26 Feb

The long life of things one leaves behind…! I’m still taken aback by how my first (and now lonnnggg dead) blog continues to get new visitors, who subscribe and leave comments (and don’t read, clearly! Because I do state I’m moving on…). Granted, many of the comments are by spambots, but every now and then an actual human will leave behind a response to a post, mostly the music posts. This is doubly surprising for me because blogs simply don’t occupy the kind of space in imaginations and practices of internet users today like they used to. Most of the younger folks are on the latest short-form social media platform, many of my generation and the older ones I used to read have switched almost entirely to Facebook and Instagram and podcasts and Youtube. Bloggers that continue to blog frequently do so because it’s part of their personal brand or business. The life of the internet and internet things is certainly fascinating!

But it’s not just the internet…things that one builds and leaves behind in time… Tiny gestures or interactions that one might have had and forgotten all about…none of these ever disappear. Every thing that is created, remains. It may change shape and form, but it cannot disappear into nothingness. It’s been a long time since I formally studied Physics, but that’s the essence of energy, too, right? It cannot fail to exist, once there. So too teaches esoteric metaphysics in its understanding of energy.

If we lived our lives knowing that every breath we exhaled, every word we spoke, every thing we touched was forever, gently, playfully alive ever after, what would change? What could change?

21 Feb

I have zero self-control around packets of chips. Whenever deliveries arrive with the inevitable 4-6 packets I order ‘for the month’, they are gone in a day or two :-/ However, since I’m still resorting to deliveries-can’t see myself being able to make the switch to my normal mode of shopping until this period of dissertating ends-it atleast means that I can’t top-up the ‘monthly stock’ by walking to neighbourhood shops.

February has been quite a bit better than January (and now I’m curious enough about a potential ‘January phenomenon’ to be tracking it for a few years). I’ve got a bit more work done, I’m feeling less shitty, and I’ve also been out and about a bit B-) However, a lot of very intense work is still called for, since one of my supervisors would like to see everything by mid-March.

I’m doing what I can to make it work. Cutting down on my original, more elaborate plans. Trying to sit down with work first thing in the morning (even if I only write a few words or a para), so that I build the momentum early and have something to resume, as opposed to start from scratch, after brunch and a beverage. (Oh yeah-I brunch now. Saves time.) Working with a friend twice a week. Using technology-there’s a wonderful online community of grad students out there, and Youtubers who livestream study sessions. However, because my brain isn’t firing on all cylinders as yet (the last it did so was in December 2020), and my heart isn’t in tune the way it was last year, I’m not covering the kind of ground that I usually would in that mode. But I’ll keep plodding on.

30 Jan

January ends tomorrow and, regrettably, I have not achieved much by way of dissertation writing, or even having fun. I have lived most of this month without my 2020 perspective (see what I did there? 😉 ), and have been facing, not very well, the resurfacing of old fears and anxieties about the future, including wondering about what in the world I’m going to do to earn an adequate living. The test of my (privileged) pandemic-life endurance will probably come this year, unlike most people, for whom it came last year. I’m always late for everything :-/

This is the longest I’ve ever gone without seeing my family. I’m now positively aching for a few cafe days, or even a cappuccino. A bus journey. Airports and airplanes. I miss Delhi, and walking around CP. I miss walking around my favourite Kolkata neighbourhoods. I miss Dakshineshwar.

I’m wondering, again, whether my creative plans and ambitions are foolish and unreasonable. I’m wondering where all my confidence in my abilities came from last year. I’ve been almost self-flagellating myself back into my auqaat.

But what even is anybody’s auqaat if not the expanse of the entire universe itself? We take up the space we think we deserve, and it’s okay to be reminded every now and then of just how fiercely our little selves try to limit us. Being confronted by the limitless expanse that is freely available to our selves can be frightening. Illogically so (one would imagine that we’d grasp happily at limitless growth!), but for most of us, inevitable. The older I grow, the better I understand why the caged bird hesitates to leave the safety and familiarity of the open cage.

