Home Court Advantage

Last evening I stepped onto the basketball court within the complex I reside in, ball in hand, to do some shooting drills. I’ve been experimenting with the idea of doing this over the past week, thinking about all the precautions I need to be taking while I’m at it. Speaking to friends about the idea gave me a lot of ideas, and taking the plunge felt great. It’s been about 3 years since I last played on the court here consistently. I used to try getting up before my internship and shooting hoops each day before I went to work when I worked at a place close to home. That was good fun.

This is the first time I’ve picked up a basketball in over a year, easily. Last time I played was probably April 2019 or something, where we had the interbatch tournament at University.

Shooting around for a bit felt really good, yesterday. I instantly felt like I had lost power in my wrist, and that I had to support the ball at all times with my weaker/guiding hand. I didn’t have the range that I did earlier at all, nor the accuracy. It was just me, the ball, and the court though. With earphones on, it felt incredibly blissful. It got me thinking about all the conversations I’ve had about basketball in recent weeks.

One of my closest friends from law school circles is a prolific, passionate basketball player, who studied in Bangalore. Just last week we were talking about the tournaments we went to, and we discovered I attended a tournament he was in charge of organizing, and he came to our community to participate in the inter-community tournaments our coach used to host (you can read about those here). So we met each other in Grade 9, and then probably came within inches of meeting each other again in Grade 12, but only actually met at University, and kept in touch ever since. He’s one of the few people I talk to every day. That discovery showed me how small Bangalore really is, but also how I may have just-missed so many people in my life in the past, only meeting them when we were both at the right place, at the right time.

Standing on the court made me think of that again. I’ve met so many really cool people through basketball, and my school friends and I are close because of how terrible we were as a basketball team, but how much we enjoyed playing the sport each day. Honestly, if you saw how seriously we took our games during the PE period, and during lunch sometimes, or even when we were messing around, I don’t think you’d think we were all terrible players. It got very intense. It’s one of those memories that you know you can hold on to even when everything you’re striving for goes wrong: that if you love doing something, the results hardly matter because the journey is far more enjoyable. We won only one basketball game as a school team, in 4 years of playing the sport together. We won a medal because we got a walkover. It was honestly absurd. We complained, became unmotivated, but continued going for tournaments anyway.

The other thing that came almost naturally to me was the drills themselves. I didn’t have to think about them as much. The movement was sluggish, and the scores were abysmal, but everything felt like muscle memory. Every single movement I made, every shot I took, and every angle I stood at felt like it came from someplace wired deep within my brain. Professional athletes must feel like this every time they play a match, what with the amount of practice they put in and the number of years they’ve practised. It felt mathematical and methodical. The drills my coach taught me were based on breaking up the shooting arc into parts and figuring out exactly what angle, speed and height you had to release the ball at to get that “perfect” shot.

The reason I enjoyed this so much was that during the initial years basketball coaching was offered within my community, I was the only boy who went for classes, and the only person in the “above 10” age group. As a result, for quite some time, my drills were separate. They were things I did alone, with the coach monitoring and instructing. This was especially true after classes when coach didn’t have to rush off anywhere else. He just hung out with me, and I’d end up going home sometime only around noon, when I used to leave home at 7:30AM for tennis coaching followed by basketball. Playing alone brings that back. That comfort of knowing so much is within your control.

It was beautiful. I may not play as regularly anymore but I don’t want to forget how much I enjoy the game. I don’t want to forget how much I gained from my home court, and the kind of confidence I feel when I’m home. 

La Madre

Dear Mother,

Yesterday was your birthday. Over the past two years, I’ve been in Dubai to celebrate it with you. One year we’ve gone to Bollywood Park and had a full day out as a family, and another we’ve gone out to a wonderful dinner to share in your joy. This year I was not there, and it’s the first time in a while that I haven’t gotten to see you up-close, behaving like a giddy child and excited by the smallest of things on your special day. I’m glad we did what we did though. The zoom sessions, a free-entry/free-exit policy! The entire thing made it feel like it was a real party. Staying online for the entire thing brought me as much joy as it brought you – mostly because I heard lots of your childhood stories, and people laughed along with you about them.

