in a kayak. The harmless insects took their own time starting at the heel and climbing to the toe. The slow crawling felt oddly welcoming.

The heat soothing the strained muscles, the coconut trees making the light play peek-a-boo on her face; nature’s care in the most tender form. Clothes a little damp from all the water splashed by her amateur paddles, the skin was well pickled by the minerals of the sea. With a colour block vision of lush green and muddy blues, her brain seemed to be playing games with her relaxing eyes.

The fresh water caressing the parked kayaks on the shore created a prolonging sensation, amplified by the smell of moss, mush and all things tropical. Moist hair, dressed in a bizarre runway fashion, feeling flakey against the pruning fingertips didn’t seem like a concern anymore. The soreness between the index finger and the thumb from rowing, a sweet reminder of ticking another experience off her list and enjoying it just as much as she had imagined. The circular, dance-like movement of the vultures in the sky will always remind her of them joining in her own merry making.

The land was solid and stable yet the mind believed that it was drifting under bridges, around groves. The reflection of white migrating birds and their graceful flight inches away from the surface still had her wondering. She still felt an unreasonable pang of jealousy when she saw fishes skipping with no worry in the world and the jets leaving a relatively permanent trail like a longer lasting reflection of the water lines cut through to move ahead.

The frogs croaked gleefully like in a fare, the dragonflies wheezing around occasionally and slowly the crickets were starting to claim their space. Pockets filled with sand, the lips were smile kissed.

There was a nearing sound of moving tarpaulin under approaching feet and she heard her name. And just like that she knew that even though she had rested, she never really had parted from the sea and it was time to be back in it!

*An experience this beautiful is to be credited to its curators. I first met Rakesh in Manali on a trip put together by Wandermile (Chennai based). This group’s experiential itineraries are soul-felt and enriching.

Read more about them at http://blog.wandermile.com/ or get in touch through contact@wandermile.com

Ba-Dastoor

‘O Soul, thou art at rest.
Return to the Lord at peace with Him,
and He at peace with you.’

There was the light blue sky, white marble domes with emerald and ruby pietradura floral art, guarded by a sandstone red prayer hall on the west and its mirror image for a guest house on its east side. The palette in front of me, as I sat on the Victorian bench in the heart of the lush green gardens, could not have been better.

In a borrowed kurta from baba’s suitcase and a pair of breezy pants, my sleepy eyes looked around with the excitement of a child when I first walked through the arch and glimpsed at the beauty in white. Said to have been constructed as a symbol of love by a man for his beloved over a period of two decades, this marble structure had me falling in love slowly but surely.

While I waited for nature to play out its theatrics, I tried to remember my first visit to the mausoleum-that has been a whooping part of the country’s identity. I wasn’t sure what we had done the first time; there were no strong associations or incidents to create a foundation upon. But there was a lingering feeling of déjà vu once our guide started unraveling the details about its history and symmetry of scales.

All I did was sit down and stay still.

I had to sit down and stay still while everyone around me kept moving in an over whelming frenzy.

I sat down and stayed still when everyone around me was high on anticipation of what was next.

I sat down and stayed still while the silhouette went through the shade card and eventually shifted form.

At first I saw the sky as a deep blue curtain floating against some sprinkled chalk dust and a fading moon; and the winds whispered to me

Then there were emerging patterns of cotton clouds and flying beings against a canvas splattered with gold; while the leaves rustled against the hardened path.

This gold ever so beautifully enveloped into a glowing sun left on a comfortable sheet of light blue; with the morning birds bursting into an acapella.

The scene unfolded from being a glittery performer to a somber lady of pastels.

In an urge to make a lasting association this time over, my mind pulled me back to something I had overlooked in my childlike haste of what lay ahead-

‘O Soul, thou art at rest.

Return to the Lord at peace with Him,

and He at peace with you.’

-the inscriptions on the entrance arch had translated.

On the way, most buildings were coloured dust and red with benches under trees that stood witness to the tales of love and romance over the ages. The air was stained with the crisp stench of hand rolled tobacco and the mildly brewing tealeaves. With cobbled streets and modest houses, the streets around the Taj felt like an architectural conspiracy.

Like most of my early morning squanders on vacations, even this involved baba obliging to my relentless pleas to go to the marvel and breath it in its glory along with the chirping songs at ungodly hours. There was suddenly an unknown comfort in this strange city, like I had become a part of its story as the story had become a part of me

*Ba-Dastoor is an urdu word, meaning unaltered

Hill Climb

After a while of aimless walking and wandering about, feeling like characters of an improv, in a setting drastically different from our regular, on a lazy Sunday morning…

During one fateful monsoon, I visited Dharamshala in a song like weather. Everything in this little Himachal town was picturesque- the rustic winds, the quality atmosphere and the calm of the hills. The view was warmly accommodating, almost like a welcome with open arms. It was the perfect mood for the cuddles, to stay bundled in cushioned beds and yet so appropriate for the wanderers to get lost. The Tibetan ensemble of the town gave it a foreign land feel and the weather was the right amount of soothing.

A group of three, we were well spread on the general tourist behaviour continuum. There are the kind who are just so over-joyed with the spirit of vacation that they can’t sit still for long. These are the ones who will have a checklist for the trip and will try to cut down on sleep just for that little extra. Then there are the ones who like to soak in all the energy they spend on a regular basis; the ones that just snuggle in and sleep to their heart’s content and rejuvenate through resting, if not hibernating. And then there are the ones who do a little of both and fall right in the middle of this continuum.

Ma- the one on snooze; decided to stay cooped up with an old book that I’ve seen her read multiple times and some masala chai. In awe with the place, Baba- the one in the middle of the continuum, and I- the hyper active checklist holder; tightened our trainers and started to explore the hills. No destination in mind and no plans at hand, we decided to see where the mixture of hills, greens and clouds would lead us.

To my utter satisfaction, I was ticking off many things on my informal list on a single stroll- walking on clouds, watching the far mountain snow glow lava as the first rays of morning sun hit it, hearing water flow as we sat listening to birds chirping, walk in the deserted lanes before they got crowded, clicked a gazillion pictures so I remember how beautiful the place is, made a bunch of wild flowers and growths to press into my book, heard the silent music of the town, observed the houses with their colour schemes and the setting of the place, filled my lungs with the uniqueness and tried to memorise the collective feeling of it all.

After a while of aimless walking and wandering about, feeling like characters of an improv, in a setting drastically different from our regular, on a lazy Sunday morning, we started to head back to our hotel room with the idea of some comforting tea and breakfast enticing us, as we desperately covered our ears from the surprise wind and the constant drizzle.

The uphill climb was a lung burner. We stopped by the very rocks where I has fascinatedly looked at the moss and baba thought I was crazy. Suddenly, I heard him say to himself,
“There is no better teacher than a walk in the nature. Every time we walk down the hill we are ramrod straight with arrogant broad shoulders, head held high with no appreciation for our lungs. Its only when we walk up, well, we bend, look humble and ask each breath to take it easy on us. And its only the uphill walk, the one that all of us dread, that gives us the best view there is. It’s such a beautifully detailed graph”.

I’m not sure if he was talking to me or just thinking out loud. We never spoke of it. But from time to time, I revisit that moment, when my lungs start to burn and I don’t yet see the view that the hill climb holds for me.

… because when a thought first occurs, it is organised into ideas and plans, and then transformed into reality. But the beginning really is in your imagination…

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