Pre-Term: Day #2

Today was a day of gratitude.

My morning went by in cleaning up my fountain pens to be able to inject new ink into them tomorrow, a nice Waterman Serene Blue for this term, and the foreseeable future. A few months ago, maybe sometime in June, I had discovered this lovely Pilot ink, the Iroshizuku, which had the perfect teal that matched the Cambridge Blue. If it was more affordable, I’d certainly opt-in to use that, but for now – and given that I have exams in blue, this seems best.

After replying to some e-mails I set off from my house hoping to return by 6:30, when the the forecast said the sun would be out.

This was the first damp day I ventured out in. To be frank, Cambridge hasn’t gotten terribly cold yet (it will soon, I reckon) – but the forecast was bang-on. It was damp and raining till about 1pm, when the gloom lifted and the sun came out. I was lucky that coincided with my plans – having brunch with a friend and coffee inside a church cafe with some others, prior to walking around the Backs to get to Eddie’s (that’s St Edmund’s College – where I’m based). A fun afternoon of exploring College, I left 3 books, 5 friends, piano-laden, and happier than when I arrived.

The evening, however, has been a highlight. I was able to meet somebody I had worked with and only interacted with via e-mail for three years and speak to them about my life, and theirs, and our mutual affection for common spaces. I’m brimming with joy about this – because I was a little star-struck, and I truly hope that didn’t show too much. In the night I met somebody whom I had only ever spoken to once, but somebody who helped me with my applications that I was able to say thank you to, and now begin to forge a friendship with.

There’s much I’m grateful for, but it’s this opportunity to interact with people I never thought I’d get to see in person that I’m most grateful for today. COVID has it’s challenges, and it’s important we all stay safe, but being able to set up in-person meetings, and some face-to-face coffees is probably how I’ll make the most of things.

Pre-Term: Day #1

I’ve been out of self-isolation since Thursday, and since Thursday I’ve been meaning to write about all of the things I’ve experienced, but I haven’t found the energy to sit down and write anything at all. My body really is not used to the amount of walking around I’ve been doing, so I find myself quite drained as the day comes to a close, which is testament to a few things: my fitness levels, and what happens to the legs when they spend 14 days doing nothing but laying straight. Therefore, with it being Monday, there’s no better time to begin chronicling things. I’m going to chronicle everything on the blog, that’s a commitment – from pre-term through each of the terms and the holidays. Where I write subject-matter essays though, I think I’ll name them different – if nothing, for ease-of-access and retrieval.

Since Thursday, I’ve had the good fortune of seeing different parts of Cambridge. Thursday went in walking to College and collecting my ID card among other things, and on Friday, I relocated to my accommodation, completing a recce of my new surroundings. On Saturday I met one of my local guardians, who came from London to spend time with me and show me around, while yesterday, Sunday, I spent organizing and unpacking a little bit more, and doing a quick run to Wilko’s to see if there was anything else I needed.

Today’s the start of International Fresher’s Week. I can’t really comment on what the activities are like in-person; Jake Wright and the other Camvloggers provide better insight, but this year, any group activities are limited by the rule of 6 (so we can gather in small groups of 6 at most in one area). They’re all opt-in, so you only attend the stuff you can sign-up for, and getting a slot at events is rather tricky.

My day began rather early, figuring out cycles and recording the podcast with Amma. My hostel neighbour from GNLU is studying at Cambridge with me, so we spent the morning doing some grocery-shopping, since he was out of self-isolation and I needed some dal. Along the way, we met up with other Indian LLMs, and a few of us ended up at King’s College, which is right at the heart of the city and sat on the lawns. I heard from someone that once term begins, you’re no longer allowed on the lawns so it definitely felt like a privilege. More than anything else though, I think meeting a few others whom I had met virtually gave me more joy.