Every single year I’ve racked my brains to figure out how to make your day memorable. Appa and I have really struggled, especially after all the things you do for us. Let’s take this year only as an example. I was fully prepared to chill at home alone on my birthday, and at the most, consider ordering some outside food. I’ve been home alone for a while now, and while I’ve enjoyed it, you were perhaps the first to sense that maybe I wasn’t a 100% sure I wanted to spend my birthday alone. Chikamma, you and the family figured out all the logistics, Uncle came and picked me up, and I was with them the entire day. But it didn’t stop there. You gave me explicit instructions to stop doing whatever I was doing at midnight and log on to a zoom call with you and Appa. Then you showed a 10-minute video that brought me to tears. It didn’t just make me well up a little the first time I saw it, but I was visibly moved by it each time I played it through the day.

Usually, people make 1-minute videos. Attention economics premises itself on the fact that human attention is a scarce commodity, but boy oh boy do you know how to make me concentrate. You managed to reach out to friends: old, new, surprises – through e-mail, facebook, and Whatsapp! I feel like if I had friends where technology had not fully penetrated, you would have sent them a postcard requesting for their co-operation in this endeavour. You got family to participate, and, you put in the effort to bring it all together, with detailed instructions, illustrations, and learning how to use Windows Movie Maker.

This is not new. It’s just this year’s story.

Do you see how much pressure Appa and I are under?

Which is why I’m glad you take your own initiative in planning your birthday parties. It makes our lives so easy to know that you’ll be happy with everything as long as we follow your instructions and comply with what you’ve envisaged in your head. For us, I think Appa and I are happy to contribute in small ways – helping with your technical setup, proofreading the party invites. Who can forget your 40th birthday celebrations – where we had instructions to play the keyboard, and dance with you, and write a prepared toast!

Just you wait though. One day we will surprise you. I just hope you let us.

Happy Birthday, again!

Love,

Tejas

The Cousins

Over this weekend, I had the opportunity to spend time with two of my second cousins from my mother’s side. Most of the time I was with them, while playing with them and participating in everything they wanted to show me, I felt trapped in a bottle of nostalgia.

To understand this you have to understand my family, so I’m going to give you the lowdown. My grandmother is the eldest of four siblings. My mother, as a consequence, is the eldest of all the cousins. If I’m not wrong, there’s around a 15/16 year difference between my mom and her youngest cousin.

That carries through to me. I’m the eldest of my second cousins. I was born in 1998. The next of my second cousins was born in 2008. In those 10 years, I was the only “child” in the family. When I was younger, I used to take these trips to Bangalore for my summer breaks, and while I spent most of my time at my own grandparents’ house, I was essentially in community care: across all my uncles and aunts, and all the grandparents in the family.

However, there’s been a persistent nomenclature issue within the family – so my mom’s generation, for example, call some of their Uncles/Aunts by their first name. As a result, I didn’t append the usual “Tata/Ajji” to their names. Instead, I appended “Uncle”, or “Aunty”. So within the family, and I legitimately feel this happened purely on my mood, or what I heard around me:

  • I refer to some of my grandparents as Ajji, and Tata
  • Some of them I call Uncle and Aunty.
  • Everyone in my mom’s generation except my mom’s sister, I call by their first name
  • Everyone who married into the family before 2011 is called Uncle
  • Everyone after is called by their first name.

Are you with me? I feel like this would be easier to produce on a family tree/chart. If you’re not with me though, basically, I break convention when it comes to what I call people in the family.

Honestly though, this nomenclature thing? Not too much of an issue also. The only people who I remember complaining were the Uncles, rather, the people I called “Uncle”, pre-2011. Apparently, it made them feel old. For the rest, we’ve never discussed what I call them, why I call them that, although we’ve made fun of it a fair amount. The reason I think it’s a non-issue is that the respect is there. Just because I call them Uncle instead of Tata doesn’t mean I don’t respect their seniority within the family, or that I won’t listen to what they have to say with an open mind.

The reason all of this was important was that everyone in my mom’s generation was called by their first names, right? That’s also because when I was at my grandparents’ place, literally all the cousins would come and play with me, or hang out with me, entertain me, and indulge in every single activity I was indulging in. With the age gap at the time, even though I knew they were my mom’s cousins, I always felt like a younger sibling to them all. Before I went to meet my second cousins, I felt this sudden jolt of realization – that to my second cousins, the age gap is very similar. We’re in the same generation, but in essence, I’d be interacting with them with a similar age gap to when my mom’s cousins spent time with me.

