Six years ago I lost a soul-mate – my brother, gone too soon, leaving my heart forever fractured. And yet here I am again, the fracture now deepened into a canyon of grief…the only relief coming from the river of memories flowing within.
I lost my Granny two weeks ago. My Mom lost her mother and the world lost a beautiful, courageous, gifted soul. She had been ill – she struggled with health issues all her life really but these last 2 years were particularly hard, fate particularly cruel. You would never have known though…she smiled through every hardship!
I was with her when it happened…holding her hand, watching her ragged breathing stop, one hand on her faint pulse until that too faded away. It was surreal. She was gone and I remember walking out of the room to tell Mom…calmly, matter-of-factly even, that she had passed. We had been preparing ourselves you see, as well as the living can prepare for impeding death. Even wishing for it, for her, because we couldn’t bear to watch her suffer and because the woman we knew and loved so very dearly had left much earlier, leaving only a hollow, fragile shell. Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway.
I feel like I haven’t yet begun to grieve. It’s feels weird. I keep waiting for the acute searing pangs of pain that assaulted me when my brother passed but they don’t come. Instead there’s a continuous, dull, aching pain that weighs me down, a persistent malaise that heightens the all-pervading, ever present emptiness. She’s gone and once again the World still turns. Diminished. Weird. Expected. Understood. I cried me a river six years ago but now my eyes are dry…but sadder. I wonder whether that’s what happens over time as we lose the people we love – they settle in the amplified sadness of our eyes.
She raised me. I was her first grandchild, her only granddaughter and the apple of her eye. I like to think so anyway. If I had to describe her in a word it would be ‘Amazon’. She was a warrior for as long as I can remember, even until the end. When she was young, circumstances necessitated a fighting spirit and I like to think that having found the warrior within, she embraced her wholeheartedly. She was like that Aai – All or Nothing. And for all the challenges she faced I never once heard her express disappointment or regret. She just faced every trial with an inherent grace and dignity that left us all in awe.
I wish I had her strength. I wish I were half as brave as she was. I wish I could tell her one more time how much she means to me, how lucky I am to have been loved by her, how deeply I love her and how profoundly I miss her. I wish she were still here – unbroken, whole, wise. I wish, I wish, I wish…but mostly I wish her Happy wherever she is – and I strongly suspect that she’s with my brother and her siblings having a rocking party somewhere, enjoying herself while looking down on us in benevolence!
The night you were born was unremarkable – a night like any other I suppose inasmuch as two nights are alike. I was asleep at Ghatkopar and although your arrival was eagerly awaited I had only a vague notion of ‘when’. I was only 12 after all and such things as babies belonged in another universe.
I remember Tai waking me up to tell me I had a sibling as clearly as if it were yesterday. She said I had a sister and in the dark I couldn’t see her twinkling eyes and her soft smile. She knew I had my heart set on a brother and nothing else would do! I remember rubbing sleepy eyes and saying that was impossible! It must be a brother, she must be mistaken! I remember her gentle laughter as she agreed, saying yes indeed she must be in the face of such confidence, and it was! It was you – come to turn my life upside down and my heart inside out with your own unique brand of love, friendship and compassion.
In those early years, at times I loved you so intensely it hurt and at others I was indifferent to your very existence, too wrapped up in my own adolescence, stormy as it was! But you know that already – you were there after all and bore the brunt of my temper often enough. I could apologise I suppose but there wouldn’t be much point now would there and besides, you know how much I hate saying Sorry 😉
And so the years passed and with them came the trials and triumphs unique to every life’s rhythm. We persevered and overcame while drawing heavily on your seemingly limitless stores of courage and patience in the face of Herculean odds. How did you do it? It was a mystery to me then and remains one today. Your gentle heroism is what I hold within my soul. It is what allows me to breathe on days when all I want is to curl up and die. It is what keeps me smiling while my heart breaks. It is what renews faith and brings me hope when all seems lost. You are the Light at the end of my tunnel. Always were. Always will be.
Another night 4 years ago. Another phone call. And again Life turned upside down, heart turned inside out. Gut-wrenching grief and a paralysing helplessness. An unwillingness to live and laugh in a world that no longer had you in it. And You – as always, my beacon. Willing me to breathe, to persevere, to live. Sending me a little boy to bring me back to the land of the living. A beautiful piece of you that clutched my finger and my heart with that same ferocious devotion that once was uniquely ours. My very own miracle. How did you do it? A beautiful mystery 🙂
And so I smile and open my heart again to the vagaries of unconditional love. I try hard to be more like you were – gentle, compassionate, patient. More often than not I fall flat on my face, but at least now, I stand up and try again. You gave me that along with everything else. I read these words and truth be told – there are no words to say what you are to me, how much I miss you and how much I love you. No words. But that’s alright, coz I know and you know. And that is all that matters.
33 years to the day – and nothing’s changed. It’s still you – holding my heart in yours, killing me softly with your song. Always is. Always will be.
I’m back!! Hopefully some of you have missed me 😉 while I have been having the time of my life on vacation 😛 No really! I missed you too!
There’s good news and bad news (isn’t there always?) – lets just get the bad news out of the way first shall we? My laptop has died on me 😦 Yup. It’s dead, and although I will be able to retrieve my hard disk and hopefully recover my data…I’m going to be without one for the first time in nearly a decade. Not easy and certainly not very nice. Still, thanks to the iPad, I don’t have to be cut off from my virtual world entirely. That would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions indeed! That’s the good news, sort of.
