Things Laziness Has Taught Me This Lockdown

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It helps to be lazy, sometimes.

  1. Roti / Chapatis have no real reason to be round. They phoolo / taste just as good if they’re square or look like the map of India. Making them round is just some unrealistic expectation put on people to make them feel inadequate their entire lives. (So what if you’re a CXO, can you make round rotis? What will you do when you get married?)
  2. The house doesn’t need to be cleaned every day. Or even every alternate day. Twice a week works. Or even *cough* once *cough* a week. Wear slippers so your feet don’t make you realise just how dirty the floor is. Or don’t have white tiled floors. Or well, limit your eyesight to the upper half of the rooms.
  3. Somedays, the bed is just fine to work from. We’re all allowed our can’t-get-out-of-bed days, okay?
  4. Khichri doesn’t get enough credit. I feel bad for all the times I made a face as a kid when khichri was served. Now, it’s turned into our lockdown savior.
  5. Maggi is over-rated. There’s really only so much of it you can have, beyond a point.
  6. You actually only need a total of 5 t-shirts and 2 shorts / pajamas. Lesser if you’re diligent with washing.
  7. Zoom calls don’t need to be video calls. You don’t HAVE to look good. Messy hair, torn clothes, minimal grooming, no differentiation between night / day. The camera on your phone / laptop doesn’t HAVE to work *wink* *wink*
  8. It pays to join the society Whatsapp group. We’ve been here 6.5 years. We joined this group now. Because for the first time in our lives, we realised we need to know what’s happening in the society. When the vegetable vendor is coming. When we turned into a containment zone. We also end up privy to a lot of uncle-aunty talk that’s hilarious at best, and downright family-group material at worst. Either way, it’s part of our minimal lockdown entertainment. (I’ve witnessed more fights on this group than on Splitsvilla).

A Non-Mumbaikar’s Guide to Mumbai Monsoons

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I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Mumbai Monsoons. And anyone who knows me at all, would know it’s a little more skewed towards hate than love.

I guess I’m lucky then that it only lasts almost half the year.

Oh.

But with each year in this city, came more learnings – of what to expect, and how to deal with it, and how to feel confident that you can get through this (even if that confidence was shattered the very next day). Buckle in, this is gonna be a long one.

  1. Don’t put off your to-do list waiting for the rain to stop. This might sound obvious to a Mumbaikar, but back in Delhi, everything used to come to a halt when it rained. Like literally. Two-wheelers would wait under flyovers. You’d wait inside your houses. Because of one simple fact – there, the rain would, in fact, stop.
  2. Don’t fall for the tiny folding umbrellas. They’re cute and they fit in your purse. They also get blown upside down in two minutes of a windy rainy day. Go for the big ones. They’re ugly and uncomfortable as fuck, but they’ll do the job.
  3. Everything that can catch fungus, will catch fungus. Specially if you’re living in an old construction. You may not always see it, but you’ll surely be able to smell it. We once came back from a two week vacation, to find every surface in our house covered with fungus. From our clothes, to our mattresses, pillows and the dining table. I’ve had friends cars grow fungus on the steering wheels and car seats.
  4. Your clothes will never feel completely dry. That’s it. Get used to it.
  5. Invest in a good pair of rain-shoes. In my first year I lost a good pair of sandals. And my flip flops. Then I bought these plastic shoes full of holes in them. I have no clue what the purpose of the holes was, except to ensure that all the water that gets in, goes out. But why did it need to get in to begin with?! Two years back I graduated to gumboots. And it’s been the best investment ever. No icky water, no slipping off the feet. I felt pretty invincible. So of course monsoons made me wade through knee deep water instead, so my gumboots filled up with water and became like these buckets I had to drag along. But 99% of the time, they’re still a great investment!
  6. If the city is flooding (which it will), stay put. I know the instinct is to run for the safety of your home. But the truth is, you’re probably safer where you are. We made this mistake a few years back, and drove back home. It took us over 5 hours. Our car filled up with water multiple times. It fought like a brave soldier and got us home, but never started again. All this could’ve been avoided by us camping at work that night instead.
  7. Know that rickshaw-walas will reject you, and cars will splash you. There’s no getting away from this. Unless you have your own transport that takes you from point to point, you WILL go through a mucky season full of rejection and wading. Just remember, that at the end of the day, you’re waterproof. And nobody can really see your tears in the rain.
  8. BUT if you’re lucky enough to be spending monsoons indoors, settle down next to your window / balcony and enjoy it. It’s the one good thing to come out of this stupid pandemic. For the first time, I’m enjoying this season from the safety of my home. Rainy drives to Lonavala or Marine Drive were never this magical. I’m very aware of this privilege, and don’t want to waste a minute of it. I hope you don’t either.