So, of course, my first question was, what will they call me? Am I just Tejas or am I Tejas anna, or will I be called something else? My chikamma and I discussed this before I went there and we were both equally curious about this. This is because I’ve been away from Bangalore for 5 years, and prior to that, what with exams and all, I haven’t properly spent time with my second cousins. Never before have I had the opportunity to just go hang out with them and get to know them. While Zoom meet-ups have offered up the opportunity in the lockdown to interact with most of them, even those we’re far away from, nothing compares to meeting everyone face-to-face.

Turns out I’m Tejas anna.

We did a lot of fun things when I met them. We played a lot of Xbox, where they showed me their favourite games and how they played them (I was thrilled to be with a console again). I helped the younger of the two figure out how his elder brother was beating him on motorsport games (which basically involved picking the fastest car and the track he knew well – and not allowing them to play on any other track, hilarious!). We played a lot of Uno, where there was a lot of “rewinding” and reversal of moves. I lost nicely in chess. They showed me around where they hang out with their friends. Of all this, the bonding that happened over videogames, a hobby I’ve also only recently taken to, was the most enjoyable for us all. They play the same games I play with my friends, and they beat me at it too.

It was then that nostalgia hit the hardest. I discovered the wonderful world of computer games while sitting with one of my mom’s youngest cousins on his computer. He showed me Need for Speed, and at that time, burned me CD’s to take home, install the game on my grandfather’s laptop and play. I still have all those CD’s – every single one of them. He taught me the rules to Pool and Snooker through a game called Cue Club. He made me my first social media account – on Orkut, and him and his sister bought me a lot of Coca-Cola and Thums Up, and bakery snacks, while also showing me my first Kannada movie ever. During my teenage years I always wondered what 20-year olds took out of hanging out with people who were barely into their double digits. It’s now that I realize how much affection and love I was showered with when I was younger, and how, honestly – they could have pretty much chosen to do anything else with their time, but they hung out with me. I’m really hoping I get to recreate that with their children too. See, they’re cool enough to introduce them to all these games and everything anyway, so I need to figure out what “cool” thing I can bring to the table.

I also helped out with studies, if you would believe. Well, to be honest, of course I did. That sprung another round of nostalgia – for all the holiday homework I never did during my childhood, and how much all my mom’s cousins and my grandparents (all of them) had to try to get me to do bits and pieces of it before I went back home to Dubai. I was not half as cooperative as my second cousins, and I’d put everything off to “tomorrow”, which ended up being the last day of vacations. Procrastination is a key character trait, one that developed early, as you can see.

My greatest rediscovery of the weekend though was Lego. I missed Legos so much. I’ve written about Lego before, but it’s only when you play with it that you realize how much time you can just spend with Lego sets, and how creative you can get with them. We made a short stop-motion film with 10 photos of a whale, and messed around with Lego sets a lot. I think they must’ve built, from scratch, at least 6 things over the weekend.

All of this is about my cousins though. My mom’s cousins also “grew up”, right? As time’s passed by, naturally they’ve gotten busy with work and with their families, and I’ve been busy with things too, exams for the most part. The result of this is that after I moved to Bangalore, my contact time with them reduced significantly. I feel like I definitely saw them more – both frequency-wise and concentrated amount wise when I was on my summer breaks. So this gave me a chance to spend time with one of them once more.

That was nice. We recounted what has to be the most famous story within the family,  the “accelerator cut off” incident. This was the TVS Champ era, and in the electrical system gave way, leading to the bike stalling. My aunt carried me home in her arms, and went back to collect the bike from where it stalled. By that time, in my excitement, all I had managed to reveal to the public was “accelerator cut off”, complete with hand gestures. That’s remained an illustration of how articulate I can be when I want to. I learned so much more about them – questions I’ve never asked them about, about their hobbies, their interests. And of course, I got to meet my Uncle – someone again, I’ve met rarely. I rediscovered what an incredible cook he was and how much experimentation he did, effortlessly. That aside, I also learned about him and how good he is at videogames too. With adults whom I’ve only previously spent time with as a child, its the time now that I feel like I get to know who they are a little.