The afternoon was wonderful. I had signed-up for a Really Useful Cambridge Tour, which promised history & utility – and did just that. Our group was rather diverse, in courses and continents represented, and our guide was a former international student (now professor), who showed us where to get good student deals on everything – some information I hope to put to good use. A lot of walking and a coffee later, we wound up at Jesus Green, where we had a picnic. Snacks were provided, which were wonderful (Yes, British Kitkat tastes different). What I loved apart from all the information was how enthusiastic a group of people were to make international students feel as at home as possible here. This was led by the Graduate Christian Society, and apparently under regular circumstances, they pick people up from the stations in and around Cambridge and drop them to their accommodation, providing hand-outs and some vouchers along the way.

There’s a lot to soak in around me I think. A lot to really appreciate. Today, I’m glad the weather cooperated. The next week looks like a lot of rain, and I’m not going to complain, it’s a fact of life now, but adapting plans to account for the weather is likely to be a challenge.

Onto day #2 of pre-term.

Moodle

Moodle is an open-source learning management system. Several Universities appear to have their own variants of Moodle, versions build off of the codebase that Moodle offers. Cambridge is no different. We’ve got our own Moodle, a virtual learning environment that allows us to enrol in courses and see all the material for our courses on a single database, in conjunction with Panopto.

I first heard of Moodle when I secured a place at UCL after Grade 12. UCL had us log-in to Moodle to communicate with the University, to inform them about impending arrival dates and everything. At the time, the technology didn’t particularly strike me. I only had access to the inbox side of things, and I was amused at how much the word sounded like Noodle, which for the most part just left me feeling hungry.

Late last evening, we received an e-mail indicating to us that Moodle was now open for us to log-in to, to enrol for our courses as students who wish to participate in the evaluation of the course, or auditors. I was too committed to a Pictionary night when I got the notification, so like most others who joined in for the game, I put off navigating Moodle for today. So I arose this morning knowing I’d discover something new.

Being in self-isolation naturally means that the feeling of being in Cambridge hits you slower. Moodle sped that up about two weeks. You log-in and see a smattering of repetitions and reiterations that you’re at Cambridge, and you can see details about all the courses on offer and the ones you’re studying, which for me – really grounded my brain in about the amount of academic work this degree is going to be. I’m certain all postgraduate degrees are the same way: a lot of rigorous, critical thinking, but boy did it hit me earlier than I anticipated it would. For a moment I was worried that perhaps I rode my luck a little too much during my undergraduate course but seeing reading lists and listening to Professors offer reassurances that prior knowledge is not assumed was rather helpful. In the least it will mean I can tackle the readings to gain foundational knowledge on which my term can build.

It made things very real, and for most of the rest of my day, I navigated Moodle to look at all of the material it stores and the range of ways it enables faculty to interact with us.

In the evening though, I had a puzzling thought. I wondered whether an attempt to create a Moodle would be ridiculed back in India. I look back at less-visually appealing attempts my own University administration made and all the various intranets we had, and I cannot recall being as awed by it. I’m fairly certain that unless forced to, we would not have used it at all. So why am I so thrilled when a University abroad creates an intranet portal that stores information?

My conclusion is this. I never properly utilized the intranet during my undergrad. If I had actually explored it’s full potential, I would perhaps have been equally taken aback. I know the library system at University shocked me when I realized everything was catalogued on our intranet and I could figure out if a book was available without walking till the library.

I missed that opportunity earlier, so tomorrow I shall wake up and navigate through more of Moodle and understand how it continues to survive open-source.

Living out YouTube

It’s now been five days since I moved to the United Kingdom. I’m still in self-isolation. In accordance with the NHS guidance, every day, I take a walk downstairs in my garden to get some fresh air. There’s a massive garden in the apartment complex I’m currently residing in, which gives me a wonderful view of the rest of the city while respecting my self-isolation restrictions.

This evening, on my walk, the prevailing thoughts that came to my head were largely centered around the fact that the life I will live and experience for the next nine months is a life that I’ve only previously seen on YouTube.