How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?

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No, this isn’t a quiz where the score at the end will say, ‘Congratulations, you are a know-it-all when it comes to yourself!’. It’s also something that sounds super obvious, doesn’t it? Of all the people in the world, the one person we definitely know well is ourselves, right?

A recent self-exploration session made me rethink that. To some extent.

The more we talked about me, what’s important to me, my values, my needs – certain things kept coming up, things that I hadn’t thought about for a long time. Yet they were things that I knew I’d spent most of my teenage years and early 20s fighting for.

It seemed it was as important to me now, if not more.

And yet, somewhere I’d stopped fighting for it.

When I visualised the person I’d like to be, I realised it was the person I used to be.

At what point did I manage to lose myself?

When did I tell myself to start living up to people’s expectations from me, instead of living up to my own expectations from myself?

How do we take the mask off? The one that’s now glued on so tight that you’re no longer sure where the plastic ends and the skin starts?

How do we turn back time, and become ourselves, again?

P.S. If there’s one thing this session made me realise, it’s the importance of having some time to myself. And it’s the one thing I’d suggest to everyone around me. Take advantage of the lovely rains and maybe just sit somewhere comfortable, with your cup of tea / coffee / water, and nothing else. No blue screens. No distractions. Just you and your thoughts. And remember, who you really are.

Maybe, you’d be pleasantly surprised.

7 Reasons to Adopt a Cat (Maybe instead of having a baby)

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Yeah I know I’m going to get flak for this one.

Take it with a pinch of salt, okay?

And maybe with a kitten.

  1. Cats pee & poop in one designated spot. No crazy diaper messes. No clean up emergencies. And the waste disposal is definitely more eco-friendly.
  2. They literally clean themselves. Of course you should bathe them once in a while, but for the most part, they need you and your bucket of water to stay the hell away.
  3. You don’t need a babysitter for them during the day. Just leave enough food and places for them to sleep. They might not even miss you. Daycare? What’s that?
  4. You can feed them the same two flavours of cat food every day, and they’ll still scream for more. No tantrums about not having khichri or veggies. Just a lot of big-eyed-I’m-so-hungry-even-though-you-literally-just-fed-me meowing cuteness.
  5. No rebellious teenage stage. You know all those worries of what your kid is up to outside the house? All those lectures against drugs and alcohol and unprotected sex? Your cat… blissfully asleep on your lap through it all. (Though, please do get them sterilized for their own health’s sake).
  6. They’re much more economical. You don’t need to pay for their education. Or their expensive destination weddings. Or bail them out of jail.
  7. They shower you with purrs. This isn’t a comparison to a baby. It’s just one of those beautiful things that you look forward to every day with cats. It’s such a common misconception that cats don’t show love. After fostering more than 15 cats over the years, I can tell you for a fact, they shower more love on you than you can ever imagine.

P.S. Jokes apart, have as many babies as you want (because who cares about our population issue, or impact on the climate or… okay, I’ll shut up). But if you find it in you, give animals a chance as well. Monsoons have started, and it’ll soon be raining rescued cats & dogs. Open your homes, and see your lives transform.