Too much nostalgia happened for one weekend. I also feel much older than I did before the weekend transpired. This elder brother/brother role, in general, is a new one for me. I’m curious to see how it develops. I don’t know who I’d be without my Bangalore trips, without all the time I spent with my extended family when I was younger. So many preferences were formed then: eating saaru, requesting for chitranna, gulab jamuns, and watching Test match cricket for the full day. I can’t forget some of the gifts I got at the time, including a chimpanzee that just hangs out with me in my room to this day. I’m so grateful, and it’s so nice we can all be a part of that, even if in a small way, for someone else.

Sporty Feelings

As an avid sports fan, I often cross over the line of respecting sportspeople and not hating on teams and persons associated with these teams. For example, I support Manchester United, and I am a fan of the Red Bull driving program, but Sebastian Vettel (and consequently, at present, Ferrari) as a driver. Consequently, for me, it’s almost a natural response to resent Liverpool Football Club and Manchester City, and despise the fact that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are winning so consistently. As a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, I’m extremely disappointed that another team has dominated the NBA for so long, and as a Royal Challengers Bangalore supporter, it is disheartening to see Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians do well year after year.

I’m going to focus this entry on individual personalities. Over the course of the last two years, as Lewis Hamilton wrapped up his fifth and sixth Drivers World Championship titles, I’ve grown increasingly disgruntled with seeing him win so regularly. I’ve watched a lot of videos, and with Formula One in particular – and this can be extended to several sports, there is a lot of effort put in by the team (in the construction of the chassis, for example) that complement the driver’s ability to drive quick. What becomes clear is that Hamilton’s dominance is down to there being perfect harmony, efficiency and success across both fronts. I noticed that I was getting frustrated at him for winning because Vettel was fading in comparison. I also particularly disliked listening to the “Get in there, Lewis!” that I was forced to hear at the end of pretty much every race I watched. In a very weird way, I found myself developing this feeling of contempt toward Lewis Hamilton. Similarly, when the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry was at it’s peak, I found myself disliking Rafael Nadal (a position that has changed considerably). Recounting a list of sportspeople I have, at some point, disliked, is far too tedious an exercise.

Essentially though, I’m fairly certain these sportspeople could not care less for my opinion. I am just a consumer of the entertainment they put on at differing levels of sporting talent and ability. So as Formula One is about to make a return, and with the things that have happened over the last couple of months, I’ve found myself wondering:  Where does my dislike stem from? Is it worth it?

This essay at its core will attempt to address that question. If you want to stop reading here, the answer is: No, not worth it. Stems out of strong passion for team/personality I support for sporting ability owing to playing style/success/joy received while watching said team/personality.

Essentially, like I’ve outlined above, it feels like any dislike I develop only appears after I develop a preference for a team or a person. Supporting Vettel between 2010 and 2013 was essentially not liking Alonso to win a race (despite knowing how talented he is as a driver). It doesn’t come from anything else, usually. Unless I see repeated instances of individuals and public figures doing things I disagree with: that’s another reason I usually find it difficult to like them.

The reason I think it’s not worth holding onto those feelings anymore, stems out of something bigger. This period, the coronavirus period, has given me the chance to really think about how I look at sports and entertainment and public figures generally. It’s become more evident now than it was before that these individuals have personal and private lives – lives that some of them have opened up to us, and some of them have left closed to us over the past few months. They’re all incredibly talented as sportspeople to be at the pinnacle of their sports, but it’s this personal side that’s really shone through recently. Holding on to the dislike, I found it difficult to understand the kind of projects that these drivers, for example, commit themselves to in their free time, and the kind of things they think about and express outside of Formula One. Something I noticed was when some celebrity I disliked expressed an opinion I agreed with on an issue, my brain seemed to switch on a “be wary” mode, that claimed “oh they’re doing it for the PR”, while an identical statement by somebody I liked already led to the “oh good on you for showing support” mode.

I don’t think that should happen.

Now, how do I reconcile this with being a sports fan with clear preferences?

