7 years.

Song of the post: Paradise by BTS

7 is a special number so I thought I’d do something nice, something more for this year’s anniversary. I made the header myself and I’ve come a LONG way from my poorly, TeamViewer-ridden photoshop made headers. Granted, I didn’t have access to the same kind of technology but that also adds up. And I’ve come a long way as a person, too. So, I thought I’ll try something new. Very much inspired by this video of YoungK and partly by the YouTube channel ODG, my 17-year-old-self is going to interview my 24-year-old-self. I was 17 when I began this blog so it feels slightly monumental to have come this far.

I originally planned on writing (and crying) about YoungK’s Eternal album but it looks like I will be busy with work so I thought I’ll do this.

It’s going to be in script format (since I really enjoy writing it) so I hope you enjoy reading it!

An imagined scenario of my 17-year-old-self (17yo) meeting my present, 24-year-old-self (24yo).

17yo and 24yo come together to sit on the opposite sides of a bench. 17yo eyes are wide, even though she’s trying to contain her cool.

17yo: is this how I’ll look seven years from now?

24yo (giggling): yes, yes. We haven’t grown much taller, have we?

17yo: I still had a full year to grow!

24yo (patting 17yo’s knee): your height is the last thing you should worry about.

17yo: You seem cool, though.

24yo: I do?

17yo: you’re different from how I expected you to be.

24yo: Different how?

17yo: like a better version of myself, I think? I mean, I always had this grand idea that I’ll be like this and that but those versions of me seem too…idealistic, I guess? I don’t know, I think this is somehow better. More real.

24yo: well, I’m glad to know that.

24yo: You must have some questions for me.

17yo: well, I don’t know, really. You know that I don’t like knowing the future.

24yo: Yeah, but aren’t you curious?

17yo: …a little?

24yo (laughs): then don’t hold back.

17yo. Okay, first question… so like, you’re 24, right?

24yo: yeah, I am.

17yo: how does that feel like?

24yo: honestly, does anyone know how to feel their age? Or what age must feel like?

17yo shrugs.

24yo: what age do you feel you are?

17yo (thinks): I feel like I’m 12 sometimes.

24yo: exactly! I don’t know what 24 is supposed to feel like but I feel like I’m 17. I mean, I know I’ve come a long way from that age—

17yo: seven years to be exact.

24yo: --yes, thank you. But I know that I’ve gained 7 years of experience but I still feel young and dumb and scared, sometimes. The world says that’s how you’re supposed to feel when you’re young but nobody tells you how these feelings amplify when you’re in your twenties, when you’re supposed to be the mature one. Someone who is sure of herself. Accepting that is…difficult. But we’ll manage.  

17yo: but…you seem sure of yourself. You seem confident enough.

24yo: Currently, I focus being the best version of myself: as confident as I can be, as sure as I can be, as self-aware as I can be. I can’t guarantee that all the time but I try. with time, you’ll learn to put up a front, too. But soon enough, you’ll be so confident that you won’t need a front.

17yo: like a mask? But isn’t that fake? Isn’t that bad?

24yo: you need to be the judge of that yourself. You don’t have to stick to one narrative that someone else writes for you. If you decide you don’t like putting up a front or faking your confidence, then that’s up to you. Not because someone else told you that you have to be your true self all the time. It can be difficult. You need to do the things you do that can help you cope with it.

17yo (deep in thought, nods): I don’t think I understand that much, but you’ll say it’ll come with time, right?

24yo: right

17yo: then I’ll let time do its thing.

24yo (smiles): what else do you wanna ask me?

17yo: Um, second one. Are you…happy? Now, in life? With where your life is, with what you’re doing?

24yo: This is difficult to answer without scaring you off. But knowing you, I think you’ll take it in stride.

17yo frowns but bites lip.

24yo: happiness is…it’s fleeting. It’s not a final stage you achieve. Like, you go past all these stages in life and you reach peak happiness and that’s it, you’re done in life. That’s not how it works and I know you know that but sometimes, it’s easy to forget. I am happy right now, speaking to you. Will I go home feeling happy like this? I don’t know. But I like focusing on the present and if I’m happy right now, that’s all that matters.

17yo: what if you’re not happy right now?

24yo: then I go on with life feeling the non-happy feeling and then it will go away.

17yo: and it will be replaced by happiness?

24yo: hmm. I don’t think that’s how it quite works. Happiness is not a default setting in you. And you don’t just feel two things, right? there’s a lot of in-between feelings, feelings you feel like they’re bursting from inside you but have no names for. You’re sad but also you’re happy. Sometimes you’re happy but you’re also sad. Other times you’re angry and frustrated but also feel like crying and sobbing. You know you don’t have anything to feel sad about, but you still are. When it goes away, you feel calmer. Better. Happy is not quite the word. And in time, you’ll learn to define happiness by your own terms.

17yo (confused): sometimes I feel like life is too much. Like, so much that I want to break something, or scream or anything. Just so I can make sense of everything around me.

24yo: yes, exactly. We can’t name these things but with time, we’ll learn how to deal with them because it’s one thing to feel so much and think that this is out of our hands. But it’s another to let it affect what we do.  

24yo: you’re bored and I’m annoying you, aren’t i? (laughs)

17yo (lies): no, no

24yo: I swear, I’m not preaching you what happiness is and should be. It was a difficult question to answer. 

17yo: fair enough, I guess.

24yo: I suppose you have more questions for me?

17yo: I have written some down. I have like 7, since it feels like a special number.

24yo (grins): okay, shoot me.

17yo: I feel like that’s an inside joke that I don’t know about.

24yo (laughs): you’ll know—

17yo: --soon enough, yeah I know. (takes deep breath) okay, three. are you where you want to be in life?

24yo (thinks): honestly, no. But it’s not really in my hands at this point so I’m taking anything I can get, within reason, of course, and simply trying to go forward. However slow.

17yo: that’s depressing.

24yo: it is, isn’t it? But it’s also not, sometimes.  

17yo: how so?

24yo: because there will be little things in life that you can appreciate and sometimes, they seem worth living for.

