A compassionate letter to myself 

Dear Gowri,

Sweetheart, remember this one’s always been inside you.

First things first. Seven months on and I think it’s time to wipe the slate clean so let’s begin with an apology. I’m sincerely sorry, my love for what I put you through the last two decades. You never deserved a moment of it. I did it to try and bring out the best in you and I really didn’t know any better. Life was tough when we were little. We wanted to be someone and the world just kept pushing us around and mould us with its own socio-cultural cookie cutters to fit its own mould of what were supposed to be. We were never meant for that but it crushed us.

With every new city and school and every fake friend and every exam mark lost you cried and I… I was mean. I was worse than the other bullies. You needed me and I turned away because I was ashamed. I hurt as much as you did. Forgive me.

Know that after this ceaseless and beautiful journey we have travelled together; to be by your side is my only desire. I will love you endlessly. When you’re sad I will comfort you. I will be the calm that anchors your storm and the compassion that drowns your fear. I will never let you look at a blunt razor blade again. 

You are beautiful, bright, kind and have such joy and love for life. I will celebrate you  for all that you are and forgive you for all that you’re not. 

I want to work with you now to be the best you can be. I want to help you make choices that are right for you. I want to celebrate your accomplishments with you rather than play them down. 

I want you to remember that life is really difficult sometimes and it’s totally okay to feel down, to be upset and to feel like you aren’t holding it together. 

Your best is always good enough. You are always good enough.

Life is one big illusion and everyone is caught up in their own version of it. I’m going to keep you conscious of your own story and love you every step of the way. I am thoroughly committed to your health and happiness.

Love,

Gowri

About my new flat mate 

So. Recently I’ve undertaken this interesting new adventure of living with this woman. She’s 24, tall, long hair, sometimes funny and always fucking forgets to switch the lights off even when she leaves the flat. She is me. Hello.

So after starting work last August I moved back in with my parents for a while and commuted to work. Then, some time in late January I became horribly aware that my energy and enthusiasm for life was at an all time low. I was lethargic, unmotivated and unhappy. There was a whole ream of things contributing to that depression and living home with my parents was one of them.
WHICH IS NUTS. Why? Because my family are the most a-mazing people you will ever meet. We are this unit of joy, love, support, happiness and alcohol. Moving home didn’t restrict me in any way; I continued to experience the same freedom I always enjoyed but in my mind, I felt trapped.

A million things were happening that led me to feel like my life was being lived for me. Moving back home had somehow gone from a temporary measure to a means of saving money for a housing deposit so I could move in with my boyfriend in eighteen months’ time in a swanky new flat in Birmingham. It was all planned out and I felt like I was supposed to be ready for it. Everyone was telling me what a great time it was to invest, how this makes such financial sense and blah de mortgage blah. Before I knew it, conversations were had, viewings were booked, flats were seen and I was internally crying.

So one cold, dreary January evening as I drove home from work, following a major decision to listen to my intuition, I made up my mind to tell everyone around me that I wasn’t ready to just jump into the future like that. And that I was moving out on my own. It seemed that all those events had lined up to propel me into taking control over my life again.

From that point on, all else slotted sweetly into place. I instantly felt like I was on a level plane: calmer, with no further despair, focused on finding a new place to live. This peace was generated when I made a decision that was aligned with what felt right. For a few weeks, I was caught up in the technicalities: I looked at flats in Lancaster, minutes away from my family (none of which worked out, again I think for a reason) and then again in Preston, closer to work. I eventually found a two bed on the marina, overlooking a river. Having lived in a buzzing city for a few years and loving it, Preston feels pretty hopeless in comparison. A year ago, when I found out I’d be back here I was honestly devastated. Even now, having accepted where I am in life, I know I’m never going to love this place. But a shift has happened. Now, when I go on Instagram and see doctors who are living their lives in places like London and Manchester I no longer look at myself and think what a failure I am. I am where I am and the hand I was dealt was the one that accurately reflected the headspace I was occupying at the time. So when I stepped out onto the balcony, the grey river dancing in the rain and the cold February wind whipping at my skin, I figured that a flat this nice makes this city a lot less shit.

Then I signed some papers.

And now I’ve done it. I’m broke, counting down til payday, always forgetting to switch the kitchen light off and I’m happier. Much, much happier. I got past the initial freakiness of the boiler doing its thing at 3am. I got past the noises in the flat only being the ones I made and started savouring the silence. I set up my own wifi router, I pay all my own bills and have become a regular adult in the world.

