To the boy who lives…

My favorite picture of the two of us - taken the day before my wedding.
My favorite picture of the two of us – taken the day before my wedding.

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 ❤ You, B.

Happy Birthday!

Monkton Mondays!

Another week, another Monday! I realize I haven’t posted in a while, again, but I’m past making up excuses for myself or for anyone else…it’s just the way Life gets sometimes – there are days, weeks, even months – when I stay away from the Blogosphere for no reason other than ‘no reason’. You know? I just couldn’t be bothered and there’s no deep secret as to why…it’s just because…

Other times, I can’t stay away and will abandon everything to sit and write, as if writing is the only thing that will keep me alive. Over time I’ve realized that I like to share the happy times but not the sad, and yet when I put ‘Happy’ down on the page, it often sounds mundane and boring because so much of Happiness is about context right? Can you tell I’m rambling? I am! It’s just been one of those Monday mornings when I got up with great intentions but lost steam even as the clock approached noon! Perhaps it’s because I was reading Louise Penny’s How the Light Gets In (the concluding book in her Inspector Gamache series), and was lost in the forgotten village of Three Pines that always seems to me like it  exists somewhere on the edge of Time. A good mystery can do that me, and these days I find it so much easier to live in fiction than deal in reality.

For those of you who read the last post – there’s an update – have ‘sort of’ made up with my Mom – although not before another blowout that happened – you guessed it – last Monday. Now we’re talking to each other – carefully, delicately, probably calculatingly – weighing every word, trying to predict every reaction and just being very ‘polite’ to each other in that awful way, if you know what I mean. Denying that anything serious ever happened also helps of course! Denial is the cure for all things – at least in the short-term, until they come and bite you in the you-know-where! And they do! So until the next crisis – All’s Well. If neither of us is jumping with joy – we can always blame it on our arthritic knees – what say? 😉

And so as usual, after another rambling post about nothing in particular, I reach the end and wonder yet again how to tie in my words with a Monkton picture. And as always, Mr. Monkton rises to the occasion. The man is beginning to frighten me with how perceptive he is! Is it even legal for men to be so smart and sensitive? 😛 Since I’m feeling all pensive and rambly today, ‘A Deep Thought on Life’ seemed just the thing. This one seemed to fit my mood best…I’m sure you can see why!

Monkton_Coaster3

Do you see now? Ever so often I’m off dancing to someone else’s drum!! How can I help it when their music seems much more appealing than mine? Even if just for a little while? And sometimes, dancing to someone else’s drum is the only way to unbreak your own 🙂

Happy Monday People! Dance to music of your drums if you will, but don’t be afraid of switching from your Samba to my Tango, if that’s what gets your feet tapping 😉

NaPoWriMo – Day 28

Today is my Gran’s Birthday. She turns 87 today! I’ve written about her recently and mentioned her fragile present condition. She’s doing OK and hanging in there – but just about. And my wish on her Birthday for her and perhaps selfishly for us too – the women who are closest to her, who came through her and who LOVE her from the depths of their souls – is for Dignity & Grace when the end should come. Its with mixed feelings that I write this – it’s not an easy wish to make on her Birthday.

But how LUCKY am I to have been raised by a woman of her principles and gumption? She is as I’ve mentioned in several earlier posts – a consummate warrior and survivor – and happily for me – she’s raised me to be that way too. And although I will never be as accomplished and strong as she is – I know she’s proud of me. And that to me is the only thing that matters.

Sorry if this is overly sentimental…writing about her always makes me feel this way!

Love you Aai

Rose

January Lessons

See? You blink and the month’s gone! And this one has been, well, a ‘monster’ month in terms of events for me and mine.

It started out happily enough but things got pretty insane towards the end – two deaths in my family, one gruesome – a life cut short tragically; the other – from natural causes after a life well lived but still sudden and unexpected. Both these events taught me stuff – about myself, about my family and about life. Where do I begin?

Perhaps the most important lesson is “DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. NOT PEOPLE. NOT LIFE.” It’s not new this one, but Life has a way of reinforcing it, as if to make sure you never forget. I try hard to live in the present and to respect myself and the people around me, and I’m getting better at not taking things for granted – it gets easier with time. Still, getting over a punch in the solar plexus is NOT easy and I wish there was an easier way to learn some lessons. This was way too hard and I’m not done getting over it yet.

A corollary to that first Mega lesson is the knowledge that ‘I WILL SURVIVE.’ And as an extension the lesson learnt being, ‘THE HUMAN SPIRIT IS MEANT TO SURVIVE.’ It is. Truly. We survive unmentionable horrors (a brief glance through World history & our own, should be convincing enough), and I don’t mean we just get through them. I mean we get through and over them and go on to lead fulfilling lives again. Maybe not the same ones as before; but changed yet equally if not more meaningful and cherished. Yes, I have had my faith affirmed in the fact that our basic instinct and function is Survival. All this is not to say that it’s easy. Au contraire, climbing Mount Everest is easier, in a manner of speaking, but with the support of a loving family the odds are very much in our favour. I’ve always found the internal self-conflicts to be most challenging. It’s very hard to make changes when no one’s watching, when the only person affected is you. Isn’t it strange how we can change so easily for others but find it so hard to do for ourselves? Perhaps it’s generations of societal conditioning at work.

