When You’re No Longer A Delhi-ite, And Not Yet A Mumbaikar

It’s been 12 years since I left Delhi. Sure, it’s been an on-off relationship, with me returning in between for a couple of years in between – but overall, it’s still been a decade. And each time I return to this city, I’m painfully aware of how much my emotions towards it have changed over the years.

To be clear, I was never very emotional about it to begin with. I feel like I have the talent of moving on from places and people faster than most, and this definitely applied to Delhi as well.

But in the beginning, I did find myself talking about it rather dreamily every now and then.

You know, the beautiful roads, the insanely yum food, the delicious fog in the winters.

It’s difficult to forget the beautiful nights spent romanticizing the smell and taste of Delhi winters as a student living in North Campus. The memories of t shirts sold for thirty rupees on the side walks of Sarojini Nagar market. Of the momos and fruit beer at Dilli Haat. Of ice cream at India Gate. Of the buzz of politics and power as students got together, energized after Rang De Basanti. Of believing in things, and fighting for them.

And yet, over the years, each time my plane lands and I find myself in an Uber, half my mind on the Google Map silently open on my phone because it’s difficult to keep a track of all the new roads and not trusting strangers runs in every Delhiite’s blood; I find myself more and more detached from it. Not the least of it is because Delhi, like every city, has changed. I no longer know which is the best place to eat, or what might be open past midnight. Hell, I don’t even have the guts to be out past midnight anymore. North Campus has evolved, my college is now a heritage site, and air conditioned. I cannot for the life of me bargain in Sarojini Nagar now and the momos just don’t taste as delicious anymore. As much as I’d like to deny it, I’ve changed.

And with each trip I realise, that this city no longer pulls at my heart strings. The romantic memories are fading, replaced by rising statistics of crime and pollution. The only reason to come back is family, and now half my family has decided to leave the city behind as well.

And I suddenly feel homeless.

Which is weird, because I haven’t called Delhi home for a long time.

But, neither have I ever gotten around to calling Mumbai home. Mumbai to me has been this dream. One from which I’ll suddenly wake up. One which will fade away before I can quite remember what it was. Mumbai is where I live, and yet, not where I’ve settled down. Nor do I see it happening anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot about this city. But it’s just not home, yet.

I’m not sure if any place will ever be home.

And maybe, I’m okay with that.

Maybe home is in the chaos of the in-between.

Because what’s more romantic than being able to pack your bags and move whenever you want, leaving behind the bad stuff, taking with you just the glossed over beautiful memories, that one day will fade away into sweet nothingness?

P.S. On the other hand, A took all of two months to shed his Delhi-ness and start talking like a Mumbaikar. This time, our cab driver in Delhi asked him if he was a Mumbaikar, based on the way he talked (Chalega…Karega…), which we all know is the absolute final acknowledgement of your roots. I felt a little offended, though I have no clue why, and then remembered that I don’t even talk like a Delhi-ite, my Hindi is more of Lucknow than anything else, a city where I’ve never even lived. We’re all screwed up in our own ways I guess.

Do You Feel Like An Imposter?

Photo by Bruno Scramgnon on Pexels.com

It’s one of those things that bother me more than most.

The constant nagging thought that I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. That I’m in a room full of individuals who think I’m an expert at something, when in reality, I’m just pretending to know what I’m talking about. That they probably know more. And that sooner or later I’ll be found out. These thoughts can turn up at any time, but more often than not, they show up during the bad days. Days where work is slow, days where you’re struggling to close the next deal, days where you haven’t had any positive human interactions. But then, even during good days, when someone sends a compliment my way at a rather vulnerable time, I often find myself wondering if that person really meant it, or was there some other thought behind it, because it couldn’t possibly actually be true.

What a shitty way to feel about your own self worth.

It wasn’t until recently that I started reading up more about it. And to my surprise, Imposter Syndrome is real, and a little too common. Research shows that almost 70% of people have felt it at some point in their lives. Even people like Einstein, Tina Fey & Maya Angelou were known to doubt their accomplishments.

