Memoirs

So Long, 2019!

Here’s to the ones that we got 

Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not 

Toast to the ones here today

Toast to the ones that we lost on the way 

‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories 

And the memories bring back, memories bring back you. 

(Memories by Maroon 5)

I remember bringing in 2019 sitting around the bonfire with my mother and two of my dear friends on the balcony of my family’s house in Jaipur. I can’t say that I have ever adhered to the social/anti-social dichotomy. Being one of those Cancerians who could just as well be the life of the party or a withdrawn marionette, I am highly selective about who I’d commit my time and presence to. I definitely prefer intimate gatherings over impersonal bashes, but don’t let this conviction of mine beguile you into dismissing the idea of me shaking a leg on the bar table of a town party if I am caught in my element. A friend of mine once teased me by calling me a grandmother stuck in a millennial’s body and I didn’t respond with a laugh because I was partially awe-struck by the accuracy of her assessment. I wouldn’t go as far as knitting a ball of yarn while situating myself atop a hot water bottle and alongside a scented candle. Well, you could replace the first with a whiskey-bonfire or a thoroughly browsed out Netflix list, and the sequence to my recipe for celebratory bliss stands unlocked. As I glide through the latter half of my twenties, I have grown more steadfast vis-a-vis this celebration mode that conserves body heat as well as energy while causing my inner enthusiasm to levitate higher than a kite. 

You get the point, don’t you? 

Okay, so this was the state of mind with which I welcomed 2019, urging it to be kinder and more leniently-paced than 2018, which had cost me a good chunk of my sanity owing to the various emotional and health-related hurdles that it intensely posed to me. Washing down a succulent junglee maas preparation with a glass of Scotch, I listened to one of my friends jamming at his guitar while my mother and other friend stared intently into the fire. You know, those gatherings that are unfettered by the formal compulsion to strike conversations and small talk? Those are my favourite kinds of gatherings. The clock struck twelve, we all wished one another, enjoyed a few more tipsy glasses before drifting off into deep sleep. And on that unhurried note, 2019 had begun. 

On its very last day, I look back in hindsight to assess the year that has been. Doing justice to its numerological order, 2019 served me as the most well behaved of all the teen years that have gone by, mature enough to take on its 20’s with a wisdom-tempered optimism. Slightly more sedate and yet not devoid of its conflicts, 2019 was definitely a year when things came around in a full circle. It wound up to assist numerous closures- internal as well as external. In enabling me to follow my dreams and passions, I also believe that 2019 helped me reverse age to a considerable extent. Personally, I know myself to thrive best in the gusty winds of freedom. Independence, agency and self determination use up more ink in our school text books for a reason- because in real life, they do not come for free. Well, nothing really does, but speaking of freedom and its components, they all cost us more dearly than our naïve assumptions are able to fathom. 2019 was the year when I mostly found that I had paid several instalments for my freedom that I would honourably cherish and duly savour. It taught me that work can seem purposeless if one does not know how to enjoy recess. That growth tends to be more nuanced when one commits to accepting their flaws and failures with a pinch of salt. That in the depths of despair lies a speck of humour that can be combusted into frivolity, and that oftentimes, this underplayed frivolity makes life more endurable. 

After executing a successful summer season with my team at our resort in Manali, I set off on a much-needed road trip to Spiti with my sister and two dear friends. I call this trip my pilgrimage for the solace and groundedness that it attributes to my soul. Immersing ourselves in the magical valley for an entire week left us contending with a withdrawal that lasted several weeks altogether. Returning back to normal life felt like a splash of dampened earth on freshly bathed (and talcum and moisturised) skin. Invigorated as I felt, I knew that the Spiti sheen requires an annual buff up and as long as I was fortunate enough to receive decent returns on the work front, I could relish the good fortune of Spiti year after year, for as long as it is destined to be. And with this optimism of the heart, I plunged into the monsoon season of trap shooting while also commencing my much awaited diploma course in photography. For the remaining part of the year, I knew that I would have to maintain the finest art of balance that I could muster. 