Another important lesson, ‘NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP.’ I don’t. Often I rely on my friends more than my family – especially for non-judgmental, unbiased advice. I have been blessed in my friendships! I have a strong support group of the most amazing women, who love and comfort and nurture me when I’m hurting and without whom my life would be considerably diminished. I christen it as of now – My Circle of Love’! Thank you Girls. I love you ALL. You know who you are 🙂

How about this for a lesson? ‘LISTEN. OBSERVE. COMMUNICATE.’ Losing a family member viciously the way we did taught me that I need to be more attentive to my family – to their feelings and their thoughts. I need to be actively engaged with them and ‘Listen’ when they speak, so I can hear the sadness that’s hidden by rage and the despair lurking behind the scorn. I need to be alert for signs of stress and be willing to help without being judgmental. And if and when the time arises, I must be unafraid to step on toes and push through boundaries to get them the help they need, especially when they don’t want it. None of this is easy but it has to be done if incidents like the one we’ve just suffered are to be avoided in the future. And they HAVE to be. The alternative is unacceptable.

As I write I see that none of these are lessons I haven’t been taught before. None of them are new, but all of them are crucial. Perhaps the most important of all is ‘FAITH.’ And I don’t mean the religious kind either, although if that’s your rock then so be it. I mean Faith in a broader sense – a belief that things will get better, that a crisis will resolve, that tomorrow will be a better day. Faith in the self, and in the goodness of others. It’s not easy to do when the world around you is crumbling and nothing makes sense, but then again, nothing worth fighting for is ever easy huh? Unfair? You bet! And yet to live without Faith and Hope, is the bleakest sort of life, a sorry excuse for living.

So, as this rather tumultuous beginning to the year draws to a close, here is to Better Days. Happy Days. Peaceful Days – for you and for me 🙂 Coz Lord knows we’ve earned them!

And here is one of my favourite poems…it never fails to revive my flagging spirit & seems utterly appropriate in the light of all that has come to pass 🙂

Invictus

Cheers to February! May it be Joyful!

The ‘Love’ List!

Have just wrapped up a rather hectic week, and here we are at the start of what promises to be another! The more so for me, coz Hubby is out-of-town on work and so Ishaan will be more clingy…welcome to my World! It’s already begun…he was all weepy today when I dropped him off at school. Hubby always drops him off in the mornings and I pick up in the afternoons, so I guess he was missing Papa today! He’s asked me where Papa was a couple of times, but for the most part prefers not to discuss it & refuses to speak with Hubby on the phone. He’s got quite the temper for a soon-to-be 3-yr-old! That comes from me I’m afraid!

So, it’s Valentine Day’s today…a day where everyone goes overboard with all manner of Love declarations and the online universe is flooded with all manner of Valentine status updates and the like. Me, I’m not a huge V-day person, coz I keep wondering about the day after…you know when all the Love is spent, what then? I do believe in Love (of all sorts), of course! I just believe it exists in the little things people do for one another ever day & should be celebrated every day. In the times we live in…certainly, we should celebrating Love in all its forms, every single day and in any way we can think of! Heaven knows we need it now more than ever! What saddens me the most is how V-Day has now become almost exclusively about Romantic love and gift-giving. Don’t get me wrong…I like gifts as much as the next person (who wouldn’t?), and I’m a huge champion of romantic love…I just hate the pressure that people seem to feel to ‘Get it right!’ It seems to me, that these days, all it does, is make those without partners, more miserable than they should be & those with partners somehow obliged to celebrate the fact even when they may not feel the need! A conversation I just had with a single cousin of mine, has convinced me more than ever that this is true.

This year I thought I would make a list of 10 things that make my heart race faster, that I Love & that don’t necessarily have to do with romance. I’m not going to include family and friends, coz really, that’s a given ain’t it? I love my family and friends 365 days of the year, 24/7! There! Now that’s out-of-the-way, let’s get to the list, shall we.

1. I love the way walking through a spritz of my favorite perfume (Gucci Rush at the moment), makes me feel 🙂 Until I saw it on Oprah (that woman has educated me in ways I didn’t realize!), I wasn’t aware of the best way to apply perfume. On her show I learnt how to spray a perfume-mist’ into the air and walk through it, so you the fragrance lingers on your body like a second skin. Have done that ever since and though it does take up a lot of perfume, I love the sense of decadent luxury it offers 🙂

2. I love the sound of the ocean. This is surprising even to me, coz having grown up around beaches, I kind of took the sea for granted and never paid it much attention. The beach was a fun hang-out and not much else. Now it offers sanctuary from the hustle of daily chaos. Have you listened to the ocean? Really listened? To the majesty of the waves? To the infinite mysteries hidden in those deep waters? That’s Nirvana, right there 🙂

3. I love the ‘crrrrrruuuunch’ of the perfect potato chip and the lingering taste of salt on my lips after!! The same goes for the perfect Margerita 😛 You know what I mean! In my book, salt is a true aphrodisiac 😉

4. I love the pungent fragrance of the freshly drenched earth after the first Monsoons. If I could, I would bottle it and use it rather liberally while melting on hot, dusty May afternoons!

5. I love birdsong! I’m not very good at identifying birds or their songs, but that doesn’t stop me from dropping whatever I’m doing and listening enthralled to their magical tunes 🙂

6. I love the comfort I get from re-reading my favorite books! I read many of them annually, The Lord of the Rings being one of them and I can’t think of a better journey than one through Middle Earth with my beloved Fellowship 🙂 Another favorite when I’m down in the dumps is Ms. Agatha Christie…I adore HP, coz we share more than our little grey cells…we share initials 😉

7. I love watching horses at a gallop…even if it’s in a painting! Maybe it’s the Sagittarian in me, but there’s just something about watching their fluid, poetic motion that calms me down and sets me free 🙂

8. I love cuddling up in my quilt, while the AC and fan turn the room into a pole-like freezer! Oh and I’m not talking about cuddling with hubby or Ishaan here. Just me, myself and I 🙂 Nirvana!

9. I love solitude! I cannot stress this enough and a lot of people think I’ve lost my marbles when I say this, but there it is…the simple truth.