I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.

– Maya Angelou

The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.

-Tina Fey

And that got me thinking. If people with such high accomplishments still doubted the validity of where they were and the praise they received, what chances did the rest of the world really have?

So I did the only thing I could, I read more, and more. And here are some steps that are widely recommended, that have personally helped me.

  1. Talk about it. Read about it. Know that you’re not alone.
  2. Realise if you’re holding yourself to impossibly high standards and perfectionism.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Be conscious of negative self talk. Catch yourself in that moment when you start doubting whether you’re good enough. Try to change it to a positive affirmation instead.
  4. Ask for feedback. Sometimes, this just helps appease that negative voice in your head doubting everyone and everything around you.
  5. Understand what this is, so you can learn to live with it, and deal with it better. Because this isn’t going to magically disappear overnight, but it can be handled in a way that it affects you less.

I find myself working on this more and more. It ties back to why I have trouble with labels. Designations. Calling myself a writer. This shows up in the weirdest of places in the sneakiest of ways.

Recognising it is the first step.

What about you? Have you ever felt this way?

Little Things That Brighten Up My Day

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve personally been finding it tougher to bring joy into my life.

A lot had to do with the random spondylitis-type-neck stuff which laid me back for 3 weeks. A lot has to do with the fact that at least in India, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to the pandemic, and things are getting worse by the day. Which also means all our plans, vacations, life etc. is on hold indefinitely. And while it’s easy to keep joking about dismissing 2020 as a year, it’s also difficult to forget that time hasn’t actually stopped, and 2021 might not be that different.

So, more and more, specially on the bad days, I’m trying to remember the tiny things that bring me joy.

  1. Getting out of hole-y pajamas. Be it an after-effect of an entire weekend bingeing Queer Eye, but I spent two days cleaning out my wardrobe – which had become reduced to pajamas and shorts and old worn out t-shirts. Everything else was dying somewhere in the dark corners, hoping for a pandemic free day to be worn. Well, that brighter day is nowhere to be seen in the near-future. Might as well feel good about yourself in prettier clothes, even if at home. In fact, specially when stuck at home. Believe me, it helps. Pssttt. I even put on a bra.
  2. Saying hi to my plants. Yes, you read that right. Not only am I talking in plural now, I’m even talking to them. Yes, it feels silly. But it also leaves me with a huge smile on my face. And hopefully they like it enough to actually survive this time.
  3. A fresh bedsheet. A & I aren’t the biggest on keeping stuff super clean. I mean, there is always so much laundry to do. And clothes > bedsheets. Which means the same bedsheet gets used for a certain period of time that I’d rather not specify on a public forum. But that one day when it’s changed, and is neatly tucked into every corner, crisp with a lingering hint of the fragrance of a fabric conditioner – that’s the best sleep ever.
  4. Coffee, served extra hot. This one’s a no-brainer. Like I haven’t bored each and every one of you with a pic of coffee every day. In my defence, I actually only have that one cup a day, and it’s something that I really really look forward to. But that first sip of piping hot coffee to start the day….sigh.
  5. Unexpected messages. From old friends, from people who were never friends but you’re drawn to, from family, from ex-colleagues. This has been one of the most beautiful things this year, and I absolutely love it.
  6. Hope. I can’t believe I just wrote that word. It’s the one word I have an extreme love-hate relationship with. But in times like these, how do you possibly get through the day without it. Without hope that we’ll meet our families super soon. That we’ll be able to take vacations soon. That we’ll meet a friend and hug them without thinking twice. That tomorrow is going to be better, soonish.
Yes, they have names!

Of Pigeon Tales and Reclaiming Balconies

Photo by Ashithosh U on Pexels.com

Firstly, let me just say, I never actually minded pigeons. I mean sure, they don’t always seem to possess the highest IQ, and sure, it’s slightly creepy how they look at you sideways, and it can be downright annoying the way their head moves when they make a sound that has been best described in our language as gutar-goo. But for the record, I never really minded pigeons.