Of Popping Babies & The Age-O-Meter

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It’s that time of my life-cycle. That horrible pressuring time. It had happened seven years back. When suddenly everyone around me was getting married. Like ducks in a row (never thought I’d use that line). Every day was a call / message from someone about their upcoming nuptials.

And while you’re happy for them, you can’t help but feel that tiny thought creeping into the back of your mind. The one you try to ignore, but it’s there, like this annoying presence that keeps knocking like Sheldon, the more you try to unsee & unhear it.

At one point, A had finally turned to me (just after both his best friends had announced their engagements) and simply declared, “Listen, are you going to marry me or not?” Yeah, I know, romantic moment of the century.

The point is, we gave in to the pressure then. It’s been 6.5 years. And I’d be lying if there weren’t times when we both questioned if we fell for this societal farce too soon.

And now the next cycle has started.

Just like how your parents lied to you about your Board exams (Bas isske liye padh lo, then life set hai). And then came college exams (Bas thodi aur mehnat kar lo, good marks = good job, phir life set hai). And then you got a job (and realised it’s only mehnat and no life setting).

So after the pressure of getting married, of course, we’re at the next step.

Where EVERYONE around us is popping babies. Every call I get from friends in 2020 has been to tell me that they’ve had a kid / are going to have one pretty soon. I feel like our population is going to see a spike, and 2020 will have a new Boomer type term for all these lockdown babies (These Lockers, I tell you).

It got to me to the extent that I messaged a long-lost friend to confirm if she was pregnant (and had just not told me yet).

I typed this question before I even said ‘hi’. After probably a few years of not talking to her. Yeah, I’m a great friend that way.

Sadly, unlike tuning out shit news by news channels, I can’t exactly tune these friends / cousins out. And I genuinely am happy for them.

BUT I’M NOT FALLING FOR THAT SHIT ANYMORE.

They warn you about not taking up smoking / drinking / drugs because of peer pressure.

This is way more lethal.

Trust me.

P.S. Given how much life and plans have come to a standstill in 2020, can we somehow pause our biological clocks as well? I mean, just to add one more year to the point where I try to switch the concept of a baby in our lives with a cat.

Of Alone Time & Space

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Some days I wonder if I should start these blogs with a ‘Dear Diary’, because that’s literally what they are. Ramblings from my mind spat out on a keyboard, with absolutely no regard to whether they’re reading worthy or not.

But then, that’s what I love about this.

I once had someone ask me if I put aside some time in my day for myself. And I said, of course, I read, I write, I often watch shows and films by myself. Alone time is important to me. And she smiled and shook her head. I mean, by yourself. Just you, and your thoughts. Doing nothing else.

Well, won’t that be weird? I thought. How can you just sit, and do nothing?

But somehow, that’s the one thing I keep coming back to in this lockdown. As I type this, most of the world is up and about. In fact, most of this country is up and about (I really wish they weren’t, given the state of things). But nowadays, I find myself gravitating towards this alone time more than ever. Just me, with my thoughts. I long silence. I try to catch moments when the television set will finally be switched off (trust me, in our house, that isn’t very often), when there is no song or video playing in the background, when nobody is talking. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I find myself sinking peacefully, my thoughts surprisingly presenting themselves in a well organised manner, politely, with permission. And it’s becoming a part of the day that I look forward to, even though I don’t know when it’ll happen.

Yesterday, I decided to make it happen. Instead of our usual coffee date, I made coffee for myself, and sat on the sofa, no cellphone, no laptop, nothing else within reach. It started to rain, and I spent the next fifteen minutes looking out at our non-existent balcony. I saw the building in front of me, with multiple people looking out of their non-existent balconies in a scene almost reminiscent of a Pascal Campione art piece. I saw the boy who sits at his balcony every day, legs dangling, playing with his football. I looked at the housewife chatting away on her cellphone, her baby hanging from her hips. I saw the house where the television set is always on, 24×7, and I wondered if they do that to numb their thoughts from presenting themselves, of ensuring there’s no alone time, no space to drown within themselves.