10. I love my own company! In fact there are many times I prefer it to anyone else’s 😉

I would love to hear what’s on your list, if you care to share 🙂

Let me leave you with a picture that is a testament of my son’s love for his Dad…you know there’s Love there when they’re sharing socks 😛

Sir Black Socks @ your service!

Have a Great Week ahead People 🙂

Soul Sisters!

Today is the Birthday of a beloved family member and the one person closest to my heart on the Planet! My Mom’s sister, my aunt and most importantly my soul-sister 🙂 Perhaps it has to do with her being an Aquarian and my moon-sign being Aquarius, so that this special relationship was foretold in the stars 😉 But lets leave the stars out of it for the moment, the cosmic ones I mean! My aunt (I call her ‘Didi’, which means elder sister in Hindi), is unique, a star in her own right 🙂

The operative word in our relationship from as far back as I can remember has always been ‘Fun’!! When we get together or even on the phone, we just can’t seem to stop laughing 😀 to the point where our Hubbies have been known to ask us if we had lost our minds 😛 No fellas! We are ‘like that only’ 😉 She has a loud, hearty, infectious laugh that erupts from her like lava from a volcano (rather like mine :P) and I mean that as the best sort of compliment! You cannot be in the same room and not feel the laughter creeping up on you and sweeping you off your feet with its vigor! She’s funny and witty and can take as good as she gives.

Granny tells me and Didi agrees that she was a ‘first-class brat’, growing up! Especially when contrasted with my Mom who the entire family had christened ‘Ms. Goody Two-Shoes’, coz she NEVER did anything wrong and was consequently rather a pale, colorless character when compared to my boisterous, scallywag aunt!! Didi by her own admission was a ‘handful’ and more, still is 😉 Granny says she used to be very worried about how Didi would turn out, and hoped that she could just get her married safely and pass on the responsibility of her care over to some poor, hapless man 😉 She needn’t have worried. Didi proved quite capable of looking after herself and anyone else she had to! She’s a gutsy woman. Strong, sensitive, opinionated and unafraid.

The ever present ‘twinkle in her eye’, even as a child!

Didi has and continues to be a path-breaker. She had a love marriage, one of, if not the first one in our family, when the very notion was taboo. She was as I have mentioned a tomboy and getting into scrapes was second nature. She quit studying after 10th grade, coz academics was just not her cup of tea!! Bravo Didi!! At her wit’s end, my Granny decided to enroll her into singing classes, coz she had a great singing voice and hoping that would keep her out of trouble. She should have known better 😉 Or at least that’s what my Granny said for a long time after everything that followed! Here’s what I mean. Didi seemed to take to singing class in a way that pleasantly surprised the family and finally brought relief to my poor Granny’s frazzled nerves. (Ding Dong!! Warning bells anyone?!) And although this new-found devotion was partly due to the singing, much of it was due to the fact that she had met my uncle-to-be on the way to and from the class! Showing her smarts even then, Didi confided at first in her Granny, my Gran’s mother-in-law, hoping to enlist her support before facing up to her mother. Decades later, I followed in her footsteps, confiding in my Granny, and seeking her support before facing my Mom, when came the time to tell her about Hubby & I! Although my Granny finds it amusing now after 4 decades of a solid marriage, she wasn’t in the least amused then! She threw a fit when she heard and I won’t be surprised if Didi got a spanking (although I’ve never asked!). My uncle belongs to another community, (thankfully of Brahmins or it would have been disaster), and Granny was in no mood to listen or understand. For all she knew, her daughter was off gallivanting the streets of Bombay, with some loser she’d picked up off the streets!! It was her worst nightmare come true! It was a while before uncles intervened, calm prevailed, and a meeting arranged with the prospective groom and his family. They were married the same year that Mom & Dad were, and while there were misgivings on both sides (due largely to the rather large age-difference between my aunt and uncle in addition to cultural differences between the families), and a long struggle for Didi to be accepted into my uncle’s family, love prevailed! Doesn’t it always 🙂 In a rather sweet exchange, my uncle, who at the time was a chain smoker, agreed to quit smoking if Didi agreed to become vegetarian (his family is vegetarian). I think that particular deal worked out in Didi’s favor…after many years, she got my uncle to taste fish and chicken and her nephews have been converted into hard-core fish-eaters; but he’s never smoked another cigarette ever!

When I was born, she had been married for just under a year and lived in the port town of Kandla in Gujarat, where my uncle worked in the Indian Customs. I love the story she tells about our first meeting…a cousin and I were born two months apart and, as babies looked quite similar (as babies often do), except that my cousin was and still is much fairer than I am! She hadn’t seen either of us, and when she arrived all eager to meet her darling niece, they brought my cousin, all bundled up to her instead, and said it was me. We were both chubby babies, but Didi claims she knew instantly there was something up and that she was being had! She held my cousin but wasn’t quite convinced and her uncertainty must have shown on her face, coz when I was finally brought out…we took to each other like ducks to water 🙂 So you see, she recognized me right away for who I was and knew me instinctively. And over the years nothing’s changed 🙂

My earliest memories of her, are of her singing songs to me…songs she invented stringing together all kinds of endearments she’d invented for me! She still sings them to me today over the phone and I am unashamed to admit I adore them 🙂 She adores children and doesn’t have her own and that could have embittered her, led to depression and darkness. Instead, she loved me and my brother and her two nephews as her own and I mean ‘as’ and not ‘like’. There’s a difference you know. She filled our worlds with joy and jokes and laughter and song and when we were older she became our first best friend. She remains that 🙂 I can talk to her about anything and everything and although we do not always agree, I can always count on her for a fair hearing and good solid advice. She is never judgmental and often puts things in perspective, especially with my Mom, about whom she is fiercely protective! When my Dad and Mom were going through a rough patch after my brother’s Duchene diagnosis, I wrote her a letter. I was terrified that they were going to split up, and I said as much in the letter. I don’t know what I was thinking or what I expected when I wrote that letter, but I remember feeling that it was the right thing to do. And it was! A few days later, much to my joy and surprise, I received not a reply but Didi herself on our doorstep! On receiving the letter, in true Didi fashion, she had convinced my Uncle to drive down from Bombay to understand the situation and set things right. My parents, completely unaware of the letter, were shocked to say the least! I think her arrival made them realize the effect their constant bickering and arguing was having on us kids, like nothing else would have. Just one of the countless examples in which Didi has touched my life and made it better. Always made it better 🙂