But for some weird reason, pigeons started loving our tiny excuse of a balcony. To hide behind the AC unit in. To build nests in. And to downright poop all over in. I mean, who poops where they sleep and are about to push out their babies? Answer, pigeons do. And poop they do a lot.

And A & I dealt with it in the way we knew best – by ignoring it.

This had always been a great solution when there was a maid around who also for the most part chose to ignore it, but could be nudged every few days to begrudgingly scrub and clean it out.

But now, given that it was just us, this misfired a tiny wee bit.

Just enough that our balcony soon seemed to have an altogether new multi-coloured flooring.

So we came up with the next best solution. We stopped stepping out onto the balcony.

But then it started raining and for the first time in our lives we actually enjoyed this season given that we could sit inside comfortably sipping coffee and feeling all insta-poetic without worrying about wading through muck with dead rats floating around you and… wait, wrong post. This is not the place to crib about Monsoons Shreya…

So I finally opened the balcony door, ignored the sight & smell of the floor, and sat on the sofa next to it, enjoying the breeze. The pigeons looked at me skeptically and flew away with a sinister look, giving me an ultimatum to not be there when they got back. But nature had other plans. It suddenly started to pour, which clearly took one Mr. Pigeon by surprise, enough to drench him and send him flying right back, all the way inside our house, onto my sofa to snuggle comfortably next to me. I have to admit at this point, surprisingly, I screamed much more than the pigeon did. It seemed to be in shock and just looked at me with a sideways wtf lady expression. But in my defence, this isn’t the first time that a pigeon has fallen on me while indoors (another story for another time), and the last time it ended up scratching me pretty badly.

So we finally decided enough was enough.

We had the balcony deep cleaned (took the guy hours, just to give you a perspective of the multi-layered pooping). And decided to have a pigeon net installed. Though the netting didn’t happen for another two days, which meant A & I effectively turned into human scare crows for the next 48 hours, running out mid surya-namaskar to chase away pigeons before they pooped. We *may* have inadvertently caused some pigeons to poop out of the sheer surprise of having a human jump out at you screaming for no good reason.

But now the net is secure.

And so is our balcony.

And Mr. & Mrs. Pigeon can go make out somewhere else (seriously, the amount of pigeon sex I’ve noticed this season isn’t even funny).

The End.

Was your weekend more happening than mine?

Of Hope And Disappointment

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

Dealing with disappointments is clearly not my forte. And over the years I’ve realised, it isn’t the actual bad news that kills you, what’s really brutal is all the hope that’s built up right before it.

It’s perhaps one of the reasons I’ve turned into such a cynical person.

If there is no hope, there can’t really be any disappointment, now can there?

But what kind of a life is that to live, really? One where there’s no wonder or hope or joy. One where you aren’t looking forward to things just because you might not be able to handle it if they don’t happen the way you had expected them to?

And yet, I’ve realised, that joy-less, hope-less, cynical life is an act of self preservation, one where my world doesn’t come crashing down, one where I don’t find myself struggling to hold back tears or to pretend to continue with my day like all my hopes and dreams haven’t just been shattered.

Yeah, I don’t really like that feeling, do you?

Brene Brown and her books on vulnerability don’t really tell you how to deal with this now, do they, before they encourage you to step out into the arena and get your ass kicked?

So make sure you have an iron-armoured ass. Because there’s definitely a lot of kicking.

And it hurts.

Self Care vs. Selfishness

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Yup, this is a serious one, you guys.

I was at a bit of a loss in terms of what to make of my #AWordAWeek this time – care. And the more I think about it, the more of this keeps coming up. A realisation I had in a session recently.

