Wakin’ Up Is Hard To Do

The title of this piece is a reference to the classic Neil Sedaka song, Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do. There’s a Wakin’ Up Is Hard To Do as well.

This is a universal truth. It’s difficult to wake up each morning. I’ve met people who enjoy waking up, who are happy to be at the start of a fresh day, but I haven’t met somebody to whom waking up comes with ease. For me, waking up feels like rebellion. Every cell in my body wants to continue sleeping. All my brain cells tell me to sleep more too, but in an act of defiance against all of them, I push aside my comforter and wake up.

I was terrible at waking up at University. My roommate can attest to this. At my worst, I was a representation of Newton’s First and Third Laws of Motion. I remained at rest until acted on by an external force, specifically, my roommate. When said external force acted upon me, I simultaneously exerted an equal and opposite force on that body, namely, “I’m awake, will lie down for another 5 minutes.”

My history of being this human being goes way back to my school days. At that point, my mother was the external force I relied on. No alarm clock would ever work.

This pandemic, and the lockdown period, has seen a massive change in how I approach my sleep cycle – and sleep in general. First off, I’ve understood it’s value and impact on my life a lot more. My sleep cycle at University was non-existent, and being the kind of person I am, I thought that I’d be able to sustain that forever. It felt like sleep was just time spent not being awake, and not doing things, which is something I find difficult. A lot of reading later, I am convinced about how essential sleep is in my life, and how much having a regular sleep cycle can improve my days, and my quality of life. I’ve also noticed a significant impact on my mood.

Naturally, I’ve tried to sleep more.

The other thing I’ve been trying to do is become a morning person. Given how difficult waking up is, this has not been easy at all. It’s been a 3-month struggle, and it’s likely to be a struggle for quite some time, but I’m finally at a place where I regularly wake up before 6AM and stay away from my phone, actually get things done.

I always assumed I was a night owl, and I was most efficient at night. Now that I look back, I don’t think that’s fully true. I’m most efficient when I don’t have social media to distract me – which is late at night, when nobody uses social media, or early mornings – when it’s easier to stay away from social media.

What I find when I wake up in the morning is that the day feels longer. By extension, I’m beginning to feel like there’s more I can do each day, more time to seize, to relax when I want to, when I need to.

I’m not completely a convert though. There are moments, and days, when I’m up late at night, where I feel like Michael Scott, “I’m an early bird, and a night owl” – because I find it tough letting go of what now feels like it’s been a lifetime habit.

Maybe waking up will get easier soon. My new solution is to try waking up and smiling immediately. Subconsciously trick my brain into believing it enjoys this activity. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Colour Theory

Redesigning the blog and the newsletter with the help of a professional was a wonderful decision. For me, it’s added the splash of colour I’ve wanted for a while. Doing so was such a privilege, and such a fascinating experience. It was the first time I actually expressed the design that I wanted for something, and I’m thrilled with the way it’s turned out.

When I was younger and we relocated houses in Dubai, I was given the chance to select the colour I wanted the walls of my room painted. We had split up the house to give each member of the family the opportunity to select what a room should feel like. My mother picked out the colours for the hall and the corridors, cream-yellow and red. My father picked out an olive green for a single wall in the master bedroom, and I picked out a sky blue for my own room. I spent hours looking at all of these colour palettes available at ACE Hardware, and when the paint consultants visited the house as well, and I struggled to pick between specific shades of blue. Ultimately it was my mother who suggested that I pick a sky blue, given that I had dark blue furniture. I remember her saying it would provide excellent contrast. I agreed, without completely understanding what contrast meant. All I knew was that I liked the colour blue.

My sense of colour was very off when I was young. There are tales in the family of how I dressed up like a multicoloured rainbow, with some shorts that didn’t go with the shirt I was wearing, and different coloured socks that didn’t pair with the shoes I wore. I don’t think I did it deliberately, but I’ve always been the kind of person who wears the clothes that are the most comfortable rather than worrying about whether they combined well together – something that irked my mom for several years. I think she began to gain some faith in me when I went off to University and didn’t look terrible there – mostly just lounging around with different kinds of jeans on T-shirts, but ensuring no clashes of colour.