She is my idea of an emancipated woman and here is why. For as long as I have known her, she has truly followed her heart and preserved her individuality. It hasn’t been easy (it rarely is), but, and I know she agrees, it’s been worth the effort and the pain. When she turned fifty, she began to write poetry. She writes in Marathi and has the wonderful knack of combing simplicity of verse with profoundness of thought. I like to think, her journey into the world of verse, led to a kind of renaissance in her life. She has often confided in me that writing keeps her going when things get tough. Over the years, things have been tough…sometimes financially, sometimes health-wise, but each crisis has been handled with dignity, humor and quiet resolve. For all her strength she is never far from tears both of joy and pain! I remember her crying for joy when she first met Ishaan and holding me tight and crying with me when my brother passed away. I remember her tears of joy, when I surprised her on her 60th Birthday, flying down from Singapore and appearing on her doorstep in the middle of the celebrations! I had worked hard to convince her that I couldn’t make it although she insisted later that she couldn’t quite believe it! As if I would missed a milestone like that!

It is difficult to put into words all that she means to me, certainly a single post will serve to do nothing more than scratch the surface. She taught me the art of picking out the perfect sari. She has an eye for the unusual & is unafraid of going for bold & brilliant colors 🙂 We had a ball shopping for my trousseau! She also has a knack for finding treasures on a budget. She’s a great one for budgets, Didi is! It’s a standing joke between the two of us of how she would gift me either tops of a ‘salwar kameez’ without their bottoms & vice versa, in an attempt to save on tailoring charges, expecting me to have something in my wardrobe that would fit the bill 😛 Still does! She’s always well turned out and has her own unique sense of style. She loves lipstick…deep red preferably and wouldn’t be caught dead without her lips painted and her cheeks rouged with the same shade! It’s been like that ever since I can remember. She has a wicked memory and her story-telling skills are legendary! She always remembers the stuff everyone would rather forget and is never afraid to share it, especially if she put a funny spin on it! She loves fiercely, is a loyal friend, a devoted wife, and is one of the most generous people I know.

This then is the woman, I honor today, on her Birthday! Over the years she’s seen me through every milestone, good and bad. Her spirit is my guide and mentor and her presence in my Life – vital and uplifting. We are very similar the two of us…we both take life more seriously than we let on, we laugh our guts out every chance we get, we live to write and we love our families with crazy abandon. We’re both a bit nuts and loving it! I like to think we share a motto too…Live & Let Live! I’ve already had a long conversation with her this morning and will probably have another before the day is done! My only regret is that we don’t meet as often as we like but perhaps therein lies the secret to our harmony? I don’t know, and I don’t particularly want to analyze either. It works, is all that matters. And so here’s to Didi, an aunt, a kindred spirit and a soul-sister!!

Like two peas in a pod!

“May your light shine ever so brightly, May the colors never fade,

May the spirit stay forever sprightly, And may it never rain on your parade!”

Happy Birthday Didi! Love You Hamesha 🙂

Of Bridges…

Have been thinking of bridges a lot lately, to the point where I’ve begun to feel like one! Do you know the feeling? If you’re living with or have difficult family ties, then you might. Ever since we moved in with my parents, I’ve felt like one, particularly in regards to Hubby and them. Although as the situation changes, so do the people on either side. Sometimes, it’s my Granny and my Mom on opposite sides or Mom & Dad or Mom and Me, in which case, there’s an abyss in between! I didn’t realize this before, but it’s a hard life for a bridge!

My parents as I’ve mentioned before are conservative and traditional. In Goan society that means, sons-in-law are like Gods, well maybe demigods! To be approached with caution and reverence that is often taken to extreme lengths. He is vigorously fed, endlessly pampered, always obeyed and never put in a spot! Most mother-in-law from my Mom’s generation rarely speak to their sons-in-law at all. I know for a fact that my Granny and my Dad never spoke to one another directly until a few years ago, and even then on rare occasions. Perhaps age has something to do with that! Mom is a ‘bridge’ herself, has been all these 44 years! All this means in my ménage de trios is a lack of direct communication between my parents and Hubby. As a result I function like a transmitter relaying information back and forth, feeling like a bridge that’s spanning the universe, connecting two entities that live on different planets nay galaxies 😛 Disregard that emoticon, I’m serious! So, my Mom asks me everything she needs to ask the Hubby and tells me everything she needs to tell him, which is almost exclusively food-related! “Will he be home for lunch, for dinner? Breakfast is ready! Does he need more tea? Has he eaten the new cake? I’ My Granny joins in (coz the more the merrier, eh?!), “Tell him to eat it while it’s hot!”, breakfast she means. This at the top of her voice, which he can hear perfectly.

