The ache

rishikesh

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)’.

Three years after my mom died…

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.

handkerchief

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..

glass-bangles

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.

Sari magic

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.

prayer-flags

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.

flowers

The Art of Stillness

I enjoy reading Pico Iyer. The other day while trying to sail through the madness of the newsroom and stiff deadlines, I took a little break and ordered online a copy of  Pico Iyer’s The Art of Stillness. I decided to give my favourite Amazon a miss and chose another site (No, not Flipkart). Well, I chose this site  because it was offering me a price which was Rs 22 (when you convert, it’s far far lower than one dollar) less than the offer given by Amazon. The lure of saving money.

 

book

 

This was my first purchase from this site. My heart says it will be last too. Little did I know that this site took the title of my book  very literally. They true to the title of the book decided to be STILL for many days and weeks. They taught me to practice The Art of Stillness in real life. I waits and waited.

The stillness turned into movement when I received the book two days back after I had forgotten about it completely.

The slim book is a pleasure to read. I m not rushing through it.

Like slow cooked mutton biryani, I m savoring it.

Slowly. And slowly.

Home

life

Rinchenpong is a beautiful place in West Sikkim. We were staying in Yangsum Heritage Farm (Pictured above)

It was late evening. There was stillness all around us. It seemed as if we were far far away from civilization. There were three of us– sitting on the grass. Making an attempt to discover more about each other. In Rinchenpong which was not home to any one of us.

I suddenly asked : “What does home mean to you?’

My friend S said, “I carry home with me.” The previous day, she was telling about how she misses home when she travels for a long time. I reminded her of the sentence and asked her, “If home is within you then why do you miss home?” She agreed with me, thought for a little while. She said, “Home is where my bookshelves are.” She laughed, “There are times when I travel for long and I miss my pillow. So, home is actually where my pillow is.”

K is a bright, articulate young tourist guide who is constantly on the move. He lost his parents when he was very young. He said, “Home is where my grandmother and sister live. Home is where I just don’t have to do anything. I get my tea while sleeping under my quilt. The comfort of knowing that you are with your loved ones.”

He then added, “I don’t like this quietness. There’s no television here. I have no news channels to watch. I don’t know what is happening in the world outside this place.”

“I love it when I am home. I just lie on my bed and keep on watching TV news. It feels so nice.”

We all laughed and then added, “So, home is where the TV is..or to be more specific where you can watch the news channels.”

They asked me the question I was asking them.

I said, “Home is where I can be naked… physically, emotionally.” Comfortable in my physical skin. Comfortable in my emotional skin.

The evening was achingly beautiful.

Life in time of autocorrect

She was absent-minded. She was  balancing a fat samosa, a cup of sweet milky tea and a sleek smartphone. She was writing a message to a close friend from the coupe of the AC Two-tier compartment of Rajdhani Express.

She wanted to write: ‘I am going to …

Then the autocorrect popped up on her phone. She just clicked in a jiffy. The message went as ‘I am going to die.’

Actually, she wanted to write: ‘I am going to Delhi.’

He panicked. Called her back almost within 10 seconds.

They had a good laugh when they discovered the truth.

Aah. Autocorrect.

 

Istanbul

istanbul 2

(Hagia Sophia, Istanbul at dusk. Pic David Spender (Flicker)

 

Istanbul is my fantasy. Istanbul is the lover I have never met. But I have loved wholly and substantially.  I have spent long nights reading Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul. I have spent hours day-dreaming about Istanbul. I have longed for Istanbul.

Istanbul has been too near yet too distant for me. All these years. On a sizzling hot May night this year, I had booked my ticket to Istanbul. For a week long visit.

And then the bomb blasts happened in the city killing 11 people. I hoped things to improve. Then the massive airport suicide attack happened sending shock waves across the world. Still I wanted to go ahead. And then couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine called up very early in the morning telling me about the military coup. And then as they say, rest is history.

Few days back, I cancelled my ticket.  The cancellation money for the Istanbul ticket got deposited in my account much sooner than I had expected. This is one ticket cancellation that brought tears in my eyes (Aah.. and I thought I m inching towards detachment).

I feel, places are like lovers, You might be ready for them, but they might not be ready to embrace you, let you to explore their inner soul.

My young colleagues decided to cheer me up and gave me a little note saying, “Istanbul told us — it’s seeking you too. Just wait.”

Yes, we are all actually waiting for one thing or another.  In transit, always waiting. Waiting for tomorrow, happiness, love, sometimes death too.

I am waiting for Istanbul. Till it’s ready to embrace me. Inshallah.

istanbul

Old friends

We have been friends for so long that we term our friendship as ‘antique furniture.’ Sometimes, I feel that she is my sister and sometimes she feels the same way. We also get miffed with each other on some occasions, like friends/siblings all over the world. But there’s something about old friends. They know what you need when you yourself don’t know what exactly you need.

It was February 2011. I had just lost my father and was in deep anguish. I was toying with the idea of going for a meditation course. I was thinking of Vipasana, i was thinking of going tp Osho Ashram in Pune. She was coming to India from Melbourne then. I shared my thought with her. She said, “Nothing doing. I am coming to Ahmedabad. From there we will travel  to Goa. We will eat, drink, talk for hours and we will laugh.”

Memories

I dumped the idea of going for meditation courses. Instead, we flew to Goa. We did all kind of crazy things together including water sports (i screamed my lungs out), dancing away to glory till late night and singing a song continuously for three hours. And together, we created memories. My father must have felt happy seeing us bond beautifully in Goa.

Where would we be all without our old friends?