Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I love the smell of packing tape!

December has been insane! Arriving home after 10 days away in Delhi for the wedding, I suddenly realize that griha pravesh (house warming rituals) is in 20 days, not to mention the first “birthday party” for my little monkey, followed by packing and shifting house…yet again! (Something like my 40th house in 34 years, mind you).

As I am taping shut one of the innumerable boxes, my man sits there grinning his “nasty boy” smile. “tujhe bada maza ata hai na is kaam me (you really get a kick out of doing this...don't you)” he asks, and I pause to wonder why I love it. Yes, I love the smell of packing tape, the bustle of packing things … books, glassware, clothes, I love the ripping sound the tape makes as it comes off the spool, I love pretty much everything about moving, except for what it does to the energy levels of course.

Tiring though it is, and uprooting as it does, why do I still love the most obvious manifestation of a nomadic life? Well, come to think of it, why not? I love change, I love adventure, I love the renewal and rejuvenation of mind and spirit that any new life change brings. Having moved houses, and cities, frequently all my life, I can no longer even imagine living in the same house in the same city for decades on end! If nothing else changes, I will change the décor of the rooms, change the furniture around, or choose a different colour for the walls every few months.

Change is fantastic! It is the best anti ageing product ever invented. Bottleit up and retail it in one of those little red dabbas (on an aside here, why are anti ageing products almost all in red and white colour schemes?), and you could be a bulti billionaire overnight! My father is the youngest 62 year old that I know. No surprises there… he still changes jobs, and cities, at an almost alarming rate. Last year and a half alone has seen three!

Every packing up is the beginning of new possibilities. The anticipation, the suspense, the looking-forward-to-what happens next is the best part of shifting. It’s a great clutter eliminator as well. I find staying in one place for any length of time to be an open invitation to clutter. Things accumulate – pens without caps and caps without pens, things I “might” need “one day”, old beaten up utensils that are doing the job for now. And I find that all the good things I buy, glasses, crockery, fancy pots and pans stay packed ‘as is’ in their boxes, being saved for some other time when I have more need, more space, more something. Happens to everyone. I know families who have lived in the same house for 30 years, and have incredible amounts of accumulated clutter. Some have entire rooms dedicated to storing stuff they no longer need, and will never need again!

Every time I move house, I throw stuff away. Unbelievable amounts of crap gets chucked out, leaving my household leaner and meaner. Out with the old, in with the new! Stuff finally comes out of packages, and begins to be used. Old clothes, books, shoes, bags, bartan… all go out the door, making physical and mental space for change.

The way I see it, every major change is like a little rebirth. It is stagnation that makes me want to curl up and die. There is only so much of routine I can take, and so much isn’t very much in my case. Routine and boredom are the worst tortures I can imagine on a daily basis. Mental stagnation seems, to me, to be the worst possible punishment that can be inflicted on a person who likes to use their brains. I can buy books by the dozen, source music all day, but it’s the occasional big changes that really get my blood pumping.

That’s why I love the smell of packing tape. That’s why I adore the special glue smell of it, and the fantastic ripping sound it makes when it comes off the spool. That smell, and that sound, has always meant the start of a new adventure to me. It’s the final confirmation that a new chapter, good or bad, is about to begin.

Larks and Owls – of diurnal clocks and circadian rhythms

As I drag my sleep deprived keester out of bed, at another ungodly hour, on yet another promises-to-be-very-long day, in response to the insistent chirping "mama, mama, mama" of my very own little lark, I ponder the eternal mysteries of the diurnal clock and the biorhythms so heavily programmed into every creature.

Some people are larks, some are owls. Some are naturally morning people, like my little monkey or her father, who always wake up really, really early, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and raring to meet the world running! (shudder shudder horror horror). And then there are the owls, like yours truly, for whom anything before 9 am is sheer torture. The larks are day people, rising with (or before) the sun, and practically going to bed with it too (at the same time as the sun that is, not WITH the sun :D… no hanky panky implied hahahahaha).

My daughter is almost four now, and her favorite schedule is to stay awake all day, go to sleep at 6 or 7 pm, when its getting dark, and sleep through the night till 4 am. And it's not just today. When she was a few months old, at a stage when babies nap all day, she wouldn't. Instead, she would fall asleep at about 6 pm, on her daily pram ride through the neighborhood, and sleep through the night (barring feeding calls of course).