What irritates most is the fact that I’m stuck in Goa with a hard disk full of vacation pictures that I had planned to edit and sort while here, to go with my blog posts. Now that will just have to wait until the new laptop arrives, which will take a while 😦 so until then, I’m afraid I’ll just have to make do with the few pics I have on my phone…or not.
But I don’t want to put off posting any longer, so here goes! This May, we visited Lisbon, Albufeira and other towns in Portugal‘s Algarve region, and London. We own a holiday home in Albufeira, a compact 2-BHK on the Marina that my son and I had never visited before! What a wonderful time we had! Portugal is such a throwback to the Golden Age of Goa 🙂 From the beautiful, elegant vibe of Lisbon to the relaxed yet hip vibe of Albufeira; From the mingling of Oceans at Sagres to the fruit-laden citrus orchards on the way to Faro; every moment was exciting – full of discovery, wonder and fun 🙂 What I loved so much about Portugal was its simplicity – the warm and friendly people, the lack of obvious consumerism, the leisurely pace of life, the pristine beaches of The Algarve, the stunning pottery, vinho verde, the utterly enchanting Tagus riverfront, the wild flowers dotting the countryside, the pretty white cottages and villas with colourful gardens, the gigantic yet fragrant roses, the fabulous food, the formidable history, the juicy local strawberries, the hip vibe of Bairo Alto, Rossio and Chiado, the stunning tile work that is famous the world over…the list is never ending 😉 In a nutshell, it felt familiar and comfortable – it felt like Home 🙂
Every morning I would walk down the Marina to the Ocean inhaling the crisp sea-scented breeze and sit staring at the waves and watching the gulls play. Never tired of the sight – the vast expanse of turquoise ‘neath an azure sky and the morning silence punctuated only by the squawking of gulls. It energised and soothed me at the same time 🙂 I knew that first morning, that I could do this for the rest of my days and never tire. Here is what I wrote after sitting on the edge of the Ocean on that first day!
“Walked along the Marina to the fisher men’s dock…such beauty and quietitude 🙂 I sat and watched the occasional humans walking, jogging and cycling past, I watched the noisy gulls skim the water surface looking for fishy remains?! But mostly I just stared out at the mesmerising blue-green…watching the deceptively gentle flow of the water as it flowed endlessly. Water has such constant motion doesn’t it? It’s never the same from one moment to the next, always a state of flux and yet so seemingly at peace with itself. I sat on the edge of the world or that’s how it seemed, and thought about how it was the perfect setting for contemplating life and then thought immediately about how in such a setting…there is no need for thought or contemplation at all! Everything pales in significance to the vastness and depth of oceans. No problem can compete, and one gets the feeling that a solution will ride in on the turn of the tide! Such is the ocean. You have to feel it to understand. I did. How strange that I thought of myself as a mountain girl while in my heart – the Ocean sings.”
We’ve decided to go back again next year for obvious reasons! Can’t hardly wait 🙂
Every year, India celebrates its teachers on the 5th of September, the birth date of its second president Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, an educator and statesman of the highest calibre. I must confess I knew next to nothing about him and I’m glad I took the time to find out a little more. Like most famous Indians born in pre-Independence India, he came from humble beginnings and rose to great accomplishments on the back of his intellect and integrity, the latter so dreadfully lacking in the present generation of us free Indians 😦 Here is a great quote attributed to him “When we think we learn we cease to know.”Personally I would like to add, and vice versa! “When we think we know, we cease to learn.” I firmly believe my country is in dire need of better teachers – teachers of the old school, selfless, dedicated and passionate about their vocation. Not the cash-crazy owners of tuition classes that have sprouted all over the country 😦
Today is the day and inexplicably my son has a holiday! No celebrations in school which is rather disappointing and the card we made sits rather sadly waiting to be happily received by his class teacher tomorrow. Well, be that as it may, these are some of the thoughts running through my head on this Teacher’s Day…
I’m remembering my 5th grade teacher Ms. Olive Callan, in Stella Maris, Kobe. She was a wonderful human being and an excellent teacher. She was loving and yet could be firm, even stern without ever being demeaning or cruel – in my opinion the hallmark of a great teacher 🙂 Her warm smile could light up the most miserable day and she loved us unconditionally as we did her. She left school the same year I did, me to come back to India and she because her son had been diagnosed with a brain tumor 😦 I can’t remember details clearly, it was so long ago, but I remember that that was an important reason in my wanting to become a doctor and a neurosurgeon! Didn’t do the latter, but did eventually manage the first! I tried looking for her recently through random searches on FB but I know nothing about her or where she lived except she was from the UK. How I wish we could connect again! Thank you Ms. Callan for a fabulous 5th Grade and for planting the seed that flowered into my present life-path 🙂 Love you!
And then there’s Teacher Lydia…my brother’s teacher…a woman who mentored him through some of the most difficult times of his life and I’m not talking academics here. My brother had Duchenne’s and had to be home schooled. This is why I believe in miracles people…at a time when my parents were exhausted from looking for a teacher that would agree to come home and teach him, Ms. Lydia entered our lives and nothing was ever the same again! Before we knew it, she became a valued member of our tightly-knit family & continues to be to this day 🙂 She’s one of the most positive people I know and although she was my brother’s teacher, she taught me a thing or two about life and attitude! She loved him, scolded him, cajoled him and loved him some more and I know he adored her. We all did. My eyes are tearing up just thinking of their bond – they were lucky to have each other and me, I was lucky to have them both. I’ve lost him and I don’t see Ms. Lydia as often as I should anymore (what with me being in Bombay and she in Goa, battling arthritis), but if you do happen to read this Teacher, I want you to know, you are never far for my thoughts and I love you always. Always.