Other stuff, the important stuff like what’s happening with his work and the like are NEVER broached with him EVER!! I’m asked these questions instead, to which I give vague, ambiguous answers, not out of a desire to hide but from a lack of knowledge! I know, I know! Some of you may raise a pretty eyebrow in disbelief, but it’s the solemn truth! Perhaps all you dutiful, lovingly involved spouses know exactly what’s up in Hubby’s work-life, I don’t. Never have, never will. It’s not out of negligence just disinterest (which is not as horrid as it sounds, so no hate mail please :P). I know the broad outlines of what’s happening of course and we discuss plans of action and the big picture together, but the minutiae bore me to death and I ignore them! Yes I know God is in the details, but mine is understanding and kind 🙂 besides which Hubby is the demon for detail 😉 To be fair, I do this with everything and everybody including myself! Unless it’s to do with something that I’m passionate about, which at the moment would be writing, books and a few other things, I don’t pay much attention. It works perfectly, coz we’re both the kind of people who work best when left to ourselves, but enjoy discussing progress or failure as the case may be, at regular intervals. Also, Hubby is rarely at home and what with Ishaan and everything else vying for our attention, it’s hard to get time alone or concentrate when we do! We’re very often so tired, we hit the bed already asleep, especially Hubby, for whom a late night is 10 pm 😉 (I’m being kind, sometimes it’s 9 pm :P). So, when Mom asks about his work, you can see how that might be difficult for me! It’s just another one of those little things that remind me how different their marriage is from mine.

When times are good, I still manage to hold my own and am an efficient conductor of this strange orchestra. When we hit a rough patch, is when things tend to slip out of control. I guess what I’m saying is that all this to-ing and fro-ing between individuals and trying to maintain a balance of sorts, wears me out and exhausts me and them. When we’re exhausted we get irritable and that makes everything worse. That’s what made me think appreciatively of bridges. I think they deserve much more credit than we give them – human & inanimate! Where would we be without either? Forever connected yet aloof; leading towards on end and away from the other; watching & recording history and on occasion making an important contribution, playing a vital role; bearing the burden of countless footsteps; they seem to symbolize my state in Life now. Yet I must always have and continue to be one, like we all are, connecting and dividing people by our thought, and actions and sometimes by our very existence.

This is something I wrote over the last couple of days. It’s been a while since a poem came to me.

The Bridge

Connector, divider, spanner of rivers,

A gateway, an entrance, a runway to tears.

A link in a chain, A cog in a wheel,

A path – weighted down by a million clicking heels.

London Bridge…My Favorite!

One foot here, another there,

Body suspended, trapped in mid-air.

Bringer of beginnings, journey’s end,

Traveler’s terror, voyager’s friend.

Frozen motion, standing still,

My existence is testament to human will.

The Brooklyn Bridge…a close second!

Built of timber, from sticks & stones,

From thoughts, from hope, from human bones.

From ideas and spirit, from wishes and sighs,

Comes the ethereal rainbow, in your sky.

In myth and in legend, are my stories told,

My foundations harbor secrets untold.

I’m famous, unknown, symbolic, enshrined,

Spanning centuries, hearts and minds.

Forces of nature, and human assault,

Victory, defeat, bested them all.

None of these yet all I am, or am I just Me?

Entwined, enmeshed, at once aloof,

Like that was meant to be.

Watching, waiting, standing tall

Connecting shores until I fall.

– Harsha

And I’ll leave you with my favorite ‘Bridge’ song. I love this live version by Art 🙂

Weekend coming up, People! Smile 🙂

44…A Daughter’s Tale.

On the 4th of this month, my parents completed 44 years of married life. We had a quiet celebration at home, just us, which was what they wanted.

What with Hubby and me completing 19 and their 44th, I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage in general and my parent’s relationship in particular. I’ve been around for 42 of the 44 years they’ve been together, and I can safely say that their relationship is as mysterious to me today as it was when I was younger…perhaps mysterious is not the right word, perhaps enigma is a better one (Yes, I know they mean the same thing, but enigma is just so much more sophisticated!). Marriage is such an intimate relationship between two people, that it’s impossible really for anyone else to understand it’s mechanics. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years it’s been that nowhere are the old adages, ‘Appearances are Deceptive’ & “Still Waters Run Deep’, more true than in the context of marriage. I’ve seen (and I’m sure you have to) seemingly happy couples who are on the verge of separation, seemingly happy couples where either one or both partners are having affairs, obviously unhappy couples who can’t seem to let go, couples who let go only to reunite, and thankfully, obviously happy couples who are just that – happy!! But you get my meaning…anything is possible.

I’m no relationship expert and the only reason I think I know my parents’ marriage is coz I’ve had an awfully long time and many opportunities over the years in which to observe them at close quarters. And still the key word here is ‘think’! They had a traditional arranged marriage as was custom at that time. There’s a funny story there. My Mom went along with her uncles to meet my Dad who had come with his friend. The friend had played match-maker and is Dad’s oldest friend to this day 🙂 My Granny, had given my Mom, instructions on proper conduct at the meeting! “Don’t talk too much! Don’t talk at all unless you have to! You can have a look at the boy but DO NOT make it obvious! Just do as your uncles say!” and more advice along the same lines. My Mom has always been a shy, reserved person and I imagine an occasion like this one would only serve to make her more so! She tried to steal glances at the boy she had been told would make her a good husband. She had seen a picture at home. Back home, my Granny asked her what she thought of the boy and my Mom with her trademark stoicism, said he seemed alright, but that she was surprised at how different he looked from his picture and he wore rather thick glasses which were also absent in the picture. My Granny was a little surprised and took up the matter with her brothers, who said No! The boy didn’t wear glasses and was very smart-looking and a worthy match. His married friend however did wear glasses and apparently that’s who my Mom had given the once over!!! Every time I hear this story, it makes me laugh 😀

4.1.67...The Beginning...

