As I walk back from the office, I call my mother. Sharing my updates from the day – which field area I went to, what was the agenda for the day, how much a team member liked or disliked the activity, how I caught the last bus that leaves at 4:30 PM as it was leaving…I pass through the sabji mandi and make eye contact with the didi I always buy vegetables from. “Amma, hold on for a minute!”, “Didi, aadha kilo tamatar”.
On phone, I continue speaking in Kannada forgetting the busy bazaar around me only till I spot the ‘Ganne ka ras gaadi’. I pass a ten rupee note, making hand gestures asking for one glass. I gulp it down in a minute while listening to stories from my mother’s end. “Hello, can you hear me?”, she asks. “Yes yes, carry on”, I respond, rushing through the gullies of Gogunda bazaar. Carrying a plastic bag full of tomatoes in one hand, holding the phone in the other, I climb up the stairs to my room. Sticking the phone between my ears and shoulder, as I open the locked room, I also say bye to her. There are many things waiting for me!
My flatmates and I discuss for fifteen minutes, what to cook. We may or may not make a decision. The conversation extends to our day, our colleagues, landlord, the weather. We decide to meet after a bath. I queue up four to five songs that I have recently been obsessed with, and place the phone on a ledge. I start singing along.
A bucket lies in my bathroom. My used clothes go into it every evening after I get back from work. If I was wearing a kurta from which the dye bleeds, I need to make sure I keep it in another bucket. It gets almost full within three days – masks, pants, kurtas, night wear, dupattas, towels. So as I take a shower, I fill these buckets with soap water.
Sitting back for five minutes under the fan, I try to dry my hair and meanwhile, scroll through social media where I look at workout videos of a friend who gave me company when I wanted to bunk physical education classes in school. And pictures of ten other friends who are in Goa, Pondicherry or Himachal Pradesh. Some others are singing, dancing, showcasing their art/craft work. As I see some food videos, I remember that we still need to make dinner and keep my phone away to get to work.
Cook, chat, eat, exchange quick “Goodnights” and I slam the door almost like I am announcing to the world that I do not want to hear any more noise. I am tired of the sounds from my day. A song I have been wanting to sing starts running in my head as I feel guilty about not having found the time to sing it properly. I open the to-do list on my phone and add this song to the list of songs I want to learn.
I am trying to sleep and I want to stop thinking about all the things that I have been wanting to do but have not found the time to do. I turn on the bed, adjust the pillow a few times. A series of images come up as I try hard to focus on sleeping.
Of a patient I met in the day who was beaten up by her husband, of the children who shared some wild fruits with me, of the meaning of a protest song that I heard while taking shower, of what will happen to the mountain of plastic ‘thailis’ I have ended up collecting and have pushed under my kitchen sink, of the story I had to cut while my mother was talking, of the bucket in the bathroom with soaked clothes, of the tomato rice I will make in the morning, of the training I have to facilitate.
This is a representation of the chaos that goes on in my mind and body almost on a daily basis. What the last six months have taught me is to find meaning in this chaos. To “pause and smell the flowers” as India Fellow commune would say. To remember to do so and to acknowledge such moments. To be grateful to all the beautiful sunsets, meals shared with colleagues and good morning texts on my family Whatsapp group.
During the process of applying for the fellowship – in the application and the interviews, I was probed to think a lot about what it would be like to live in a new place, adapt a different lifestyle. While I was super excited for all of it, I mostly associated ‘learning’ with the field experiences and being a fellow in an organisation. In the last few months I have realised that a lot of learning is happening in my post-work life as well. From all the adulting, multi tasking, thinking and of course from catching hold of the special moments and experiencing them fully!