Picking a colour for my room in Bangalore was easy – it was sky blue once more, this time because of the contrast offered by my dark blue felt board, chair, and beanbag. We had decided, as a family, to have one wall per room with textured paint, just to highlight the wall and bring it to life – so to speak. I picked this spatula like effect, and wanted a dark blue background with a light blue accent, but the painters overruled us and convinced us that two light blue shades would go better. They didn’t. Of the multiple things in my room I may change someday, opting for a different paint scheme for that wall would be the first.

Given this checkered history, the opportunity to express my ideas of colour to somebody who would be able to transform it into something aesthetically pleasing was something I relished. Over the past couple of months I had thought about what I desired, and it was delightful to be able to communicate that to someone else. Through the process I understood how difficult graphic design and digital art actually is, but also the multiple opportunities for editing it offers. Mokshada, whom I worked with, made these incredible iterations of every design idea she had, and made the most minor tweaks to ensure it looked exactly like what I wanted. I loved how I could see the detailing come to life – it gave me a lot of joy.

More crucially though, through the process, I discovered my own biases. I realized I have a heavy bias toward bold pastel colours and watercolours. I have a huge bias toward anything that stands out on white – which I found very strange, given my recent affection toward using Dark Mode on pretty much every application I use on my laptop. I also realized that I’m not a fan of too much colour. Just a splash. It almost felt as though these biases were literal reflections of my own personality. There are some moments where I feel like I can be shades of whatever I choose to be, but for the most part, I prefer the monochrome. I also understood how incredible Pinterest and Coolors are, for inspiration. There are so many tools out there – and I know that one day, I’d like to be able to design everything my heart desires. It’s a very satisfying feeling.

The last thing I remembered while doing all this was something I discussed with my mom when I was in Grade 9. I had just started attending Model UN conferences and wearing formal clothing outside of school. One of the things that stood out to me when I was younger was how boring the boys’ wardrobes were. I told my mom then, that I really wanted to have an expressive, colourful formal wardrobe. The irony of going to law school and becoming a lawyer is not lost on me. Hopefully academia is more accepting of colours.

This is why I’m glad ties and lapel pins exist. And funky socks.

Anyway, the redesign is now done – and I am so pleased with it all. Long may this blog continue documenting parts of my life.

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. 

Goodbye, GNLU

Dear GNLU,

This evening you informed me that my seminar papers had been cancelled, effectively concluding our final-ever semester together. In the few hours that have passed since, I have not stopped thinking about you for even one moment. You and I both know that we will not forget each other, and that there are never really any goodbyes. Simultaneously though, we both know that we need the closure, to complete a journey we both embarked on five long years ago. I may never get to hear what you have to say, but I do know that I will wait forever for a chance to hear your voice once more. I don’t want to leave things unsaid.

The first time I heard your name, I was in Grade 11. Another one of your companions told me tales of the people you took in and the families you built. I learned about your tenacity – your willingness to push forth against the toughest of circumstances. I understood that not everybody viewed you the same way, that you split opinion, but that you were unwavering in your objectives and proceeded with them nonetheless. I heard of your swaying moods, your hallowed halls, your infrastructure, and your grey walls. I was enamored by the way your name rolled off my tongue, a single syllable when pronounced as a word, and endeared by how unassuming your companions were.

I just wanted to be your friend.

So, of course, you rejected me, and twice, no less. I flew from Bengaluru to Odisha, and Odisha to you so many times, I was certain I qualified for frequent flier miles. I understand now that perhaps you doubted my commitment. After all, I loved Odisha. In those three weeks, I settled in, made friends, and tasted Law for the first time. For a long time, you remained a distant dream. I thought of you when I went to sleep, and thought of you when I woke up each day. I struggled with an internal dialogue, urging me to try to strike up a friendship once more. I caved in, and I am so glad you opened up to me.

In the past five years, we have become best friends. We’ve spent eight months together each year, and even when we’re apart, I introduce myself using your name. We’ve organized events together,  and traveled around the country with each other. You’ve taken me places I had only dreamed of as a child. Literally, as a child. I was 12 years old when I fell in love with the idealistic image of the United Nations. You took me there. I was 15 years old when I first heard of the Jessup. You took me there too.

