Little things

Today, we were told we could walk around the society buildings, within the gates. Ofcourse there were rules. Like – you can only walk, not run, skate, cycle. And you can only do it from 7:30 AM onwards – for my age group. That you have to be 6 feet away from folks from other houses. Though when The Dude and I stepped out, we were yelled at and asked to stay 6 feet away from each other too. Turns out, we were ok with that as well. Everything seemed acceptable – for this luxury of being able to step out of our homes. How the mighty have fallen, eh?

Yep, these are strange times, certainly.  So many theories around how long it takes to get used to something, form a habit etc. Eventually, it is very individual, I have come to conclude. Like for me – if you were to take the official ‘lockdown’ date as the start of these strange times, I actually took less than 2 weeks to get used to it. I mean, I don’t love it, I don’t even like it, but I don’t despise it anymore. Steady state. One might say. So much so, that when the much expected lockdown extension was announced, I only went Ehn.

The lockdown has also made me realise several other aspects about myself. Like, I am sort of a neat-freak if I have put an effort into the cleaning. As in, I hate my efforts going waste I guess. And since I am the unanimous Chief Cleaning Officer in this house, this means that you will hear me mumbling about dirty feet, dripping water, dropping crumbs through the day.

Additionally, I have realised that I am serial snacker if I am not kept busy all the time. Like, one has to positively distract me to keep me away from all things edible. And somehow, while the availability of random food and snack items is relatively lower, this does nothing to reduce my need for them. In fact, it makes me even more devious and creative, motivating me to find the unhealthiest of options and make a snack out of it.

I am also – wait for it – a workout junkie! Who would have thought huh? Yes, I have been working out, gymming, running through out the last 8 years, but this time has made me look forward to the 45 minutes in front of a Youtube fitness channel more than anything else through the day. Which is weird, because laziness>everything usually – but now, here I am, fretting when my knees hurt because of too much Cardio because I will need to do something lighter. Also, if I were to relate all the above points, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Cleaning = form of workout – hence sweeping or mopping doesn’t annoy me anymore. And yes, I wear my fitness watch while doing it.

Snacking = anti-workout – hence more Snacking requires more workout. So one can snack all day without feeling guilty (no, this doesn’t work, we all know how ridiculously off the snacking-working out equations are. May be lesser guilt there, at the most)

Workout = fitter me. Frankly, I want atleast one good thing at the end of this lockdown, and this seems the only option here. I can finally do 10 pushups without the knees now. So yeah. Also, endorphins = real thing.

Anyway, like I said in the last post, I have decided to not look at the brighter side of anything in this time, and I will stick to my promise. I am not seeking positivity, I am not hoping for a better future. These little things are still just part of all the acceptance. And hence, here.

Life, as we knew it (or we thought)

My mother asked me how is that I haven’t written at all about these extremely weird times. I told her that I hardly write anyway these days, so that could be it. Or maybe, it is also that these times have had this unusual effect on me (and as I understand a lot of people around), that has put a pause on the usual. Writing, seemed normal sometime ago, and all you needed was time, a topic (not necessarily in my case) and ofcourse, the intent. Now, the former two are available in abundance, but the last one has disappeared.

I read some place, has to be one of those thousands of forwards we receive everyday, that the sort of lethargy the body feels right now, despite maybe not exerting it as much since you are home most of the time, is the body’s response to grief. We are unhappy. And this overarching sense of doom (doom is a very big word I guess, maybe this sense of being utterly lost) – kills the enthusiasm, the positive vibes, everything that makes the world seems a fairly nice place to be in.

Anyway. I last went to work on 12th of March. And I last stepped out of the gates of our community for a grocery run on the 20th. Since then, there has been no going anywhere, no meeting anyone. It is amazing, how I am not ok with this set up, because I am the kind who needs a rest day (with minimal social interactions) after every 2 full days spent with people – at work and otherwise. So technically, I should be ok. But nope, I am not. I guess there is only so much of the same old rooms one can take. And like everyone else, I am exhausted.

My reading mojo practically disappeared the day we went on lock-down. I have been spending all my team on Instagram and maybe a bit of Whatsapp. I tried art, I tried my hand at the keyboard, but all the time and resources still don’t add up to interest – when you are in denial of things that are.

The plus (and minus) of this whole situation is everyone is in the same state. So there is still scope to be inspired by what the others around you are doing. And try add value to yourself in someway. But like I said, my physical self is refusing to go above and beyond. I am absolutely ok doing the household chores (I’m almost a pro), managing Zo, getting my work done, and also sneaking in a workout (my one good thing). But I practically refuse to do anything, anything  else that these ‘positive’ forwards of the world, say we should be doing.

When the lock-down began, you could see a million time-tables floating around, with people having an hour by hour schedule of what their children were to do for the day. And then, soon after, I read a couple of forwards, one of them sent by Zo’s school itself, that instead of trying to make stringent schedules to ‘make the most’ of the time for the children, at this time, we should just let them be. Because this situation is just as difficult, just as new to them too.