This progression is hardly miraculous- it’s just a step in the direction that finally felt right.

Love to all, G x

City of Love 

I’m sitting in a small bistro, not far from the Airbnb where Diane’s lovely parents and I chatted away in the kind of broken French my seventeen year old self would be horrified at.

The waiter, a tall, brown haired charmer walks to my table and looks straight into my eyes with a sort of intensity that I associate with movies or the sweet beginnings of relationships. My own eyes dance back a little. For the first time, in a very long time, I feel beautiful. I feel like me.

Moments later, I’m sipping on a tall glass of Bordeaux, feeling horrendously confident with a sprinkling of pretentiousness in my air and I sit back, breathe and drink in the gorgeous atmosphere that engulfs me. As the alcohol starts to loosen the weight of my neural connections, I feel suddenly flooded by a lightness, a happiness- one I have grown to cherish beyond measure.

Life is worth living.

Six months ago… suicidal thoughts were a normal, every day occurrence. I’ve been reading ‘Reasons to stay alive’ by Matt Haig. I started the book several months ago but the first chapter in which he describes the depths of his depression resonated with me so hard that I had to stop reading. When I say suicidal thoughts, I don’t mean overt plans to kill myself off. It was more just an overwhelming feeling of the pointlessness of life whilst wishing away my existence. Matt described it perfectly: it’s all about wishing you were never there in the first place. If I open my diary, I’ve casually written of what it might be like to just overdose and end it. I never did try. Partly because I was convinced I would fail and I know the treatment protocol in hospital because sadly, I’m a doctor. And secondly… I didn’t want people, especially my family knowing what a morbid mental state I was in.

Describing this now, lying alone in my bed in this Parisian apartment, I remember the reality of it all and choose not to hide from it any longer, no matter how morose it was. Was I clinically depressed? Probably. Was I anxious? Again, certainly. Always have been and probably always will be.

I suppose, reader, you’re waiting for some kind of twist, some moral, some sense of righteousness or a tale of ‘getting better’. Well perhaps it’s a little disappointing but I don’t really have one. I went to therapy. I learned to open up to people around me. But most importantly, I learnt how to be compassionate with myself, kind to myself and accepting of whatever emotion I felt. Compassion is the most healing force in humanity and I learned, through therapy and shitloads of practice, to channel that compassion inwardly.

And as one compassionate practice led to another, I found myself adding to my life in ways that made it feel like it was worth living. I took myself on holiday to the city I love. I took myself out for coffee and dinner and roamed the streets drenching myself in the Paris-ness of Paris, only for the fact that I love it. I took the metro and I even uber pooled without worrying I’d get taken (and my dad is not Liam Neeson). All these acts are like mini victories for me, each one pouring itself into a shot glass of self esteem that I’m throwing back with determination.

I know I could fall into a place of sadness again. In fact, it’s probably inevitable. I don’t know why I feel emotion with such intensity. Maybe it’s genetic. Much of it is early childhood experience. But it’s also okay. It makes me who I am. And I did it, didn’t I? I got out. I realised my own self worth and began to treat myself like I believed it.

Now that I’ve moved out and am kind of starting to find myself (don’t die from the cliché) and get comfortable with who I am, I’m seeing how much I need this. Time alone. To learn to be complete. To heal. To let my relationship nourish me and challenge me but not to let it take over.

Sitting in the bistro, one overpriced meal and another glass of wine later, I realise the rush I felt earlier was actually love. Love for myself. My whole life I’ve not known how it feels to even like myself, let alone love myself. It was sort of unnatural and strange until I settled into it and allowed myself to feel it with every cell in my body.

And now, as I get ready to leave the place of my dreams, knowing it’s not long until I return… I can think to myself that here, in the city of love I started an intensely loving relationship with myself that I should’ve started twenty four years ago.

❤️

Opening up

Something exceptional has happened recently.

My entire mindset has seen a shift towards good mental health after having come from a place of poor mental health. In this newfound space, my whole life has exposed itself with more awareness and clarity than ever before.

Today, I wanted to write about one of the biggest changes I have subconsciously been moving towards and that is: openness. Particularly openness in my relationship.