My man is a bit like that too. 5 am and its "hello world!" He is physically incapable of staying in bed once that happens, and insists on pottering around the house with the baby, the two of them singing, dancing, doing homework, and playing all kinds of specially invented dad-daughter games. Come 8 pm, both father and daughter are drooping in tandem, eyes red, reflexes slow, and moods shot to hell.

Me, au contraire, … a complete owl. I never relish the thought of waking early, ever! Even if I do, it takes about 20 minutes, and multiple doses of caffeine before I am functioning on all cylinders. I really begin to wake up after sunset. The later it gets, the more alive I feel. Suddenly the world swims into sharp focus, and everything – every sense, every experience, takes on a new dimension. Brain starts buzzing, creative juices flow, and the party animal wakes up to sniff the air. Dancing till the wee hours? No problem! Reading all night? Can do! Talking and arguing and laughing till the east lightens and Divakar shows his face? Yippy yaay!

My brother, and best friend, is the same. So, we have always had great times in the middle of the night. Going to the nearest all night coffee shop for a cuppa at 2 am, or driving to Mumbai “just because”, its all part of the night owl syndrome. There was a time, for about two years just after I finished my Masters, when we slept all day, woke at 3 pm or so, stayed up all night, and went to sleep around 7 or 8 am, when daylight strengthened. And it was amazing! Some of my best work, poetically at least, got done during this phase, and a lot of fun was had by all.

All night laughathons at the pride hotel coffee shop were common, with the waiters looking on mystified as a group of 8 or 10 young people tell jokes by turn, desperately scribbling key words or phrases on the table mats to remember the next one till their turn rolls around again, and dissolving in fits of laughter all over the tables! Someone would suddenly suggest we go to a different place for the next round of coffee. Where to? Let’s drive to Lonavla for coffee! So off went a cavalcade, for coffee and alternative thinking mind games, to Fariya’s!

Where larks see the ethereal in the beauty of the morning, I find enchantment in the city of the night. A completely different city seems to spring out of the ground after midnight. As traffic starts to trickle down to almost nonexistent, the city pulls on a cloak of mystique. Bustling markets turn into enchanted shadowlands, and choked, frenetic streets become the wide promenades of jiamata and her entourage.

Every city I have ever lived in, no matter how ugly by day, looked fabulous by night. Driving down the streets in the halogen glow of lonely street lights, it is practically impossible to believe that this is the same city I have struggled with all day. All the frustrations, the angst, the sheer battle of city life melts away, and suddenly I am back in some magic land of my childhood dreams where turning the corner might bring me face to face with a dragon or an angel. The possibilities are virtually endless, and the sense of adventure is exhilarating, sending the adrenaline pumping by the quart through my veins.

There’s an additional factor to my love of the night too. I HATE heat. I am happiest at temperatures close to zero centigrade, and anything above 27 or 28 is sheer torture. I sweat like a pig, feel put upon from every direction, and find myself unable to function. No matter how hot the day has been, nights are cooler, even if marginally. Just the relief, after a day of being slowly steamed in my own sweat, is enough to enhance my love for the night!

The exact opposite is the case with my man and my little princess. They wake with the magic of the sun in their eyes, and begin drooping as it sets. They love the freshening of the day, (so do I, on the rare occasion I see it. I love the morning too… it’s the day that gets to me :D), and their metabolisms begin to slow down post sunset. Once daylight leaves the sky, both begin to look like un-watered roses. And by 10 pm, they are firmly ready to be off to la-la-land.

Parties at our house are weird. The evening begins with everyone bright eyed and wide awake. By the time all the guests have arrived, which is usually after 10, daughter is ready for bed, and man is only staying up because it’s rude to go to bed before everyone gets there. By midnight, both are fast asleep, leaving me to happily hold down the fort till the last guest leaves at 5.30 am, which is when baby is waking up!

Things can change though, and diurnal clocks can be adjusted and retrained. I wake in the mornings now, to send the hordes on their way to school and work, and go to sleep at a halfway decent time in order to be able to do the same again the next day. And it works, after a fashion. I function in the daytime. I get work done. I even create, in a way. But, having been completely nocturnal once, I know the difference even if others can’t spot it. Its like having the wrong prescription glasses. You can see fine, except the really fine print, or things in peripheral vision. Things seem just a wee bit out of focus and fuzzy, and its only after you put on the right glasses that the world swims back into sharp focus and you know what you were missing!