17yo: is it one of those things that you’ll know once it has passed?

24yo: that depends on you, doesn’t it? If you want to, you can cherish this moment right now, while it’s happening. Or you can think back on it and choose to cherish it later.

17yo: how do I know which moments to cherish? What if every moment I live feel like I need to cherish it?

24yo: it’s simple, you cherish everything because sometimes they repeat and sometimes they don’t.

17yo: you know how you sound like?

24yo: how?

17yo: you know when there’s an event and there’s a panel discussion and a bunch of people who look pretentious sit there and say a bunch of stuff that I don’t understand but I admire anyway because they sound so smart, even if they are not sometimes?

24yo: are you saying I sound dumb and pretentious?

17yo: no, I’m saying you are one of those people. But more genuine, I guess? Definitely more honest and tad pretentious, but then again, I think most people are pretentious anyway so it doesn’t count.

24yo: and you admire me?

17yo: yeah, I guess?

24yo (laughs): never change, love.

24yo: So, what’s your next question?

17yo: can I ask you for some advice?

24yo: of course. I’m not good at it, but I’ll try.

17yo: Do you have dreams? Like, ambition-dreams? This is question 4, by the way.

24yo: Like becoming the CEO of a company in 10 years, or being in so-and-so position by this year? Something like that?

17yo nods.

24yo: not really. Before I answer you, why do you want to know?

17yo: it’s just that, people around me seem so sorted, you know? Like, they have big dreams and want to do big things and they know just exactly how to get it. But I’m like, I don’t know what subjects to choose next semester, bro. Or what extra credit course to pick. Much less what I want to do ten years down the lane. When people ask me what I want to do with my degree, I don’t know what to say. I seem to subconsciously borrow other people’s dreams and make it my own until I find my own.

24yo: I’ve thought about it a lot, too. People around you want you to do different things because they think you’re “capable” of doing it, in whatever sense that is. But what I’ve come to realize is that dreams look different to different people. If you ask me today where you want to be in five years, I will say by the end of the day, I want to go to bed feeling happy and satisfied with my life. That’s my dream. Is it less valid than the others? Not at all. Does it mean you don’t want to aim high in life? Absolutely not. Even at this point, I don’t have high ambitions. My only dream is to find the right and perfect opportunities at the right time.

17yo: but that’s not in your control.

24yo: exactly, so that remains a dream, after each passing opportunity.

17yo: I don’t think I understand, though.

24yo: Let me quote you something: “It’s okay even if you don’t have a dream as long as you’re happy”.  Does this make sense?

17yo: A little.

24yo: I know, it’s scary not being clear about your life in this highly competitive world. But the sooner we learn that we all need to move forward in life in our own pace, the better. Just because someone else is studying and doing a million other things in life doesn’t mean that we can, too. If we want to, yes, definitely, but this pressure of being busy, having to sort out your weekends and plan your relax days is not healthy for us.

17yo: but it doesn’t make things any less scary.

24yo: nothing gets less scary; we just learn to handle it better and not get scared.

17yo: okay question five. One piece of advice you want to give to me.

24yo: you know when you unintentionally hurt someone with your words, and you see their face fall as they struggle to seem to be unaffected by it? But you notice it and you suddenly hate yourself for making them feel that way?

17yo (nods): Too many times.

24yo: What happens when a friend does that to you? And they apologize to you?

17yo: I forgive them. It was unintentional and yeah, even if I was hurt, it’ll go away, right?

24yo: right. So when that happens from your end, you need to treat yourself as a friend and forgive yourself. Take time but you need to learn to be kind to yourself because one mistake won’t define you. Even in that moment.

17yo: So I should just let it go? (frowns)

24yo: No, you’re going to reflect on it and be more aware next time. SO that you don’t repeat it. That’s how you move on. It’s not entirely letting go, but in some sense, it is. It might take some practice and it might feel a little selfish but you need to take care of yourself before others.

17yo: sounds like a paradox.

24yo: it kind of is. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

17yo: …

17yo: okay moving on to number 6. Is there something I need to work on, in the future? To become this…this best version of myself?

24yo: Apart from keeping an open mind and learning to question everything, I also think reading is an important aspect. I know you read, and I know non-fiction is boring and “too political” but I hope that you’ll have a foundation of some sorts.

17yo: but why would I need to learn about politics? I’m studying environment.

24yo: you understand how environment and biology and chemistry and science in general are all interlinked right?

17yo nods.

24yo: social science is the same way. Science cannot exist without humans and we can’t disregard them in our lives. We can’t disregard ourselves. It’s important that you try learn to see from all aspects.

17yo: You sound like you’ve gone into politics and seen too much.

24yo (shakes head): Just some observations. See, we have this whole notion of what being political means. It’s not going to protests and throwing stones and telling the government to resign. It comes with the small things. The choices you have, the options you choose, in literally anything, has a political and social reason factor to it. Once you recognize that, you can’t decide that you’re going to stay far from politics. That’s not who you are.   

17yo: that sounds sad.

24yo: it is, but that’s just the way the world is. The only way to change it is to start with yourself. You’re a bit young to understand these things right away, but two, three years down the lane, you’ll understand. It’ll help you understand yourself better and helps you be the best and confident version of yourself.  

17yo: You’re not going to give me details, are you?

24yo: nope!

17yo (sighs): Okay.

17yo: Last question.

24yo nods and smiles.

17yo: Do you have any questions for me?

24yo: Were all of your questions answered?

17yo: Nope. I have more questions now but they are more like, time will tell types.

24yo nods: Curiosity has never been our strong trait, has it?

17yo sighs and shakes head.

24yo: I suggest you develop it. Being afraid to ask questions only holds us back. Okay?

17yo: okay.

24yo: stay happy and be brave, okay?

17yo nods.

These were some things that I wish someone had told me. I think there were more things I want to tell but for now, I’ll leave it at this.

