Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Moving out of My Comfort Zone

This was something I meant to write some time ago, when it actually happened, but as usual, I procrastinated. So here goes.

One of the challenges I have placed for myself at this time of my life is that I should venture out beyond my desk and meet the outside world. So, in order to rid myself of the ennui that sets in due to being a lonesome freelance writer, I took it upon myself, with due prodding from a very well-meaning friend, that I would venture out the next day.

The next day was a hot, humid day but what do you expect in July, and I was hell bent on my outing. I had a headache coming on, but then it could be stress induced at the idea of travel and the effort involved and all that, and I ignored it. Nothing would come between me and my outing, not even my headache.

I waited the morning out since my daughter said she would accompany me to this jaunt into the wilderness outside. It is a wilderness of a kind if you think of all the traffic, the different types of cars and the blowing of horns, and the pedestrians, and the magazine sellers and the beggars and the policemen and the …

My daughter had said in the morning that she would come with me and then she backed out. By the time she decided that she would not accompany me it was afternoon, around 2 p.m. I then had to go it on my own. So I changed my clothes and hemmed and hawed and said to myself I was not one who backed out of promises made even if they were only to me.

So at 2.45 on a hot, humid day in July I was out of the door and asking an auto- wallah to take me to Khan Market. And he agreed to go by the meter bless his soul, so he saved me the rate-arguing bit.

I forgot to tell you what I was going for. Not shopping, nor to meet a friend. No, I was going for a writing date with myself —yes. This was the idea. I would slip into Barista Crème which is supposed to have the right enough atmosphere to support such ventures, order my coffee [to ensure my seat there for a couple of hours], order a muffin as well [to ensure that I sit for that couple of hours without feeling guilty of usurping space , then whip out my pen and notebook and sit and write furiously even as the crowd milled around me and the world chattered in high- pitched excited voices around me.

Or so I think, for I have yet to experience Barista for an extended period of time. The few times I have gone there, I have had a quick coffee and vamoosed out, since at that time it is just a caravan serai kind of place for me, where one stops for a quick pick- me- up in between the books one picks up from Bahri Sons and the like.

The idea was that I would be out, at a place, with myself, and sit in the quietude [?] and let the muse visit me. The home would cease to encroach upon me with its interfering tentacles and eat into my writing time. I would be at peace in the midst of hubbub. Worse come to worse, I could read a book to pass the time and look around me with absorbed eyes for inspiration. It all sounded rather ‘groovy’ as was the term used during my time, and it was meant to do more than make me write, it was to rejuvenate me at the same time. You know, infuse something new within me while I drank the combination of coffee and atmosphere there.

So this was the agenda I had in mind as I sat, sweat- soaked in the auto, and looked at the streets burning in the hot sun and the traffic around me and thought only mad dogs and Indian like me choose, actually choose, to step out in the middle of a humid afternoon in Delhi.

I live quite far from Khan Market, and that is why it was chosen, I had to move out of my comfort zone. By the time I reached one-third of the way, my headache had reached enormous proportions, my throat was beginning to ache and my back was soaked with sweat. Some of the sweat had begun to drip down the back of my legs in utter generosity of spirit.

I gathered courage. I told myself it did not matter. I told myself I had the right to choose.

I told the auto-wallah to turn back.

He was not so compliant now.

“I have just maneouvered us out of heavy traffic,” he told me.

I was not willing to listen.

“I am not well all of a sudden, you have to turn back,” I told him, making sure my eyes burnt his back.

So he turned around, and we braved the traffic once again. This time it was worse, on the other side. It seemed as though everyone on my side had decided to turn back with me, and they just added to those who were already heading in the opposite direction. If it took us twenty minutes of sweat soaked agony to move away from home, it took double that time to retreat backwards. The auto-driver was not at all pleased. He had a ‘I told you so’ expression on his face which I chose to ignore [I had become very good at choice making by now], as he stopped, stalled and finally wended his way through to drop me home.

I was a limp but grateful rag that handed him the money and weaved my way up to reach my flat and collapse in the comfort of my air-conditioned room. My daughter, lying there and reading a book in a state of absolutely enviable lethargy, gave me a disbelieving look.

“That was very fast, mom. Mom?” she said. The question mark had to be answered.

“Its good you did not come with me,” I told her. “You would have got sunstroke.” I could not say anything wiser than that.

Imagine going out just to prove a point. What is wrong with sitting in my corner in my air-conditioned room and typing away on my computer in peace? Why do I need to go out to do the very same thing? Spend on an auto and waste money. Spend on coffee and muffin, waste money again and put on unrequired weight. Spend time and energy and experience the discomfort of travel. Suffer it all to hope to write amidst the chaos of strangers when I could write amidst the chaos of family life.

Imagine. The absolute foolishness of it all kind of hit me. I could understand if I was going out to meet someone. It might have been fun then, sharing coffee and muffin and scintillating talk with someone. If I wanted to have a date with myself or my muse, I could do it at home as well, by shutting the door and putting a ‘Do Not Disturb, the Muse is Visiting Me’ sign on it. No one would dare step in for a couple of hours.

And I can always have coffee at home. In bed, if I so want.

I have never been happier about changing direction and turning back. One should know when one is heading in the wrong direction.I am glad I changed my mind before the die was cast, and the auto-wallah had dropped me off at Khan Market. Then I would have had no choice but to see the thing through to the end.

I am now leaving such adventures for the winter days when the sun shines brightly in the sky without asking me to sweat and suffer to achieve some promised ends.

Meanwhile, I love my comfort zones. Allow me to wallow in them.