YouTube is a wonderful medium. I’ve expressed this sentiment before, but the true joy of short film for me is the perspective we receive. Watching vlogs gives you the opportunity to look at life through somebody else’s eyes, and documentaries and film always give you the chance to examine a character’s take on circumstances around them. I have loved YouTube for democratizing the content creation space for a long time now, and I’m grateful to have lived in a post-YouTube world for most of my childhood. I remember watching Ryan Higa and Dancing Turtle videos back in 2007, and the platform’s influence on my life grew massively when I was in Grades 9 and 10, largely owing to how much music I discovered there.

However, in that period of my life, I discovered several vloggers, and began to watch these videos of students in University towns in different cities. I claimed this assisted my research, enabling better decision-making when the time came for me to apply to University. In all honesty though, the vlogs were just ways of looking at different cities from a 20-something year-old’s view. I found the Oxvlog project, and Simon Clark, and all the Camvlogs and Jake Wright, which provided fuel to my UCAS application when I was younger. A few years later I discovered PaigeY, IbzMo and Ali Abdaal, who provided these wonderful views of Cambridge.

This afternoon, from my garden, I saw Spoon’s. The Regal Wetherspoon was a place Jake frequented in his vlogs, largely for dinner, and seeing it was surreal because although I was outside and rather far away from the place, I knew exactly what the interiors looked like, and what kind of discounts to anticipate once I showed them my student ID card. I saw a Nando’s and instantly Example & Ed Sheeran’s rap, The Nando Skank, began to play in my head.

This is just the beginning, but it really does feel strange to be in the locations I’ve only seen on YouTube. I remember in 2018, when one of my seniors moved to Oxford, my YouTube knowledge meant I knew about the closest pharmacy to her College. I used YouTube to learn about all this. My dad uses Google Maps. He’s given me some restaurant references already, and I’m sure he’ll know the geography of this place really soon, which I appreciate, because it means I have to explain less about my locality to him. It’s weird though. I’m living a YouTube life.

I’m not one for making films, but maybe this marks a opportune time to begin.

Dear Cambridge

Dear Cambridge,

At the time of writing, I have described your weather to everybody as British Test Match weather. When I was younger, I used to spend days watching India’s tours of England. I’d watch the day’s play and then watch the highlights. I’d pretty much be glued to the television till my grandmother came home and insisted I do something else. That passion continued through as I grew older. Since I started following the sport, there is not one season of English test cricket I have missed till date. Every match, I hear commentators say the same thing late in the day. Lots of cloud cover, the sun shining through in the batsman’s eyes. Ball swinging, difficult session. That’s precisely how you look today, and how you have looked for each of the five days I have now spent here.

Cambridge, you will be the fourth place I call home. Thus far I have resided in Dubai, Bengaluru, and Gandhinagar, falling in love with each for different reasons. I’m curious to fall in love with you, to find out why I fall in love with you. I’m curious to understand your character – what you enjoy, and what frustrates you. I’m eager to find out your story, your stories, each and every one of them. The folklore that birthed you, the myths that continue to help you survive, and the reality that draws people like me to you from far and wide.

You represent a closed loop in my life, Cambridge. It feels surreal being here despite the fact that I am sitting in self-isolation, because for years, I have seen your logo on my certificates as I completed my IGCSE’s and A Levels. I have seen your logo across International schools in the cities I’ve visited. I have repeatedly watched CamVlogs, and Jake Wright’s Vlogs on YouTube, and have heard stories from seniors about breathing your air and experiencing your grandeur.

I cannot wait to earn your trust and be your companion.

I hope you feel the same way.

Love,

Tejas

Dear Bengaluru

Dear Bengaluru,

This evening, your skies turned a dull grey, and ever since, you’ve been crying. It’s almost as if you’re preparing for me for where I will be next, as you’ve done ever since I’ve been done. I know the real reason for your tears is that you’re sad that I’m leaving. Believe me, I am too.

