Richa Kaul Padte writes on issues of gender, sex, technology, illness and popular culture. She is also co-founder and editor of the digital imprint Deep Dives, which publish longform journalism and essays. I've been a big fan of hers since stumbling on her @100forhirish collage project, and for writing with clarity and truth the way she does. She also put together an amazing edition of This is my newsletter recently, which I highly recommend reading if you haven't already.
In conversation with Richa about how 2020 panned out for her:
How has this year been for you?
I think it’s a mark of extraordinary privilege and luck to say that this year hasn’t been awful for me. Or, well, let’s just say it hasn’t been worse than other years in recent memory (2019 - illness; 2018 - grief; 2015 - illness). But I guess like most people living through the pandemic, my feelings have come in waves and phases of coping and decidedly not coping. And I think you’ve caught me in a coping-phase right now!
What was your routine like during the pandemic?
I’ve lived with varying degrees of chronic illness since late 2013, which means that for the last few years, my routine has been quite low-key and WFH (btw this is the first time I’m ever using this acronym, which I’ve truly come to hate). For example: I like to keep my mornings technology-free, with books and tea and on good days, writing. Something I’ve added to my routine in the pandemic is walking every evening to my mum’s house - this entails a couple of unplanned, distanced interactions with other residents of my village and sort of reminds me that I’m still a person.
What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome this year?
I’m not sure I overcame this, but definitely the hardest thing for me this year has been (and continues to be) endless negotiations with the people I share un-masked living space with. We’ve all got our own ideas, boundaries, and lines around wellbeing and safety, but now we’re all interconnected in this very intense way where one person’s ideas and actions affect everyone’s lives. I guess in a sense the world has always been woven together in this way, and the pandemic has simply revealed what Donna Haraway would call “the unasked-for pattern” that we’re holding in our hands.
Who really enriched your life this year in a big way?
My cat, Kenshi, who I don’t photograph for terribly absurd and superstitious reasons, but who really gets me through it all.
The nicest thing you did for someone in 2020?
This question has given me so much pause for thought that I suspect I’ve been quite a terrible person this year. Or at least a very controlling person (those endless negotiations that I was talking about earlier may possibly seem to those around me less like conversations and more like commands).
The book that helped you the most in 2020?
Ah, I can never pick a single book - I read pretty much all the time, but I am also so picky about what I read that I end up loving practically everything! But I can say that befriending the folks behind a small independent bookshop in Delhi (The Bookshop) has enriched my reading life endlessly this year. And for good measure, two books I read this year that were wonderful and comforting from start to finish were Upstream by Mary Oliver and Writers and Lovers by Lily King.
The song you heard on loop this year?
You know how there’s no bad Britney Spears song? Yeah, me too.
Favorite film/TV show of 2020?
I rewatched all of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, which was a huge influence on me as a teenager, and I’m not embarrassed to say that my third rewatch brought me as much joy - though a lot of added cringe-moments too. Also because time is weird now I can’t remember when I watched The Morning Show, but I thought that it was absolutely brilliant. Oh and I’m pretty sure I May Destroy You might be the best show ever made? In other words: I watch a lot of TV.
What is one question that you found yourself asking over and over again this year?
When will I see my friends again? When will I see my friends again? When will I see my friends again? I try to avoid looking at the answer too closely, but it doesn’t stop the question from echoing in my brain. When will I see my friends again?
What’s your number one bucket list item for 2021?
I’d like to see my friends again! Specifically, if the vaccination roll-out is successful, I’d like to go back to the UK, where I used to live for ages. It’s a trip that I’ve put off for a variety of reasons over the years (chronic illness being at the forefront), but one that I desire now with a force that’s almost too hard to contain. Sticky toffee pudding, anyone?