I’m glad for 7. Things aren’t very different from how 6 was, but that’s okay. I’ll be here for 8, so let’s hang on and do our best until then.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Song of the post: Avatar: The Last Airbender theme song

It has been a while since I wrote about a show or a film. I haven’t watched many in the past several months but ATLA has been the only one and it was because I watched it with a friend. I just can’t seem to muster up the energy to sit through 120 minutes of a film or 16 episodes of a drama. 20 minutes per episode seemed doable, especially since it was something completely new and because it was animated.

Here is the basic outline of the show since I don’t want to do a bad job explaining what is what. This post will mainly be me screaming about the show. There will be spoilers!

Several months ago, my friend Nat asked me if I had watched Avatar: The Last Airbender. She had watched bits and pieces of it as a child on Nickelodeon, so she wanted to watch all of it and suggested that we could watch it together. It didn’t take much convincing for me. I really liked the premise of the show so we decided to go for it.

Since then, we had our weekend nights booked over Zoom. On Friday and Saturday nights, we sat together after dinner to watch the show. We laughed, we cried, we gasped and clutched our hearts. It was such a packed, wholesome show with a great plot and some really amazing character arcs and great villains and a beautiful world-building and amazing story-telling. I’m glad I watched now because I could fully appreciate the show with all my heart.

The most unrealistic bit of this whole show is how strong they are at such a young age. Aang is biologically still 12, even though he had been frozen for 100 years. Katara is 14, while her brother Sokka is 15. Zuko, a strong fire-bender, is only 16! Azula, Zuko’s sister, who can manipulate lightning and can redirect it, is only 14! They must have trained all their lives but it’s still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that they do so much at such a young age.

(And yes, I am aware that the characters are this age because it’s a children’s show but still.)

Some recurring thoughts throughout the show:

  • APPAAAA! (Appa is Aang’s flying Bison, a whole ass cutie that needs to be protected. AT. ALL. COSTS.)
  • HOW IS THIS A CHILDREN’S SHOW? (Especially towards the end of Book 2 and 3)
  • Uncle Iroh! (A whole cutie badass but with the most golden heart. One of my most favourite characters. Has wisdom for days and is the most patient man ever. Protect him at all costs [even though he does a brilliant job by himself])
  • how is this a children’s show
  • Zuko please you’re so cute
  • YUEEE (crying, weeping emoji)

It started off slow. The first book was mainly world-building and them trying to navigate through this whole helping the Avatar thing and escaping from Zuko. Things got really interesting towards the end of the first book when Aang learns to Water-bend and they start looking for an Earth-bending teacher.

This is when the show picks up. Toph is a blind, 12 year old, earth-bender who fights against earth-bending giants (huge, beefy men) in contests and wins. She “sees” through the vibrations through her feet, which is why she doesn’t like wearing footwear. But she’s also treated as a dainty, delicate girl by her family which gets so suffocating for her that she runs away with Aang and the gang. She’s one of the coolest characters in the show. She’s sassy and smart and has an iron-willpower. I love the fact that they included a disabled character in the main cast (there are other, smaller disabled characters sprinkled throughout the show) and this inclusion seems like the most natural thing ever. It’s one of the many reasons why this show is so amazing and why I love it so much.

The second book is also one of the more fast-paced ones. A lot of things happen: new member addition to their team, new information on defeating the Fire Lord Ozai, new battle strategies, new friendships formed. The most prominent is the battle at the city of Ba Sing Se. Iroh briefly talks about this city in the first book: it’s where he lost his son Lu Ten, it’s where he lost the battle against the Earth Kingdom when he led the army and lost all his glory. It’s a city that holds painful memories for him and we sympathize with him. Later, the city is reintroduced to us when Gaang (Aang and the gang) realize they need to meet with the Earth Kingdom and provide them with the information that might help them defeat the Fire Nation and end their rule over the planet.

This is the part where I realized just how amazing this show is. It might be difficult for kids to understand the depth of the issues that’s at the heart of Ba Sing Se but as an adult, it shook me. I think a major part of it was because I could relate to it to the current scenario. The episodes surrounding this were intense because the Gaang is also looking for Appa, who was taken away but some sand-benders in the desert. There’s an episode that shows the journey of Appa from wherever he was taken to and escaped and to Ba Sing Se, where he was hidden. My heart was broken that episode because Appa was so scared and hungry and tired and hurt. Nobody hurts Appa and gets away with it.

(Rewatching S2 E14: The City of Walls and Secrets to make sure I get my point and feelings across well.) Ba Sing Se is called the city of walls. The entire city is fortified, and inside the city, there are three concentric rings of walls that help maintain peace and order inside the city. In the outermost live the refugees and craftsmen and artisans (people who work with their hands). They are also really poor and Katara observes that they are all pushed off in one place. In the middle one, the financial “district”, houses shops, restaurants and the university, along with people who can afford to go to these places. In the inner most wall is the palace and noble people.

This “class” division made my heart clench. Maybe I wouldn’t have understood it as a child but I completely understand it as an adult. It brought me a sense of deja vu and detachment with it. It is reflective of the real world today (and in 2005 when this episode came out) but the governing bodies in Ba Sing Se, the Dai Li has worked so hard to keep people happy and ignorant that it scares me.

Which is one of the main reasons why I love this episode.

Uncle Iroh and Zuko somehow end up wherever the Gaang is (even after Zuko stops pursuing Aang). They work in a small tea shop in the outermost wall since they are refugees. But nobody knows that they are from the Fire Nation and they keep it that way. Since Iroh thinks tea is like breathing, he soon becomes popular in tea making, so much so that he opens his own tea shop in Ba Sing Se.

The next episode is a series of shorts of all the characters’ little adventures in the city. I’m a huge sucker for anthologies and this little one, including a story on Momo’s (Aang’s flying lemur) adventure in the city, is an adorable one. It’s cute, funny, sad, heartwarming all in one and by the end of it, tears threatened to fall.

Then there’s Zuko. He starts off by being the worst character on the show (which will be replaced by Azula) to one of the best and most favourite characters by the end of it. He has a good heart but being in the Fire Nation, he has always ever known one side of the history, which he’s always believed to be right. He goes through so much pain and suffering and in the end, his good side wins. His major flaw is, and I quote Nat, “being bad at being good,”. He tries to be a good person but it always backfires because he doesn’t know how to be one. But that changes. And his character arc is one of the most phenomenal ones throughout the show. In the end, he becomes Aang’s fire-bending teacher and together, they discover the original way of fire-bending. (I really wish we had more episodes of Zuko in the Gaang because it was so wholesome.)