I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for just over a year. He is undoubtedly one of the most important people in my life because from day one, we made it clear to each other that we wanted to spend our lives together and make this thing work. And let’s face it: dating in this day and age takes up so many different forms that relationships do require that level of clarity. In the past, I’ve been with people where the focus was more on having fun in the moment than about a lifelong partnership so opening up and sharing our problems almost wasn’t necessary. That’s cool too. But in the context of this relationship, opening up has been key to its quality and to my happiness… and I didn’t even know how to do it until very recently.

Growing up as a woman is difficult. It is pleasing to see that sexism is dying out as each generation is made. However, most women are still shaped from early childhood by the beliefs of their mothers who may not have been subject to such female liberation. I come from a family of women where our strength is defined by our ability to put up with things and not make a fuss (as I’m sure many women are). Putting up with things can often mean not showing our emotions, not being allowed to be upset because we have to be seen to be putting on a brave face and ‘holding it together’ for those around us. Many of us have seen our mothers hide difficult emotions from our fathers because that’s what it means to be strong. I have found myself growing up with this same belief: don’t share it, just keep it inside and ‘deal with it’. That’s how to be a strong woman.

Moreover, being a woman in 2018 can sometimes mean we are taught to overcompensate. We are encouraged to flaunt our independence and wear our singledom like a badge of honour. Things like living alone, travelling alone, not being ‘tied down’ by relationships and being sexually liberated are all associated with this notion of the ‘independent woman’. Whilst I believe that all of these things are important (especially as I’ve done all of them), it’s easy to start thinking that we should be independent all the time, even in our relationships, whereas in actual fact interdependence (where you rely on each other for support but are both able to effectively stand on your own two feet) is much more constructive.

In essence, I’ve always seen opening up as a sign of weakness. Being vulnerable and sharing my insecurities have always been a source of paralysing fear. I’ve grown up thinking that if I don’t have the ‘upper hand’, in a relationship with a man, I am the weak one. I thought that in order to be strong, I wasn’t supposed to show my emotions. Instead, I had to be confident and secure in myself all the time. This is literally an impossible task.

So you can imagine that when I became anxious and depressed it always felt like there were ten million things going on in my head but I couldn’t even really get them out because of the shame, guilt and fear associated with being emotional, upset or insecure.

Many of us live with this feeling every day and one of the greatest places where it manifests is in our relationships because that’s where we are most vulnerable.

For instance… I felt incredibly insecure about the fact that my boyfriend’s dating history was way more colourful than mine. The fact that he’d slept with more people than me used to make me feel inadequate because a) I never got that opportunity and I resented him for it and b) what if these girls were hotter than me, smarter than me or more fun than me? The thing is, whenever it came to trying to tell him this, it was like someone had petrificus totallused my entire body. I was literally too shaken with fear to tell my boyfriend that I felt this way. I didn’t realise that it was okay, normal, even to experience these emotions. I thought I had to hide them and act like I was completely fine because that was the strong woman’s reaction.

I used to feel stupid about the fact that I was a less rational and more emotional person than my boyfriend. I thought of myself as inadequate because I couldn’t logic my way through situations like him. This meant that every time I experienced unhappiness, jealousy or anxiety over anything related to the relationship, I convinced myself it was my fault because I wasn’t chilled out enough or cool enough like him. So consumed was I by my own judgement of myself that I couldn’t even bring myself to talk about how I felt, for fear that it was irrational or dumb.

One time, he did something that really hurt me. It took me three whole weeks to muster up enough courage to tell him that. All the while, I felt miserable and berated myself for feeling that way. The worst part was that when I spoke to other women about this (close friends of mine) they didn’t even particularly encourage me to stand up for myself… perhaps because putting up with certain things is how a lot of us are taught to approach life. (Needless to say when I did tell him how I felt, he understood immediately and it was settled).

It took many months of working hard on myself to move past these old habits that weren’t serving me. Where self criticism and judgement ruled me, I replaced it with compassion. I became understanding of my emotions and kind to myself instead of constantly putting myself down. This didn’t come easily: it took masses of time, effort, patience and practice.

Through this practice of self compassion, I realised that holding all this crap inside me just wasn’t serving me any more and one by one, I let things go. And that hasn’t been by holding it all together, overcompensating or pretending to be the ‘strong woman’. It’s been by opening up, taking each insecurity I have and laying it out on the table before the two of us. As each one hits the tabletop, it seems to lose its power over me and I seem to be able to move on a little bit more with my life, one insecurity at a time.