I’ve been struggling to come up with the right words to say Goodbye. For the past week, knowing that I’d be departing today, I’ve been thinking about how to tell you about every feeling you’ve given me that I’ll miss – and how to tell you that this isn’t really Goodbye, and that there are no Goodbyes. I’ve been wondering how to communicate that this isn’t a full stop, but a comma on a sentence that’s still writing itself. Each night I’ve come up short. I don’t have another night, and so I shall tell you how I feel, and I hope you feel the same way.

We were acquaintances till I was 10 years old. We flirted, yes – for a month every single year, but nothing really materialized. I don’t know if you believe in the stars, but I do, and I know that they weren’t aligned at the time. Every time we met I’d burst in with excitement and energy, and you’d sap it all away with your rains, the insects, the dirt. You’d tire me out with the traffic, the smell, the sound. I’d leave each time knowing I was going back to someone who gave me all the comforts you couldn’t offer. I’d leave each time knowing that it was not meant to be. You had bowled everybody in the family over, my dad included. Not me.

I can’t quite put my finger on what changed in 2008, but I spent a month flirting with you and I knew you were the place I wanted to call home. I knew, from the moment my world spun upside down and brought me to you that we would be okay. That we would last. To my idealistic mind, you could do no wrong, so I told myself I would try to do no wrong either, to prolong our association. There are forces in this world that are beyond our comprehension, and my pulse, when I saw you on that June evening, slowed. It steadied in gratitude.

So for the last 12 years of my life, I have tried to live with that pulse. I look back this evening and I know I have faltered at times. I was not grateful when you decided to give me the long road I had to travel to school, nor when you belatedly gifted me a bridge to smoothen my ride. Nor was I grateful when the closest grocery shop was more than six kilometres away. I know I did not display gratitude in my first year with you, when you offered up tempermental transitions in weather. Nor when livestock stopped me from getting deeper into your heart – the center of the city.

I know I was not grateful when Namma Metro arrived in a purple ribbon as a consolation prize for missing several anniversaries.

I look back tonight and all of this seems so pointless.

Since I was 10 you have given me family. Falling in love with you meant learning your history and stories, learning the language better, learning about my identity, learning about community – and gaining a stronger sense of acceptance from my family. You have introduced to me people I would not have had the opportunity to meet anywhere else in the world, and people whom I would not have wanted to meet elsewhere. People who loved you more than I, people who loved you, and lost you, people who begrudged you, who disliked you thoroughly. You seemed not to care what they thought of you, turning a blind eye to their opinion because of your love for them. You did swalpa adjustment, I know – but you made me find my place when someone called you overrated and I lashed out at them without hesitation, caring not for the consequences. When I left for short periods, to study at University, you gave me family there too – a family I love deeply, with whom talking about you felt like a Bengaluru Anonymous meeting, with all of us relapsing in the middle of the semester by flying back to you.

You gave me food and provided me shelter when I needed it the most, when I felt like everything else around me was crumbling away in the abyss – you were my anchor, my rock. Visiting a gaadi, eating dosas, chaats, and Corner House. You have given me a lifetime of exercise I need to do to get in shape.

You gave me your weather, and with it your soul. I know that in my first year I called it temperamental, but my goodness, you beauty. You have spoilt me for all eternity and I do not know if I will be the same anywhere else in the world, with anybody else. I love how comfortable you made everybody feel, exhibiting the Goldilocks principle in practice – you were just right. Not too hot, not too cold.

I have loved you so intensely that I am unsure if I will love like this again. Yet for that, I thank you.

I thank you because you were only the second place I called home – and the only place I thought of when I thought of Home. I thank you because you have set the bar so high that I am unsure if anything can live up to the billing. I thank you because you know, like you always do – that now is the right time to let go, and that you didn’t wait for the last night possible to say it. You said it six months ago, when you clinged on to me in the middle of a global pandemic and held on so tight, knowing that we’d have to part ways. You said it all when you allowed me to live with you and spend time with you alone, something I have desired for years now.