My favourite ‘Teacher’ movie has to be ‘To Sir with Love’, starring the inimitable Sidney Poitier! I adore him and I adore this movie…the scene where he finds the sanitary pad burning away in the fire is forever etched in my memory. I first read the book when I was in school myself and I remember thinking how terrible those children were and how brave and strong their teacher! I remember wanting him for my teacher! Much later I saw the movie as an adult and the feelings came flooding back. Again and again in my life, the best teachers have been those that combine a healthy dose of discipline with genuine concern for my well being. It has often taken me a long time to acknowledge the latter in the face of the former! It’s a failing I’m happy to report I got over with time, age and experience 🙂 There have been many teacher films made over the years… great ones too…but this one remains for me the Gold Standard against which I compare them all.
Another ‘Teacher’ memory is crying copious tears while reading ‘Goodbye Mr. Chips” by James Hilton, a slip of a book borrowed from my Dad’s bookshelf! It’s such a poignantly heart-warming tale of a teacher who struggles to connect with his students initially and then goes on to become an institution of sorts! I remember him reciting the names of his students and at that time thinking it rather funny and silly 🙂 He was that sort of teacher Mr. Chips was…unintentionally humorous, sensitive and quietly affirmative – the best kind!
And of course I have my very own ‘Teacher’ story given that I married mine 😉 Oh don’t get all het up! Nothing illegal I assure you 😉 Hubby was a senior resident in Preventive & Social medicine and took classes for us when I was a student in my 2nd year of Medical College. He was an ok teacher I suppose but I’m not really the best judge of his teaching skills now am I? Given that I was busy concentrating on his rather sweet smile 😛 We were married after 3 years of courtship and have been married now for 2 decades! We’ve both learnt from each other and taught each other about life, love and marriage. It’s been one long lesson – mostly fun 😉 Thank you Darling for sticking with me 😉 I know it hasn’t been easy. Love you.
Now of course the tables have turned and I find myself transformed into a teacher 24/7, as every parent does. Being ‘teacher by default’ to my 4-yr-old son is really the hardest & most exhausting thing I’ve ever done – watching my language and actions and controlling my thoughts constantly is tough and often I just let go and rebel against the high standards I set myself! I don’t think I would have been a great teacher in the traditional sense – I would have been fun but not very consistent and too impatient for my own and my students’ good! It takes a lot of self-discipline and that’s not my forté! And yet the thought of moulding minds & influencing others is powerfully seductive…I’m glad I have only the one student to potentially ‘screw up’ 😛 Good Luck Ishaan…you’ll need it 😉
So here’s to Teachers everywhere & in every form! May they continue their good work, live long & prosper! Happiness always 🙂
If you’ve lived long enough (and Lord knows I have), Death becomes as commonplace as, well just about everything else. I never thought about it until my aunt said something to the effect on Sunday, when we both lost a Man we loved dearly 😦 We were on the phone and I was mouthing the usual empty platitudes one does at such times, when she said in a voice shaky with tears, “Don’t worry Darling. I’m alright. Really. It’s a shock of course and so terribly sad but it’s become kind of a habit now.” That just knocked my socks off. We’ve lost most of our older generation in the last decade and so just like she said…we’ve become habituated. We have learned to grieve and carry on. Perhaps it has helped to know that they led long and fulfilled lives, for the most part. Sometimes, like in Anna’s case, it helps to know that he didn’t suffer when the end came. Either way, what it amounts to is ‘No more tears’. I’m all cried out and for now I choose to remember the good times and celebrate the happy memories.
‘Anna’ (meaning Big Brother), is what I used to call him. He was my Grand-uncle. Isn’t it strange how in the space of a second, everything is in ‘past tense’? Well…c’est la vie. Anna was the youngest of five siblings, my Mom’s youngest paternal uncle. He was adored as a child and if sources are to be believed, quite the ‘Brat’ 😛 He was intelligent, charming, a music-lover, a dog-lover, generous to a fault, stubborn, a chain smoker, an eccentric, a confirmed bachelor, part curmudgeon part wise-old-man, devoted family man, a chemist par excellence, temperamental, honest, funny, in-your face…the list is endless. Because he was so smart, he was sent to the US where he completed his Doctorate in Chemistry from Berkeley, much to the pride and delight of the entire clan 🙂 No mean feat that! His Mom had had to pawn her gold to raise the money to make it happen! He never forgot the sacrifices his family had made to give him a great education and perhaps that’s why he didn’t bat an eyelid, when he left a promising career behind in the US to come and set-up a highly successful chemical manufacturing business with his brother, one that they ran with passion and integrity for several decades. Because of their example, I still believe that it is possible to be successful in business in India, without resorting to corruption, despite all the evidence to the contrary these days!