For starters, I was completely sure that self care is one of those terms I didn’t relate to at all. Every time I’m asked to think about ‘self care’ I conjure up all these images of people advising others to love yourself, to discover your own joys, or just overall massive lectures on how to live and think. In fact, I’ve done this too to a lot of friends, but somehow I just couldn’t relate to it in a positive way. And even worse are all those self care practitioners who seem to think it’s all about treating yourself to a facial and pedicure in the name of self care. Self care is a beautiful and simple concept, and yet somewhere down the Instagram route, it’s become preachy and, dare I say it, almost fake.

So no, I declared, the term ‘self care’ is something I can’t relate to at all.

But then we talked more. And more. And came up with multiple instances in life where I had taken decisions for self preservation. Quitting a high paying corporate job that went against my core principles to save myself from a complete mental burnout. Refusing to fall to society’s expectations of having a child. Doing what I knew was right for me in multiple circumstances, even if it wasn’t right for others. And guess what came up as the term for it in my head – selfishness.

That’s when I realised that the world has a funny way of making you feel bad about taking care of yourself. So what if something is good for you. YOU are never their highest priority. And if YOU are your own highest priority, then how dare you be so selfish.

This might seem obvious as you read this, but when this hit me, it hit me hard. Because the amount of guilt and trauma latching onto each supposed ‘selfish’ act is enough to drown you at any point of time. I felt a sudden release inside me, of yet another label I was letting go.

So the next time someone calls you selfish, before you take it to your heart and register in your head, take a deep breath, sit back and think. Is it, really?

The Murderous Household of A & I

A & I are notoriously bad at taking care of plants. Give us a cat, and that thing will get pampered more than first born babies. But give us a plant, and we both forget about its existence for multiple days at a time.

Needless to say, plants do not thrive well in our household.

Last year on my birthday, my aunt sent me a plant, and I vowed I’ll take good care of it. In fact it grew exponentially those first few months, encouraging me to think, we can totally do this, this one won’t be tortured and sent to plant heaven. That reduction in photosynthesis will not be on my hands.

But life happened. The usual, always running to try and make it to office type life. Where you remember some days, get angry at A for never remembering at all, and simply move on. I’m not proud of this.

We almost killed Planty, again.

Yes, I named it. And not a very innovative name. But it’s a start, okay?

And for the last one week, as I try to exercise more mindfulness in my day, getting up a little earlier so I have more time to do things I want to do (and not just exercising and rushing to make breakfast and then make it to my work desk), I’m adding this step into my routine.

Watering Planty. You’d think it shouldn’t be that difficult. I even spritz it with some water and talk soothingly.

Guilt can make you do so much.

So here’s saying a little prayer, that Planty makes it. He almost hasn’t. Some parts of him collapsed and a lot of him is still browning. But I’m convinced that this time I can do it.

Who knows, maybe I’ll soon be adding more to Planty’s family.

So many more to kill.

Okay, where did that voice come from? Wtf brain?

An Introvert’s Guide To The Galaxy

Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

Yes, I know, just yesterday I declared that I was in fact an ambivert. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m somewhere in between the in-between.

There’s a reason I hate labels.

But whatever you are, you figure out your own weird ways to navigate this uber-social (pre-pandemic) world. Here are some of mine.

  1. Cellphones can be your knights in shining armour. Sure, they’re your access to social media, news and all those distractions that are so much easier than having actual meaningful human interactions. But more than anything else, they’re super useful for ‘pretend’ calls, to walk out from awkward social situations with your head held high (and the phone stuck to your ear).
  2. Embrace being called a snob. When you’re too shy to go up to people and start conversations, even if you’d really like to, people assume you think you’re too good for them. You can try explaining your situation to them to change their mind, but then for that, you would have to talk to them first. So just get used to it. Revel in it. There really isn’t much choice.
  3. Learn to switch personalities. Unless you’re one of those lucky ones whose job involves sitting behind a laptop with limited humans, at some point you’ll have to figure out how to put on a mask and just get out there.
  4. Learn to tune out. This I’ve perfected, without ever having meant to. But being stuck in big groups that I don’t necessarily care about – this has been a life skill that I’ve come to love more than others. Talk all you want, you babbling humans, I have warm bubble bath taking place in my head instead.
  5. Keep your fridge and book shelf stocked. Because nothing beats curling up in bed with comfort food and an interesting read. All the zoom calls of the world don’t compare to this.
  6. Love yourself. Because at the end of the day, the only person who has to accept you is you – who you are, who you want to be. If you love being an introvert, great! If you don’t, pick up that phone and actually call someone new. Take up a challenging job. Go try a sales pitch. It’ll be fun (once you get over your initial apprehension), and if it isn’t, well you’ll know yourself just a little better.