Many years ago, in my early twenties, before I knew my mind and inner world adequately, I was once frightened by a reaction I had while facing the expanse of the sea from the beach, waves lapping at my knees. As I looked at the horizon, my friends some distance away having a whole lot of fun in the surf, on a beach where we were the only ones there, along with a few fishermen, I realised I had a strong, strong desire to keep walking further and further into the sea. In that moment, it frightened the hell out of me, because obviously, endlessly walking into the sea would produce death. Did this mean I was suicidal??

Now I know that it was the very opposite; far from being a death wish, it was a yearning for the eternal, a desire to merge into the infinite- physically embodied sometimes by oceans and mountains and skies- is the natural response of the soul that sometimes expresses itself in us, despite ourselves.Whether we are alive to the presence of that eternal, unchanging soul or not. We keep seeking many things in life, but nothing satisfies fully, short of the merging into the infinite.

I take hope in the knowing that our fleeting glimpses and experiences of the limitless expanse and the infinite, and every soul’s deep desire for it, means that we will continue struggling against shrinking ourselves into sizes we think we ought to be. Sometimes we’ll be able to struggle harder, sometimes the fight will be weaker; but, enticed by what lies at the end of it, on we’ll keep struggling, and on and on. And in so doing, realise that joy is threaded to the process itself, and is not withheld till the finish line.

I’m now one month behind on the two chapter deadline, and frightfully behind on multiple household tasks. However, perhaps I can take comfort from the fact that even though I’m not writing as fast as I need to, whatever I have written, I’m satisfied with. And that it is already longer than I thought these two chapters would be. It is fruitless to be impatient with myself and frightened when I’m unable to stick to the timelines I need to. I have to have faith that the writing will flow in its own good time, and that whatever time I have left is always going to be the time I need.

22 Jan

…yep, I was wrong about being in the clear with my article having been accepted. ‘Accepted’ here means end of peer-review process, and my reviewers have taken longer than the time they are supposed to. Can’t blame them, pandemic and all. But that means, I’m invited to the panic party again.

Oh well, for now there’s nothing I can do about it. Even if I can magically rustle up another article to send out, no journal is going to be able to work faster than this.

So I have just got to put my head down (what was the phrase again…), and power out the 2 much delayed chapters. This entire thing is going to be one wild ride till Summer 2021.

21 Jan

I just learnt that I’m actually not yet out of the woods with regard to meeting the requirement for publication before I’m eligible to begin the process of submitting. Eep, I think I said, already.

I thought entering the peer-review system in a journal was enough. But, and I’ll know for sure by tomorrow, it looks like the end of the peer-review process is the enough I’ll actually need (after the reviewer + journal is happy with your changes and confirming publication) . That takes time. Double eep.

19 Jan

I’m not 2021-ing very well so far. And I’m 19 days behind on my 2 chapter target, eep!

3 Jan

I usually like to do an end of the year rounding up kind of post, where I recall and remind myself of the progress I’ve made, on the PhD, and other stuff. It is a useful thing to have written down in one place when I’m trying to remember where the year went. Well, two places, here and my journal. It’s even come in handy when I’ve had to suddenly update my CV for a thing I’m applying to, or submit progress reports to my University. So, here goes, at end of the first weekend of the new year, short version-

PhD:

  • Began two drafts of potential journal essays. Eventually submitted one, after a lengthy process (had it returned by the editors with comments, heavily reworked the piece, and successfully re-submitted; it’s now in the peer-review system, after which, best case scenario, I’ll have some more reworking to do), and am using the second (much more interesting) one in a chapter.
  • Became much better acquainted with the whole eco-system of indexed, peer-reviewed journals and academic publication. Turn-around times, genres of work accepted, reputable paid journals versus less reputable paid journals, amongst other things. It’s a frightening world, with often systems unfair to scholars and first time authors on tight deadlines, with a few bright beacons, one of which is the journal I’m trying to publish in.
  • Re-discovered the network of fellowship that exists amongst some fellow-scholars, when I reached out to a couple of more seasoned scholars to enquire about journals with quick turnaround times that might be interested in accepting an article like mine, if my journal of preference did not work out. Whilst there are some who are highly competitive and secretive, there are others who are generous with their knowledge, networks and in sharing what they know owing to their seniority. May their tribe thrive!
  • Had a journal reach out to me (!), asking if I’d be interesting in reviewing a submission they’d received in my area of work. Not going to lie, that felt really validating! The editor and I knew each other from two conferences, one of which we’d both presented at, so they knew of my research. (Couldn’t take it up though- I didn’t feel ready, and also I was on too tight a deadline myself with my journal article to risk taking this on while doing a good job of it.)
  • Applied for and received the final, final extension allowed by my university, along with the rest of my batch.
  • Began to make headway on the fieldwork chapters, towards the end of year, and am watching it fall into place unexpectedly, and better than my original plan (thank goodness).
  • Had multiple very supportive interactions with both my supervisors, about the project, and also the article, one of who went out of their way to give me detailed comments and suggestions on two versions of my journal article draft. Supervisors do not usually do this.
  • One of the most important PhD related things that happened was ofcourse internally receiving the indication to push on and finish. It was definitive, and made all the difference. I now feel reasonably certain that I will be able to submit.

Spiritual:

  • Had multiple opportunities throughout the year to practice the intention I’d set for the year- to surrender to exactly where I was (rather than fighting it), and worship and carry out my practices from there.
  • Began a daily meditation routine from end-Feb, which is now officially the longest, unbroken streak of meditation I’ve managed since 2012. This feels like a landmark. While I’ve barely practiced my proper techniques this year (intensity, and not technique or duration was my criteria), the daily habit feels deeply entrenched. Which is huge, given how much I’ve struggled to establish regularity since 2012. I feel I can build on this, going forward.
  • Finally began my Kriya practice, a little more than a year after receiving my initiation. I’ve been highly irregular, and I don’t think I’ve managed a session since Guru Purnima, but nonetheless, this is a significant landmark in my personal practice. I was taken aback, to put it mildly, by the additional deepening the technique enabled. Again, this feels like something I can now build on, rather than having to work at breaking ground.
  • The events of the year, and the blessings that abounded because of it, ensured a deepening of attunement and relationship. I began to understand better what it means to draw on Guru and God to do stuff that I had no strength for. (And that is my intention for this year-building on that, practicing drawing on that strength, and that joy, at will, for tasks that I usually find difficult.)
  • Did a bit of regular Pranic Healing for the first half of the year.

Other life stuff:

  • Lived alone for a year, handled whatever had to be handled by way of housework etc, and enjoyed it. It’s good to know I can do this.
  • Worked on a fundraiser.
  • Did two stints of the good freelance work, and a short stint of the less pleasant one. A total of four and a half-ish months.
  • Wrote a lot, arrived at my public writing voice, put more of my writing out than I possibly ever have, and also published two pieces. Nothing fancy, but I was satisfied with both pieces, and atleast the journey’s begun.
  • Generally arrived at a vision for my professional life, even as the details remain to be worked out.

It was, despite everything, quite a full year. Or perhaps it was a full year because of everything.

Happy new year, folks! I hope we manage to be better humans in 2021.

30 Dec

Today I inadvertently ate cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast was planned, but lunch and dinner happened because I was busy writing, and it was easier than putting together a proper meal. Any wonder, then, that I’m back to the limited pre-lockdown wardrobe? Sigh.

The plan today was to work hard on the chapters, with a couple of hours set aside to work on a year-end essay piece, one I’ve been contemplating for a while. Instead, it took all day to write that piece, so early wake-up tomorrow morning to make up, it shall be.

And also-lubricating eye drops are a god send. For three days I suffered dry eyes, leading to headaches-an annual winter feature- before deciding to go ahead and buy the drops this year. Dissertation deadline etc. And whoa. I don’t know if its a coincidence or not, but my eyes are ok now! Sometimes, I’m foolishly, pointlessly stubborn about accepting external aid.

21 Dec

Today, after ages, I again experienced the coffee version of ‘I drink and I know things’. One sip, and I was away. It led to, amongst other things, an exciting new idea for a piece of fiction, knitting together stray ideas brewing in my head for a while, existing drafts of stuff I’ve started, IN my ‘new found’ voice of expression. I’m terribly excited about beginning work on it in tiny little bits, and am fantasizing about somehow being able to devote 6 full months to it, after dissertation submission.