I knew him all my life. He and Aboda (his older brother), were my childhood Santa Clauses 🙂 They spoilt me with love & gifts! Boxes of fireworks for Diwali, sweets, books, music, movies, joy-rides in the stately Ambassador (remember those!), anything I wanted I got! And later when we moved to Goa, cartons of foodstuff – tins of condensed milk, bags of Cadbury éclairs, packets of Jello and other goodies! The walkie-talkie doll he brought me back from the US still stands in her wooden case in my aunt’s house to this day! As I write, I realize how difficult it is for me to separate the two even in my memories! It’s always been that way. Aboda & Anna. Anna & Aboda. They were inseparable. I must say though that as a child there were times when Anna got on my juvenile nerves! He would buy mangoes or some other delicacy and then insist I sit down in front of him and eat one right there and then! There was no refusing him when he got into one of his stubborn fits! I didn’t always want to and it bugged me no end. I remember Mom saying how it was such a little thing that brought him so much happiness, ‘Surely you won’t deny him that darling? He loves you so much!’ I didn’t always understand then, but I do now. Of course he did. I did too, just my youth acting up!
When I joined Medicine, I remember how proud he was 🙂 He presented me with my first ever copy of ‘Goodman & Gilman’, that humungous treatise on Pharmacology, his biggest love after family! He adored both the subject and that book and for me any tribute to him would be incomplete without mention of it! He read that book from cover to cover, every new edition, until the end of his days, and relished the long discussions that followed with me. I can’t honestly say I enjoyed them quite as much 😉 For one, he always knew more than I did and for another I never quite convinced him that real life rarely follows textbooks! No illness in the family was spared and we are not a family stingy with our ill health 😛 Diabetes, Hypertension, Parkinson’s, Muscular Dystrophy, and now Dementia…we’ve given him enough reading to last him his lifetime! We had endless discussions on new drugs, side effects, doses and much else…I’m afraid I didn’t realize quite how much I’m going to miss them, now he’s gone.
For the last two years of his life, after his sister-in-law passed away, he led a very solitary existence. We were all of us caught up with our lives and I know I for one didn’t call him as often as I should have. The times I did, I found he didn’t have much to say anymore, his life being restricted by arthritis. He still read Goodman & Gilman though, watched a bit of TV and still worried about all of us, like the Anna of old. Some things never change 🙂 When we heard he had had a fall, we spoke on the telephone. I am so very grateful for that phone call now – it was the last time I heard his voice. He was fine he said, and not to worry! The doctor had been informed and my aunt was with him for the day. So the next morning when we received the call, we couldn’t wrap our heads around it at first. How could he be gone? We just spoke yesterday! You know, the usual shocked disbelief. It’s been four days now and I’ve had time to cogitate. I’m grateful now for the fact that he didn’t suffer at the end. No lingering on some unfriendly hospital bed, no losing his mind, no pain…just a quick release from what must have been a lonely existence. When you’ve lived long enough and seen what I’ve seen, believe you me, a quick release is something to be thankful for!
The last time I saw him was in 2009, when we visited with Ishaan 🙂 He was so thrilled to meet yet another generation of the family! I remember him telling Mom later how the pitter-patter of a child’s feet can fill even the emptiest soul with music 🙂 I wish Ishaan had had a chance to get to know him. I wish…oh so many things! My enduring memory will always be one of him sitting in his favorite armchair in the living room of the house he lived in all my life, with his spectacle case on the table next to him, reading G & G.
I miss him. Always will. That’s a given. Sometimes I wonder whether my heart doesn’t resemble a very holey piece of cheese…I’ve lost so many people I’ve loved and admired. They’ve left spaces that can never be entirely filled again. And yet here I am people. A survivor. And that’s what Anna was. That’s his legacy to me. And I mean to honor it and him for what time I have left, here on Earth.
Have been busy as a bee this weekend! I’m still getting used to the feeling. Before Ishaan, both Hubby and I preferred quiet, lazy weekends with only each other for company. We are not party animals and Hubby especially needed the time to unwind from a hectic corporate schedule (that’s if he was in town at all!). With Ishaan, we feel the need to make an effort to do stuff with him…take him out, to the beach, to the park, for a drive…you get the picture.
As you know, spent Saturday morning with a peacock on Vagator. Spent the evening with (I wish I could say peacocks of the human kind here! But…they were all good people :P), humans, partying. It was a seriously rollicking party…loud, noisy and fun-filled! Left Ishaan @ home with Mom and proceeded to enjoy 4 guilt-free hours, of adult conversation and banter with gay abandon 🙂 (Don’t scoff people and NEVER underestimate the therapeutic value of adult banter. I won’t!). No watching my language, no worrying about being a role-model and setting a good example and (here’s my favorite), guzzling down obscene amounts of Thums Up, without having to hide from Ishaan’s hawk-eyes 😉 Bliss 🙂 I must mention the ‘egg pakodas’…they were a marvel those pakodas! Piping hot, fried to a crispy, crunchy golden-yellow batter on the outside, enclosing a succulent bite of boiled egg within! Heaven! Was a glutton to add to my other sins 😉
Then there were the games! It’s been a while since I played games, other than cricket with Ishaan! My cousin K, our host, is quite the whiz, especially at Bollywood-based games and these were no different. Interesting and well thought-out. We were 5 teams and had to figure out in turn, the lead pair of a movie from its title (harder than you think!); the debut film of a given actor (ditto); and actors on whom a particular song had been picturized (toughest one this, especially since you only heard a garbled bit of the song for 20 sec!). Amidst much shouting and screaming and cries of “No fair!”, our team won all 3 games in spectacular fashion, thanks to P, who apart from being a Mills & Boon addict, also has a PhD in Bollywood Science 😉 Wicked skills P!! I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in a long time 🙂
