The joys of being free

In my last blog , I talked about the perils of being free. I can’t stop with just the perils. That would be unfair. I don’t want to scare off anyone who may be contemplating a break!  I have to talk about the other side of the coin – the joys of being free.

Festival hopping

I had been wanting to go to the Jaipur Literature Fest since a long time. But it never came to fruition. It’s a five-day long fest, so needs some planning to go if one is in a job. This year I didn’t have anything blocking my way. The fest made me leave my cosy bed to venture out into the harsh winter. My dad booked tickets in Tatkal (it was a spur of the moment plan) and my friends at Aao hostels arranged for a stay there. It was worth it. I listened to writers from all over the world including distinguished figures such as Shashi Tharoor, William Dalrymple, Amy Tan, Helen Fielding ( the writer of Bridget Jones diaries) and many more. There was also poetry and scintillating music*.

The fest gave my grey cells a lot of inadvertent exercise because there were six sessions happening simultaneously at any time of the day and my brain used to spin deciding which of the six to attend. Sometimes I couldn’t make a choice and ended up running from one session to the other midway. This fest was the definition of FOMO for me.

All the literary superstars were there too – Chetan Bhagat, Ashwin Sanghi, Amish Tripathi. I am not a fan of any of them but it was something to see the buzz around them. There was a mad scramble to attend their sessions.

I finally got to meet Mr. Vir Sanghvi (one of the best journalists in India)  and attend his sessions. I have been an ardent fan since I was fourteen. I used to lap up everything he wrote. To finally talk to him was a dream. My fourteen year old self would never have believed this was possible.

 

I also recently attended a three-day World heritage cuisine summit and food festival in Amritsar. It was the first time such a thing was getting held in India (at least that’s what the organizers claim). Anyway, it had me at “food festival”. Yes please. I am up for that any day. I took a cousin along and we were among a few laymen in a sea of chefs. It was good fun – running from one international kitchen counter to the next, tasting dishes from different countries. I tried everything from apple tart to caviar. I am not writing names of any more dishes because I do not know them! They were so fancy – the dishes as well as the names, I was happy eating them and not bothering with the details.

 

Being free means I can pounce on such opportunities without having to think twice. It does leave people around me puzzled. “She has gone to attend what???”

Meeting the extended family

When I was in college and then post grad, I was able to come home once a month or more since they were both not far from home. But since I joined the job (and then fellowship), I was only able to come home for a maximum of ten days every six months. I spent that time at home and only went as far as to meet my nanaji nanima (maternal grandparents) in Patiala. I lost touch with my extended family – both in and outside Ludhiana. I also missed out on many family functions. Now that I was back, I had time to reconnect, attending a slew of family gatherings–  multiple weddings, a Lohri function, an anniversary celebration, a Bhagvad recital. Apart from relatives in Ludhiana, this year I traveled to meet family in Jagadhari , Chandigarh, Gaggal,  Amritsar and Patiala. I didn’t have to rush through things. I could relax and enjoy the experience. It was nice to get to know everyone as an adult and to see my young cousins all grown up – some of whom I was meeting after nearly a decade. I felt like the grand old dame of the family.

 

There were pitfalls – whenever I planned to leave , I would hear something on the lines of, “ Hun reh ja. Vehli taan haigi hain. Inni chhetti jaan di ki kaahli payi hai??” (Stay some more. You are free. Why the rush to leave so soon? )

Learning to drive a car

My first tryst with learning how to drive happened after my 12th grade. I learnt car driving from one of those “Learn car driving” schools . I didn’t get enough time to practice before I left for college. As a result, I forgot everything that was taught. The next tryst came six years later – after finishing my post grad. Again, the “Learn car driving” folks. I got some time to practice but not enough before leaving to join the job.

For the most part of my job, I was based out of Bangalore. Anyone who has ever been to Bangalore will know the traffic situation there is crazy. I had access to a car there but the thought of putting  my nascent driving skills to test  in that cesspool of traffic didn’t exactly make my heart sing. Not to mention the owner of the car wasn’t too enthused by the idea of handing me the reins of his brand new car.