I think I’m going to appreciate sporting talent more – become a little more objective. While this is hopefully not going to lessen the amount of passion I have for the club/individual I support, I think I’m going to appreciate talent and skill far more now. Offer compliments and say good things when someone I don’t support wins (unless there’s genuinely something to be ticked off about). What I’m hoping this will do is reduce the amount of distaste I have for them. It’s too negative a feeling to hold on to.

The second is to observe the kinds of things these individuals do away from their primary arenas if they choose to share it with us. A lot of individuals may do things they don’t share with us, but several of these public figures have public platforms – and they can use these positions to influence so many things around the world. A lot of them do, and I’m woefully unaware of those happenings, of the kind of good they’re attempting to generate with their spheres of influence. I’d like to follow that more keenly, if nothing, to understand who these people are more – because they’re just like us – they’re people. None of them have done anything directly to hurt me: so I don’t think I should hold any negative sentiment against them.

A recent example of this is looking at everything Lewis Hamilton did. I’m glad he spoke up when he did, and he’s got a lot of conversation in the paddock about the exclusivity of Formula One, which is already financially inaccessible to so many individuals. There’s a broader conversation about diversity it’s triggered off, and I do have a heightened level of appreciation for Lewis off-track for how incredibly he seems to have matured over his career learning from his past, and how he manages so many things at one go without letting them affect his main passions. I’d like to learn that. There’s also the six world championships which I have to admit come out of a level of domination we haven’t seen in a while. He’s in a class of his own at the moment.

I really don’t know why I’m trying to be so objective about something that incites so many emotions in me. I’ve cried when the team I’ve supported has lost Test matches in cricket. I didn’t sleep when the Netherlands lost the 2010 World Cup Final and I was supremely ticked off the day after India lost the 2017 Champions Trophy Final. All of those, however are examples of chances being grasped at better than the opposition. I’ve got to admire and respect that.

A large portion of this thinking is also inspired by “Hate to Love” on the Cricket Monthly, the AB de Villiers edition is here.

Take A Walk

Yep, the title of this post bears resemblance to the Passion Pit song. I’m sensing a theme with my writing in the sense that I tend to get into the rhythm of things whenever the story I’m writing about has a connection to music. Maybe it’s the rhythm of the song, the memory of the song, or even something as simple as the fact that this song is now playing on loop while I write this blog entry. Whatever it is, it works, and today, I’m grateful for it.

The thing I’ve been most disappointed by as a result of not writing regularly is how there’s no physical record of how I’ve spent each day in the last month. I love that about writing – about documenting. It helps me remember each day distinctly. I know I’ve been productive, there’s been a lot happening: spring cleaning, house repairs, a lot of thinking, and a fair amount of learning at the end of each day. It’s unfortunate not all of it was succesfully documented. Nonetheless, it’s integral that I look forward to all the things I will get to document soon.

Over the last two months, something I missed was the freedom of walking to places. I enjoy walking. When we visited New York, and when I took a trip through Netherlands and Germany, I was amazed by the amount I ended up learning about the city and the feel/vibe of the place by walking along the footpath and following a map till I reached my destination. I equally enjoyed exploring places with just the informational booklet and maybe an audio-guide with me, instead of tour guides showing me around. It just felt more organic, like my interaction with the environment I was surrounded by was not limited by how much another individual was willing to part with. So over the last two months, I’ve just missed the freedom of vast expanses I could explore – even paths I’ve tread on before.

Earlier this week, I had the first opportunity to step out. To do chores, no less, but step outside of my community by foot – to explore my neighbourhood once more, while taking the necessary precautions of course. I’ve never walked this stretch before in my life. Usually, I walk bits and pieces of the entire stretch – to get to a bus stop, or even go to the bakery outside the complex with my friends when they’re all around. I stepped out of the house to do bank work, and it was on that walk that I thought about how much the neighbourhood had changed since we first moved in. 

It’s getting closer and closer to 12 years since we relocated from Dubai to Bangalore, and something I’ve been quite vocal about is how protected I’ve been inside my gated community. When we first moved here, the place I live in pretty much had nothing surrounding it. The closest proper grocery shop was about 7 kilometers away, and you had to plan really carefully while stepping out so you finished all your work before getting back, just because of how inconvenient it was. The walk I took showed me the reality of today. Literally anything I could imagine or ever need was within the walking distance: from necessities like electrical supplies and staples (for which there are multiple vendors) to luxuries like bakery goods and fast food. I could walk and get everything I wanted.

