( This letter/note was written when Ahmedabad was in a complete shut down mode for a week (MAY 7- MAY 14) due to steep rise in the numbers of COVID-19 cases )
( This letter/note was written when Ahmedabad was in a complete shut down mode for a week (MAY 7- MAY 14) due to steep rise in the numbers of COVID-19 cases )
The year was 1995 or 1996 (It doesn’t really matter now). There was no landline phone at my two bedroom apartment in South Delhi. I was working in India’s leading news agency. The board line numbers of my office were always busy and on quite a few occasions, the telephone lines got all mixed up. Sometimes the call landed where it was not meant to be. On some occasions, the caller disconnected the phone in sheer frustration. To make life easy for our foreign correspondents in New York, London, Beijing, the bosses installed a direct line at the Foreign Desk. This direct landline number became more important to some of us than all our bylines and meager salary. In no time, I gave this number to him so that his call doesn’t get lost in the chaotic news chasing, news gathering world. During the day shift, many times I used to skip my lunch (by not going to the cafeteria) just in the hope that he might call up. And I didn’t want to miss hearing his voice. Till now, nobody knows about this (I was/am quite close to some of my (ex)-colleagues.). Loving him was important, not talking about it. Waiting to hear his voice was important. Even if it meant missing my lunch. And I didn’t think about it then as a ‘sacrifice.’ Now people make it sound like one.
If love’s the hero now then it can’t perform without its all pervasive supporting ‘virtual’ characters : google, whatsapp, skype, Facebook, Instagram, tinder (the list can go on and on). Life is now about searching. We are constantly searching now. Online. Searching about food, clothes, accessories, buying a house, we are searching locations,
prices, sizes. We are searching ‘How to Be.’ We are searching ‘How to be productive’, ‘How to be organized’, ‘How to write a perfect To Do List’ and yes, we are searching for happiness, love.
In a workshop related to web writing, I was told that one of the most popular topics for online search is: ‘How to be happy’. In my moment of curiosity, I searched ‘How to Love’. Google, the brilliant one-stop search engine, disappointed me. The search engine hardly pops up anything leave aside some lyrics of songs. There are many other ‘Hows… how to kiss, how to have sex, how to keep him hooked in bed … The list is endless. The missing one is ‘How to Love’.
In the same breath, I must tell that there are loads and loads of love coaches giving gyaan (knowledge) in the virtual world. One day I got a mail from Mr X (his site popped up during one of my searches for gathering info on a story I was doing). I had checked out his site to find out what it’s actually about. And then I got a number of mails from him. (the virtual world keeps a track of your activities). His mails always had varied subjects, “Does being a bitch really work to attract men and get them in love with you? / How To Make Your Ex Want You Again / 3 Secrets To Quickly Rekindle His Desire / Fatal Mistakes To Avoid In Your Bedroom. I did not reply to him or ever showed any interest in signing up for his ‘hugely popular’ (all his e-mails came with that killer marketing line HURRY, FEW SEATS LEFT) programmes.
Some days back, I got a mail from him : “Hey Deepika , I wanted to quickly stop by and let you know that my program titled ‘How to find perfect romantic love’ is now on sale and available on a 50% discount. Hurry up!!!”
I am in no hurry.
She gave me life and I held her hand gently as she breathed her last. I did not know how debilitating loss could be till I came back to her empty bedroom after her mortal remains were consigned to flames.
Her tryst with cancer was laced with grace and grit. In those five years of innumerable hospital visits, intensely painful bone marrow tests, decaying plasma cells, as we walked hand in hand, we experienced infinite love.
Our birthdays are just a day apart…. Today is hers. She lives within me.
I hope in my own journey ahead, with her blessings I will be a better human being in every sense of the term. I owe this blog to her cause she was a mesmerising story-teller. And I am just trying to carry forward this legacy.
I am in deep mourning. I am grieving for all the beautiful, strong, not so strong trees we have lost as Cyclone Fani ravaged Odisha few days back.
