2016. The year of Brexit. The year of Trump. The year of proxy wars. The year of ugly politics the world over. Another year of irreparable damage to nature. The generations to come will have a lot to study about this year. Whatever form our species takes in the coming centuries will also have much to understand how we go extinct.
In the past, friends from India and I have dwelled over how we form and represent a small, perhaps one per cent of India’s population. It is widely understood that India is a complex beast but we often lose ourselves in our little bubbles and get frustrated with the things that happen (or not) in the country.
The events of this year have reinforced just how disconnected our bubble really is from reality. To vote for the UK to stay in Europe and be shocked at the results was a rude shock for many like me living in major cities in the country. But what it did do was readjust my compass to make an effort to understand how most people are thinking.
Trump kept shocking and entertaining us through most of the year but after Brexit, I did not rule out the possibility of him winning the election. The shock when he won was at the people who could not believe it. The heartbreak and emotional turmoil that it caused was also interesting for me to observe. Obviously, it was more visible among American friends and colleagues but I have never before witnessed that kind of response to a political event. Obama’s 2008 victory came with such positivism that I didn’t make much of it then. Of course, in 2008, I was more consumed by being on that hill top, submitting assignments, crushing on nature, attempting to make a long distance relationship work, picking up on the world of the questionably wise, old monk that I probably did not even register much beyond the fact that the US had a new president.
These memories of 2008 are making me shake my head and smile as I sit here on a disputed window seat of a Dreamliner on a long haul flight to my old home, Abu Dhabi. A young desi family in true desi style just sat on my seat and expected me to take their seat elsewhere in the cabin when I arrived. Of course, I did not choose seat number 79 to give up on my window. And so I refused and made a kid get up. I felt a little cheap but only a little.
Being on an Etihad aircraft to Abu Dhabi also brings back memories. It is already two years since that as well. A lot of that time was bitter and negative but I often remember the good times spent in my breezy studio by the beach. And so I am glad to be hitting AD even if for an hour at the airport before I reach Delhi on a holiday! I have made several work trips home this year but most of them have been hectic and stressful. And this one is tad special as I will go to my parents’ home straight from the airport after more than a year. And with all that, I justify dancing in my seat to dhinchak Bollywood numbers. I have a feeling these headphones aren’t the greatest and so people around me can not only see my bobbing head but also clearly know what’s making me do it. But who cares!
2016. A new job. More travel. A new house. A lot of negotiations. New relationships. New culture. A learning curve in relationships. Weight gain. Same old pattern of health issues. Some clingy fragments of the past. A few anxieties about the future…..shall we dive deeper?
# The new year began with an active chase for a job which finally worked
# I continued to engage with the last employers but these latest interactions with the local office were also a darn shit show and I finally figured people are the same world over and got over the awe I was in with that company!
# I do owe my current job in part to some fine people from that last job and I am thankful for it
# I visited Sicily which was heavenly for the sun it gave my eyes and my body when I was beginning to die of London’s endless winter, for the brilliant food it offered in veggie form, and for the bloody brilliant time those three days were!
# I also visited Amsterdam and experienced its canals, space cakes, tulips, windmills and the different air even if the city was busier than I had imagined or would have liked
# C trained for and ran a half marathon in record time. I went and cheered at Wembley stadium. I experienced the easy feeling of pride and I also experienced the much harder feeling of inspiration and motivation
# Nine months later I finally acted on that inspiration (still in part) and signed up for a run myself – a 10k to begin with. I hope and pray I can prepare for it in a good way
# We didn’t make a trip we wanted to because it involved trekking for 16 kms through a gorge and C didn’t want to have me risk going for it unprepared. We have now booked that trip for May of 2017.
# I consumed a lot of sugar and have a worrisome extra five kilos on me
# I tested for diabetes, thought one of my biscuits was my last sugary treat, but the test was negative and I continue on
# Pragya visited a couple of times and we managed to add an interesting layer to the friendship
# I witnessed completely juvenile Whatsapp politics and wished maturity for some people
# I travelled a bit too much for work, but then I also earned the bronze tier on British Airways because of it. An early check in and avoiding queues is a good enough benefit for now.
# We went to Gran Canaria for our first anniversary and I cannot begin to describe what the sun there did for my body and mind. Whatever it did for our relationship was incidental. Maybe I will someday log that travel, but for now, know that it is a gorgeous place, it stays warm throughout the year, Brits love it, and I totally know why!