Also realized that I’m quite the local celebrity (well in my limited friend-circle) as a blog-writer! That fact can cheer me up on my darkest days, and this one was far from it. I do hope I was suitably modest and humble, but I can tell you right now, I was bursting with pride and joy 🙂 A friend, I shall call S was especially kind 🙂 She called herself a ‘Fan’ and said there should have been a button that says as much, so she could click it on my posts!! Aaaaaaaaaw S…you’re very sweet and I’m very flattered and now it’s on ‘record’ so you can’t retract it later 😉 LOL…seriously though, I’m very grateful that you take time out to read my scribbles 🙂 However, to be fair, I must add that when I let S know that the party and its people would probably find themselves in my next post, her exuberance did taper a little! “You’re dangerous!”, she said, “Very dangerous!”, she announced to all those listening, before erupting into a bout of uncontrollable giggles 🙂 S & the afore-mentioned P are related (who isn’t in Goa?!), and yet while P has the Bollywood PhD, S is…well lets just keep it simple and say, she’s Bollywood-challenged 😉 And yet thanks to her knack for making the right sort of friends, she had the largest pile of chocolates (that’s what we won for all our troubles!), at the end of the games session, without winning a single one! But that’s S…smart, witty, tongue-firmly-in-cheek! Here’s to you S…enjoyed your company & for what’s it worth, am a ‘Fan’ too – yours 😉
At 9.30, I made the mandatory call (good mother that I am), to check on the doings of my little devil. That led to the most amusing if rather weird phone conversation I have ever had! Mom picked up the phone and informed me that they were all still at the dinner table, and that Ishaan in his high-chair was in one of his crazy moods or should I say sugar-highs?! He had them enthralled with crazy talk and faces and they were all in splits! I must admit at that moment any teenie-weenie vestiges of guilt I may have felt for leaving him behind, magically evaporated! He was having a good time and so was I, and what could be better? 😀 Ishaan then came on (phone conversations are his new area of interest these days), and burst into an amusing incoherent monologue, punctuated occasionally with meaningful phrases like ‘Beggin yo! Sandwich khali. Nani asa.” (Come quickly! Ate a sandwich. Grandma’s here.). He went on in this vein for a good 15 -20 minutes, while I asked him questions in the hopes of improving his coherence, trying hard to control my laughter that threatened to ruin everything! Finally, after a particularly long diatribe, Mom managed to get the phone back and rather reluctantly, with Ishaan still yelling at the top of his voice in the background, we hung up. It really was too funny! We finally got home after midnight (we gave the karaoke session a miss :(), to be told that Ishaan has just fallen asleep not 10 minutes ago!! Looking down at his peaceful, sleeping face, I’m seized by a sudden urge to wake him up, tickle him and have a chance to say Good-night…but I resist (see, I am truly a good Mom!). It’s been a wonderful evening 🙂
Sunday morning and Hubby & Ishaan sleep in until 10 am! I should be so lucky! Still, I wrestle out of the bed by 8.30 and wandering downstairs decide to clean up the living room, which these days looks like a permanent war-zone! I’m expecting a friend in the evening and if I don’t get to it, she and her kids will have to squat on the floor like refugees 😛 There’s something you should know about me…I’m the world’s laziest person except when I’m possessed by a fiendish form of the cleaning-fairy. Then I can be clinically brutal. I spent the morning happily banishing Ishaan’s innumerable toys to obscure corners, rearranging and dusting furniture, and sprucing up cushions. When I was done, the room was once again fit for human habitation. The evening was an extremely pleasant and memorable one 🙂 M arrived with her Mom and twins and we talked ourselves hoarse! A little background…M is related to me (Didn’t I tell you before that’s how it is in Goa!), and has visited our home, several times as a young girl. She’s my brother’s age though and I must confess that until she found and wrote me on Fb, I had no clue she even existed! She however had wonderful memories of time spent with my brother at home, on the beach, eating ice-cream and the like, which she was happy to share and we were more than happy to relive 🙂 The twins are 3 and a 1/2, adorable and Ishaan enjoyed their company. M is just as I thought she would be! You know how disappointing it is when you think you know someone and are then cruelly disappointed on the actual meeting? I’m happy to report, M met and exceeded every one of my expectations such as they were! We hit it off splendidly as I had known we would and my only wish was for more time together, a wish I hoped M shares 🙂 She did as I got to know from her very sweet message later that night 🙂 I do hope we get to catch up again, just the two of us over lunch. As always with women, there’s so much more to talk about 😉
A thoroughly enjoyable weekend…one that I’ll remember for a long time to come.
How could you not…after Sunday Stories, Monday Musings was never far away 😉
Oh well, I never said I was particularly original 😛
If you’ve read this you know yesterday was special to me.
Today is special too. The birthday of another awesome guy, whom I loved and who loved me dearly.
My Grandfather. One of the gentlest, wisest, most selfless men I have ever known. An authentic ‘Gentleman‘. My Aboda (my name for him is the result of a childish mis-pronunciation of the word for grandfather in Marathi, ‘ajoba’), was a true patriarch and an exemplary role model. His soft-spoken ways, his penchant for neatness and order (which my Mom has inherited), his unending store of anecdotes and stories and his wisdom in sticky situations are the stuff of legend in our family and in his tightly knit circle of friends. He played the flute (when I think of it now, his instrument of choice seems so in keeping with the man he was – mellow, soft and yet affirmative), loved animals, books and music (interests that we have all inherited), had a gentle sense of humor and sharp wit. To me he embodied the inherent potential in his name ‘Atmanand’ (bringer of joy to the soul), and then some. A principled man. Honest to a fault, and always sensitive to the needs of family and friends.