I have taken that stuff to heart, and not just for Zo. For myself too. I do not want to use this time add value to myself. I do not want to do all that I wanted to do before, but didn’t have time for. I do not want to learn something new. I do not want to acknowledge that this may be ‘nature’s way of healing’. I do not want to believe that this might all be for the best. Because for me, it is not. I liked things as they were. And now that they aren’t – I am going to do just one thing.

Accept it, and let it be.

If I were to tell you

We are on top of the Koules Fortress ( or  Castello a Mare, “Fort on the Sea” in Italian, says Wikipedia) in Crete. The place is surrounded by a high wall with large window like structures, the kind you see on castles? Some of these face the Aegean sea. The breeze from the sea is unbelievable, extremely strong, so strong it is not a breeze, it is wind. You don’t feel it because of the wall. But when you go to these windows, it pushes you so hard, so hard, you have to make an attempt to stand straight. Or even breathe. It is not easy. So I put my hands out and stand there. Zo stands next to me, her tiny body finding it even tougher to fight against the wind. We don’t fight. We stand. The Dude takes a picture from behind us. If I were to tell you about happiness, I would talk of this moment.

We are in this very shady room in a very shady hotel in this tiny place called Ramtek.  The room has bright pink walls. The tubelight is dim, almost flickering and is reminiscent of the old days where we had ‘power fluctuations’. The flush in the bathroom doesn’t function, and the bathroom doesn’t lock either. It is not nice. So we take out the Bacardi we have brought along (or Vodka? I think Bacardi). We order a couple of cokes (which come in the old glass bottles of yore), and something called ‘Lasun fry’ (fried garlic, we were curious), which turned out to be exactly that – garlic cloves fried and sprinkled with salt and chili. We eat, we drink, and we forget about the dingy hotel room and sleep comfortably till the next morning, when we continue our drive to Pench. Turns out I didn’t seem to think this was anything fascinating back then, but now, if I were to talk of all the fun times I have had, I wouldn’t forget to mention this.

We drive down to Goa, starting early and make it there post noon. We check-in, dump our stuff, change into shorts, and head to the shack on the beach. Zo has just turned 2 a month ago. I am here for my 31st. We settle down, order a couple of beers, a plate of prawns. Zo sits next to my chair and gets busy with the sand, thrilled beyond belief, because now that I think of it, it is her first visit to a sandy beach where she is allowed to play in sand. The afternoon is bright, but doesn’t hurt. The sea breeze is brilliant. There is no where to rush to, nothing to do, everything seems just right. If I were to talk of content, what I felt at that moment would describe it best.

It is pouring heavily, the roads are flooded, but we have been made to go to school. My sister and I, in raincoats, hers pink, mine blue, are in a near empty school bus. We reach school, and it is closed. ‘School closed due to heavy rain’, a board outside says. The bus turns back, only it takes a relatively longer route. To escape water-logging, maybe? But I am not sure. The few of us in the bus are thrilled. It’s like a picnic! A couple of more daring boys stand near the door. We remain seated. The bus goes over puddles splashing water everywhere, water’s spraying us through the windows, and it is amazing. Sometime on ride back, we open our tiffin boxes and eat, expecting to take much longer to reach home. We are home in another 10 minutes. But if I were to tell you of the adventures I have had, I would tell you this story too.

There is this movie we want to see, and it is playing at Apsara theatre, which we checked in the Dainik Jagaran borrowed from our neighbours. The four of us reach there early, so that we can get tickets. We do, quite fast, and there is still an hour to the movie. ‘Let’s go eat Kulfi Falooda‘, my dad says. I don’t know what it is, but I am quite thrilled. We walk to this famous place near Ghanta Ghar, and my dad orders four plates. They are massive chunks of kulfi, covered with dollops of falooda. We dig in greedily. It is delicious. Halfway through, I realise that this is going to take long. And I wonder if there is enough time to finish, and then walk back to theatre before the movie starts. My parents tell me not to worry, they would take care of everything. I feel better, and concentrate on my eating.  If I were to tell you about how amazingly simple childhood is, this is a tale I would recount.

I sit for more than a week, wondering why there seems to be nothing I can talk about. I try my hand at funny, I try my hand at venting, even general rambling, but nothing works. I give up. I stop stressing. I stop thinking about writing anything at all. And then, as I am reading through my feed, I come across this blog post. It is talking about seagulls. I remember this one day, when I saw this one seagull and I comment about it on her post. And a flood of memories from that day come rushing to me. And I start writing this post.  If I were to tell you, that all it takes is one memory, one thought, to counter your writer’s block, I would be darn well telling you the truth.

