He has six friends and he tells us they will stand by each other no matter what happens. Before marriage, he told his wife, “You don’t need to adjust with my parents but you need to do so as far my friends are concerned.” He talked about his wife in a gentle and caring way. He makes sure that his wife has her share of fun and enjoyment. “Just because we are men that does not mean that only we will enjoy. A woman is a human being first and she must enjoy.”
It’s Onam today — Kerala’s much celebrated harvest festival. But how does one celebrate in the midst of loss, pain, grief and devastation? Kerala is going through a harrowing time because of the massive floods. The magnitude of this natural calamity is beyond anyone’s imagination. But then Kerala has a million stories of hope, love and generosity. Here’s to Kerala’s magical landscape and its beautiful, resilient people. Kerala, you will always be close to my heart.
(I visited Kerala just a month ago i.e July, 2018. The pics are from my Kerala trip. )
UNDER A CLOUD… STANDING TALL
NET GAIN IN FORT KOCHI
YOURS TRULY WITH KERALA’S TWINKLING STARS
LET’S GO QUIRKY
It was a beautiful mellowed June evening. The sky was grey, there was something romantic about the waves hitting against the rocks. We had just reached Fort Kochi in God’s own country after a long gruelling journey. But the tiredness of the journey just melted when we saw the vast encompassing ocean.
As we were walking under the clouds, suddenly we heard a young voice greeting us with a ‘Hi.’ We stopped and he introduced himself, “I am David. I run a restaurant here. We serve seafood delicacies for lunch and dinner.” David added, “My father is a fisherman. So he brings the fresh catch and we cook it in the restaurant.”
And then he asked all three of us for introduction. My friends live in Dubai and Mumbai. When I told him, “I am from Ahmedabad.” Immediately, with a twinkle in his eyes, David said, “Oh! you are from the Land of Mahatma. How wonderful.”
Hearing that, my heart swelled with pride. Ahmedabad is the city in which Gandhiji established his Sabarmati Ashram and changed the course of India’s destiny. I am happy that David recognised that essence of India. These are difficult times. The world needs Gandhi more than ever.
ON INTERNATIONAL HAPPINESS DAY (MARCH 20)
A cup of tea
Getting lost in the pages of a book
Looking at the changing colors of the sky
October … arrival of autumn
Winter morning, evening, night … actually everything about the winter
Watching children play
Decluttering drawers, desks and wardrobes
An air/rail ticket in my handbag
Glowing table lamps, floor lamps
Colourful handmade notebooks (and saving them for that special occasion… middle-class upbringing)
Conversations with nieces, nephews… kids in general
Cooking meals from memory (as once cooked by my mother)
Rice, egg curry, cucumber-tomato-onion salad
Sitting in a quiet cafe and seeing life pass by
Getting lost in the wonderful world of textiles at Ahmedabad’s Rani no Hajira/ Gamthiwala/Gurjari, Boyanika in Bhubaneswar, Nalli in Hyderabad, Anokhi in Jaipur, Baroda Prints in Vadodara…
Browsing through Fab India and thinking what can be purchased without spending a fortune
Stories dancing in my mind
Deleting whatspp group messages without reading them
Never ever opening a ‘Good Morning’ message
Looking for pickles, soaps at Khadi Bhandars
Buying glass bangles at Charminar in Hyderabad (even though not wearing them regularly)
Running fingers through my mother’s saris
Dreaming of owning a cafe in the mountains
Travelling in AC Two Tier in Rajdhani Express
Poori-aloo ki sabzi for breakfast
Watching varied moods of Bay of Bengal
Full Moon Night
Listening to Elton John, Cat Stevens, Adele, Kishore Kumar
Momos, fruit beer at Dilli Haat
Reading Lonely Planet India and imagining 1000 trips in my mind
Vivek Express, Gatiman Express, Nilgiri Toy Train and Palace on Wheels — Imagining journeys in each one of them
Istanbul, the home I have never been to…
The Supreme Court of India in a landmark judgement on August 24, 2017 unanimously declared that individual privacy is a “guaranteed fundamental right.” I danced in joy when I first read this as a ‘breaking news alert’ on my mobile phone. It’s a historic judgement and I am really excitedly looking forward to see its ramifications.
In between joy and excitement, I thought of this conversation I had with my Punjabi co-passenger during a train journey from Manmad to Jalgaon.
She: Where did you stay?
Me: Name of the hotel
She: How much you paid?
Me: The amount
She: Tax vax to hoga ji (there will be some tax amount too)
Me: The amount
She: How did you go to Shani Signapur (A place in Maharashtra, famous for its Shani Temple) ?
She: How much you paid?
Me: The amount
She: Indica? AC
She: Bhaisaab hai na (meaning my husband)
She: How many years have you been married?
She: Family. shamily
Me : Planning (BIG LIE)
And then the icing on the cake of right to privacy
She: I am very good at it
She: On teaching how to have babies
Me: Wow. Good for you.
I went to Rishikesh many years ago. I loved the cool flowing waters of the river Ganga. I love rivers, the stories they carry within themselves, the way rivers flow even as stories around them keep changing. I found a kind of resonance with Rishikesh and its crisp air.