They made a handsome couple 🙂 He was dapper and she was beautiful and they were both blessed with a rare generosity of spirit. To this day, they never hesitate to help a stranger in need. Indeed, it’s a habit that has often cost them dear and that makes me equal parts annoyed and proud! Theirs is a traditional marriage – my Dad is most definitely the ‘Head’ of the household and has the last say in most everything. My Mom defers to his judgment and opinions in almost everything. And yet she has perfected the art of getting her way and still making Dad think it was his decision, in the manner of all seasoned wives 😛 I live and learn 😉 My Dad’s love for us children is rather legendary in the family 🙂 His stern demeanor effectively hides the fact that he is the world’s biggest softie!! I cannot remember ever being told ‘No’ as a child and it’s a miracle I’m not a spoilt brat! I’m not! (You’ll just have to take my word for it!). My Mom often speaks of how my Dad has always put us kids first, not enviously, coz I think she did it too (it’s what parents do right?), but wistfully, I sometimes think, and I can’t say I blame her.

I think (or maybe it suits me to think), that the most idyllic years of my childhood, were also the best years of their marriage. Dad had been transferred to Japan and we spent a happy six years there in the seventies 🙂 I still get teary-eyed when I reminisce about those golden years, when life seemed so simple and happiness just a cartoon away!! We socialized, traveled, had picnics and did all the things a young family does! It’s no wonder Japan has a special place in my heart 🙂 My parents though, Dad especially, never had any intentions of settling down in a country other than their own and so we were back in Bombay and then to Goa which is their birthplace and which is where their dream of building a home for the family was realized 🙂 This is also when our family split up for the first time and that’s how it’s been since, except for short periods during which we were all together. My Dad was transferred back to Bombay and we stayed behind, my brother and me with Mom, because I wanted to be a doctor and admission into Medical College required 5 years domiciliary proof in the state of application. My parents did what most parents would do (or so I console myself), and decided to live apart for my sake, a fact that never fails to make me feel guilty and sad to this day. Now that I’ve been married so long, I know how terribly hard that must have been for them. Yet despite the distance, I like to think we were still happy. My brother was born in 1980 and for a few years after that, we were still the perfect, picture postcard family, epitomizing the ‘Hum Do, Hamare Do’ policy of the then Indian government! Could we have known then the turn things would take? Was it Nature’s great balancing act? Having given us great happiness, was she now showing us the dark side? The evil eye perhaps? I used to think a lot about why our life changed so dramatically, when I was younger and it made me angry and frustrated. Not any more. Age has some advantages…wisdom and acceptance among them.

And so, my turbulent teenage years mirrored the turbulence in my parents’ marriage. My brother being diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, was the turning point and much as I would like to say otherwise, it was all downhill from there for many years. Even when we were able to finally accept and rally as a family, there was no going back. Life changed irrevocably and finally, and nothing was ever the same again. I was twelve and I cannot remember being more scared than I was then. I saw the ugly side of marriage then, as my parents went through stages of denial to acceptance and settled down into a permanent grief that hasn’t left them completely even now, two years after my brother passed on. It never will. I watched them, tense, as they battled both inner demons and external monsters in an attempt to make sense of it all as their hitherto perfect world crumbled all around them. My Dad was always angry and bitter and my Mom retreated into her shell, resigned, finding solace in religious rituals and hundreds of Gods. I wish I could say that I was understanding and helpful and didn’t cause them additional pain. I can’t and I’m not proud. My only excuse is my age and the fact that my world imploded too, although I tried hard to pretend nothing had changed.

It was as I said, an ugly time. I grew up then, quicker than I would have otherwise. I realized that my parents were human beings after all (not Gods on a pedestal), fragile ones at that, capable of being hurtful and destructive, and of shattering like so much glass. It’s a hard lesson to learn about parents, to discover that they are not the perfect, all-conquering heroes that one has idolized and venerated through childhood, but human beings like everyone else, vulnerable, trying to do the best they can and capable of failure. With help from family and God’s grace, we got through those turbulent times and yet many things changed forever, as they are wont to do after major upheavals. I’ve always felt my parents have carried their guilt with them ever since. They always blamed themselves for my brother and dedicated their lives wholly to his care. Everything else took back seat and that included their own relationship. And again, despite the surrounding debris, there were happy times 🙂 Dad was transferred to Singapore and much to my delight, my brother had the same experience I had in Japan 🙂 He went to a fabulous school, traveled, partied and had a ball!! I’m so very glad he did, coz he always referred to that period as his ‘golden time’!

I got married at 23, when my parents were still in Singapore. The year I got married, they celebrated 25 years of togetherness and there were grand celebrations with most of the family who had come to the wedding 🙂 It was a happy time, if bittersweet, coz I left home to make my own life and it took me away from Goa and later from India. I visited home as often as I could and yet often my visits resulted only in increased stress for my Mom in particular. I have been a difficult daughter at best (still am), and the empathy and compassion that come so easily for others, desert me when it comes to my parents, especially my Mom. I don’t really even know why. Perhaps it’s residual feelings of anger and guilt from my teenage years, when I craved attention and didn’t get it. Perhaps it’s me being judgmental (which I’m not with anyone else), about the way they cared for my brother and the fact that they ignored everything, most of all themselves, occasionally to the point of illness. Or perhaps it’s just the disconnect that I feel from having lived my own life and being apart so long. I like that third option, makes me feel less guilty and evil. I always relied on my brother who acted as a buffer between my parents and me during these visits!

At My Wedding...25 years later!