Three weeks ago, I told him one night, over the phone that I needed him. By that I meant that I hadn’t opened up to him before and I had finally realised that I needed to. And I needed him to be there for me. He got it.

Yesterday, my boyfriend had plans to see one of his really good friends… who he also happens to have got together with a few times. I trust him implicitly and he’s a seriously good human being so he’s never given me reason not to. But this doesn’t mean I never get jealous either. So when I turn to him and say ‘Babe, I’m kind of insecure about you going to see her tomorrow’, and he goes ‘See who? You’re literally the only person in my life’, and then we talk about it and he validates my feelings, I get to move on and he gets to go see his friend and we both get to be happy.

Today, I brought up a five month old wound that I was too afraid to talk about five months ago. We talked a lot. I cried a lot. We both left feeling like we’d got something out of it. The five month old wound healed faster than I’d ever let it heal before.

Opening up like this still isn’t easy but it’s a hell of a lot easier than it was when I first started doing it. Self compassion was the game changer: the catalyst that made me realise that by holding things back, we are doing a disservice to ourselves. I plead to all you women out there, we have to stop thinking that being strong is all about putting up with everything and that our feelings are worthless and stupid. Our emotions are powerful and our vulnerabilities are strongholds when we’re aware of them.

Strength doesn’t lie in our ability to paint on a brave face. It lies in owning our insecurities and our flaws so they stop having power over us. Happiness lies at the other side of that fear.

Hope you all enjoyed the rant. Stay compassionate. Love, Gowri xx

 

 

Life’s too short to feel shit about yourself

Life is too short to feel shit about yourself.

I look at that statement and I know it’s damn well true, but actually understanding it, living it and attempting to move the hell past it has proved to be something that has officially demanded a year of my time.

It was March 2017 when I lost myself and although growth is constantly happening, I think I can happily say March 2018 marks the time where I genuinely feel like I have turned my life around.

A year ago, if you had told me that I would have to sit through another 365 days of this shitty, miserable, seemingly unending pain… I would’ve crawled into a hole and wept until my eyes exploded out of their sockets because I didn’t think I could handle another second of it, let alone another year.

When I say I lost myself, I mean that I used to be confident, happy and self assured but one small event spiralled out of control to such an extent that I felt like a total failure and I was consumed by it. My self esteem hit rock bottom around November and anxiety coursed through me uncontrollably all the time.

If you told me two years ago that I’d ever see a therapist, I’d judge you and I would judge myself. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that we all carry emotional baggage from our childhoods and the majority of us should probably see a therapist. It was only through psychological therapy that I realised that the confident, happy, self assured person I thought I was, was actually a coping mechanism for the insecure, frightened child who trembled underneath it all.; scared of not fitting in, scared of being judged, scared of being compared and constantly having to prove herself to everyone around her.

I guess my biggest blocks came in the form of denial, followed by impatience. I spent so many nights crying and wondering when it would all go away. I know it’s not about that now.

The worst bit is that all this crap goes on behind the scenes. No one knew how fucking horrendous it all was. Not even those closest to me were aware of the extent of it because of the shame cloud that surrounded it.

Anyway, I started with a statement. One I’ve begun to live. One I’ve spent fuckloads of time, persistence, energy and money on learning to live.

Life is far too fucking short to feel shit about yourself.

If you’re reading this and relating, let me tell you something. There is no shame in feeling this way. And you are flawed, you’re nowhere near perfect and you make mistakes but you are fine just the way you are. God, it feels good to believe that.

With a shift in mindset, everything changes, the world opens up and the shackles break off and you become free. With that newfound freedom, I’ve done a whole bunch of fun stuff and now I’m running around chasing all the things I want.

I moved out of my parents’ house and got a flat of my own, overlooking a river. It made zero financial sense. I did it anyway. Why? Because life’s too short to be sensible all the time. So every morning and every night as I watch the way the light twinkles over the ever moving body of water below me I am washed over with a sense of complete joy and I’m pretty glad I paid for that.

I got a tattoo. I’ve told myself I’ll do it for six whole years. I then decided that you can go ahead and write a list of ten million reasons why something might not be a great idea… or you could follow your heart and do what makes you happy. It’s beautiful, by the way.

I’ve booked a solo holiday. I have an entire Pinterest list of free things to do in the place I’m going to and I love this place with all my heart. Having only myself for company stopped being scary when I moved past the fear and realised how fun and indulgent it is.