I have grown up with trees. I have hugged them in moments of happiness. I have leaned against them in times of sadness. Sometimes I have taken their presence for granted. My most beautiful growing up memory is all about waking up in the morning and sitting quietly on the verandah of our then house (I have lived in different parts of Odisha) and just soaking in the ethereal beauty of swaying coconut trees, watching tiny birds jumping from one branch of the mango tree to another.
There are no gentler souls in this world than the trees. They give shelter even to those who come to brutally hack them from the roots.
Even as I grieve deeply, I hope we will soon plant more trees in Odisha and love them more deeply and pray for their longer life.
In their existence lies our future. For trees are life.
(This banyan tree belongs to the soil of Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital. I was mesmerized by its richness of life. Being with this tree felt like being with my ancestors… the sense of its history warmed the cockles of my heart. How can we become this large in our hearts? )
PHOTOS : YOURS TRULY
(I have many daughters across cities, continents without giving birth to one. You don’t have to be a biological mother to share love, warmth, knowledge and kindness. On International Women’s Day, I am sharing a note I wrote to Simrita, my niece who turned 18 on February 15, 2019. She is as precious to my heart as many young girls finding their way in this world. This note is personal yet universal. Like love. So, here it goes.)
#10YearChallenge : Few weeks back, my social media timeline was full of photographs with this hashtag. Well, here it’s a little different. I wrote this story for my niece Simrita in 2009 (She turned 8 then) as a birthday gift. Ten years later, in 2019, she is all set to join college in couple of months. Two days back, I found the story in my Gmail inbox when I was in a combative mood to delete old e-mails. I am sharing this short story out of love, affection and nostalgia. I am also realizing that how fast kids grow up. Simrita is all set to celebrate her birthday on February 15.
A birthday to remember
Sui Moi is a beautiful little girl who’s just seven years old. And let me share a secret about Sui Moi — she’s crazy about her birthday (in addition to watching Tom and Jerry on television and eating large pieces of chocolate cake). She has always thrown big birthday parties for her friends. She loves to call all her six close friends and also three close friends of her brother Koko Moi who is six years old. Koko Moi loves his sister a lot and is always ready to think of new ways to bring in special surprises for Sui Moi’s birthday. Are you wondering when’s Sui Moi’s birthday? Her birthday is on January 15.
This year Sui Moi as usual had lots of plan in mind before bringing in another birthday. She along with her papa (whom we will call Papa Moi), mama (whom we will call Mama Moi) and Koko Moi had checked out the menu of a restaurant from where she had planned to order the food her party. And with every passing day, she was getting excited about her birthday. So also Koko Moi. He spent hours in painting a huge card for his sister.
But alas, sometimes things just don’t go right in spite of our plan. On 15th January morning, Papa Moi got a call from the restaurant saying that there had been a fire in the kitchen of the restaurant the previous night. Though no one was hurt in the fire but they had closed down the restaurant for some repair work. That’s why, they wouldn’t be able to deliver the food and they would give back the advanced amount. “Oh No, God can’t be so cruel to me,” screamed Sui Moi when she first heard the news and tears rolled down her cheeks. She couldn’t imagine what would happen to her party which she had so meticulously planned days in advance. What’s a party without food? What will she do? There are just some hours left for the party. All these years, Sui Moi’s birthday parties were much loved among her friend circle for the decoration, food, fun and loads of laughter.
But as they say every cloud has a silver lining. And immediately there was a family discussion on what to do next. Both Koko Moi and Sui Moi wore a very sad look. But then came brilliant ideas from Papa Moi and Mama Moi who declared cheerfully, “Let’s cook for the party and as they say nothing tastes like homemade food. All four of us will be the chefs and the party will rock as usual.” Sui Moi at first thought Papa Moi and Mama Moi were joking. But seeing their determination, she and Koko Moi decided to go ahead with this sudden plan.