Most opportunities I wanted, you handed me on a silver platter. Timely internships, project resources, University-level debating, editing books, starting a blog. You just made things happen. You didn’t care too much about what it cost you, or whether I reciprocated your affection. You just made sure I had every single thing I needed to be happy.

You knew me so well, you knew I would enjoy trying things I hadn’t ever thought of – especially the food you showed me. Onion rice, Aloo tikki Chole, cheese paranthas? I knew none of these, but I love them now. Your favourite things became my favourite things: from music, to clothes, to the committee t-shirts I collected each year. You introduced me to your culture, your language, your other friend circles. You trusted me with that, and I am ever so grateful.

You helped me rediscover my passions of the past by reminding me how beautiful they all were. I was scared to quiz after Grade 8, yet, you showed me the way, sending along guides to help. I thought I would let go of Model United Nations after I left school, but year-on-year, you brought me back to a society of people I cherished. There were some things you couldn’t convince me about – public music performances remain one of them.

You remained my best friend, but you were never the jealous kind. You wanted to share me with people, and you gave me a community I loved. Across five years, you introduced me to people four years elder to me, and four years younger to me – so I always retained some inter-generational perspective (I cannot believe your new friends were born in 2003). I hope you never forget how blessed you are to have such a diverse set of people in your immediate circle, and that you forever ensure everybody gets to appreciate it.

Just like any other set of friends, you made an impression on me by imparting to me the strangest quirks. Today, when the electricity trips in my house, I long to hear someone scream “Shoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot” into the void. All text needs to be formatted and justified in Garamond, 12 point, and I have begun to love blue font in e-mails. I love completing and making citations uniform. I am hungry at 1:30AM in the morning, 6PM feels strange without prayer, and cricket on the television is not the same as catching a glimpse of the sport as I scurried past the field you had. I double-check my WiFi is connected once I log-in, and each time I move my laptop around my house, I double-check that I wasn’t logged out automatically. I am unable to use a toilet without double-checking that the bidet and the flush work, and the door locks properly.

However, in my opinion, you were not without your flaws. You were reactive at times, not as responsive as you ought to be. You were discriminatory, harmful, and hostile. At times, you were a bully, attempting to shape people in your image, not fully allowing them to find themselves and flourish on their own. You were judgmental and authoritative. Some decisions you made were without reason. Sometimes power went to your head, and you failed to account for the opinion of your friends, your custodians. I hate how rigid you were about “attendance”, and how much stress you caused everybody around exam-time.

To be fair, though, I was not without my flaws either. You brought out the best in me, but you also brought out the worst. When I made mistakes, I am glad that you called me out on them, because I know they will never be repeated. When I made mistakes, I am grateful you forgave them when you could, but took distance from me when you could not, because it was that decision that avoided us both more pain. Each time though, as you have with so many others, and as you will continue to do, you made it a tremendous learning experience that made me better.

You taught me so much, friend. You taught me about love, unconditional, and conditional, and about loss. You taught me about people. You taught me about the Law in more detail than I knew before, and about where my own morality lay. By teaching me about injustices, by showing me what they looked like, you guided me toward my understanding of what I believe justice needs to be. By helping me understand hate-culture and hate-speech, you taught me where freedom of speech lies. While I am grateful I learned them in a protected environment, a smaller circle than what the outside world is, sometimes I wish these lessons were taught another way, I genuinely do. Ragging, for example, is something I hope you leave altogether and wean all your friends out of too.

Having to split off from a romantic partner hurts. Having to split off from a friend hurts equally. This one is no different. It sucks that we’ve come to the end of the road, because I look at some of our happier times and I wish we could turn back to those moments and live in them once more. We both know that we’re past our expiry date now though. We’ve given each other everything we could so far. At least, I know you’ve given me everything you had to give, and I know I tried. I only hope you feel the same way about me. Just with other splits though, it is going to take time to adjust to a new normal.