And I realised just how often we avoid ourselves.

Since I was a child I was taught to fill up my time with things. If you’re free, pick up a hobby. Help around the house. Go out and play. How come nobody ever teaches kids to sit down and just be with themselves? Mind you, I’m not talking about meditation here, I’m talking about quite the opposite of emptying your mind.

And as adults, it’s just so much easier to fill up your time with things, because there’s just so little time, and so many things. We spend more than half of our lives at work. And what little is left, is spent catching up on everything we’re missing out on – friends, reading, sleep.

But we need this time.

So take that cup of coffee / chai, and move to a comfortable corner of your house, and sit, and just be. Feel the restlessness, feel every moment of your brain rebelling against this freedom to bombard you with thoughts, fight the numbness, and just be.

Because this is who you really are.

And it’s scary.

And lonely.

And beautiful.

Just be.

P.S. One of the weird thoughts plaguing me yesterday was if Nolan thinks in different time & space dimensions when he takes some me-time. It seems plausible, no? Okay, sorry, bye.

Relationship Goals 2020

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Do you find yourself rolling your eyes each time you see a hot celebrity couple doing hot celebrity couple things with gossip magazines branding them #RelationshipGoals? Like, seriously, laughing together / holding hands / looking into each others eyes lovingly for the camera are your ultimate goals? Time to relook at some realistic ones, I think.

  1. It isn’t about watching your favourite Netflix show together. Anyone can do that (and how many hours have you wasted watching your partner’s choice of shows & films?)! It’s when you can watch your individual favourites in two separate rooms in the house, and not mind it one tiny bit. #RelationshipGoals2020
  2. When he volunteers to do the dishes, even though you both know it’s your turn, and neither of you makes a big deal out of it, because it’s time patriarchy died. #RelationshipGoals2020
  3. When you can compare the hair growth on your legs to his, unapologetically. #RelationshipGoals2020
  4. Having an entire conversation while brushing your teeth, the frothy toothpaste leaking out everywhere… #RelationshipGoals2020
  5. When he puts on a mask and goes all the way to the gate to pick up your Amazon parcel. #RelationshipGoals2020
  6. When you’ve heard each other fart, but are still as attracted to each other in the aftermath. #RelationshipGoals2020

Yet More Learnings From The Lockdown

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Yes, the list just goes on and on, doesn’t it?

  1. There is absolutely no real reason to bother ironing your clothes. I mean, we’ve all stopped using the video function of our office Zoom calls now, haven’t we? And do you really really care if your pajama is wrinkled? Aren’t you just going to lie around all day in it and wrinkle it further? (Or maybe even iron it by body weight & heat if you lie around just right).
  2. There is such a thing as too much Maggi. I never thought this would happen. It has always been my go-to savior. Until I finally made a face the other day at it. This, kids, is the real doomsday.
  3. Our utensils are cursed. Or charmed. But really just cursed. Remember the Gemino curse from Harry Potter? Where everything just doubles on touch in Bellatrix’s vault? Yup, I’m pretty convinced that’s happening to our dirty utensils. Because WHAT OTHER LOGICAL REASON IS THERE FOR THAT NEVER ENDING PILE IN THE SINK?!
  4. Crows are loud. And now, with less human intervention, have taken to cawing at the choicest of hours. Like just when you start talking in an office conference call. Or when you finally manage to fall asleep at 4 am. And all of you people complaining about koyals…really? Wanna trade with my crow?
  5. Rain can be beautiful, when you’re safely tucked inside your home. Maybe add an instagram-able coffee cup to the mix. A book next to the cup that you are never going to get around to actually reading. No, wait. Who am I kidding? To me rains will always be about clothes never drying for the next 4 months. Or memories of wading through knee deep water. Or jumping on a dead rat and the squelching sound that ensued. Oooh, romantic, no?
  6. Human beings are stupid. Because what other reason could you possibly have to step out of the house?! Yes I know the lockdown had to be opened up because the economy and livelihoods were at stake. But you, YOU reading this – chances are you stepped out in the last few days not for your livelihood you privileged ass, but because you wanted to walk on Carter Road / Marine Drive / some other overly crowded area. Like seriously – what part of the lockdown opening up translated into: I have never exercised in my life but TODAY I MUST WALK IN FRESH AIR and infect / get infected / possibly turn into a carrier without realising.