My favourite part of the Spiti trip- writing postcards from the world’s highest post office.

Just when I was gathering the energy and wherewithal to relentlessly chase my sporting and creative passions, I found that my autoimmunity was just as enthusiastic as I was and had caused a kidney involvement in the process. What this meant was that I would be spending the remaining half of 2019 undergoing in intensive corticosteroid and immunosuppressive therapy. 

Day one of my corticosteroid therapy.

Like Redbull, the corticosteroids definitely gave me wings. 

The unprecedented energy and zest to conduct my proactive schedule could only be maintained thanks to the much-needed push accorded by my medical protocol. Within the few months, I had successfully launched the sixth edition of my magazine publication- Rajputana Collective.

I had maintained an affirmative presence at photoschool, improved my shooting game, and had made trips to Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pushkar, Ranthambore, as well as one festive trip each to Manali (Dussehra) and Khimsar (Diwali) and several trips to visit my family in Jaipur. Whew! Yes, that was a lot of travelling but that which left my heart feeling full, because each one was centred around a cause (or causes) that I deeply believed in. Be it surprising a loved one to bring a smile on their face, or to present my entrepreneurship ventures to a larger audience, or to just scout the streets of a culturally-saturated town/city (or wilderness trails) with my DSLR. 

A still from my Kolkata trip.

While my road continued to gently rise, so did the side-effects of steroids. A gradually accumulated moon face revealed its proportions all too suddenly to me in the mirror and I became increasingly conscious of my facial appearance. So far, I hadn’t minded being the toilet seat sanitising, mask wearing autoimmune warrior, but the moon face warranted the purchase of oversized golden glasses that would help me contour my face to my benefit (a subtle trick that I learned from my bespeckled brother). And ta da! A giant pair of golden aviators from the wholesale market of Ballimaran, Delhi 6 came to my rescue and there was no looking back. 

Well, for a while atleast, until it was time for me to be weaned off the steroids. 

Having been on the highest dose of this medication for over ten weeks, it wasn’t easy for my system to cope with the gradual tapering off of the medication. Each time the taper-off takes place, the system is burdened to compensate for the erstwhile synthetic production of corticosteroids. Weakness, fatigue, body aches and brain fogs would ensue, until they settled down. But then, it was time to taper off the dose a little more. From 60 milligrams per day, I am down to 5 and will soon be down to 2.5 before being off the tablet entirely, for which I can barely wait. But while I do, I have contended the deepest abyss of existential dread that I have known, possibly owing to the re-wiring of physiological chemistry as it struggles to return to normalcy. 

Coming back to the purpose of this partially thrilling and partially harrowing steroid adventure, my reports returned to their optimal ranges and I can feel my kidneys smiling again! 

So thank you for being merciful as far as the health aspect is concerned, 2019! 

Contrary to my erstwhile do or die attitude, the medical circumstances (as well as several personal interactions) of 2019 inspired me to cultivate an appreciation for a slower pace of life when my body and mind demanded it. I learned (and am continuing to learn) the grace in unhurried and conscious movement. I am also gradually learning the distinction between pain and suffering- that while we might not be able to avoid the former, the latter was almost always a state of being that we could choose not to bring upon ourselves, all it took was to separate pain from a pitying thereof. The temporariness of a state, no matter how high or low, made me appreciate the endearing moment in its varying intensity with lesser attachments or entitlements. 

I have also begun to appreciate a life that is sanctified with the privacy that we owe it- to limit my interaction on social media within healthy limits. To conduct my personal life on a one on one basis sans any external validation from the world, because that story was mine alone to live as it unfurled. And sometimes, the most beautiful stories get to be ours alone to treasure. The understated charm of privacy has served to be a revelation in itself. 

In similar reference, I have derived a great deal of satisfaction from a simple exercises of downsizing. 2019 comprised of a lot of giving away, very little shopping, and extended periods of frugal eating to simply discipline my epicurean urges. Instead of impulsive binging, I chose to immerse myself in baking sessions to create healthier variants of what I craved while experiencing steroid-induced blood glucose dips. In the bargain, I discovered some decadent vegan desserts and low sugar alternatives to brownies and cookies. 