Years later, my friend went and stayed at The Glasshouse on the Ganges. I fell in love with the images of this beautiful property. I had thought to myself, “When I will have little extra money to splurge, I will stay at The Glasshouse with my mother.” I wanted to indulge my mother. She had always indulged me in myriad ways. It was my turn to indulge her.
But life on most occasions chooses its own path. By the time, I had little extra money to splurge on a luxurious Rishikesh holiday, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. And the travelling never happened. Because our journey had become a difficult one. Travelling itself had become a luxury considering the nature of her illness.
Now one of my close friends has gone to Rishikesh on a short holiday. And I can’t stop think thinking about the ‘Rishikesh holiday’ I so very wanted with my mother. The holiday that never happened.
Maybe I shouldn’t have waited for having a little extra money for a luxurious stay at the Glasshouse. Maybe I should have just gone ahead with whatever I had.
Maybe I am living with too many ‘May Be(s)’.
It has been exactly three years since I lost my mother. October 18, 2013 is still there in my mind/heart like a photograph. Sitting on my computer today, I am trying to tell you a story. My mother was a wonderful story-teller. I always coaxed her to tell me stories. Again and again. I never got bored of her stories. No one now tells me stories the way she used to. In the absence of the story-teller, I become the story-teller. Here’s my story of our story.
Love makes you do strange things. Without any struggle. I have never used a handkerchief in my life. But for the last three years, I have always carried this beautiful handkerchief of my mother in my handbag. This soft, humble cotton handkerchief with a pashapali (it’s called so because it resembles a chess board) print reflecting Odisha’s magical textile heritage is my constant companion. My mother never stepped out of the house without her handkerchief. Now, I don’t step out of my house without this handkerchief. My mother travels with me wherever I go.
Ma loved wearing glass bangles. One of my most vivid and beautiful childhood memories of her is watching her put glass bangles. Every now and then. The sight made my little eyes glow in awe. It made life colorful, magical and sensual. I now wear glass bangles to feel closer to her. I love the clinking of glass bangles as I keep on furiously typing on my computer. The sound makes me happy and comfortable..
I have inherited some of the textile gems (especially Odisha’s ikkat saris) from her wardrobe. The smell, sight of her saris in my wardrobe brings in a slice of her life to embrace me. I love wrapping her sari around me. I feel as if our lives are entwined. Saris like memories have no S, M, L, XL size. You just need to wrap it around you with love. It never fails to amaze me how a nine yard cloth can hold so many years within it. So much of love and warmth.
Joy and sorrow are part of life. There’s a winter. There’s a spring too.
Grief breaks you. And grief also makes you. Grief makes you look deep within and discover something innately new and warm. To embrace newness, you need to be open in grief. During the process of healing the broken pieces of my fractured soul, I have discovered the magic of Buddhism. On many evenings. I now sit quietly and listen to ‘Om Mani Padme hum’ even as light and shadow dance in a joyous mood in my home. Last April, while travelling in Sikkim, a deep sense of peace and calmness embraced me as I just looked at the tiny prayer flags fluttering high in the air. Spinning prayer wheels at monasteries elevated my soul. The majestic mountains with the cool, crisp air gave me an intimate feeling of being at my spiritual home. Somehow, it also made me feel that my mother must be happy wherever she is now. It felt as if I have made peace with my grief, loss. I could feel the rush of love in my blood. Even in the absence of a lover.
My journey in the last 1096 days (2016 is a leap year) has given me the gift of looking deep within. I now have little faith in this whole talk of rationality. Modern life is too obsessed with rationality/ rational mind. I believe, if you listen deeply to your voice within with a larger sense of love and compassion, you can actually feel the presence of those who have left you. The rational mind has not really explored the mettle of heart. When you listen deeply to your heart, you will find your own answers. There’s no need to be limited, fearful.
PS Needless to say, there’s a pleasure, joy in the physical world — the world of touch, smell, voice, beauty, warmth, sensuality. The physical world is deeply fascinating and it can be soul-elevating too. My mother’s absence in this physical world hurts me. I terribly miss her physical presence in my life. For years, my morning ritual was to make a phone call to her. Sometimes with my eyes half-closed. With traces of deep sleep defining my voice. I now miss making that phone call early in the morning.
I miss her food very much. In her absence, food just doesn’t taste the same now. I miss everything about her food – the texture, the color, the variety, the seasoning, the rich, delicious mutton curry with huge chunks of potatoes, finely sliced aubergines fried and then gently put in a bowl of thick curd (seasoned with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaf), piping hot pakoras that could give tempuras a real tough competition, potatoes cooked in a mixture of puppy seeds and green chillies, her signature dish of scrambled eggs cooked in mutton gravy and lots more. I try to recreate her magic by pressing the rewind button my memory. But, as they say, it’s not just the same.
I really find it amazing to see how people around you maintain a stoic silence when you talk about a loved one who’s no more. People try to play with their hair, ear-rings, mobile phones when you talk about your memories of a loved one. They smile uncomfortably, most of them look like unhappy stock brokers. To all those nervous, fearful souls, I would like to say, look higher, look within. it’s not about death. It’s about love and more love.
We ruminate and savor memories of those only whom we love deeply. So, join me today in celebrating memories of togetherness, joy and love between a daughter-mother. There are always love stories in the world to warm the cockles of your heart.
Aren’t these flowers beautiful? So, smile. Just smile.