My own memories of him are all happy! I was very much the pampered first grandchild in a family that loved daughters 🙂 He had a special name for me and the way that made me feel is something I sorely miss, especially when times are rough. He took a keen interest in my education and was terribly proud when I expressed my intentions of studying medicine. He had wanted to be one himself, but circumstances (as so often happened in his generation), didn’t allow it. He bought me all my medical textbooks and when we began Pharmacology (his subject of special interest), he would gift me a copy of that venerable bible of Pharmacology, Goodman & Gilman, every time the latest edition released in print! Not that I ever read it as much as I should have!
When I fell in love with Hubby, my parents were rather difficult. In the manner of most conservative Indian families of the day, they were not fond of love-marriages! It affronted their sense of decency! They were uncertain of his specialization in Preventive & Social Medicine (I know! Splitting hairs! They didn’t really have anything else to object to you see. We belonged to the same caste and he was a doctor from a ‘good’ family, which loosely meant our families were of equal standing in the community). What did it mean they wondered and was it good enough to put food on the table? Aboda spoke to my Mom and set her mind at ease as no one else could have. He was a father figure to my Mom, whose own father (his older brother), had exited her life when she was just a child. His word was as law to her, not that he would have ever coerced her in any way.
He wasn’t one for travel and yet he showed his wife most of India. When Dad moved to Singapore for work, Mom worked hard to convince him to visit. Although reluctant at first, he did and when then truly enjoyed himself. The simple things were what brought him most pleasure…the mellow sweetness of a papaya, early mornings spent in the garden listening to birdsong, the fragrance of jasmine flowers, restful evenings spent in the company of my brother. He was never one to do the touristy things. He loved being with and surrounded by nature. All through his life he lived by his principles, never compromising his integrity and along with his younger brother, ran a successful business that manufactured chemicals used in the making of perfumes. His clients always spoke highly of him and admired his sense of fair-play.
That is the man that I miss today; miss and remember. A tiny snapshot as it were of what he meant to me and to our family. In typical fashion, as Life went on, I became busy with my own and didn’t see him as much as I should have, as much as I wanted to. Tragedy struck unexpectedly. The first we knew of it was when his left femur snapped like a twig. I knew then in my heart that this was the beginning of the end and I could see in his eyes, that he knew it too. We didn’t ever say the C-word out loud. There seemed no point – we knew it had spread and he was very clear about not wanting any treatment. He made it through the surgery to fix the femur and seemed to be doing Ok. My aunts nursed him and I visited him as often as I could. He was in typical ‘Aboda’ fashion, deeply apologetic ‘for all this fuss’, as he called it. Only he would still worry about us, when his own body was crumbling away ad in pain. Two months later, he was gone. I remember watching him, in a coma, on life-support in the hospital. The doctor had said, we needed to tell them if we wanted them to revive him, ‘aggressive resuscitation’ they called it, to keep him in the world of the ‘living’, if not truly alive. I knew what I wanted. I wanted him to leave with dignity. The way he had lived his life. We told them our decision. When he passed away, it was akin to the end of an era for our family and for me it was not only a Grandfather lost but also a very dear friend. I remember sobbing like a baby on Hubby’s shoulder as they took him away, bereft, suddenly rudderless, suddenly alone, knowing that the world had irrevocably changed and nothing would ever be the same again.
As time is wont to do, it has enabled me to look back now and celebrate his Life and times on earth and amongst us, with joy. We have a word in Marathi, ‘yug-purush’, which I loosely translate to mean ‘a one of a kind man in a generation’ (Don’t quote me though. My half-knowledge of Marathi is legendary in the family!). For me & mine, Aboda was such a man. He remained to the end, a simple man. A man of few needs. One of my enduring memories, is of him, sitting in his favorite, sagging armchair, eyes closed, soft classical music playing on the stereo, running the fingers of one hand through his dog’s fur (the dog was always found curled up under his master’s chair :)), while those of the other tapped the rhythm of the music on the arm-rest. A man completely at peace with himself and Life. A man who brought much happiness to all whose lives he touched. A dutiful son, a devoted husband, a loving father and uncle, a loyal brother, a friend par excellence and the best possible Grandpa a girl could wish for!
A day rendered forever bittersweet since he passed away last year.
Last year we had a small remembrance…cut a cake, lit a lamp and published a poem in the newspaper.
This year, I’m not sure what I want to do. Whether I want to do anything at all. I was thinking of getting the Colonel’s chicken home for the occasion. He loved it and was sorely disappointed when neither KFC nor McDonald’s came to town, before he left. He would be happy, now that KFC has finally arrived, and I for one will never be able to eat it or even pass it by without thinking of him. In a good way though…you understand…in the very best of ways 🙂
I know Mom will light a lamp…I like the thought. A tiny light from us for the one who lit up our lives with the brilliance of a thousand suns! He was like that…brilliant, radiating joy and wisdom. So wise…however did my little brother get to be so wise? When did that happen? And so patient! I wish had a fraction of his patience, I’d be a better person. And yet, unlike others, his condition (he had DMD) didn’t bring him all that close to God. Well, not in the conventional sense. Not that I knew of anyway. Although he never made a point of it, he was an atheist, not really a believer. He tolerated all the stuff my parents did, (staunch believers both), the worship of countless deities and every manner of ritual, with his characteristic quiet diffidence. He wasn’t one to rock the boat with passionate arguments. No, those were entirely my domain! He was like my mother in that way – acceptance, compromise and reserve, his mantras. He understood her too, something I struggle with everyday.