I’m also very, very excited about this year’s extraordinary Saturn-Jupiter conjunction/ Christmas Star sighting. Can you imagine?? After 400 years! 800 years, if you take into account sighting by human eyes (the earlier one was not observable). That it is happening in 2020 cannot be a mere coincidence; this year, I feel, has been extra-peppered with little cosmic delights (which, as far as I’m concerned, are loving heavenly hugs :D)-a near epidemic of rainbows and double rainbows across the world, a spectacular ring-of-fire solar eclipse, moon events, amongst others. And now this.

It was supposed to be visible in India between 6.30 PM and 7.30 PM today, so down I went, clad in pandemic gear, to try and spot it. I stared and stared, neck stretched waay back, at the SW sky, but all I saw was the moon and ONE star/planet. I had the Taralaya Bangalore livestream playing on Youtube, but my connection was not good enough to get much help from it. One dude on the livestream did mention the exact coordinates on which to fix one’s gaze (243* SW, if I remember correctly) if in Bangalore, and I tried that, even though I wasn’t in Bangalore (the planet/star thingie was in that rough coordinate area, though I could be wrong because I don’t know how to read these things with respect to the sky). No other heavenly body, including the usual display of stars, was even slightly visible. I don’t know if the light pollution was worse than usual, or the sky was cloudy/polluted, but NOTHING was visible other than that one bright star/planet and the moon. So I pretended the thing I saw WAS the Christmas Star, and enjoyed the heck out of it. I must have been standing still, risking a crick in the neck, for nearly an hour. Also, the night air is nice and crisp now. Kolkata winters are a delight (unlike Delhi’s, which can be brutal, like it is this year).

Also, sometime it is so hard to remember whether one actually did something that one thought one did, or merely imagined it. I could have sworn I had written a good solid section of a pleasure piece I’d been working on. Like, I can remember! the details of that section of the plot, but it’s not actually there in the document. Which is really frustrating, ugh. Did my computer lose it/accidentally not save it, or was it all just in my head??

18 Dec

Today was going to be the day. The day when I sat down and finished writing up one massive chunk of my Delhi fieldwork. Instead, I took a 4 hour nap in the afternoon and then spent the rest of the time after that anticipating my home-cooked dinner order because I was/am so hungry. Nearly time to go pick it up now, hurray!

Yesterday I did a crazy dangerous thing by my covid-standard (s?), and went to visit a dear friend in town for a bit. They’ve finished the full quarantine, I know them to be responsible, they live close to me, hence the willingly taken risk. This was my second outing since the March lockdown, and I had to re-learn how to step out of the house. It took a while figuring out how to do going-out things, I kid thee not. It was lovely, I ended up staying several hours more than I had initially planned, and we are planning a second visit before they leave.

The streets were nice to see from the secure confines of my hired-in-full share autos and rickshaws. People are out and about like 2020 and covid never happened. The temptation to be lulled into a false sense of security is strong. Most people are not masking at all, or masking incorrectly (chin masks! neck masks!) I now take it for granted and plan my life assuming that 99% are not masking properly and treat them as a risk. I also realised that my levels of physical fitness have continued to plummet so hard this year that I now gasp for breath when I cover some distance on foot, while wearing a mask and a helmet-like face shield. It’s going to take my post-30 body quite a while to recover this fitness after this phase of covid+PhD is over.

In some ways, I think I’m at a precious sweet spot in the PhD journey. The end is in sight. For better or for worse, it ends in summer 2021. A 100% of my attention and focus is on the dissertation. I’m not panicking (at the moment) and feel a sense of direction, guidance and assurance. I am still wildly behind my December target, and need to work fast to catch up. I want to be two chapters down before the referees send back their comments on my journal article (assuming they don’t reject it outright). Given how wild the ride has frequently been, I’m grateful.

A late-nighter is called for tonight, post-dinner. Perhaps I can make decent headway on the initially planned writing for the day.