Sokka, Katara’s brother, often the goofy one but his character growth, albeit different from Zuko, was also a painful one. Having lost his mother to the Fire Nation, his father at sea, he’s responsible for taking care of Katara but we often forget that he’s a child, too. But he’s also more than that. His battle strategies have been commended by his own father and he even plans many of their trips because he’s so meticulous in planning. He cannot bend elements, but he has good fighting skills that has often saved the rest of them from doom.

From: https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OwkpeugoxVo/WpeSHUBvLNI/AAAAAAABhHc/CeDfJqu5gj4EnklHjMLhGixz_m_h5l9nACLcBGAs/s1600/Cesar-Moreno-Avatar-Last-Airbender-Movie-Poster-2018-Mondo.png

ATLA has female characters who contribute the same amount, if not more, to the story. Katara, with her water-bending, Toph with her earth-bending, Suki (a Kyoshi warrior) with her skills, on one side; Azula with her lightning, Ty Lee with her acrobatic skills that immobilize people, Mai with her ninja knife/star throwing skills on the other. There is no “competition” as such between the male and female characters because they’re all so strong by themselves. I loved that about it.

Everybody needs an Uncle Iroh in their lives. I need an Uncle Iroh in my life.

After watching it, it’s easy to understand why this show has such a huge fanbase. It’s not just about a 12 year-old monk trying to stop a war that he doesn’t know how to. It’s much larger than that. It’s about love and family and friendship and restoring lost honour and what that means and what being strong means and forgiveness and so much more. It’s probably really easy to dismiss this as a kids’ cartoon but it’s a mistake that’s easily rectified by giving it a chance.

So, give it a chance. It might just change your life.

Random Thursday Ramblings at the speed of a BMTC bus

Song of the post: So Far Away by Agust D ft Suran (find lyrics translation here)

Sometime last year, I had promised myself that I would put up at least one post per month because, well, even though I don’t feel like I’m running out of things to say, who even cares, right? And every time my head goes in that direction, I go, “No! You write for you!” but me writing for myself has become an almost daily thing these days so it’s not only deep, introspective stuff, it’s also random things I did and didn’t do and and how I felt (which basically falls into two categories: feeling super good, feeling like shit) so it’s not like I want to share these really personal things on here.

So, what do I write? What do I post? I don’t do typical blogging stuff, that’s not my style. That’s not how I began and I’m not going to change now. And I’m lazy but that’s not necessary here.

I’m here, on this website, thinking of a song for the post (I decided on one but then changed it to another by the end of it) and watching Jungkook sing along to random songs on a VLive after a long time and I think I’ll just talk about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and my day.

I didn’t plan to do much today. I had probably 2 things on my list: work on something that I’ve been working on since forever and look for jobs. I haven’t added painting or drawing in there. It just feels like a chore.

Have you ever felt like your hobby, or something that you do to purely enjoy, starts to get a little repetitive, and you have tried different things but then they haven’t worked out well but you still want to do something new but you’re scared of how it’s gonna turn out?

Well, art has become like that for me. There’s a lot I want to try and maybe because I’m not validating myself enough or seeking validation from elsewhere and not getting it getting to me, I’m scared to mess up. I want good results too, but how will I get it if I don’t even try? If I’m too scared to try?

And there’s also the matter of where to start. So, I’ve stopped forcing myself to do draw or paint when I don’t feel like. It hasn’t worked yet. But I know it will because every creative venture needs time to recharge.

I was sitting on the sofa last Friday, watching the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, from start to finish. Sometime in the evening, when all the country teams paraded in with their flags, I was tweeting about it but before that, I just watched with a kind of numbness. I was watching the ceremony, but it was something that I let my brain and eyes do, not really absorbing it on a deeper level.

Instead, my head kept going back to a few years ago, specifically around the time of the London Olympics 2016. I was about 18 or 19, at the peak of my anime-manga-Japanese culture phase and I had found out that the 2020 Olympics was happening in Tokyo.

I was overjoyed. In my head, 2020 was so far way. Like, four years was such a huge deal. I always wondered where I would be, what I would be doing, how much I might have changed, how I would be living, if I was in love, with people and life alike. I daydreamed about it. I daydreamed about being in Tokyo (either visiting or living, I had cooked up scenarios of both) during the Olympics, and watching the Opening ceremony live, in person. I was happy, content.

But then life pulled the rug of reality and bleak future underneath me and made me look up and face it.

It was not good. It’s not something anyone would’ve daydreamed on their wildest day. A pandemic, climate crises, horrible political scenario and the list is endless. I will not go down there.

That’s when it hit me. The me of 5 years ago would be so devastated to hear the fact that the freaking Olympics was pushed a year ahead and should have possibly been even cancelled. I feel bad for her. I can practically feel the colour drain out of her and her shoulder slump as it hits her how bad the situation will be.

It’s almost as if I don’t even recognize her anymore.

There’s so much new music these days, from artists that I like and me itching to discover new artists. But what do I do? Like, my hands are free and my ears are plugged in and I don’t like it when I’m not multitasking. So, I would want to draw or paint.

But then my crisis starts. I have noted this feeling down sometime ago and it’s true even today.

Whenever I feel like wanting to paint, I just don’t know what to paint. When I ask for suggestions, I immediately don’t feel like making it. And the funny thing is, there’s a million things I want to draw and paint and get better at but there’s that nagging feeling of having to choose between having fun and getting better at painting. It seems like these days, I’m unable to have fun and try new things for the fear of failure.

I was not for being scared of failure. Exams? Sure. The word itself invokes a kind of anxiety in me. But in things that I love doing? Writing and painting and cooking?

Not at all. I either have fun or learn something out of it or both. There’s no winning or losing.

It’s weird and I don’t think I like it very much.

A while ago, Amma was saying something about moving on and getting better things in life and it got me thinking: is anyone really satisfied with their lives?