Over the years, Dad has mellowed and Mom, well she’s mellowed too I guess, in her own way. In the two years since my brother passed away, they have come to rely on each other again and I think they are gentler with each other now, more forgiving. They revel in Ishaan’s company and he brings them the kind of joy that only children can – innocent, pure and magical. They see my brother in him and it’s no surprise, given how Ishaan has inherited his uncle’s love and talent for cricket! They are not the kind of people who discuss their feelings or relationship. Being reserved and conservative, they have definite ideas about what children need and don’t need to know and that’s not likely to change. Their marriage has survived 44 years of Life, and when I think that they hardly knew each other when they made their commitment, it blows me away!! The kind of dedication, compromise, understanding, perseverance and sheer gumption it takes to make it through all these years with their sanity still intact takes my breath away. I have in them an excellent example of how to celebrate the good times and make a relationship work through the worst crises. What daughter could ask for more?

I am so very, very proud to be known as their daughter and I do hope in my own small way, I can make them proud too. (As I type I can hear them both saying “You Have! You Have!”)

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad! Love always 🙂

19

The number of years I’ve been married.

My reflex was to end that statement with a happy smiley like so 🙂 (you know how fond I am of my smileys!), but for a fraction of second I hesitated and the urge diminished (please note I said diminished NOT disappeared! This is for you Hubby before you go flying off the handle :P). Not coz I haven’t for the most part, had a good, solid marriage nor that I haven’t enjoyed being married to Hubby most of the time…just my penchant for honesty (you know, that awkward, often inconvenient and sometimes suicidal need to be nothing but forthright? You do know what I’m talking about right?!). So a Happy smiley would have been a half-truth, no that’s stretching it, a ¾ truth then 😛 (Hey! Am being honest remember?) Can’t blame the smiley people though…some things just cannot be contained in one tiny face, marriage for one, parenting for another! Both so similar (as I’m finding out), requiring infinite patience, loads of hard work, a healthy dose compromise and an underlying desire to make it work. Both with rich rewards when successful and awful pain when not. Each unique and impossible to explain or understand wholly, unless experienced. So when they create a smiley that says all that…I’ll happily use it everywhere it fits 😉

The beginning...

And now that that’s out of the way, on to the Mush!! (Aaaw…you didn’t think I was All honesty did you ;-)) Nineteen years is a long time for most things especially a marriage…and I must say I’m enjoying the ride 🙂 Here’s why…It’s NEVER been boring…it’s been good, bad, ugly, happy, sad, tense, peaceful, stressful, joyous, romantic, sweet, bitter, loads of fun, exciting, adventurous, wondrous and an education of sorts. I’ve known Hubby for 21 years and after all these years I’m filled with a quiet confidence and serenity that comes from knowing that I made the right choice. I know now with more certainty than I knew then – He’s the right man for me 😀 He puts up with my tantrums (and they are god-awful I can tell you!), endures my endless ribbing, takes care of all the important, mundane stuff (that I totally suck at), leaving me free to wander off on my flights of fancy, has supported me through action and inaction, has given me some fabulous surprises, and most importantly believes in me when I’m hard-pressed to believe in myself!! How’s that for some serious Mush 🙂 Through the years he’s taken care of me and nursed me through some terrible lows. A great man to have around in a crisis, he’s the epitome of cool, when my nerves are in tatters. And lest I forget, the reason I fell head over heels for this rather deceptively reserved, extremely talented and exceptionally intelligent man is his killer smile 🙂 The smile that can still make my knees turn to jelly, not that I’ll ever let on 😉 Well, maybe just this once! I’m smiling now, but my eyes are tearing up…so lets just leave it at that, shall we? (The dangers of Mush!)

19!

Our marriage has had it’s ups and downs like every other, but we’ve always found our way together and I’ve grown to rely on his judgment (he won’t believe this but I do!), trust his decisions and seek courage in his strength. He’s worked long and hard to get where he is today (I envy his focus and dedication and wish some of it would rub off on self…Alas, if wishes were horses…) and he has done it with dignity & integrity and I am oh so very, very proud 🙂 And so after 19 years of togetherness, all I want to say is “I love you, Darling. Always have and always will. Oh and just so you know, Diamonds always help!” Kidding! I’m just kidding!! Geez!!!

Happy Anniversary Darling! Welcome to a new decade of togetherness 🙂

Last Post of the Decade!

Am back on the penultimate day of the year for my last post of this decade! December has been insane, what with Ishaan on holiday from school, our family vacation and a marathon family wedding, which finally wrapped up last night! I haven’t written much at all and am beginning to suffer ‘Blog-withdrawal’, coz I haven’t been able to read my fellow bloggers either 😦 And yet, despite the exhaustion, it’s been great fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it 🙂 New Year’s Day is also our wedding anniversary so will be back, hopefully refreshed and relaxed, and with loads to write, in the new decade 🙂

Isn’t it amazing? In the blink of an eye, a whole decade’s flashed by! It’s been a life-altering one for me and my family in so many ways and yet one doesn’t stop to think about these things, does one, unless it’s ‘that’ time of the year again or one needs to write a blog post after a seriously long break 😉 Thanks a million, to all my readers who still dropped by to read while I was away being busy 🙂 My statistics tell me that I wasn’t completely forgotten, which feels really good 😀

So as I was saying a life-altering decade and a hectic last couple of weeks…weeks first then. Mid-month, we had a holiday in Mahabaleshwar, a hill-station, that’s an 8-hour drive away from Goa. We met up with family and had the time of our lives, which for us (as I am sure for many of you), means great food, great shopping and superlative food 🙂 It was my first time visiting this very popular destination and I was suitably impressed. Although we hit heavy traffic on the way at Panchagani, which scared me, Mahabaleshwar itself, I found still relatively unspoilt. Not that there weren’t any tourists (it’s too close to Bombay to escape their onslaught entirely), but I thought it was so much better than Goa, which by the way has officially become ‘Hell’ for us locals as multitudes of tourists take-over looking for their own particular New Year ‘Paradise’!! Uuuuuuuugh!! Great for all the vendors who have suffered a lot in the last few years when the tourist stream died down to a trickle, but not so great for us, given the traffic jams and general chaos in a state with terrible infra-structure.

