Dispatches from the Ruins of My Orderly Life


Sep 8, 2016


“Just finish this last one thing,” a part of me urges, as the other part of me counts down to 6 pm — the time, that each and every day, invariably and definitely, I am hit by an avalanche of activity.


Rafa, my mutt, smacks her paw on my computer’s keyboard. She has to be taken down – NOW. She jumps up and down, pulling at my clothes while her puppy, runs after, not wanting to miss out. In her excitement, the puppy pees outside the kitchen.

I cover the spot with a newspaper and clip on Rafa’s leash, planning a quick in-and-out for her to do her business outside, leaving me enough time to come back and finish mine inside. But at the very same moment, my son and the nanny return from their outing. My son immediately wants to be a part of my field trip, which I mentally extend by 15 minutes, as my son ambles alongside, periodically throwing a tantrum to be picked up.

After we get back, it is Buddy, my lab’s turn, and, of course, eventually the puppy. Somewhere in all this, my son has to be fed, as do the dogs, each of whom have their own menu and have their eye on the other’s food. And then my son has to be bathed and put to bed.

Needless to say, the “last one thing,” as well as many others, remains unfinished. By 8:30 pm, I am too exhausted to do much more. I sit down for a glass of some alcoholic beverage and wonder how I can deal with change and still feel calm – which, compared to just a month ago, before we had found homes for the puppy’s siblings, it undoubtedly is.

Four years earlier …

On the white board in the kitchen is our exercise plan for the week.

  • Monday – Rest
  • Tuesday – Run (4K with Buddy)
  • Wednesday – Sport (Badminton or Table Tennis)
  • Thursday – Run (5k with Buddy)
  • Friday – Weight training at the gym
  • Saturday – Run (10-12 K)
  • Sunday – Individual routines (Dancing/Climbing)

Next to it is a detailed menu for all seven days. We eat healthy, counting our calories and nutrients – plenty of eggs and greens – and we look good. (Vanity is the side effect of a fit life.) Our lives are as well engineered as the water systems of the ancient cities of Petra and Angkor Wat. We are stone pillars of organisation, edifices of routine.

But like those cities, our lives flourish until they don’t. We think a hundred times before we say yes to an evening out with people who have been nice enough to invite us. When we do go, we  miss our exercise the next day, and spend the whole day sluggish, swearing we’ll never deviate from the schedule again.

But life on a schedule is dull, and a feeling of listlessness sets in. We seek a change and decide to get a second dog. Her teething lasts an eternity – only slightly quicker than the time it takes to teach her to stay off the furniture and get her house broken. Our wonderfully constructed exercise routine becomes a total mess, as does our diet after we start a food business, too. But eventually we get back on track – a little slower, a little less dedicated, perhaps – but the structure is there. We know what tomorrow will be like, and the next.

Which convinces us we’re ready for the biggest change of all: a baby.

Present day

Our monuments to scheduling are distant, crumbling memories. Try as we might to structure our life now — and I make plans every day! — there simply seems to be no order left, just mayhem. The lists don’t get checked off easily. Heck, lists don’t even get made; where do you even start?

Yet we keep moving ahead, dealing with things as they come our way, and funnily enough, we are not as overwhelmed by changes to our plans, nor as disappointed when things don’t work out according to expectation. We are able to deal with a lot more, and open ourselves to much more. My old life, with its careful and precarious structures, had no room for modifications in the routine, let alone more dogs, a child, our family, friends, travels, an enterprise.

What a boring life that would have been. It might be easier to get lost in the maze of ingenious complexities, but we would have missed the big picture. The minutiae would have become our life, and real life, with all its banal and exciting possibilities, would have been missed.

Petra and Angkor Wat collapsed, despite their wonderous infrastructure, because they couldn’t deal with change; they failed to adapt to new weather patterns. Our life, thankfully, has moved in a different direction — a cluttered, messy, yet wonderfully adaptable and accommodative direction, much like the city we live in. Life and commerce in Delhi thrive around the relics of the past, chaotic in the extreme, and dance on the edge of implosion without ever crossing over.

With every change we have made or submitted to, we have opened ourselves up to new experiences, even though it means constantly having to replan and rebuild, often along the same foundations. It has made us more vulnerable, but it has also made us better at survival when things do go for a toss.

I finish up the drink and brace myself for another day of madness. There is the ongoing renovation that needs to be supervised, a house shifting to be planned, and work, always work, for our business. I make a plan; I know it won’t last. I will fret and curse as I switch gears to deal with it, and maybe think longingly of the meticulous beauty of the past, like a tourist visiting ruins.

But I am also filled with a bravado that comes from having dealt with it before. I’m on my Nth version and ready for more. Bring it on. I can handle anything.



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Written By Jyoti Ganapathi

Jyoti Ganapathi did her BA in Economics & Psychology from Knox College, US and a Masters in HR from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She returned to India to work in the family business. Riding the entrepreneurial wave, along with her husband, she started Dosa Inc- a South Indian food truck in 2012, fulfilling a dream that they always had. She is an intermittent writer and is currently absolutely loving NPR podcasts!


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