Maybe it’s the hustle culture, maybe it’s climate change, maybe people don’t talk about it. But I don’t understand why people actively seek out better things. I understand that most things are temporary in life but that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy with it and be satisfied as the next good thing comes along. Like it’s one thing to be learning all the time and trying to be better– a better person, better whatever– but it’s another to actively seek out better things. I also understand that we all deserve better things in life and that it should be determined by us but if there’s happiness and peace at what we are doing in life, why look for better? It seems like better is never ending and that scares me sometimes.

I have thought about why I feel that way. I think it’s because I like wherever I am. And it could also be that I’m scared for what’s out there since I don’t really know. The uncertainty is scary but it comforts me that I’m not alone in this.

But what is scary is people shooting their shots for much greater things and dreams that I have no desires for. Is that really bad?

I don’t know.

It’s scary but the only thing I know how to do is move forward. And I guess I’ll just do that.

If you managed to reach the end of this long, slightly pointless post, feel free to ramble away in my comments or if you found me Twitter, you can ramble away in DMs too.

I sometimes like to feel that I’m not so alone in all of this.

Sensing a slump

Song of the post: Leaves by Ben&Ben ft. YoungK

While I am waiting for the Butter (Hotter) remix to release, I just thought I’d put this out before I spend my time streaming and screaming the song.

I have spoken about slumps before. Art slump, creative slump, watch slump, life slump. All of these and more are valid and living through pandemonium is only proof that slumps are just part of what makes us humans. I think I’ve grown to see slumps as forced resting. When you can’t put your pencil on a piece of paper without coming up blank, you give up.

But that’s not all you do. You don’t just give up, you think you’ll try again later. And maybe later is in a few hours or days or weeks or even months. But you wait it out and decide you’ll try again. That’s what I think we do as humans.

I came about writing this post because for the past couple of days, I have been sensing something coming. It could be impending doom or it could be a slump. (I’m deciding on the slump, for now.)

I have a lot of writing and art projects lined up. Each very fun and different and gives me a push towards stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something that I’ve never done before. It’s something that I look forward to as I wake up (freshly unemployed now) and get started on my projects.

But sometimes, it doesn’t always work that way. I was halfway through one of my shorter writing projects and it just seems so…bland? It felt like I’ve been writing the same things over and over without any change or variation. At first I thought maybe I’m thinking too much. So I accelerated, as you do, when you feel like you’re about to crash.

Then I realized that I wasn’t feeling anything when I was writing it. I put word after word and while the story progressed in the general direction that I had in my head, I was not enjoying the process one bit. Suddenly, I was writing for the sake of writing, because I had to, because nobody else would write this story for me. And that’s actually not bad for a writer but for me, it becomes easy to hate my own creation. So I decided to pause.

I had already taken a break from painting. A few weeks ago, I had been trying to draw something but the more I tried, the more wrong it looked. It made me frustrated and annoyed and I hated to pick up my pencil to try something. I haven’t made anything new or fresh in some time but I painted some skies and sea and swatched a new set of gouache paints and I know my watercolours will wait for me, until I return. It’s just a matter of time.

It’s me second of taking a break from writing and I have had so many plans and ideas since. Some are fresh, some ideas are to take older ideas forward and more. But apart from this blog post, I haven’t written much. And I’ve convinced myself that it’s okay. It’s okay to rest and take a break and not expect perfection every single time I write something because that’s practically impossible. That’s why revisions and editing and rewriting exists.

It’s been pretty peaceful.

Maybe in the next few days I might open up some of my incomplete, ongoing documents and finish them faster than ever. Maybe I’ll take some more time to think and breathe and rest. Who knows? It’ll go when it goes. I’ll be here, till then, reading and consuming art and stuffing myself with so much inspiration that when the slump finally leaves me, I feel happier than ever.

It’s okay for me to say this, that it’s better to wait it out the slump than forcing yourself to do things because I’m primarily a hobbyist. I write and make art as a hobby. But for professionals out there, going through a slump or a rough patch or feeling generally low, I am sending strength to you guys. It’s a brutal world out there and your creation is keeping us mundane people alive during some of the worst times we have gone through. I hope you take care of yourselves and have someone to lean on when things are tough.

Documenting your day

Song of the post: Today by O.WHEN

I have been meaning to write this for a while now. It’s been ruminating in the back of my head for weeks now, opening up a blank document in my head and adding ideas which I will soon forget, but adding bits and pieces of it anyway. Simply because I haven’t had the energy to actually open up a word document and word vomit everything.

Until today.

I think I began thinking of this when I was filling up my planner. I recently bought an undated planner because I had little to no patience to sit and make myself simple bullet journal spreads that I’m not happy about. I have no time or patience for more elaborate ones so I thought it would be nice if I found a pretty planner. I bought an undated one because there was some comfort in adding in dates and months by myself, like I could control that one bit of life at least. It’s a Sunday morning routine to fill it up after breakfast.

After breakfast, everybody at home is too full to move so we just relax in our parents’ room with the balcony door open to let the sunlight in and just scroll through our phones silently for an hour or so. Usually my phone is charging during that time so I get my planner and pens and my watercolor pencils and sit and fill up that week.

Most days I leave blank. I refuse to use it for work and if I have to mention it at all, I’ll simply say, “work anxiety” or “too much work” or “snapped at work”, if at all. If something significant has happened, I usually remember so I can make a note of it. Other days, I am blank. “What the heck did I even do on Thursday?”

That’s when the documentation comes in. On days where I don’t feel like myself, or don’t like the way I’m feeling, I write it all down, trying to flesh out the reason why I’m feeling this way. It doesn’t work, a lot of times, but it does make me feel a little bit lighter. It’s a trick that I learned the hard way.

On days I don’t remember what I did, or happened, I open up my chats and to my friends or opening up my gallery to see the pictures or screenshots I captured that day. Then I get distracted and forget about it for a few minutes.

The heavy weight of the planner sitting on my lap brings me back. Then I draw a couple of illustrations and wrap up that week.

That’s when I kept thinking if there are other ways other people document their lives.