I started opening up in my relationship. About everything that scared me. Everything I judged myself about. This is one of the most terrifying and vulnerable things that a person can do. But you know what? Owning your own insecurities, saying them out loud and accepting them makes them lose their power. It stops them from having this eternal hold over you and each time I do it, it gets a little easier.

I’m still going to therapy. But it now feels less like I’m begging to be saved from my own hell and more like I’m just bettering myself as a person.

I’m on a mission to conquer my fear of the squat rack. I used to go to a gym with a ladies only section and I maxed out every weight there but I was too scared to go up to the mixed section to lift more. It has now struck me that when fear is stopping you from reaching your full potential you will be limited in all you can achieve. I no longer wish to be a part of that.

I set up my own wifi router and sorted my car’s MOT and servicing out. I’m not even joking: these are significant achievements for me.

Though the trajectory is more upward facing… I’m not naïve either. I know the darkness of the place I’ve come from and I know I could go there again. But this time I am armed with knowledge, pattern recognition, self awareness and most importantly a shitload of compassion. Next time life knocks me down… I won’t fall to the ground for 365 days. I’m convinced more than ever that I can love myself out of a place like that.

Life is just too short to feel shit about yourself. The good thing is… you can absolutely 100% turn it around.

 

AVA

You are me and I am you

We cannot bear life without a pen in our hand

We seek salvation in ink

Our hearts are barrels of boozy feeling

and our vessels: words

I read your books and I cried on their pages

I rejoiced in your grand fucking evolution

And you scared me because I felt you so hard

And that’s when I knew

That we are fire

from the same flame.

https://www.instagram.com/vav.ava

https://avapoet.wordpress.com/

http://vav-ava.com/

Thankyou 

24

It’s a cold fucking evening.

I swallow the last of my mum’s dinner and run upstairs to change out of my work clothes into some leggings, a long sleeved top and a jumper. I look in the mirror. I’m digging the comfy vibe so I throw on a scarf and a pair of trainers too. Recently I’ve taken to actually dressing nicely so it’s good to just chill out. Actually it’s good to get out of the house at all. And on a weeknight. I’ve done well so far.

I go back downstairs and down the rest of my tea before jumping into my car and driving to The Meeting House. I’ve driven and walked past this building a million times on the way to the train station but I’ve never even been inside. I walk up the flat stone steps and inside. I feel a little doubtful… in fact I’m only just about sure I’m in the right place. Inside, the building is washed by the harsh whiteness of tube lights. The carpet is green and flat, and there are doors in all directions. I look tentatively at a few people sitting around, not entirely sure where I’m going. Then I see it. ‘Zen meditation 7.30- 9.45 Room 3’. Room 3 it is then.

I walk up a spiralled flight of stairs and straight into room 3 when I realise I’m still wearing my trainers and everyone else has taken their shoes off. ‘You knob end, Gowri’, I think, before quickly retreating outside the room. I nervously peek inside. A large, golden Buddha sits at the end of the room on a table with a lit candle. A few people bow and pray to it. An old gentleman with a white beard and kind eyes comes up to me and says ‘You must be Gowri. Thanks for getting in touch’. There’s some fumbling and fidgeting and the man, Paul comes out of the room with a younger, beautiful mixed race looking woman with cropped hair, black glasses and a gorgeous smile. I am treading the water between tense and relaxed. She introduces herself as Nicola. I give them both my best polite smile as they gather together some cushions, a small bench and some more cushions and take me downstairs to a big open room, away from everyone else.

“Have you ever done anything like this before?” asks Nicola. I cast my mind back to the Buddhist Centre in Moseley with its warm lighting, the giant gold buddha, the air humid with lemon and ginger tea and the array of navy cushions splayed across the wooden floor and the people of all backgrounds coming together yearning for peace. “I’ve done a six week meditation course back when I used to live in Birmingham”, I reply. I’m not sure if this makes me any more qualified or not.

She goes on to explain to me that here, they practise Zen buddhism which has a number of differences. “We don’t focus on the breath, we simply focus on sitting” she says, casting her eyes to the numerous adjuncts she has brought with her. I play around with them until I find a comfortable position on a chair. I’m taught how to hold my hands. I’m told when to bow with my hands in a prayer and I’m told that when we meditate we sit facing the wall with our eyes slightly open and looking down. At this point, my fight or flight response gets ready to kick in and scream at me to leave but my behind stays firmly on the chair. Must keep an open mind.