I generally use my time in Bangalore to bring to  my parents’ attention that I wish I could drive our old Toyota Liva. I miss that car dearly. In the current circumstances with the coronavirus and the lack of public transport especially, I think the ease of access with a vehicle to move around (I could do with a scooter too!) was something I’ve brought up a couple of times, much to my parents’ dismay. It’s all a big joke – I’m very pleased they disposed of the car when they did, we had no immediate, urgent use for it. The thing I realized on the walk though, is that if we did indeed have a vehicle with us, I’d never take a walk like that.

It’s been a whole week since I took that walk, and a week since I started writing this blogpost. It’s the first post I left in my drafts for far too long, but actually completed, instead of trashing because it lost it’s relevance in my life. Since last Monday, I’ve taken these long walks every evening.

I love these walks. They get me out of the house, and they give me one hour to listen to an audiobook in peace, catch up on phone calls, and finish a bunch of other things I’d feel like procrastinating if I was in the house. Obviously there’s the fresh air and all that good stuff too.

The one thing I have mixed feelings about is that I’m becoming a pakka Bangalorean again. Three months can change you so much. Given the trope, I’ve generally resisted talking about Bangalore weather with people, even though I do boast about how wonderful it is on occassion. My roommate from college loves Bangalore weather far too much because of what his other friends have told him about it. Now, I can’t stop talking about it. I begin conversations with my parents every evening telling them how wonderful it is right now, how pleasant, how airy. My friend from Gurgaon tells me he’s suffering in some 40 degree heat, and I’m so grateful I escaped from Ahmedabad’s summer because here, the weather is the perfect representation of the Goldilocks principle. It isn’t too bright nor too gloomy. It isn’t too hot nor too cold. It’s bloody breezy, but it isn’t raining. 

It’s just right. 

Exploring Languages

This post stems out of a new course of study I am undertaking: the study of German. This is new for me.

I have some background to German and Germany. My father studied German for a short amount of time while in primary school and was fortunate to visit the country for work (he’s retained quite a bit of his knowledge today). My best friend’s mother taught us both how to count till 10 in German when we were younger, and I joined his family in affectionately calling his grandfather Opa. I can recall other bits and pieces, the 2006 FIFA World Cup being held in Germany definitely prompted an exploration into their history and culture, especially because it overlapped with being introduced to Adolf Hitler in our History lessons at school. I represented Germany at a Model United Nations conference once. Subsequently, in more recent history, I was lucky to be extended the same good fortune of visiting Germany and meeting some friends there.

Additionally, my study of the language is aided significantly by the years I spent studying French and the excellent teaching that I had which grounded my fundamentals in the subject and gave me the confidence to express myself in a tongue foreign to my own make-up. I cannot discount how much of a role that background in a prominent European language from the Romantic school has played in my exploration thus far.

At this moment, I’m roughly two weeks into lessons. So no, I am not a native German speaker, nor am I anywhere close. I do, however believe that if I apply myself appropriately in the next few months, I can gain the skills necessary to go on a lifelong journey of picking up the language. That’s the insight I have at the moment.

Additionally, of course is the fact that I am in love with foreign languages and the kind of things they expose you to. Outside of professional utility, I think studying foreign languages has opened up this window to culture and media consumption like not much else has. It was in school that I read Persepolis on the recommendation of my French teacher, and discovered Corneille, Jean-Baptiste Maunier (of Les Choristes fame), and managed to read Le Petit Prince too. Translated media rarely has the same impact that the original text does, particularly because I do believe there are no perfect translations. The meaning and connotations of words arise out of historical contexts and circumstances that are unique to individual/common cultures, and that is irreplaceable, as much as we strive to make it so.  

Turning back, however, to why I think I’ll gain skills to begin a lifelong journey into the language. I don’t think we will ever fully know languages. There are differing levels of proficiency ascribed to the skill at which one can use their ability with the language, and naturally other markers (exams and certificates to proof proficiency, and so on). However, even with our mother tongues and native languages – we will know how much we choose to know, and how much we each individually choose to explore. For the most part, my thinking happens in English. Taking that as my illustrative example, I’m on a continuous path of learning the language more and more – I learn new words even today, words I’ve never come across before. I understand the diverse manner in which these words can be employed to create differing effects. The ordered systems that make up a mode of linguistic communication are things I explore each day I think and use it. That’s true for every language I am exposed to.