An Instagram story, a Tweet, their notes app, a tiny notebook filled with indecipherable pencil scribbles, a doodle or maybe just their very reliable memories. Or maybe you don’t want to remember how your days went by. That’s true for me sometimes, even though I do wonder, “how did I spend my day?”

It’s a Monday, a day off for me and I am so tired by doing nothing. I might paint for a bit later but there’s so many things I have lined up but end up doing nothing. I kind of feel bad about it but these days I don’t have the energy for much so I guess it’s okay?

It’s all I can tell myself at this point.

Do you document your days? Do you like to do it? Or do you prefer to just move on with your days without wanting to remember and reflect on how yesterday was? Tell me, I’d love to know.

Nice, peaceful things

Song of the post: The Day by JJ Project (Jinyoung solo) (link to a live performance)

(Also I’d like to know if any of you listen to the Songs I link and if you do, what did you think of them? I realize a majority of the songs are Korean lol but like, they are what I listen to so I do hope you’re enjoying them! Also, all pictures are taken by me unless stated otherwise.)

I’ve had a somewhat average day, halfway between crappy and nice (but leaning towards crappy). I got off social media for the entire day and I realized how much content I consume through Twitter alone and it kind of scared me. A little bit only because I’ve been told by my friends that I have decent self-control. Which I should now put into action and make sure that Twitter isn’t the first thing I should wake up to.

Which was probably why I wasn’t feeling all that great today.

Which is why, as I’ve been thinking for the past few days, I’d like to share some nice things I’ve experienced in the past few weeks and spread some happy vibes on a random Tuesday. It is the beginning of the work week for me (I work Tuesday to Saturday) which could be a reason why I was feeling so blue.

(In hindsight, I shouldn’t have skipped my morning walk when I had just started again.)

Sometime in late February, my aunt and her family had come over for a few days for a family function that was happening in another end of Bangalore. They were gone the whole weekend and on Sunday, me, Pappa, Amma and Akka sat in the living room, watched some random Kannada movie that we had already watched before and munched on chips the entire evening. I don’t remember who brought them out, I just remember all of us simply taking it and munching on salt-and-khara potato chips and bonda-kadlekaayi (they’re peanuts/groundnuts that are dipped in red, spicy batter and deep fried) and store-bought tiny kodubele (it’s a delicacy that I cannot explain) and other fried junk. I found peace in our harmonious crunches and practiced movements of passing the snacks one after the other.

I had to travel for work and stay at a small town just a couple of hours away from Bengaluru for a few days. And while I’m still salty about the whole experience and how a lot of things were inconvenient for me, especially at the place where we stayed, I can’t deny how beautiful it was. The place was at a small hill top and the second night that we stayed there (after the first night-mare), it was so peaceful that I didn’t want to sleep so early. I hung with with a bunch of people where one of them read out a part of a book (with accent and all; I cried) and then, outside the hall we were sleeping in, there was a porch of sorts so I thought I could sit there for a little while I read under the stars. And it was a hell of an idea. The stars were bright and blue and MANY in number, with not as much pollution around and the moonless sky felt like it had split open a blue and silver glitter packet open in a hurry. It was gorgeous. By that time, J-hope’s Hope World had just celebrated its third year anniversary so a full track of Blue Side had been posted. So I played that, watched the stars and sat there for god knows how long until I felt my heart swell with peace and happiness that had become so alien to me.

The last picture has the porch I mentioned.

Mishel texted me a few days before my birthday asking if I was free on Saturday. I met up with her for a little while after work. Usually, when I used to meet Mishel, it used to feel like a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime moment. But we found our groove in Bangalore in a way that works for the both of us and meeting her so casually, so suddenly, still feels very surreal. We were little emotional in the beginning but then we settled into our comfortable silences, sharing stories and walking along Church Street, hand-in-hand and evading scammers with practiced trust. I only hope I get to do that with all the people I love.

On my birthday, my childhood friends (friends of nearly 16 years!) surprised me with their presence and an amazing cake (that Akka designed and had it made by one of them, who has a small business!) and so much happiness. I hadn’t seen them for longer than a couple of hours in the entire year, despite living only 10 minutes away from them.

In the beginning of March, I had to work on a Monday. I worked for half a day and spent the other half in a cafe, with my laptop, listening to music and writing. I found a drink that I really liked (iced mocha) and had a sandwich for lunch and spent around 5 hours simply writing. I had dreamed of it for so long (sitting at a cafe, writing) and it finally came true and I have fallen in love. Even as I felt slightly wistful and melancholic as people came into the cafe in two’s and three’s and I occupied a table all by myself, there was some peace in knowing how much you enjoy your own company.

From mid-February, the weather had been getting warmer and it had been raining leaves. The chill still stayed, but the warmth creeped up slowly and the shift in the air was so pleasant. This transition period, like I had mentioned in my previous post, is my favourite.

Bangalore has now become Pink Bangalore, with these roadside trees bursting with pink blossoms. They were our very own, local cherry blossoms, though they didn’t really smell like anything. And the city was bathed in this pink. It is definitely something I had missed the last couple of years and the all those years before that, I never really had the chance to appreciate the beauty. I’ve been clicking pictures of it every chance I get and I’m not sick of it at all. (I was also wondering-how in Japan the fallen cherry blossoms form a pink carpet on the floor of the parks and when I looked down at the fallen, pink Tabebuia flowers [it’s the name of those pink blossoms-I only just learned it recently], they’re no more pink. They’re brown and dirty and rotten and mixed with the black of the road and brown of the mud. Is this also how it looks like in other countries where cherry blossoms blooming is a gorgeous event? How no one looks down at the fallen beauties that rot away and have been only momentarily appreciated? Just a thought.)

Some of the pink Tabebuia trees that I’ve seen around the city (around my area).