Just stay the fuck home, please?

Of facing ugliness and being kind

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These months of, well, I wouldn’t say isolation because I’m not really alone, but being stuck indoors have ended up in me seeing new sides of myself. I wish this was a post where I would now go on to talk about my new found love for cooking, or how the artist within me has flourished. Instead, these months have made me see sides of myself that I didn’t know existed, and am not quite ready to accept yet.

I’ve always taken pride in being that person who can disconnect from emotions when things got bad, and concentrate more on the problem at hand. Logic before reaction. And yet, for the first time in my life I find myself restless and… anxious.

Of course I use the term anxiety very loosely. I understand just how widespread and debilitating a mental issue it can be. Yet, it isn’t something you can ignore, even when the doses are smaller.

Maybe it isn’t surprising, because what these last few months have been – have been for the first time in all our lives. A pandemic. A humanitarian crisis. An impending cyclone.

I know I’m supposed to be kind to myself right now. I know I’m supposed to sit back and say, it’s okay, it isn’t in my control, and I will do what is required with what is in my control. But being a logical person means I know this all already, okay? It also means I know very well just how much things are not in my control.

It isn’t a pretty side of me. Specially when it first takes you by surprise, then a bit of disgust and introspection of when I turned into this person. The not sleeping well doesn’t help either. It’s worse because it’s so unpredictable. There are absolutely fun days when I’m enjoying being home, taking work calls and baking cakes. And then there are sudden days when I have to force myself to keep doing things in auto pilot mode, all the while disconnected with a sinking feeling inside me. Feelings that suddenly remind me just how much I miss my family, or how much better it would have been if I had gotten out of Mumbai earlier.

As I type this, I’m sitting next to the balcony, the sliding door open just enough to give me an idea of the state of the weather, close enough to shut it at any moment as required. It’s surprisingly pleasant outside, the way monsoons are when they aren’t busy wreaking havoc. And yet, so gloomy knowing where this might be heading.

So with nothing in my control, I sit back, finish work in auto pilot mode, and do something I’m not used to at all – send little prayers out into the universe.

Because, we might just need it.

How adulting has changed in lockdown

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A few disclaimers: I’m in the heart of a red zone in Mumbai, so the lockdown isn’t going anywhere for me (rightly so) for at least another month. Also I’m in my 30s. You’d think I would be over ‘adulting’ issues and just calmly be an adult by now. No such luck.

But these last few months have seen things switch gears so smoothly that it’s only a surprise when you sit to think about it.

  1. You’re no longer arguing about who will get up in the morning to open the door for the maid & cook. Instead now, those fights have mutated into who will cook / wash utensils / do jhadoo pocha that day. Negotiation skills are of utmost importance here.
  2. From putting off grocery shopping till the last minute, to applauding an algorithm that alerts you each time Big Basket slots open up. Those slots are sneaky and hard-to-get!
  3. From never having enough fancy clothes to not having enough pajamas. If you wear any. Can’t really tell in a Zoom call. Thankfully.
  4. From worrying about that promotion / increment, to worrying about still having a job at the end of the year. Things just got real.
  5. From not being able to get an Uber in Mumbai monsoons, to figuring out if you have candles at home in case of a power cut during the impending cyclone. I can’t even believe I just typed that sentence.

Okay, that got too real. I’m going to go and numb myself watching stories of workouts, banana breads, coffee and… oh wait, that’s my own feed. Shit.

P.S. I don’t know why I chose that pineapple pic for this post. It just seemed fun. And in the middle of all this shit, we could use some fun, no?