After five years of letting you dominate my facebook and twitter, I will now have to resist the urge of sharing your posts on social media. Unless you do something incredible, which I am sure you will, repeatedly, and soon – you will have a share from me, and a public display of affection and pride.

Thank you for giving me a home when I felt like I was losing one. Thank you for being my physical family when I missed my family who were far away. Thank you for giving me the privilege of your association, and your company, which I will miss dearly.

Thank you for making me the human being that I am today. I know this is bittersweet since we will no longer be together, but life has a funny way of connecting us all sometimes. I’m fairly certain we will see each other again soon.

I know we are going our separate ways today, but please, never forget, I will always be rooting for you. I will root for you to succeed at everything you choose to do. I will support you to be better, to improve, to innovate, to progress. We aren’t going to be as close from today, but if you ever need me, I will be there to help.

I see the good in you. The bad, I see as your unrealized potential. That said, I’m always going to be proud I am your friend.

Love,

Tejas

Hair Maintenance

This is the longest I’ve gone without cutting my hair. I’ve explored my relationship with haircuts on this blog, here, for example, but it’s only when you don’t have the ability to get a haircut that you’re able to truly define what the haircut means to you, and what, in a sense, it’s always meant. As a child, my father instilled in me very early on that I ought to have neatly cut hair. At University, I often relied on my benchmates in class to confirm whether my hair was long enough to necessitate the solo trip to the barbershop, and sitting through episodes of a Gujarati sitcom I did not want to enjoy but enjoyed anyway. The frequency with which I had my haircuts dropped from one every month to one every alternate month. My haircare routine was simple. Oil my hair once in a week, maybe twice, when it was longer, and shampoo every alternate day – to help with general cleanliness.

The shampooing felt necessary because of how much I sweat at college. There’s a humidity in Gujarat that just doesn’t exist in other States I’ve visited, and every two days I felt unclean if my hair wasn’t shampooed – because it began to smell, or something of the sort.

Now, this long hair I’ve now grown, which somedays, feels like a mane because it’s grown out the sides and the back, and merges into my beard when I grow that out, needs so much extra maintenance. It refuses to sit in place and behave the way I want it to. The thing I’ve learned about why haircuts are necessary, for me, isn’t just the practicality of having shorter hair. It’s also about being able to let go of this weight that grows on us month-on-month. It’s the same with nails. Each time you allow them to begin growing afresh, you allow yourself the opportunity to let go of all the stuff that’s burdened your head for months past.

Now? Things are a mess.

Gated

The onslaught of COVID-19 has seen us evacuate the University premises and find safe havens elsewhere. After considering some options, as I had to, I have returned to my childhood home. Today’s my first full day back, and with my new routine and the task of managing household affairs, I feel like a regular neighbourhood Uncle. Minus the job to go to, I can, in my present state imagine a life like this.

Wake up early, go for a run, meditate, bathe, read the newspaper, eat breakfast, do some work, cook & eat lunch, get household chores completed, get to more work, cook & eat dinner, spend time reading, and sleep.

And repeat.

Today, on my run, all I could think about was how much I feel like I’ve taken the gated community I live in for granted. Growing up at least. I loved living here. Never complained about it or anything, but it feels like I took the amenities and facilities I was provided, and the comfort that I lived in for a ride. My friends visited me in my compound in May 2019, and a distinct thought they all relayed to me was that I lived in a resort of some kind. I’ve always maintained that the locality I live in is distinct and atypical of the rest of the city. You would be forgiven for forgetting you were in this city. It smells different. The people are different, the roads are different. The rules are different here. Within the gated community I stay in, things take on an even more absurd shape and colour. Squabbles are more petty than anywhere else I’ve ever seen in my life, and egos run high within a small community trying to get by.

It’s essentially a microcosm of any society, so to speak. I guess it just takes on a different sheen in this part of town.

However, the other part the run showed me was the protection this gated community offered. It was my safe place. It always had been. I had come back here on terrible days at school and let those terrible days subside. I had allowed good days to get better. I had used the community as a crutch on innumerable occasions, especially over the past five years at University.

Now with this COVID-19, this gated community offers no unessential human interaction, but a supply of groceries whenever you need it.

It’s the perfect isolation zone.