Pardon me for sounding preachy if you may, but wisdom (or pseudo wisdom) is a virtue that one inadvertently earns in the company of books. Speaking of which, 2019 was filled with several productive hours of reading. I have made peace with two facts- one, that Netflix (and Amazon Prime, Hotstar, et. al are overrated); and two, that my reading bucket list will always exceed what I can possibly read in a lifetime, but that doesn’t deter me from adding more authors, titles and series to my reading list. Amongst the several books that I read in 2019 (and which I carry on to 2020), here are some of my favourites : – 

  1. All The Lives We Never Lived (Anuradha Roy) 
  2. This House of Clay and Water (Faiqa Mansab) 
  3. Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami) 
  4. The Foutainhead (Ayn Rand) 
  5. Delhi Darshan (Giles Tillotson) 
  6. The Existentialist Cafe (Sarah Bakewell) 
  7. Infinite Variety (Madhavi Menon)
  8. Everything is F****d (Mark Manson) 
A morning read alongside oats pancakes and coffee.

The philosophical indents of these diverse reads intersected in the very manners that I happened to seek. Is that because as readers, we look for ourselves in the books that we read; and as humans, we look for ourselves in the people that we meet? The profound musings and open-ended questions that my intellectual pursuits caused me to make infused my creative confines with a liberating sense of imagination. The existentialist tugs by Bakewell and Manson could be granted with the due credit of inspiring me to conduct a self portraiture project as a part of one of my photography assignments. I was able to produce 10 black and white diptychs of myself from within the four walls of my bedroom sans any additional prop or light simulation. The Self is undoubtedly challenging to work with for the nature of its varying complexities, and also because a photographer doesn’t necessarily count as the ideal subject. 

A diptych from the self-portraiture series.

Intensive hours of reflection also entailed some semi-painful realisations vis-a-vis the lapses of the sensibility- be it in terms of loyalty, patience or discretion- that come what may, a lot of our people will disappoint us or let us down when we least expect them to. That no matter how indispensable they might have seemed, some will leave when we need them the most, but also that despite all that we lose in the fire, and the bridges that will burn, there’ll be those select few who will surprise us in their capacity, or rather resilient choice to stay. Over time, our self preserving instinct will learn to make them count while being wistfully attached to the ones that we were unable to convince or keep or both. And that in the end, we’re all just meandering on our respective cosmic paths that are ours alone to take. That in the larger schemes of meaninglessness, it is our personal quest to find meaning that makes this journey a little less random. 

My pre-2019 self could have unfolded a very different narrative to recall the past one year in its precise or concise glory, but my few strands of glistening grey wisdom compel me to claim an unwavering sincerity and responsibility in telling my story, or rather fragments of it, in a recollection that best resonates with the truest version of myself that I strive to achieve. According to Lorri Gotlieb, how we tell our stories narrows or widens or distorts our perspective. If I am to chart out a narrative which grants me growth and a closer proximity to the most authentic version of myself, I am also burdened with the prerogative of recollecting my past in a way that would lend to the future rather than thwart it. Instead of shaming or belittling pas versions of ourselves that we have outgrown or overcome, prudence lies in honouring it as a stepping stone in its limited glory even, in our personal metamorphosis. 

So despite its highs and lows, challenges and conflicts, would I prefer to have experienced 2019 any differently? 

I wouldn’t argue over altering the occurrences of 2019 to have panned out any differently, but yes, I definitely could have used some more patience and gratitude. It is this constant wish to strive to be a better version of ourselves that imparts more meaning to our growth. And what’s more, we get to turn over to a new year every 12 months, and despite the past chapters that might have been, we uncap our hearts to live and our pens yet again to write our story in a newer chapter or book or volume. We get to be the heroes, authors as well as the audience to our stories! 

Here’s to cruising into 2020 with an optimism of the will and purity of the heart! 

Happy New Year 🙂 

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