I remember as if it were yesterday, the day he was born. I was away in Bombay for the Diwali vacation. Before leaving I had made it clear to my Mom that the birth of a sister would be sacrilege and utterly unacceptable! I was 12! Ever since I longed for a sibling, I always imagined a brother. I had always wanted a brother, so I could celebrate ‘Raksha-Bandhan‘ and ‘Bhaubeez’, without having to rely on the charity of cousins. I wanted someone who was mine, rightfully and exclusively. I got him at 10.14 pm on the 24th of October 🙂 We were all fast asleep when the telephone rang, but the adults were obviously expecting news and so were alert. My great-aunt answered the phone and then woke me up to say I had a sibling. She said I had a little sister but for some reason I couldn’t believe her and I must have said so vehemently, ‘coz the next moment she was assuring me that my wish had come true and that I had a little brother. My brother – all mine. By rights. My Dad & I traveled back to Goa, a few days later, I think. I can’t remember all the details. What I do remember is my first sight of him. He was red, very red it seemed to me, except for his hands that seemed almost purple (I know now that he must have been polycythemic), wearing nothing but a cotton nappy, nestled in my Mom’s lap. He wasn’t crying. He was looking around with those shining, bright eyes in a most intelligent fashion. I can’t say it was love at first sight or even any sort of connection, ‘coz at 12 my knowledge and understanding of such things as emotions was negligible, but I remember thinking, ‘He’ll do.’ Just that, ‘He’ll do’, and it felt right, like it was meant to be. I probably said something to that effect to my Mom, although again I can’t remember. I was happy. I remember feeling pride too, although I have no clue why I should have felt that particular emotion, even before I had begun to know him properly! My wish had been granted, I had my brother, all was well with the world!
Now Diwali looms around the corner again and I’m alone. Or am I? I’m older and wiser (a little) and I choose to believe that my brother is always by my side. And I don’t mean that he’s in my heart in the conventional way (although he is). No, what I feel is more tangible (No! Not ghosts and spirits silly!), just a very strong presence, a real feeling of his being around me, protecting me from harm. Nothing scares me anymore, ‘coz he brings me strength and every time I feel bleak and hopeless, he brings me hope. Tangled problems have a way of sorting themselves out and solutions seem to suggest themselves. Perhaps, it’s coz I have conversations with him all the time. When I have a particularly irritable or sensitive problem, I always ask him what I should do and always, always, the answer comes to me 🙂 How lucky am I?
We bonded solidly as he grew older and the decade between us shrank to nothingness 🙂 Music, cricket, politics, Bollywood, Hollywood, God and Death; we discussed them all and then some with passion and abandon. I never treated him as a patient. I just couldn’t. I was always honest with him and I like to think compassionate, but never soft. It’s not my way. But he understood. He understood me with all my faults – my anger and impatience and stubbornness and that frightening need for constant change. He was the only one who did. It’s hard to write more…unexpected tears. I didn’t think I would cry. I didn’t want to. And yet the tears aren’t all in sadness for his loss. Not anymore. They are also for the joy of having known him and for having loved and been loved by him 🙂
I’m reading the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik (incidentally my brother adored the epic and watched the TV series based on it only a million times :)), and have been thinking about that most sacred of all Hindu scriptures, The Bhagvad Gita (loosely translated as The Song of God). I found a quote that resonated with me in particular at this time in my life, “There is neither this world nor the world beyond nor happiness for the one who doubts.” And so, with conviction, I choose Happiness and banish doubt. For what do I have to fear? I know this much is true, my brother is watching over me and will never let me come to harm. And that knowledge lets me move mountains 🙂
The dawn of day 3 is a little scary since Ishaan hasn’t had a good night. He’s been restless and I can sense a cold in the offing…sigh…
We get to school in time, but today the crying starts as soon as we park and he sees other children milling around waving their goodbyes…it’s not the start I was hoping for! He’s beginning to cry and cling and pretty soon the tears flow freely. I harden my heart (I’m beginning to realize that it’s the one skill I’m going to have to master in as short a time as possible, if ever there was one!), and carry him down into the waiting arms of his teacher.
He disappears into the room, still calling out to me, arms outstretched…leaving me standing there, feeling like Monster Mom! Such are the joys of Motherhood! Today, I’m alone and as I sit on the ledge outside, my back to the school (lest he catch a glimpse of me), swinging my legs, I feel a lot like a school-kid myself – unsure, insecure, nervous and scared. If I feel like this at 41, how must he feel at 2? No…this is not helping…this is just making me feel worse then I already do. I feel like a coiled spring…watchful & tense, with no avenue of release. Positive thoughts…think positive thoughts…think positive thoughts…meanwhile the silence inside is vaguely disquieting but oddly comforting…
I look around the garden and decide to take a few pictures so I can show them to Ishaan later and because it gives me something to do (in typical hare-brained fashion have forgotten to bring a book and my camera!). I use my phone to click pictures of the two turtle statues and an earthen flower-pot shaped like a shell. I take pictures of the black-board outside, with its quote by Dr. Maria Montessori. I peer surreptitiously through the long window panes, trying to catch a glimpse of Ishaan, but he’s nowhere in sight and the silence persists. I should be happy…shouldn’t I be happy? He’s probably enjoying himself somewhere, having forgotten all about anxious Mom waiting outside. Why then do I mistrust the silence? Why is my heart not jumping with joy? Why is everything to do with children a double-edged sword? Questions, questions…where are those positive thoughts when you need them?