“Is everyone here buddhist?” I ask.
“Most people”, she replies “but not everyone”.
“And the meditations… are they guided?”
“No, no… we just sit in silence”, she smiles.
Run, Gowri.

I don’t run. Despite my fear and my reservations I’m taken in by the beautiful warmth that Nicola keeps exuding and wafting in my direction. Buddhists, for fuck’s sake, I think. Why are they all so nice?

I follow Nicola up the stairs. We wait outside the room where everyone else is, making small talk in whispers until we hear a chime. I walk in behind her. The room is dark, bar the single candle on the altar. Everyone’s seats face the wall. I find it weird to begin with, but I settle down into my space. Another chime. And everyone just… sits.

So I sit. At first I’m conscious of every breath I take. My mind wanders to all sorts of places until I look at the wall and see a bit of paint scratched off, exposing the brown wood of the skirting board. If I squint it looks a bit like Australia. I like the lighting here. Calm. What am I doing here? Focus, focus. I try to feel my feet on the ground, my legs and my thighs on the seat. I try to maintain my hands in the position Nicola said even though my thumbs keep drooping as my mind wanders off. I suddenly become aware of the fact that I’ve seriously lost practice at meditating. I also realise that unguided meditations are scary. But as the minutes tick by, I find myself relaxing. My spine curves a little. I begin to let go. The paint scratch looks more and more like a paint scratch. And another chime.

I stand. More bowing. Lights on.

I look at the room around me. It’s mainly older men, in their fifties. One guy has a head of brown hair and a charming smile, he’s perhaps a little younger. Paul is wearing robes in the corner of the room. “Tea?” he asks.

Finally, now that’s something that I can definitely do.

Tea is brewed. We sit around a table and chat. Paul plays a talk and everyone discusses it at the end. I look around, wondering how I found myself amongst this bunch of total strangers on my 24th birthday but feeling strangely at peace. From Nicola’s initial description, I thought this was going to be incredibly prescriptive. It certainly wasn’t the same as what I’d experienced before, but there was a gentle warmth in that room that came not from the radiators but from the loving energy of the humans inside it.

Suddenly, I felt content. I don’t know how much a part of my life this will ever become but I think how happy I am to have done something purely for me for the first time in a very long time. I think this is the best birthday gift I could’ve given myself.

A year ago on this very day I wrote a post called Birthday thanks.

I turn 24 today. It’s been the quietest birthday of my life, to the point where even I almost forgot that I was turning a year older. Right now, I could not feel more far removed from the gratitude filled, abundant force of energy who warmly put together that joyful little number linked above.

So much has changed. So much has changed. I mean, I know I keep banging on about how much has changed but really, so much has changed. But this post isn’t about how I perceived a life of awesomeness and seemingly landed in a shitpile. It’s about how to create sweetness out of the shitpile. And guys, I don’t know how the fuck I’m going to do that but something tells me that this is going somewhat in the right direction.

 

 

The steamiest nights

I don’t know if you guys are ready for this kind of post but if other writers can do it, so can I.

Brace yourselves. I’m about to reveal intimate details of the steamiest nights that I’ve had this year. There have been many. They have been varied. Each one has brought me to the cusp of bliss and that’s why I’m writing about them today.

So for clarity’s sake, steamy means many things.

Like the steam that arises from hot tea that one is about to drink.

So in fact, the steamiest nights may perhaps actually be about the nights during which I drank tea and, oh, I don’t know… read a book. I like to read with tea.

Okay, it’s a 2017 book review so if you actually want to know about my sex life then whatsapp me and if we’re close enough I’ll just tell you. You’re all freaks, by the way for clicking this link. Shame on you.

NO, NO, NO WAIT, DON’T GO!

I’m sorry… you did just take part in a grand Rick rolling practical joke between me and myself and I have wanted to pull this for a while but I am sorry. But before you decide that this shit isn’t worth reading… tell me, when was the last time you read a book?

Was it Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone? And did you say ‘Fuck it, let’s watch the movie’? That’s fine. No judgement. We muggles have forgotten the magic associated with picking up a crisp new book and cosying up with a hot drink and losing ourselves in the words of someone else’s life. Mindfuck moment: You’re actually doing that right now by reading this. Try not to fall off your chair.

