Saturday, January 2, 2016

A step forward with compassion.

I could start by saying that 2015 was a year I hate. But that wouldn’t serve any purpose: as Izzedin Abuelaish titled his book, I shall not Hate. In retrospect, it was a tough year. But it also had its silver lining, quite like most dark clouds do. Losing loved ones, dealing with depression and physical ailments that pushed me down like a line of falling dominoes. At the same time, building new bonds and finding friends and loved ones in unexpected places and times in life were powerful highlights.
Here’s a look at 2015 through many different lenses.

In Books:
What else would a bibliophile throw up first? 2015 in books was a fantastic year. Selfishly speaking, I got to publish two non-fiction eBooks, one fiction book and contribute to an anthology that came out two weeks ago. In terms of the books I read, the two that stand out most are Perks of a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa. I’ve never cried more for books like I did for these two books. Chbosky’s is a marvellous tome in coming-of-age-fiction, that brings everyday skeletons in the closet right before your eyes to deal with. Susan Abulhawa’s tapestry of truth is an unparalleled narrative of a people who have been wronged in the longest conflict since the end of the Second World War.

This was also the year that I made a foray into the world of Graphic Novels, investing in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Gav’s Zen Pencils and Joe Sacco’s Gaza. I haven’t read them yet, though, but just holding these books is an experience in itself. I’ve also consciously made an effort to look into 2016 with more lighter reading interspersed with heavier reading – really just to drive myself out of a state of pall.

In Movies:
For me, there were many memorable movies made this year in Hindi cinema, save for Piku. Aside of the potty humour, Piku helped me process a lot about loss, letting go and being in the moment in life. There were profound moments in the film that still remain with me, and will perhaps go onto shaping the way I look at things and approach situations. That’s a good thing, I guess. So far as English cinema goes, Spy stands out in my memory – Melissa Mc Carthy is my role model in so many ways. She taught me to be fiercely independent and invest in myself enough to care for who I am, however I am – warts, dry and scarred skin alike. I also ventured into watching some old movies this year – the most memorable of which would be Schindler’s List, The Book Thief, My Fair Lady and Roman Holiday. Christmas time rung in Jingle All the Way and Home Alone – my very own idea of vintage films that will always remain on my list of favourites.

In Lifestyle:
I think I led the unhealthiest of lifestyles for the most part of the year – indulging in a lot of soda and junk food and not really eating on time. But one of the things I’m most grateful to for learning this year, is the art of Mindfulness. Reading the Buddhist Bootcamp and Thich Nhat Hanh helped me tremendously, and taught me the art of being in every moment, and enjoying it to the fullest. I began to learn to imbibe and reflect on things around me, and to comprehend things from a place of empathy. I can’t say I accomplished it as well as I wish to, but we’re all works in progress. I also began to doodle extensively, making piece after piece nearly every day for a while, until I was able to feel the invisible load of unsolved mindspace lifting once and for all.

People around me:
It was a mixed bag, this year. I lost my grandfather in November, and although in a way something that we knew was inevitable, it was still a difficult thing to deal with. Thatha’s passing meant the end of an era, and with it, a traditional and a beautiful bond that I wouldn’t ever share with anyone again. I also sadly lost a friend this year, her passing left me with a sense of guilt at not being regular in staying in touch. There were more instances of friends passing, of neighbours passing, of acquaintances passing, and of loved ones of dear friends, passing. In retrospect, 2015 was a busy year for The Grim Reaper.

But on the flip side, I made some lovely new friends this year, and some are now really close friends – friends I cannot go a day without talking to. Special shout outs to Anusha Kousik, Deepika Ramesh, Kaavya Pillai, Mahgul Kunary, Megha Narayan, Megha Venketasamy, Pavithra Charan, Priya Balan, Ramya Rajaraman, Roshini John, Shabnam Manati Khadija, Sriniketa Sritharan, Sujani Dwarak, Sushma Soma, Sriram Ayer, Vinay Ramakrishnan and Ziauddin Iqbal.
My eternal support systems – Ashay Abbhi, Arjun Krishnan, Chintan Girish Modi, Dominique Vidale-Plaza, Deepti Menon, Jane Shahi, Natasha Latiff, Neeti Jaychander, Nidhi Shendurnikar, Paola Brigneti, Salma Noureen and Sashankh Kale continue to be immense powerhouses of love and energy in my life that words are both inadequate and absolutely useless in expressing my mind. I’m grateful to note that Deepika Ramesh and Sriniketha Sritharan are also right up with these lovely souls I just mentioned.  

Work was perhaps one of the best things to happen to me this year. Right from working on Red Elephant - with many plans of action implemented, dispensing aid to Nepal and Chennai’s flood victims, collaborating with Maya Azucena and having her as our Goodwill Ambassador, and with Sayfty for a year-long legal-rights-awareness campaign; to adding more on the writing side, this has been a good beginning for what I hope would be a good future. I closed A38 down, though, because it wasn’t holding fort as well as I would have liked it to – the sheer magnitude of the work that it took to keep something that had already sunk, alive, was both tiring and an unwise drain on resources. I got to be a VVLead Fellow this year, which let me take a trip to Johannesburg, but I couldn’t go because of Thatha’s passing. I had the opportunity of being nominated as one of the Axis Bank Burgundy Women at the Digital Women’s Awards in Mumbai, in November, and that was pretty surprising and beautiful. The Dove’s Lament was among the top five books to make the Muse India Young Author Award shortlist, which was pretty unexpected and moving all at once.

What do I want from 2016?

It’s hard to define what I want from 2016. But I guess what’s important at this point in my life is to acknowledge, accept and respect myself. Whether it is in mind, body, spirit or soul, I want to respect my existence, my story, my journey so far, and everything there is in the future. I want to be able to learn that everything that happens, happens, and the things I can change are things I will not shy away from changing. I want to feel my anger, but creatively. I want to make a change, but I want to know and accept that this change cannot happen unless and until it starts from within. I want to empathise, I want to stop looking back on my life with anger or grief at what could have been but did not be, and what I should have done over what I did. I want to find peace in the knowledge that hindsight is always 20/20, and that the future is much more than what I want for it to be. I want to go on my own soul boot camp. I want to learn to be bereft of expectations of every sort. 

And 2016, for me, would be about this song.