A butterfly catches my eye…there are many and they offer welcome distraction. There are large Monarchs, others with opalescent wings, still others with white-rimmed, light-brown speckled wings and yet others with green and lemon-yellow wings that catch the sunlight and shine like green-gold! Pretty, delicate and uplifting. Then I catch sight of the centipedes crawling all over the garden…their fat chubby bodies moving smoothly, with equal ease both forwards and in reverse, on the wave-like motion of their hundred legs. Not so pretty (I’m not an insect person, except for butterflies), but still fascinating. They seem so purposeful, I envy them, sitting here swinging my legs, purposeless! The teacher appears and asks for his shoes. They’re taking him for a walk in the garden out back. Before I can ask, she assures me he’s fine. If only I were too!
I go back to my meandering thoughts and old school-memories come flooding back. I loved school and had a wonderful time, especially in Japan at the Stella Maris Convent, where I studied from grades 2 through 5. I think of Mrs. Rosario, my Grade 4 home room teacher, a stern-faced disciplinarian with a heart of gold. An excellent academician to boot! It’s hard to find teachers like her now. She took us girls in pairs to spend a night at her house, a great honor it was, though a little scary, and I remember walking down the lane by her home to watch the cherry blossoms in spring, while she spoke to us about seasons and nature 🙂 A practical lesson in science and a wonderful memory! Then there was Sr. Mary McDonald, the Principal, I still remember her calm countenance and smiling face. I don’t once remember her flustered or angry. And Mrs. Callan, my Grade 5 teacher, the first one to recognize my love for writing and encourage it. She had me write a letter in response to an appeal from a zoo where an elephant was sick. We collected money and sent it along with my letter and we received a letter of thanks in response. I remember feeling proud, the pride that comes from making someone you love and respect, happy! It’s a great feeling and it’s what I want for Ishaan…happy memories from school that he will treasure ever after! There are many more memories and I’m pleasantly lost…until I look down at my watch and it’s past 10 am!
The one hour is up and I am eager to see my boy, but it’s not to be…today they’ve decided to keep him for another half-hour (sigh), and he seems to be doing Ok. Suddenly, there he is at the window and he sees me as I’m talking to the teacher.’Oh Lord!’ I think, ‘Now he’s seen me and that’ll set him off again!” and I try to hide my bulky self as best and as quick as I can. He’s calling Mama and he’s tearful but he’s not howling. He’s told the teacher he needs to use the potty, and she leads him to me, but it’s a false alarm and he has to go back, which is when the crying begins again, which I confess (Monster Mom that I am), is oddly comforting!
But he goes back inside and quiets down and I stay outside. Hubby joins me and we wait together a while, before it’s time to leave. This time he walks out to me, holding his teacher’s hand and he’s not crying. He’s happy as a button to see hubby and runs straight into his arms 🙂
And so, another day is done…not too bad at all…rather well done methinks…I pat myself on the back before I bury my nose and inhale the sweet, sweaty fragrance of his hair 🙂
This is the last post in the wedding series. 5 posts for the 5 days I was away seems like a fair trade! Just had a few things I wanted to share, leftover from posts 1 through 4.
My voyage of discovery:
1. I can survive away from Ishaan (barely) for 5 whole days. He can survive away from me, quite happily however, for the same amount of time 🙂
2. Reruns of ‘Charmed‘, a series I enjoyed, are showing on AXN @ 6 pm 🙂 A fact I discovered in Hotel Elite in Tiruvalla!
3. Not every wedding is about garish bling, overdressing and an overt display of wealth! Some can still be tasteful and straight from the heart 🙂
4. There’s nothing quite like steaming hot mutton biryani 🙂
5. The jury is still out for train travel in India. For me travelling First Class is not a luxury, it’s a question of survival!
6. If a destination is well-connected by air, fly! When it’s not, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
7. When buying sarees, less is more 🙂 Also applicable when buying, eating, thinking food 😉
8. Train travel is much pleasanter when one is lucky in travel companions and the views gorgeous 🙂 I guess that applies to all travel in general!
9. I discovered a side of myself that was not paranoid about sharing personal details with fellow travelers and actually enjoyed the interaction with people I would never have met otherwise 🙂
10. When in need – Ms. Blyton never fails me 🙂
There’s a moment from the wedding I want to share. I had just finished greeting Auntie outside the church while waiting for the bride and groom to arrive, when I heard an urgent, excited voice calling out my name, ‘Harsha? Is that you, Harsha?” and as I turned, I found myself enveloped in a bear hug! It was Reena’s (an old school friend) Mom and she was thrilled to see me and I was happily surprised to see her after all these years, nearly 2 decades! She cupped my face and said the best thing anyone can ever say to a woman a certain age – “You are looking so young dear!”, and she obviously meant it 🙂 She looked amazing herself and we went over to meet Uncle who didn’t look a day older than when I saw him last! He then went on to call his daughter, my friend Reena and arrange an impromptu phone conversation! What a wonderful thing to do! Moments like these are what Life is all about 🙂
And that’s it for the trip and the wedding. I’ve enjoyed reliving my memories through the blog and I hope you guys have enjoyed reading as much as I the writing 🙂
Now…back to routine…or maybe not…Ishaan starts play-school on Wednesday…should be fun…for us both 😉