As I said earlier though, Bengaluru, this is not a goodbye. This is an au revoir – till we see each other again. This is a hogbarthini, because I’m just now only going – but I’ll be back soon to see you. This is a solpahottu bit siganna, because our time might be over for now, but you will always be in my heart.

Please be kind to everybody you take in. Please be yourself. It’s what people like I have thrived on.

So I won’t stop writing you letters, and I’ll keep calling your name. This isn’t a break-up of any kind, it’s a pause, I’m just switching lanes.

I hope you feel the same way.

Till next time,

Love,

Tejas

Four Boxes

Leaving University, particularly a residential University hits in different stages, I think. These have hit differently owing to the pandemic this year. Ordinarily, I believe, there’s the realization that you are going to relocate and move back home. That’s followed by an enjoyment of every last moment at University and hostel. Subsequently, there’s the packing up and the collection of provisional documentation. Finally, there’s the relocation and move.

I started my final semester knowing the first two – and experiencing the first two to the fullest. As I moved home (and packed up as much as I could), and classes went online, I tried to make the most of it. Truth be told, I hardly attended the online lectures, so my enjoyment about my days as an undergraduate student were spent wondering if my dissertation submissions would be cancelled and what the examination policy would be – and not much else. The last day of classes made me feel relief and a lot of emotions about the journey I had been on, whIMG-20200805-WA0004.jpegich I’ve documented here. Receiving my provisional degree marked the culmination of that journey.

None, however, have made me feel the emotions that seeing these four carton boxes made me experience.

You see, these four carton boxes contain everything I held at University within my room. Everything I had accumulated, everything I had shared.

Suddenly, before my eyes, was five years contained within four large boxes. All the experiences and all the memories presented and held in their most tangible form. Here.

And that was it.

Suddenly, all that would linger of me on campus was my name and the memory of me – not my belongings, not my presence. It felt like the last ties that connected me to the place I called home for so long had been severed. Not ripped off quick like a bandaid, which is how the flight home felt, but unwrapped slowly, like crepe bandage, leaving behind its own impressions on my body.

Before going any further, I have to thank a close friend for coordinating and liaising all of this with the packers & movers, and my roommate, for agreeing to everything so quick. It made the entire process feel so seamless. My favourite memory of this entire thing is being able to see our room one last time over a 1.5 hour long WhatsApp video call, where we saw everything get put into boxes and packed up – just as we wanted it to be. No confusion about stuff, no fluff. Thank you both for making that possible. Seeing that with my roommate was surreal because he had already lived in the room for a month before I moved in and almost turned the room on its head with my suggestions. Each year was an experiment in trying to get to the perfect orientation, and I’m so pleased we succeeded.

After leaving the boxes overnight, I opened them up the next day one-by-one. First, I was stunned by the amount I had hoarded. All my committee t-shirts and tags laid bare in front of me, but then there were the xerox textbooks and the moot compendia, all the stuff I wished to leave behind at University for somebody to make use of. There was the stationery, the memorabilia from competitions, and the gifts & postcards – birthday greetings from over the years. There was the care package I received in my second year, and one remnant sanitary napkin, from the hoard I had amassed from my friends in the girls hostel to help me with my pilonidal sinus in my first year.

There was my kettle, my trusty companion. An extra bottle of Vim. Some toiletries.

Everything I used on a daily basis.

Then, and this is what hit me most. There was the stuff I had “borrowed” from home before I left. Vividly, as I unwrapped the cardboard packaging, I remembered the day I had decided to pack an alarm clock. The day I discovered an excellent stationery manager for the desk lying around unused and told my mum I’d be taking it. There was also the stuff I had bought for home during my travels away: the miniature Delftware, some magnets.

That was all of it.

Suddenly home felt it had more stuff that represented my growth in the last five years, and less stuff that spoke of the more distant past. My room changed overnight, with law books entering the library and some choice pieces getting pinned on my softboard – reminding me of what had actually gone by.