Okay, if by now, you’re done, that’s fine. Go forth. Have a good life. But if you’re up for it, we can talk about some good books. I’ve not done a book review on here before but so many of you guys requested it that I felt like it was worth it. The last sentence was literally a complete lie. No one has ever asked me to write a book review but this is my fucking page so here it is.

Some pointers first: Number one: I don’t read LOADS. I’d say I read a moderate amount. That translates to always has her head dipped in several books at once and reads at weekends because she’s too tired after work but listens to audiobooks before bed. Number two: I alternate between fiction and non fiction. I read a lot of spiritual and self help books to try and expand my mind/knowledge/seeking answers but I interject it with healthy doses of easy fiction. Number three: I’m going to be unconventional and go with 8 of my personal favourite reads of 2017.

8. We are all completely beside ourselves- Karen Joy Fowler

Meet Rosemary. She’s in her twenties, dealing with some serious fucking burns from her childhood. Mainly the fact that her gorgeous sister, Fern, was literally torn away from her, one summer when she was five years old. She went to her grandparents’ place for three weeks and when she got back to her house Fern was gone. And she stayed gone. Rosemary spends the large majority of her life trying to forget about it but it comes and bites her back. So she goes on a hunt for the truth. Where in god’s hell is Fern?

I have one piece of advice for this book. DO NOT READ AHEAD. Just wait until page 77. Page 77 will blow your little brain. The twist is so fucking good it will just compel you to finish it.

Tone: Dry, sarcastic, will make you feel things
Readability: A solid train book
Storyline: 11 out of 10. Legit.

7. The Universe has your back- Gabrielle Bernstein

Giddy up, Law of Attraction junkies, here’s a good one for you. The Universe Has Your Back is a book that’s about faith and love. Gabby Bernstein is a first class author and life coach who is well versed in A Course In Miracles which is actually a christian text which she translates well so it’s not overly preachy OR super new-agey. Thankfully, unlike The Secret (sorry), it isn’t written for five year olds with an IQ of minus 30. It’s not like ‘Just feel good and good things will happen to you’. This book teaches that essentially, no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. This book is about finding peace from within. It’s about meditation. It’s about making peace with your inner self so that the things in your life start to mirror your positive internal state. It’s Law of Attraction with a twist: rather than being focused on outcome, it’s focused on within.

Tone: Soothing AF. I listened to it as an audiobook and Gabby’s voice is like treacle.
Readability: I read this book at a testing time in my life and I got through it in a day because it spoke to me on new levels at the time.
Applicability: 6/10. There are good exercises and meditations thrown in there.

6. Milk and Honey- Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur is probably one of the few reasons I have left for believing wholeheartedly in God. This woman is a divine, beautiful, delicious force of nature and I want to invite her poetry into your life. I want to do this for you. She will open you up. She will prod bits of your soul that you didn’t know existed. She will make you feel things you didn’t know you could feel. She will let you into her every thought with the god-like power of her words. You will re-read Milk and Honey time and time again because Rupi’s authenticity will literally speak to the essence of your very being. Plus the velvety cover is gorgeous. Buy the book (not kindle edition), make yourself some tea, get on your sofa with a blanket and just swim in her divinity.

Tone: Raw, real, emotional
Readability: Easy reading… even easier re-reading
Storyline: Gorgeous. She splits this book into four easy sections. Rupi my darling, let’s drink tea and talk about life.

5. My not so perfect life- Sophie Kinsella

Confession of a Soph-a-holic: I love Kinsella. Yes there’s a reasonable dose of romance, yes it’s super chick-lit but this book is an ultimate guilty pleasure. Katie Brenner has finally worked her way up to everything she’s dreamed about- a job in a firm in London. She’s all hell bent on being a Londoner. But in true Kinsella style, shit hits the fan, she gets fired, she meets a guy, she moves home, plot twists and turns, happy ending, easy reading, feel good as hell- what’s not to love about this?

Tone: Funny, witty, as if they’re your own thoughts
Readability: You won’t put it down, classic Kinsella
Storyline: Very, very good.