Nine out of ten times, I don’t manage to push myself. I don’t speak to new people at parties. I don’t exude more energy than I actually feel. But that one time I do get out and be social, I have a great time. And mostly, I’m okay with that statistic.

P.S. Of course with the way things are currently, being an introvert has been a blessing – I’ve been more at home than most, with very little adjustments. How have you coped?

Of Floating and Nothingness

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Pexels.com

During the daily family call this morning, there was a bit of awkward silence, where we reached a point where nobody had anything new to add. We had exhausted our discussion on what content to watch on which streaming platform, even our bit of Bollywood gossip (as a family, this is probably our least talked about topic).

And when Mum asked us what’s new, we said nothing.

Nothing.

That’s how life’s events are being characterised right now.

Life has become monotonous to the extent that adding a walk in the evening is a ‘something new’ to talk about. Sure, I’m too scared to step out most days, and finally only do so when I feel like I’ve used up all the oxygen in our tiny house and could do with some fresh supply (I’d say this happens once in two weeks).

What we cooked, workout challenges, new deals converted, old books I never got around to – this is what the day’s update looks like now.

And maybe that’s okay.

Sure, there isn’t any office gossip anymore, no more Uber mishaps (really do NOT miss that), no lovely new cafe’s to describe, and definitely no vacations to look forward to.

And of course, we miss that.

But maybe it’s okay to not have updates. Maybe it’s okay to try and spend a few days with nothingness. Of just being. Because if there isn’t monotony, is there really ever a need to do something new?

P.S. I’m not sure if I believe in what I’ve written above. Monotony scares me. Being stuck in one place is one of my biggest fears. Not moving forward, not doing more. And 2020 has been a massive lesson in how to deal with plans crashing down, without having the ability to plan further to deal with it. So whether I’m imparting hard earned wisdom, or trying to convince myself – well, for once, your guess is as good as mine!

Things That Scare Me Now

Photo by Tinyography on Pexels.com

Anxiety and fears have a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. Specially these days. Yup, not a fun post.

  1. Falling sick. This is probably a universal fear at the moment. But a lot of us in office were continuously sick since Oct’19. And you’d think we’d be used to it by now. But even the slightest feeling of a scratchy throat now sends me running for green tea with honey (probably the only thing that sends me running for green tea).
  2. Wondering what pajamas do to self esteem. Remember those times you dressed up and felt good about yourself? Remember when that last happened?!
  3. Updates of people stepping out and hanging out with other people. I know, I know. Live and let live. Except I’m not sure if the letting live here is actually endangering lives.
  4. Being far from family. Times like this make you question your life choices more than anything else. And I constantly find myself imagining worst case scenarios. Yup, cheerful place, my head.
  5. The fact that time isn’t actually standing still. That we can’t just cancel 2020. That when the jokes die down, we are in fact growing older, losing opportunities, and the clock is still ticking.
  6. The fact that I have to stay away from news to maintain sanity. And then half panic about not knowing what’s happening in the world. And look up the news. And then panic about what’s actually happening in the world (or our country for that matter. India makes up for 99% of panic / frustrated mode on most days).
  7. Lizards. This is just a constant. What’s worse than being stuck at home? Being stuck at home with a creepy crawly.