The board examination stationery kit, which was the part of my room that made me feel like the house stood still in time, lay strewn somewhere on the side, now a part of a modern look that made home feel like the hostel, when I had tried hard to make the hostel feel like home.

All I needed to hear was unnecessary screaming as the electricity tripped, some loud music, some choice words, a whirring fan, and my roommate’s voice.

I’d be back in Ahmedabad again.

Until then however, this is another goodbye.

Deep Cleaning

If you’ve followed this blog, you must know that since news of the pandemic, and the pandemic itself spread, I moved back to my childhood home and I’ve spent most of my time here – barring a few days in May. While that has provided the opportunity to work on several projects and knuckle down to use the time as best as possible, it has also given me the opportunity to reflect on how I lived here while growing up.

I stayed in this house full-time between the ages of 10 and 17, moving away to attend University and returning only as a part-time visitor. As a result, I came back home to the house being in the same condition as when I had departed. My room even had my Grade 12 board examination pouch and all the copies of my hall ticket I had made. That prompted a lot of clean-ups.

While my approach to cleaning my room was defined by Marie Kondo and trying to eliminate everything that did not spark joy, cleaning up the rest of the house has been a bigger challenge. There are several reasons for this. First, I am not the sole owner of everything within the rest of the house. It is a common space, and there are attachments to those objects that my parents and other members of the family have. As a result, I could not be the sole judge of whether an object sparked joy – my judgment would have led to several things being disposed of, that perhaps brought happiness to somebody else at home. Second, I was not aware of everything that lay hidden around the house. I have perfect knowledge of the items within my room. Beyond that, is a world of adventure. Given how my parents and I have taken turns visiting the house, it was difficult to actually collect information on what was located where, and what category of items I may find in a particular spot. Third, I did not know where to start. The house is the perfect size for our family, but when it comes to storing items – and cleaning, it suddenly starts to feel very, very big. I felt this way for the first couple of days in April where I fended for myself and did all the brooming/mopping. It is overwhelming.

I had to figure out a fresh approach.

I spent most of April and May thinking about what I wanted to clean-up/fix, deciding the areas of improvement I could see for the house and discussing strategies with my parents. We figured out how to tackle each of the problems I listed. Since transplanting the Kon-Mari method here was futile, we decided to prepare an itemized list of the big items so my parents could make a joint decision on the same, based on why the object was with us. The smaller ones, I had agency over. While discussing this, we realized that it was not necessary to know what I would find prior to cleaning-up, but that I would have to adapt my cleaning-up method as I went along and discovered new items. This meant localizing the clean-up and fixing particular areas to clean – emptying every cupboard out, and then segregating to clean up. Finally, I decided to take control of what areas of the house to clean, by asking myself: what caused me the most angst? It felt like a natural consequence of this would mean that when that place was cleaner, I would be less angsty, and happier. That led to three places: the kitchen, the guest bedroom, and the bureau.

I started with the bureau. It was closest to my room, and so meant that I could return to the sight of a clean space within an instant when I passed by a mess. The reason the bureau frustrated me was that there were way too many things we no longer used or required, and they were all over the place. It took me two weeks to clean the bureau, which yielded a large amount of electronic waste but provided the opportunity to examine more closely two parts of my parents’ lives I had no involvement in: the foundation years in their relationship, and their academic study. The first was just really lovely because it prompted a discussion on how much my parents valued letter-writing and how that has translated to e-mail. The latter showed me why my parents placed expectations upon me: their own credentials, experiences, and efforts in getting their qualifications. It was lovely to find their dissertations, read them – and try to get them to remember stories from their University days, just as I came to the close of my own journey. There are photos from that time where my father, in his early 20’s, looks exactly like I do today – minus the glasses, which was fun to look at.

Then I moved on to the kitchen. I couldn’t really clean much, but what I really wanted to do was to look at the appliances and try to get them all working. To my parents’ and my dismay, we had to let go of our oven, but the microwave was repaired. That was sufficient. It has helped me cook potatoes quicker, and I imagine that my chili con vegetales would have cooked faster if I had it in April. That was a quick job – not too much effort, and a useful break before taming the giant.