Happiness theories

With Amazon’s 3 month trial on Audible, I decided to take a risk and try out something beyond my usual genres. I am heavily into fiction, but with the highly recommended Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari – I took a leap of faith into an unknown world. My justification? Well, someone is reading it out to me, while I am driving. I just couldn’t fall asleep. Needless to say, the experiment was a huge success. Not only did I love it, I recommended it to others and made them fall in love with it too.

This post however is about my favourite part of the book. And this came around hour 13 of this 15 hour long book.  Yes, that late. I mean, I liked everything in it, but this was what stayed with me in utmost clarity. The second last chapter- as The Dude corrected me, because I thought it was the last. The chapter was about the human perception of happiness.

What it says is – and it isn’t something you haven’t heard before – happiness has 3 theories. One has to do with expectations, and since expectations are variable, you cannot really meet them and by that equation, can never be truly happy. The third talks about it being an abstract concept which humans themselves are unaware of. So technically, we are ourselves absolutely unaware of what happiness is for us, and so we keep trying to pursue it, ending up exhausted and frustrated, but never truly happy.

But my favorite theory was the second. It says, that happiness is determined by our internal biochemical constitution. And that, we have absolutely no control over it. Yes, we might identify things we believe will give us happiness, and work towards them. And yes, achieving what we want might give us momentary exhilaration – but over a period of time, we fall back into the happiness range that our bodies have predetermined for us.

So basically, the pursuit of happiness, is pretty much a waste of time. Because, as this theory explains, and so does experience, there is no point to it. It won’t make a difference really. Why else do we feel unhappy for no particular reason so many times? Why, most of us, if asked what would make us truly, genuinely happy, don’t have a concrete answer? Yes, for someone undergoing extreme misfortune, an end to such ill-fate might make him happy. But for how long? How long, till the person returns to neutral state? In fact, it is this neutral state, which is different for different individuals, that seems to explain why some people are perennially unhappy, despite all that they might seem to have. And others seem extremely content and happy with the little they do.

I can’t think of an answer, except for this theory. Whatever you do, how much ever you try, whatever you gain, your happiness levels will fluctuate in your pre-determined ranges, and any sudden up or down, will eventually subside.

Does this mean we stop doing things that make us happy, however superficial? Does it mean we give up all things material – since they are supposed to have little or no impact on happiness anyway? Nope. This is where I am pretty clear. These things, especially the little experiences, the things we buy, the things we own, agreed they might be doing little or nothing to alter our happiness quotient. But they do spark a bit of joy, even if for a day, or an hour. And for a life which seems to have pre-defined highs and lows, these bits of joy seem good enough as something to look forward to.

So yes, I have made peace with this explanation for myself. I realise that this might seem like quite a quitter thing to do – you know – give up, because you have convinced yourself that you have no control over it? But surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to matter. It has also given me a lot more tolerance and patience to deal with people, who for no reason, believe with all their heart and soul that they are just not meant to be happy. Because turns out, they are not wrong after all. Only it is not their destiny, or fate, or karma that is causing this.

Just their low levels of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin.

Guilt-tripping

Yes. I am guilty.

Guilty of not having picked up a book after the one I finished one on the last Thursday. I need a break and I am taking it. Plus, the weekend was so crazy busy that I had the soundest of sleeps on Sunday night, with me waking up only once or twice to switch the AC off and then on. It’s a bloody miracle!

Guilty of hogging on a multitude of sweets yesterday. Admitted, I did the same on Sunday too, but Sunday was 1) the weekend, which means I am allowed to cheat as much as I want 2) Vishu, which means I was visiting mum, who decided to make the world’s most delicious malpuas so you cannot blame me. But yesterday was Monday – so I shouldn’t have stuffed myself with all the homemade Mishtidoi (Mom’s fault). And Shrikhand (mom-in-law’s fault). And random cream biscuits (Deux. You know them? You should try them. Oh, also, totally my fault).

Guilty of spending way, way, way too much time on Netflix and then following it up with a lot of Instagram. I mean, I always do, but I thought I had it under control of sorts, what with all the books that were taking my time. So this is in a way an extension of guilt no 1. By the way, I have just started on Queer Eye on Netflix and I am hoping it will re-ignite my once prevalent love for reality TV (Project Runway, America’s next Top model, even Roadies!), which has been restricted to MasterChef Australia for a while.

Guilty of not spending enough time with Zo. Now this is a guilt-trip I have been on for the last 7 years, 6 months and 2 days, so I am not sure if I should be mentioning it at all. You see, for all the independence you claim, for all the self-love you believe in, the moment this one human enters your life, and gives you so much importance, that you are forever left feeling that you are not doing enough, and what did you do to deserve all this unconditional love and adoration? Damn you motherhood.

Guilty of still giving in to excuses – once in a while – but more often than you’d want. But I guess that’s the way it works. Again, what is it that makes you feel that whatever you are doing, how much ever you are doing, it is never enough?

Guilty of writing this post solely because I needed to title it with G. Am I excused?