I had been able to speak with my friends more than usual in these few weeks and they have made me so happy. Some of our birthdays fall a week apart from each other and getting gifts from them made me miss them a LOT but I had never felt closer (except that one time last year, just after my birthday, we were all due to leave the hostel immediately and spent the entire night speaking and slept only when the sun rose). I had video called another friend of mine who also happens to be my birthday twin (!!) and even watched part of one of my favourite Ghibli films (Whisper of the Heart) with her. They’ve all happened on different days and on days I’ve had minimum interactions with them are days I’m generally low. I’ve been able to sleep better knowing that they’re doing well, too.

I have been having so much fun writing these days that I’ve fallen in love, all over again. There’s this one piece that I’m working on and the planning went so well. I’ve not finished it and I’m currently stuck in some parts (even with all the planning lol) but I’ve loved writing very single minute of it. I don’t know if I’ll ever put it up but it’s currently my favourite thing in progress.

Yesterday, one of my aforementioned childhood friends called me to ask me something about art supplies. She wanted to try painting so I took her to my regular store and even as I had originally not planned on buying much (gasp) I bought some new stuff to try and got a discount with how much of a regular I am at that store. It was a really hot, sunny day but I had so much fun, just walking around, seeing the happy expressions on my friend’s face. I had missed it terribly.

In the midst of all these, I have had some terrible days. Days when I’ve been so angry that I’ve not been able to think or breathe properly. Days when I’ve been unable to move. Days where I had woken up thinking I didn’t want to face the day. But then, some of these nice things happened on these days. So are they really bad days with some nice moments or do the nice moments neutralize the bad days making them simply average? I like to see it as the former. It makes me appreciate the nice moments even more.

What is it about February

Song of the post: quiet motions by mxmtoon

This is the first song that came to my head when I woke up a couple of days ago. I remembered Arohi painting a scene from this music video and it was just such a nice, still scene that it is etched in the front of my brain. (A slightly aggressive picture of a rather calm scene but that’s how I’m feeling currently.)

The weather’s been quiet lately. It’s like everything is still and even though things are moving and you are moving, it feels like time has slowed down and it’s all slow and muted and calm.

I think February is generally like that.

It’s that time of the year where seasons change. Transition periods are generally on some extreme. Aggressive or ridiculously calm. It’s been ridiculously calm these days and I just don’t know how it happens. One day it’s so cold you’re wearing two blankets and hugging your plushie and the next morning, you’re warm and lying on top of your blankets, plushie on the floor.

And it’s not the hot, sticky kind of warm either. It’s a pleasant, very welcomed warm. The kind of warm that you get when you stand in the sun on cold winter days. But now, you get it indoors.

I’ve been meaning to put it out for a while now. I guess I had more words ruminating in my head but I never had the chance to write them down so I’m getting this down as much as I can. But it’s been nice. I would say that I wish it could stay this pleasant all the time but like always, how would we understand how pleasant this is and appreciate it if we don’t experience all the unpleasant weathers?

2020 in Doggies

Song of the post: Sleeping Beauty by End of the World (Sekai No Owari) and Epik High

There are certain expectations set for 2021 by all of us. We’re hoping for it to be better than this year, for obvious reasons, but it also seems like there is an insane amount of pressure for 2021 to just be. I don’t know why but I’ve been feeling anxious for it and it’s irrational, I know. But every time I think about New Year’s and seeing people wishing for a better year and being happier, I have this urge to just hide. Just hide and hibernate like a bear and not emerge until the world has calmed down and stopped piling on horrible expectations on a certain idea of time.

That’s just me. I do wish and hope for a better year but simply thinking about it makes me feel deja vu all over again. We had these kinds of expectations for 2020 and look where that got us. Can we just, please, treat it like another day? Maybe then, the sins of the human race might be ignored for a little while longer?

I am not going to talk about this year in general. I’ll dive right in. My year had dogs. A lot of the gaps that I had in my heart—gaps left by friends that I couldn’t see, gaps left by the lack of skin-ship, gaps left by the lack of normal experiences of hanging out at a cafe and sipping cold coffee—was filled with these furry friends that I met on the road.

The earliest were Maya and Poser and Totoro. Since I lived on campus till mid-March, I had spent a good two-and-a-half months of this year with these loves and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss them. I miss the spunky attitude of Totoro when there’s someone new but I loved how pliant she went when I fed her and pet her. She was one of my favourites on campus (shh, don’t tell the others!) and on days she refused to eat, I put her face in my lap spoke to her for a little and then she would eat a little. It all feels so magical and like it happened to a version of me that’s barely recognizable, now that I think about it.

Low quality image of a high quality girl- Totoro

Then there was Poser. His pretty eyes always betray his actions. He has big, pretty brown eyes and some nights, I swore I could sense a slight glint of exasperation in his eyes when I tried to feed him. He refused to eat a lot of times so I tired doing the airplane. I would tear off the piece of chapati and mimic (horribly) airplane sounds and moving the food all over my head and his head and then put it near his mouth, where he would reluctantly eat. I bet you he was thinking, “If I eat enough, maybe she’ll leave me alone,” and it worked. I was naive enough to believe that he has eaten enough and then I would move on. But towards the end of the year, when I went to speak with him without food, he always got petted a few times before haughtily walking away. I can imagine him going, “I’ve had my daily dose of affection from her, time to move on,” That was enough for me.

Those pretty brown eyes will definitely melt you

And then Maya. I’ve written a lot about Maya already (a full blog post!) but I feel like I’ll always want to write more. But at this point, the thing I miss about him the most is his presence. On most days, that would just be enough for me and looking back, I can’t remember for how long I’ve relied on him the way I did. If I hadn’t seen him that day, I would feel unsettled till I saw him. I didn’t even need to pet him or scratch his bum. I just needed to see him from a distance and I would feel all right. Even if it was for just that moment. And I guess it left a huge gaping hole in my heart when I moved so hurriedly. I did get to say goodbye to them. I took a break from packing the night before I was to leave (sometime past midnight) and I spent a good half an hour feeding Maya and Poser from the biscuits that were left over in my room and telling them to be good and that I will miss them terribly. But mostly, I just fed them in silence while they ate, while I scratched their ears and bums, while I tried to memorize how their short, spiky fur felt under my fingers, while I tried to blink tears out of my eyes.