The first thing on the menu was something from Koko Moi. Well, you might think he’s a little boy but don’t forget that he’s our little champ. So, Koko Moi said with a big grin on his face and a packet of Gelatin powder in his hand, “I will make Jell-O sweets for everybody.” Bingo… and Sui Moi said immediately “I am going to be Mama’s assistant and help her in the kitchen.” And immediately Papa Moi said, “Hey you guys, don’t forget me. I am also going to have fun in the kitchen and make some delicious potato sandwiches. But before that let me rush and get the cake and of course some packets of chicken nuggets and pizza bases.”
With so much of enthusiasm in the air, everybody got into action. And Mama Moi immediately rushed to the kitchen to boil some potatoes so that Papa Moi can make the sandwiches once he returns from the market. And she asked her assistant Sui Moi to take out capsicum, mushrooms, tomatoes from the refrigerator.
Then Sui Moi said, “Well, Mama, how about putting some music so that we all can dance a little while cooking.” Our little Koko Moi simply loved the idea as he’s always the first one to shake a leg. Even as Papa Moi went to the market (this time he went alone cause there are so many things to do at home and Koko Moi was too busy to go with him), Mama Moi braced herself to cut those capsicum, mushroom, onion for making pizzas. And Sui Moi then had a request, “Mama, can you make those lovely chilly egg fry which you made just a week back.” Mama Moi hugged Sui Moi and said tenderly, “Darling, today is your day. So I will do anything for my dearest princess.” And she took out eggs to boil while Sui Moi watched her with a big smile on her face.
In the meanwhile, Koko Moi was all set for making Jell-O sweets. He added the powder to the boiling water given by his mother… and after that he put them into small containers to be put in the refrigerator.
And then after 45 minutes, Papa Moi came back from the market with packets of chicken nuggets and pizza bases and a huge chocolate cake (which he had ordered the previous evening). Everything went off smoothly and with music in the background, cooking for friends became almost like a picnic at home. So, in the end the guests at the party had : Delicious crusty pizzas, potato sandwiches with oregano, chicken nuggets, chips, cookies, colorful Jello-O sweets. And of course they had chocolate cake. It might sound funny but some of Sui Moi’s friends just couldn’t get up from their chairs after polishing off such a delicious home-made meal. After taking rest for a little while, they all danced like crazy and screaming at the top of their voice, “Sui Moi’s party rocks.” Ha ha, what’s new, didn’t we tell you before?
Are you wondering, what all Sui Moi got as B Day gift:
* She got story books, toys, cookie packets, nice colourful stationary sets, a beautiful necklace and a lovely beaded bag.
February 4 is World Cancer Day.
I have spent six years of my adult life in caring for two cancer patients (my mother and my husband’s sister). I have lost both of them to this dreaded C. Caring for them, loving them and watching them putting up a brave show has been life-changing. Far more substantial than what I learnt in JNU, India’s premier university. What are the lessons actually?
She: (Excitedly) You know.. Kasturaba Gandhi died on the lap of Gandhiji. She was one lucky woman.
He: Kab marna hai tum ko (When are you planning to die?). I will keep my lap ready.
Statutory confession: I am no expert in man-woman relationship. I also believe that a relationship is deeply personal. This piece is just based on my experiences of being in some meaningful and not so meaningful relationships. Yet, I have immensely enjoyed this roller coaster ride called ‘being in love’.
Silence is ‘not’ golden: There was a poster in my friend’s hostel room which said, “If you can’t understand my silence, you can’t understand my words.” I don’t know whether my friend took it seriously or not but yours truly definitely took it seriously. So, I just thought that my silence would speak, solve all problems with my man. All that I would need to do is to sit in one corner of the room, maintain a Buddha like posture and if need be, shed some pearly tears. But real life is much more than a poster. Understanding silence is very serious business (more so for your man). I have realized that most men are not really good at understanding silence. They find it easier when you express yourself. So, the next point is a natural progression of this one.