Developing that proficiency in German, to consume more media, to carry out more conversations, to use it more frequently – I’m not sure where it will take me. I’m excited to see where it does lead to. I’m very fortunate to have a teacher who understands why I’m studying the language, who encourages me by pushing me to take to the language quickly, and more crucially points out my errors immediately and repeatedly. I am finding out that the classroom is the place to make mistakes and gain confidence. You’re just less likely to make those mistakes in regular conversation that way.

Finally, I’d also like to admit how much this lockdown has helped me brush up and rediscover languages I lost fluency in, while learning new ones. As I’ve chronicled before, the Kannada project is the big one I have going on at the moment. Side projects however, have included Spanish, Italian, and figuring out why on Earth I can read and write the Arabic script but not speak it beyond saying a few phrases. All I hope for is that I tick off more languages off my list.

This is not a sponsored advertisement of any kind for Duolingo, but I need to give credit where it is due. They’ve developed a fantastic, gamified platform that has so much additional content to make the learning enjoyable. The community side of things on the application is also testament to how much languages can connect us all. I’m glad it exists across platforms, and that I’m discovering that too.

The Writing Habit

This writing habit of mine is a funny thing. I say habit, but I break it every once in a while and end up coming to the same conclusions. At this point, this is probably the tenth time on the blog that I’m writing about breaking my writing habit and the kind of things it has made me think about. However, each time, although the conclusion is the same (that I need to write), I find that it is a different thing that triggers the break. Recognizing those triggers for me is as important as anything else I do, because if, one-day, I ever read my own blogs again, I’ll be able to understand why there was a random gap between posts when I considered myself to be a daily blogger.

So, why’d I end up on this break? Three things happened all at once in the past two weeks:

  1. Fear: I was talking to a high school friend of mine when I first vocalized this fear building up inside of me that I would run out of stories to tell, particularly given that most of my stories, and most of my writing revolves entirely on observations I make in a given day. During this lockdown I’ve been really fortunate to have found a routine that works for me, and I’ve stuck to it almost religiously, but being slightly confined, I began to get scared that my writing would reflect a broken tape-recorder, with the same observations about the kitchen, or maybe something else I found in the house, but not much else. My friend told me this wouldn’t be the case, especially because I notice new things so frequently, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by that. The realization I’ve come to now is that life will go on, and this blog has essentially always been a chronicling of the things I find fascinating on the day to day. Letting that fear stop me from writing, and this is something I’ve felt before as well, is premeditating that nothing story-worthy will happen in my life henceforth, which is simply not true. Life goes on, things will keep happening, so I shall continue to weave stories out of them.
  2. Longer conversations with parents: My parents and my family are the most ardent readers of this blog. It’s weird to think that now, especially given the kind of things I write about, but I’ve never been conscious of my audience while writing here – given that I am not writing for an audience in particular, so there’s never been a filter on content. Over the last few weeks, my parents and I have spoken for longer durations each evening. It’s a combination of things again, but they are free-er at the end of the day, as am I, and we have these free-wheeling conversations about everything under the sun. I usually end up telling them my stories, and they’re the best private audience to observations I’ve made throughout the day. Writing about them almost feels repetitive. In short, I became lazy. If a story is good enough, there’s no harm in saying it twice. In fact, I think my parents will get the preview to all future blog posts, because it’ll probably be one strand of the conversation that ends up making it here.
  3. Lull: The last two weeks have been a lull for me in terms of actual productive output. There’s been a blip. I’ve been consuming more content, but I’ve not reflected or written about it. In some ways, that’s because I’ve been changing up my routine – which has tired me out a lot. In other ways, it’s because I’ve not noticed where the time has gone. For example, it actually only occurred to me yesterday that I hadn’t written for over 10 days now. Inconsistency is easy to cultivate I think, especially without fixed, tangible deadlines. Hobbies don’t have those unless you really want to set them. Lulls seem a part of life as well, you know, but I think the ambition moving forward is to have stories in reserve – those longer stories that deserve telling when there is time on our sides.

Time to write away.