After March, there were months where we were all at home so the hopes of meeting a cute doggo out on the street were zero. Sometime in August or September, when the rains had calmed down, Amma made me go walking. At first, I didn’t like it. It was a bit annoying, being told to go for a walk so that I can “stay in shape” (ugh) but I went anyway because I felt really nice. The air (through my mask) felt nice in the mornings and that’s when I met Rambo in the road behind my house. He was a bratty little thing and I had only met him for the second time when he refused to leave me. I was so exhausted trying to run away from him. He lived partially in one of the houses where I’d first met him and he was all in for following me! For that little while, it felt like all was right in the world. Before I had go back to my bleak reality, of course.

The first picture was the first day I met him. He sat in the middle of the road, mindless of the traffic so I lured him to a side of the road and petted him a little. The second picture was taken probably a couple of weeks later by Akka. Rambo was teething, I guess, and my leggings and leg and my sandals probably were the perfect texture to ease his pain. But I found him a nice little stick so I distracted him and ran away.

After a few more weeks, I found a different route to walk, a little away from home but in the same area. There, sitting on a tree stump, were 4 plump, cute puppies. When I approached them, they growled at me. Their mother was also fiercely protective so I didn’t bother them that much. But whenever I go walking, they’re always there. Someone made a little resting spot for them behind a wall and they are usually around, playing. They’ve grown big now, but it feels nice to have seen them in the process.

That little on scared me off XD

More recently, when I went walking, Amma gave me a couple of left over chapatis from the previous night to feed some of the dogs on my way. There were plenty. I chose a place at random and tore up the chapatis into smaller bits and left it for a couple of dogs here and there. They didn’t eat while I was there so I walked on. After a while I noticed I was being followed. It was one of the dogs I had fed and refused to eat the chapatis. I had to cross the road at one point so I crossed it with him (yes, I had known by then) and he walked with me. For all the 40 minutes of my walk, he was behind me. Except, at one point, he refused to go further. I think it was an unfriendly territory, by the looks that the other dogs gave him so I changed my route and we walked in the same route for a while before heading back. When we reached the spot where I had met him, he didn’t care. He just followed me. I stopped by a store to buy biscuits for him and I broke some and fed some and then got up to leave while he was eating. And he still followed me! He followed me all the way home and then I went inside my building. I didn’t want to leave him but he wasn’t made to be indoors (even if I was allowed to take him in) but when I came out to feed him, he was gone. I never saw him again in that route.

He was so nice, not demanding anything, just following me around

At this point, I’m pretty used to feeding and even petting stray dogs. The dogs in my road are still very wary and I’ve almost never seen them. But we do keep them food a few nights a week so I don’t feel too bad about not interacting with them after nearly 8 years of living in this area.

I like that I had so many little fur balls in my life, for however little time. I’m grateful for all of them and will carry this feeling of safety and bliss and pure love around in my heart for as long as I can.

A toothless old woman

Song of the post: I’m Serious by Day6

TW// Dentist, mentions of blood, slight anxiety, needles, injection

I’m being dramatic. I got one (1) tooth extracted and I am mourning its loss by saying I’ve become a toothless old hag. It’s funnier in Kannada, I swear.

I know nobody likes Dentists but I’ve always been more or less indifferent. The first few times (like years ago) when I had visited a dental college, they never addressed the issue that I had. They always went on to saying how I needed more fillings or braces or some stuff like that. I stopped going. I didn’t even have a lot of tooth problems.

Until a few weeks ago. My right jaw hurt too much. I kept thinking it was probably the cold and I kept downing hot coffee (since I needed to warm myself up, hehe) and wrapped myself in a warm shawl and walked around the house in rainbow patterned socks and faded, fluffy pink house slippers (with eyes like in the Simpsons). I didn’t realize it was a toothache until one day that it hurt so bad that my right cheek was swollen. I pressed a hot pack to my cheek that day and I understood a different kind of pain.

Pappa had identified a new dentist. One of his “connections”. Akka and Amma had testified that he was really nice and wonderful and I finally got Pappa to get me an appointment. I took a sick day off of work (this girl is earning money people! More on that later, promise) and that night before, I had a conversation with Akka that went something like this:

Me: Akka, what if they have to remove my teeth?

Akka: It’ll be fine. You won’t even know.

Me: But what if they remove all of my teeth? How will I eat chicken and chakli and-

Akka: *glares* Please sleep.

The following morning, when the doctor came and he took a quick X-ray of the part where my tooth hurt, he declared it was my wisdom tooth growing and said it’s best to remove it. He said it would be better to remove it and Pappa did his signature face tilt that said, go ahead, no problem.

He also did not lost the opportunity to make a joke. “Let’s take the wisdom out of my daughter,” (implying that I would lose whatever little wisdom I already had. Dads, I tell you.)

I signed a form and as I lay back almost horizontally on the reclining chair, my legs vibrated with an intensity that I had never felt before. I clenched on a piece of tissue I had gotten earlier while the doctor injected the anaesthesia. I asked him if it will hurt and he earnestly said, “If you feel anything after the anaesthesia, I will not remove your tooth,”

I did not feel a thing. Even when he put in a couple of different contraptions to remove my tooth, I felt nothing but the pull of his movements. When it finally came out, a small pool of blood in the kidney bowl, I did not even feel the loss of the tooth.

I was told to eat ice cream once (eye roll, but then again, throat issues if I ate too much UGH) and take medications and Pappa paid and then we were out. All of this took less than an hour and to say I was surprised is an understatement. I’ve known people roam around to the dentist at least 3 times before they got a tooth pulled out. To celebrate the loss of my tooth, I made Pappa drive me to the art store so I could buy watercolour paper.

It’s been a couple of days since, and I’ve been feeling the loss slightly more and more by the day. It’s more that I feel the loss of the pain that came with it than the tooth itself. And now that I can eat pretty normally, I’m using the “toothless old woman” card to get out of eating things I don’t like. And I have backup for it (AKA Akka) who has taken it upon herself to personally call me a toothless old woman when I refuse to eat something.

Amma has had it enough. She might shove food down my throat if I play this card again. Until then, I shall push.