The opening moments of Glass Onion – A Knives Out Mystery were a nightmarish flashback to the hardest time we’ve all faced recently – the first lockdown. It sent me on a day-long spiral of the changes that the first year of the pandemic wrought in us all. 2023 is already here and I’m still getting over 2020, I posted.
I found myself overrun with the feeling that I couldn’t anymore ignore – that my world had not been kind to me, not been there for me, not done enough for me. As the film wore on, I found words to describe the unease I’ve felt in 2022, the first year without a lockdown since the pandemic hit. The same wretched rage in every single person, the same sense of angry entitlement that I owed them something, that other people, the world owes each of us something.
It has been even more overwhelming, drowned as it is in lies. Every autorickshaw I took in December was driven by someone hellbent on convincing me that ‘corona to saazish hain yeh dawai companiyon ki‘ (COVID19 is a Big Pharma conspiracy). Everyone I’ve asked how they are has replied by telling me it’s not a big deal and that I’ve been a coward. A few inches in (which is something I seem to do instinctively in conversations – diving into people’s feelings) and their breakups, their health issues, their despairing confessions about alcoholism, depression, anxiety bubble up suddenly. No, we are not well. We are all angry. Seething and out for blood.
So where do we go from here? Maybe nowhere. The pandemic has been the arsenic cherry on the difficult lessons of a decade. I was accumulating traumas & toxic coping mechanisms by the bucketful. It took the lockdowns & total complete annihilation from the life I had to realise this. I had my foot on the accelerator, driving the wrong way for the wrong reasons. The first step was to just stop. The other side of defense mechanism is ego. That fleeting taste of control that career success or a socially approved relationship or a flashy social media profile can give you masks the terrifying powerlessness, the very randomness of living. So many words. Everything drained away in these years, through the fear and the terror of surviving other people’s lashing out. As with swimming, so with life. Stop thrashing, stop moving, just relax and breathe. And I live.
Through the last quarter of 2022, I have sputtered my way into a more comfortable physical space. More pleasing colours, fresher fabrics, rounder edges on furniture, cleaner lines on layouts, less dust on window grills, more free air. Softness, I want softness, I said and I am not done wanting it. It means I want conversations without the sharp edges of abrasiveness. It means I want friendships that grow as delicately as my flowers after unflinching hours of digging out weeds. It means I am saying goodbye to the broken glass shards & the plastic pieces in my social interactions as much as in the mud of the new plants I buy.
It has been ten years since my relationship ended with abuse and no acknowledgement. In that time I’ve passed through the quicksand of those who would politicise my story for personal profit. I’ve paid for friendships with acceptance of their apathy, even cruelty. But now, I think I’d rather be by myself than have such sharp edges in my life. I invest in my relationships so I will be more prudent about where I do this. So I’m letting go of people who wouldn’t take a stand for me. With that, I let go of anger. I let the world go on the way it will and I go on the way I must.
The last week of 2022 was nice. I invited some friends over for a homecooked dinner. I love hosting and I love it so much, it carried me through that abusive relationship when I’d throw Diwali gatherings, birthday parties, gaming nights and more for his friends after he cut me off my friends. This was my first time hosting without catering. The house help quit the day before and somehow it felt like a burden lifting, being able to start everything from scratch with my own two hands. I chopped & I stirred; I also scrubbed, wiped, dusted, rearranged, washed, dried.
I miscalculated a number of things so I found myself with three hours to spare and days more of food than there were people to eat. In that time, I changed outfits three times. Mostly because the first two were ‘nice’ silk suits both of which I’d outgrown. Three hours alone was too long for me to lie myself into discomfort. (I am such a good influence on myself when I’m alone 😄).
My guests were people who have cooked for me in the past, many times and always with great pleasure & kindness. This was my way of saying thank you. And I also found myself awash with gratitude that they would let me cook for them. Food, the sharing of it is such a pure grounding experience. We must all eat, after all. My sarson da saag was a success as were the mini-idlis. It was a wonderful evening.
Two nights later, I had a chance to visit two different families, both of which I’m close to but haven’t been able to meet for years. It felt like coming home after a very long time, doing things that used to feel so mundane – traveling on public transport, hugging an aunt, replicating a childhood photograph next to 2022’s Christmas tree, laughing with a friend’s child, sitting on gaddis on the floor in pyjamas talking late into the night and waking up to a different bed from mine that was still not entirely unfamiliar. This is healing, this is softness this is life.