# Got involved in a high profile work event with the biggest global CEOs. It was a tiring but interesting experience that involved lunching on a fancy boat on the Thames and dinners at the Globe and Cutty Sark
# Mom and dad moved homes in Delhi and with that I partially lost a home in my home city. The one I got married from was home for 19 years
# Some more friends had babies and I will soon stop telling my mother about these developments just as I had stopped telling her of people’s weddings a few years ago
# I celebrated a very colourful Holi at work
# And I had some awkward conversations about India’s independence with a few British colleagues
# There were a few weddings in the UK – an Indian-German one, an Indian-British one and a Indian-Polish one. I loved how personalised the experience was for guests.
# I also attended a Hungarian wedding in Budapest and amusingly was one of the few ‘foreigners’ who were treated special by the hosts and their families. This also included a high energy series of dances with the groom’s 70-year-old father
# In Budapest, we rode on a tram route (over)rated on the list of top 10 scenic rides in the world. That said, Budapest is a gorgeous and lovely city!
# And then there were weddings I missed
# I was mandated to join a session of improv comedy. I was so worried that my lack of spontaneity will let me down that I had a couple of drinks before going in for it. But it turned out to be one of the fun-est things I have ever done!
# I also went for a murder mystery game and did quite poorly at it
# There was recognition at work – of my successes and weaknesses alike, with a lot of help to address the weaknesses
# I kept the tradition of going to the ER (twice) and experienced first-hand the mess that the UK’s healthcare is!
# There were several house parties – some fun, some random
# Diwali was in London
# I turned 30. I am still not comfortable saying this number out loud, but lately I have been thinking of the many experiences of the past 10-15 years that I feel it has been a memorable enough journey to this number and I should embrace it warmly
# Tried again with Avan’s help to complete my wedding video. Hopefully I will get it before the end of the year
# I had this dream for my 30th birthday. I never learned how to ride a bike because I was busy hopping countries. So I thought of going for a trek in snowy mountains for the birthday instead. I have anyway been longing to go back to the mountains for a while now. But snow in Europe in September is hard to reach. A trip in remote Switzerland would have been ideal, but I was frustrated and upset with how logistically hard and expensive it was turning out to be! And I clearly never did it.
# Instead, Chetak kindly helped plan Snowdonia as a funny ‘snow’ trek even though there would not have been any snow then. That trek didn’t happen either because the weather wasn’t on our side. And being in the countryside meant no phone network and therefore hardly any phone calls and wishes. If you haven’t figured yet, I am still bummed about all the things that did not work out even though it was a lovely trip in itself.
# I did get a nice surprise party for the birthday which made up for all that wasn’t.
# We also went dancing and experienced mundeyan to bach ke rahi on the dance floor during the Notting Hill carnival
# A separate trip to the city of bells, Brugge was one of the biggest highlights of the year. The place was musical, scenic, quiet and very refreshing! These away-from-the-city breaks are hard to match.
# C gifted me a watch with my initials on it
# Watched Vir Das live in London
# Watched Zakir Hussain live again
# Visited a remote Swedish town for work and ticked off the bucket list item of seeing windmills in water
# C got his UK driving license and we went for our first road trip with dear boys in a red Jeep 😀
# I made an effort to connect with people from past life in the current city and balance my being in this foreign land beyond C and his friends
# An important relationship finally came up for air after nearly two years. It will never be the same again but I am glad the negativity is behind us.
# In my true retrospective, reflecting self, I kept sharing Facebook ‘memories’ with friends. It doesn’t help that I and many of them are spread out across the world.
# Demonitisation happened
# Samsung gave new life to my phone with a complete overhaul over the summer
# Bought a new Canon
# I was gifted a tablet to read but I failed to read
# I started using a credit card. I know I said I started doing it when I moved to Abu Dhabi, but I now use it for 20p transactions as well. I still think it is stupid to buy on credit and then pay a bill at the end of the month when you can buy directly with a debit card. But things you do for points, offers and miles!
# This one comes low in this list just so I could reflect hard and remember the finer details of the year – we bought a flat of our own!
# We bought 200 kilos worth of furniture from Ikea and I discovered I enjoy DIY.
# C and I had a similar amount’s worth of arguments as well
# I told C that we will go easy with setting up the new home, enjoying the process instead of making a burden of it. Instead, I single-mindedly spent several evenings either buying stuff for home or just unpacking, setting up, hammering nails, et al. I could still go back and spend a dedicated week on it. We are, after all, still a few months away from completing the set-up.
# Close friends helped a great deal with the packing, moving and settling in
# Leaving my first house in the city was nothing short of an end of an era
# A fortnight still to go and I figure this has become a very long read