Argumentative Indian: Amartya Sen, please forgive me for using your famous book title in this context. But I have discovered the joy of arguing. Well, it doesn’t earn me money but it gives me immense pleasure. And being a student of social sciences, I make sure that my argument is both historical yet contextual. Man, I know I am a late bloomer. But I never knew that there’s so much of fun in arguing. Sometimes it feels like a high octane tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Feasting .. no more fasting : I thought I had this secret AK 47 weapon with me. Of not eating. Rather refusing to eat whenever we had fights/disagreements. Well, over the years, I have realized that man-woman relationship is a tad different from Gandhiji’s Satyagraha or Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption fasting agitation at Jantar matar, New Delhi So, I have surrendered my secret weapon with great happiness. Now, if I have a fight/disagreement, then I make sure to order mutton biryani, kebabs and polish it off with a plate of caramel custard or rabri with jalebi. Life feels uber delicious. The weighing machine sometimes look alarming. Well, everything is fair in love and war. And, didn’t somebody say love is all about layers? I am just adding layers to myself.
Still tectonic plates, dormant volcanoes: For years, I dealt with innumerable earthquakes, volcanic eruptions within myself. I was operating from a high disaster zone called ‘heart’, But of late, things have settled down. There has been no need for any disaster management. The tectonic plates are all still. And the volcanoes are all lying dormant. Life feels disaster proof.
(This was posted by my favourite Priyanka Chopra on her Instagram feed)
This too shall pass: When you are young and head over heels in love, you think this comes with a stamp of eternity. But then you grow up and you experience life, death, relationships, you realize that everything evolves in life. Evolution is the truth of life. So, the older, wiser me has decided to take a chill pill and curl up in the couch and revel in the line ‘This too shall pass.” Be it happiness, sadness, laziness or even dreadful Indian summer.
Nobody is going anywhere: The younger me had this terrible thought in her head —“If it ends.. what will happen?” Well, it took me some years to understand that nothing begins, nothing ends (To quote Osho). Nobody really goes away anywhere. And the husbands (and lovers who behave like husbands) find it most difficult to go away. They somehow manage to stick on, for different reasons. Even when I threatened my hubby recently with this killer line, ‘I would put you on OLX,” he just didn’t move an inch. I have a feeling my husband may have a similar tale to tell about me. Fair enough, I think.
Social media has other ‘social’ uses: I am not a great fan of people flaunting their love on Facebook. Most of my friends who write long love notes to their spouses on Facebook are not in a happy personal space (their off line confessions say a different story). I prefer to stay away from professing love on Facebook. Life seems blissful. Sometimes no virtual information is good information too. Unlike many other contemporaries of mine, I am freed from the pressure of being a Miss Marple / Lady Agent Vinod/ Bobby Jasoos or even to change profile pics thrice in a week.
Take love seriously but not the lover: I am fascinated by the idea of love. I feel just being in love makes me a better person. The lover is a part of the whole, large, beautiful concept of love. I fiercely protect my right to love. I love being in love.
She is one person who is really close to my heart. We worked together in Delhi years ago and became close friends. We are soul sisters but the irony is that we also lose touch with each other and then after some years we again find each other. This time, it was for six years. I last talked to her in 2012.
Few days back, I was talking about her to my younger colleagues. On an impulse, I tried to track her in Facebook but I couldn’t find her there (I have lost her mobile number). I logged on to twitter, saw her profile. I couldn’t send her a direct message. So I tweeted, “…where are you? You nut case..a slice of my heart walking outside my body.”
She started following me and then we got into chatting via direct messaging. There was so much to talk. Finally, we talked to each other on phone on Monday night (as she was having her weekly off day and I finished work early).
She had no idea that I have lost my mother in 2013. I had no idea that her father (whom I lovingly call uncle) is now lying in a state of semi coma for last four years. I had no idea that she had a harrowing experience while chasing dreams in London. My eyes welled up in tears as I was listening to her. She said, “My dad was like a huge beautiful oak tree under which I flourished and drew strength from. And today, he doesn’t even recognize me.”
There’s no answer to loss. You can only feel loss in your heart. I couldn’t sleep on Monday night. After six years of losing my mother, my loss paled in front of hers.
All I can feel is love for her and for her dad. It hurts me to even think that uncle won’t recognize me. But I can recognize him and remember his love for me.
After we ended our conversation, she messaged me, “Six years of my life condensed into this conversation that lasted for 100 minutes.”