This time, my dad got our oldest car – a Santro, repaired for me so I could practice without worrying about damaging it. No “Learn car driving”  this time .I already knew the basics. My dad took it upon himself to teach me the nuances. Let me tell you, learning from my Dad is no easy task.  There is a lot of shouting (I told you to be at zero speed when taking a turn!), a lot of grim scenarios ( If you are not going to start honking 100 meters before a turn or an intersection, you could end up being dead!) and even grimmer scenarios (If you are going to take a turn so fast, you could end up killing everyone in the car).

I can proudly say that I am finally able to navigate a car through the rough and tumble of the city.I used to wonder how people are able to do it so effortlessly. This might as well be the biggest achievement of my free time. I am guessing when my Dad looks back on this year, he may count it as one too!

 

Meditation

My interest in meditation was piqued during my time at Infosys. One of my colleagues there ran a meditation  group. I tried it out and it didn’t go smoothly. My head was besieged by thoughts; I became dizzy and eventually fell asleep. This experience was repeated many times. Some days I would have a headache after a session.

Somehow I didn’t give up on it altogether.I dabbled in meditation on and off all through my job and fellowship. But I wasn’t able to build a consistent practice. Now that I was home , I could dedicate time to it every day.

Every morning, I take off to the terrace with my mat and phone (I use a meditation app). The bonus is listening to the birds chirp, feeling the breeze on my face and having some quiet time before starting  the day. Some days I catch the fragrance of food cooking in a neighboring house and I have to be extra focused to do the meditation and not run downstairs to eat something. On some other days while meditating, suddenly I find myself inhaling smoke. Sometimes it’s a neighbor burning dried leaves, other days it’s the municipal fogging machine. I don’t know how many mosquitoes they are able to kill with that, but one day I may end up in ER for inhaling too much pesticide. Diwali is around the corner – safe to say my life is not getting any easier.To think meditation leads to a healthy life. NOT!

Meditation
The set up

My parents used to wonder what khichri I cook on the terrace every morning. Both of them have made multiple pilgrimages to the terrace to ask me what I am up to. “Tu kardi ki hain utte?” (What do you do on the terrace?)

The biggest surprise of all – one day even my brother showed up to check what’s up with me. He looked at me , narrowed his eyes, pressed his lips together and made that face which he makes when he is trying to figure out something very hard. This was beyond his comprehension and remembering his misery still makes me smile.

So do I feel the benefits of meditation after all this while of not giving up on it? I do. It has dented my restlessness, brought more focus in my life , reduced my social media addiction and made me not look to the past too much for pointers on how to move ahead.

Are these the benefits I expected? Umm, not exactly. I was expecting the sun and the stars, for the skies to open and reveal the higher truth, great wisdom and insight and all the other fancy things that are touted on the internet. I am still waiting for meditation to live up to that hype!

Netflix

My laptop screen was damaged when I moved home in January. It took many months to get over  inertia and get it repaired. The first use my laptop was put to was Netflix. Netflix seemingly innocuously dangles a one month free subscription in front of you. As a proud Indian, I could not say no to a free offer. And before I knew it, I was sucked into the vortex of the Netflix universe.

I have already mentioned about my writing aspirations and I told myself that this is research. Two months of guilt free viewing followed. I was a hobo at a buffet. From Narcos to  Mindhunter to Masters of Sex – I lapped up everything. I found this gem of a show called Schitt’s Creek which had me completely obsessed.

I have to say chucking everything out of the window and going on a Netflix devouring spree  was a joy ride. I came out of it wondering where the time went, but it was great while it lasted.

I will argue this addiction is better to unleash than any other (though a recent news of a  person getting admitted to a mental hospital in Bangalore for treatment for Netflix addiction has taken the fizz out of that statement). I am looking forward to getting a subscription again but I am hoping the attention sucking monster doesn’t eat up all my time all over again.

My mom’s standard refrain during this time was ,”Akhan chamedi rakhin laptop nu. Kam na karin koi.” (Keep your eyes glued to the laptop all day. Don’t do any work). It’s a taunt delivered with dollops of sarcasm, in case it’s not getting conveyed in the translation.

to be contd. 

* Musical acts – Bindhumalini & Vedantha, Subramania, Tritha & Martin.  Anyone who gets a chance to attend their concerts, I highly recommend them. I was vibrating with emotion by the end of these acts.

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