The guest bedroom.

There was a lot to work through here because it was delightfully clean on the outside, but I had to organize the cupboards and I had no idea where to begin. It’s why (apart from work), it took me a month to actually finish up. I finally managed to segregate all the materials into four distinct categories for the ease of my parents’ access, and sort out things that did not possess utility any longer (for us), to give to society.

I don’t know if you can tell (you probably can), but my enthusiasm to clean-up started out really high, and tapered off as time went by and I understood the magnitude of the task I had taken up. I’m glad it’s done now, to be honest.

There is a lot I’ve learned, however. Deep cleans are worth it. If nothing, they teach you how to better appreciate what you have, while giving you the opportunity to evaluate whether there is somebody else in this world who may be able to use the same in a better way. That process itself is extremely rewarding because it really puts into perspective two things. Privilege, and priorities.

Couldn’t have managed this without my parents’ trust – and I’m really hoping I haven’t disposed of something they value. I think I’ve scared my mother that I may have.

Time-Tabling Hobbies

Yesterday I wrote about how much not having clear time-tables affected how I measured progress on my hobbies and my passion projects. Today was devoted to rectifying that by plugging the gaps that existed within my time-table for the past two weeks and trying to craft a schedule that would allow me to get back to looking at how I was engaging with the things I am passionate about.

I feel like I’m constantly trapped in this state of combating my desire to enjoy hobbies as they are in the present along with my aspirations of engaging with my hobbies more deeply.

For the time being, I think I have resolved that conflict by creating goals – where I want to see myself with all of these passion projects, and trying to figure out how I can get to that level while having the most amount of fun.

Striking this balance is really proving to be tricky.

Losing OneNote

Over the last two weeks, I had to knuckle down and focus on a singular project that consumed me. While I did relax, and carry out other leisurely activities, most of my work time was taken up by this individual project. As a result, I didn’t really feel like I needed the daily planner I usually used on OneNote. I relied on an approximation of what the day needed to look like to slot out the time I had on hand and figure out how best to spend it. I used my whiteboard to keep track of anything that came in which demanded priority. Speaking to my parents and recounting my day to them helped me keep check of whether I had actually done what I set out to do. I completed the project I had to complete, but in the process, not using OneNote for 14 days, after using it religiously for 6 months felt like quite a shock.

I didn’t see any impact of this move on my habits – because I think they’d formed by then already. As a result, I still woke up early, tried exercising a little each day, played my instruments and learned new things. I didn’t notice a dip in my happiness – which was very gratifying in a sense. One of the fears I had with daily logging is that I’d associate all my happiness with ticking things off a list, but it was nice to know that I was able to keep myself happy without searching for an external validation or metric/measure of that joy.

One of the things I did observe though, is that I have no record of how I’ve progressed in the last two weeks on some of the bigger things I want to do with my time.

For me, what I’ve taken comfort out of in the last four months or so is being able to track how I’m doing against the kind of things I want to be doing. Some measure of progress of some kind. I never felt anything out of this, but it helped me see how much the small things I did on a daily basis led to immense learnings in the long-run. The guitar, for example –  I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate how much 15 minutes of one activity daily could influence a larger goal as much if I didn’t keep track of it.

That’s what I’ve missed in the last two weeks. I can roughly say I’ve made progress, but on what – and how much? I have no clue.

It’s nice that I’ve hit reset at the start of a new month. Back to OneNote I go.

Writing Fatigue

Over the last two weeks, my time has been spent writing applications of different kinds. As a result, I haven’t blogged about anything. Most days I’ve felt like there hasn’t been anything to write about, but on the days where I felt I did have a story to share, the amount of energy spent on writing application essays, or e-mails drained me. I haven’t experienced that as much in the past three years. When I started out this blog, I felt like I’d never tire of writing, or of sharing. Yet now, spending so much time in front of my computer, with my keyboard, I do feel drained.