4. The subtle art of not giving a fuck- Mark Manson

If you, like me, are guilty of having your head stuck in the clouds for a lot of your life, then trust me when I say that Mark Manson will have you crashing back down to reality… in a good way. This book highlights the most avid flaws faced particularly by millenials. It talks about how we’ve been kind of fucked over by society. How mediocrity isn’t good enough anymore. Basically it says this: problems are always going to be there in your life. Instead of constantly focusing on positive experience, learn to get comfortable with the problems, the negative experiences, the inevitable suffering that happens because we are human. This is a delightfully refreshing take on the self help industry. It stops forcing us to fart out sunshine and positivity from our backsides. It’s practical enlightenment with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Tone: Slightly patronising at times but if you put that to one side, it’s logical, scientific and extremely down to earth.
Readability: I audiobooked this one and it’s excellent for a commute… makes you think but doesn’t divert your attention from the road.
Applicability: Here’s the deal sealer. This is the kind of practical self help our world needs and I will give it a solid 8/10 for applicable.

3. The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine

I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to include bae but if this is Gowri’s book review of 2017, Gowri’s most worn out book in the world is her Oxford Handbook. I wouldn’t be where I am without bae. I still keep bae in my work bag and look things up when I encounter them at work. I still love bae’s philosophical teachings (the dad with the cluster headaches paragraph gets me every time, as does Corrigan’s door). Oxford handbook is everything. Concise, easy to follow, colour coded medical literature. It’s not just for finals. It’s for life.

Tone: The best textbook you’ll every read kind of tone
Readability: The best textbook you’ll ever read kind of readable
Applicability: Put it this way. Even I managed to become a doctor. There’s a reason for that. (Bae).

2. When breath becomes air- Paul Kalanithi

If you happened to be on a train to Birmingham the other day and you saw a long haired, spectacled indian girl in a black jumper, snotty nosed and bawling her eyes out, that person was absolutely not me- let’s not be ridiculous now. (It was me). Kalanithi spoke to me on new levels: he is possibly one of my most esteemed role models for being both a doctor and a writer. Paul is a neurosurgeon who gets diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and ‘When breath becomes air’ is his autobiography. Everyone needs to read Paul’s book and if you’re a doctor… you definitely need to read Paul’s book. It’s an articulate, beautiful expression of what it is to face your own mortality. There are a few quotes from this book which, as a doctor, truly resonated with me so I highlighted them and am including them below:

“Putting lifestyle first is how you choose a job, not a calling”
“From that moment on I vowed to treat all my paperwork as patients and vice versa”
“When there is no place for the scalpel, words are the surgeon’s only tool”
“And along with shift work  comes a kind of shiftiness, a subtle undercutting of responsibility. If he could just push it off for a few more hours, I’d become somebody else’s problem”.

Tone: Refreshing, smart and such incredible manipulation of the English language
Readability: Incredibly easy reading, you’ll finish it in one night
Storyline: Beautiful, moving, poignant, sad and frankly, necessary to read.

1. One Indian Girl- Chetan Bhagat

Guys this was my number one book of 2017. I’m not a fan of CB’s every book, not by any means but I have profound respect for the way in which he, a man, so effortlessly eased himself into the brown skin of a young indian woman and wrote from the heart. I’m just going to provide you with the blurb:

Hi, I’m Radhika and I’m getting married this week. I work at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. Thankyou for reading my story. However, let me warn you, you may not like me too much. One, I make a lot of money. Two, I have an opinion on everything. Three, I’ve had a boyfriend before. Okay maybe two. Now if I was a guy, you would be okay with all of this. But since I am a girl, these three things don’t really make me too likeable, do they?

The instant I read this blurb, I was drawn to this book. Radhika will tell you every painfully sexist part of her story with insurmountable wit, humour and relatabilty. You will love her. You will understand her. And for every indian girl reading this, on some level at least, you are her.

Tone: Witty, hilarious, relatable, you will root for her every step of the way
Readability: Easy as hell reading and you will not put it down, I assure you.
Storyline: Genuinely, the best CB novel so far in terms of storyline. You don’t know what’s coming next. But more than anything, I think all indian women need to read this book. Indian girls need to read this book and then give it to their mothers to read. This book highlights elements of every day sexism that you too have probably lived with. It will speak to you and I hope it will also change you.

Okay so it turns out I just poured my heart and soul into this book review and I do not regret it. If you’ve made it this far, I’m not only happy for you but I’m rooting for you. Be inspired to go pick up a book, maybe one of the ones I have mentioned and throw yourself in there. Only goodness awaits.

In the meantime, to all the authors that I have promoted, I know this blog will mean a lot to you but I promise that you’ve given me as much with your writing as I will have given you with mine.

You’re welcome, sweeties.