There are different ways to address this I suppose. Taking time away from writing has helped me out in the past, and there’s nothing to suggest that won’t work this time around. However, there’s also the other angle to everything – that if I don’t write, and I continue to use my fatigue as an excuse for not writing, I may perpetuate an everlasting cycle of not writing at all. That wouldn’t sit well with me, particularly given my affinity for attempting to catch my rainbows with this blog.

Naturally, I’m going to force myself back into my writing.

I’m also doing this because I’m acutely aware of what the next month might bring with it – and it’s not something I want to leave uncaptured.

Four Months On: Learning the Guitar

In April, I wrote about beginning to learn the guitar through daily lessons with my best friend. In the past four months, the longest gap between lessons has been three days. Earlier this week, he flew back home, and we relived that gap of three days without speaking to each other. That break gave me an opportunity to think about where the last four months have gone musically, and all the things we’ve covered since.

My best friend and I messaged each other on WhatsApp fortnightly across my five years of law school. We never really spoke much over the phone, but the pandemic changed all that, and we’ve been speaking every day. Aside from the amount I’ve learned from him, the thing I’m most grateful for is the conversation we have each day. In a very strange way, the world placed us both in similar circumstances for a short duration – both away from our parents, desirous but unable to travel back home, figuring out living alone in these times. Daily conversation provided insight into who we were as human beings, and after 12 years living away from each other, it appears as though not much has changed between us at all. We’re both pretty much still peas in a pod, insofar as we struggled for about a week, recognized the need to develop a routine, and then set about creating that out for ourselves. It’s been a lovely reaffirmation of something I knew about our friendship already.

Turning now to the guitar, or broadly, musically.

The last four months have been really transformative. I started with the guitar just knowing I wanted to be able to strum along to songs I like listening on the radio, went through a phase – and a realization, that I could leverage the classical music I have learned to learn classical guitar as well, and finally, have reached a point where I just want to enjoy the instrument and continue to learn daily. Through all of this, my best friend, and teacher, has been the most supportive guide I could have asked for. At no point did he think I was grasping at straws beyond my reach. There have been points I’ve been over-ambitious, I think, but we’ve figured out how much time it takes me to learn a new skill with the amount of practice I put in, and we’ve amended expectations accordingly.

He’s also been incredibly patient with mistakes I’ve made and expressions of my thoughts about the instrument. We’ve approached lessons with the idea that I should be enjoying/playing songs all the time to learn more, and as a result, I’ve always been working on learning songs alongside the technical side of things.

The trip he took back home gave me the opportunity to sit and learn songs that I could perform for him, and this afternoon, I played a full song – with some out-of-tune singing, for the first time for him. It wasn’t too shabby, I was pretty thrilled, and more than anything else, for me – it was a really nice opportunity to look back at what we’ve accomplished over the last couple of months together. The song I sang, Kabhi Kabhi Aditi, has this wonderful line that says, gaana toh aata nahi hai magar phir be hum gaate hain”, which is basically, “I don’t know how to sing, but I sing anyway”, and that’s pretty much how I felt throughout.

Over the last month, what I’ve enjoyed the most is that the focus in our teaching-learning has moved onto the theory side of things. We’re covering scales and more chords now, and talking about more music theory, which has coincided with my own preparation for higher music theory grades.

On the piano side of things, I’m reasonably comfortable with what I’ve done in the last couple of months. Slowly but surely, I’m working towards a repertoire that will help a music teacher identify where I’m at in my piano journey, so when I’m in a single place for a long amount of time, I’ll be able to pick up from that level. One day I will give those examinations as well. I’ve been working on sight-reading a lot, and listening to classical music along with the orchestral scores, just to better understand how much is going on in a piece. It’s been very, very rewarding.

I can’t wait to see where I go with music next, and a lot of it is down to how much joy my best friend has managed to bring to me by making it seem effortless, enjoyable, and not something to be stressed out about at all.