Ishaan's first solo horse-ride!

But, as usual, I digress (old habits!)…Mahabaleshwar and Hotel Dina were fabulous…we relaxed, shopped, and pigged out until our poor stomachs cried out for a holiday of their own 😛 The kids rode horses, jumped on the trampoline until I thought they were going to wear out the poor thing, and visited the local amusement park. The older kids tried their hand at Go-karting and Ishaan tried out the bumper cars with Hubby but cried to leave after the first few bumps 😉 And did I mention an extraordinary Magic show, the highlights of which included finding a ring within a whole tomato and having our hands mysteriously coated in different fragrances!! Sweet 🙂

We’ve decided this should be an annual family holiday and I love this start of a new tradition 🙂 Personally, I think it’s the food 😉 No, seriously! I have never eaten mutton (it’s what we call goat’s meat here in India), cooked in so many delectable ways…samosas, patties, ‘dhansak’ (a Parsi curry made with lentils and mutton), biryani, mince…Heaven 🙂

Strawberries on the vine!

They did great desserts too…although I am not a dessert person…their strawberry soufflé was to die for, not surprising perhaps given that Mahabaleshwar is known for it’s strawberries!! We visited a farm, where a kind gentleman explained the intricacies of berry cultivation and told us that the plants they use are imported from California and cost them about Rs.10/each by the time they are ready to fruit! I thought that was pretty economical, but each plant apparently has a life-span of just 8 months. It wasn’t quite strawberry season yet when we were there and so they were selling the berries for about Rs.160/kilo (during the season, in Jan-Feb, they’re half that price!). We brought home a lot of strawberries 🙂

Back from Mahabaleshwar, we were all nursing colds (the temperature was 8-12°C), and trying everything from home remedies to antibiotics, in a race against time to recover for my cousin’s wedding. I made it thanks in main to an excellent, pungent concoction my Granny makes containing basil, ginger, and pepper corns among other things, sweetened with a bit of honey!! Taken twice a day, it’s a surefire recipe for frightening away the most stubborn colds 🙂 There followed the last-minute scramble of deciding which sarees to wear, a process usually dependant on whether the blouses that go with them fit 😛 That sorted, on to the jewelry! Without a doubt…jewelry is the true star of the Goan wedding!! The bride and her guests are all laden with every piece of jewelry they possess in a frenzied display of wealth and more often bad taste 😛 For people such as moi, who dislike heavy jewelry in general and gold in particular, it is as you can imagine, painful 😉 I have never understood why it’s necessary to display every article of jewelry you own to the world at once!! Never will! But Goan women certainly seem to take pride in displays that would shame a peacock 😛 Their sarees however are a very different story…mediocre at best! Alright, I think I’ve said enough to incur the wrath of several Goan women I know… and so quickly moving on 😉

The wedding is actually a series of ceremonies, some religious, some not, spread over 3 days. Day 1 saw the family gather at our family home for the ‘Devkarya’ (the official start of the wedding celebrations). Surrounded by her family, the bride worshipped the family deities, was anointed in oil and turmeric, and donned the auspicious green glass bangles that are one of the hallmarks of a newly married woman, while the women of the household sang songs, bantered and gossiped 🙂 The atmosphere was festive, noisy and seemingly chaotic, but everything that needed to get done, did! There is apparently a method to all the madness 🙂 I went armed with my camera and busied myself taking pictures. Ishaan played cricket in the garden outside with the rest of the kids and a pleasant day was had by all, catching up with visiting out-of-town relatives.

Day 2 was the actual wedding ceremony. The venue, is a marriage hall in the famous Mangeshi temple, and we got there at 10 am. The first ceremony is a repeat of the oil-anointing ritual, known as ‘Tel’ (oil), the difference being that the groom’s side is now present to anoint the bride and vice versa. The bride and groom receive gifts (More jewelry ;-)) and the guests get ice cream and a gift too (Nah! No jewelry this time! A steel utensil is the general norm.). Then as the bride went off to change her sari (she changed twice during the entire ceremony), the guests hung out, waiting for the auspicious time (in this case 12.36 pm), when amidst religious chanting and an exchange of garlands the marriage was finally solemnized! After that, a vegetarian lunch buffet, more rituals and finally the leave-taking, often tearful (although not in this case :)), with the bride leaving for her new home with her new partner and family! And so ended Day 2 at around 6 in the evening…yeah! Long Day!!

Day 3 was relatively relaxed. There’s a reception in the evening with a live band and a non-vegetarian buffet! Sometimes I think the only reason for the reception is to feed the guests fish, coz unless that happens, Goans consider themselves lacking in hospitality!! It’s also a chance for the couple and the families to finally relax and mingle with their guests, with the nightmare of organizing a wedding firmly and successfully behind them. My aunt and uncle seem much more relaxed, their faces reflecting the happiness that comes from knowing they’ve done good by their daughter. My cousin is radiant as all brides are and looks perfectly content 🙂 Oh Happy Day!! My only crib is the time it took us to get to the venue (more than an hour), and the awful traffic jam on the way. But the best thing about this wedding as far as I’m concerned is that my Dad made it through all three days and venues, even if on occasion grudgingly, without mishap! He even enjoyed himself although far be it for him to admit it to any one of us!

And that brings me up to today, the first day that I haven’t had to wear a sari and sit around being polite and wearing the party smile 😛 Tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve and we will spend it as we always do…at home with family. Venturing outside into the mayhem of tourists and traffic is a huge no-no. On New Year’s day we’re having a dinner for close family and my Karaoke cousin will once again provide the entertainment 🙂 Then hopefully a restful Sunday and back to the grind. Ishaan starts school on Monday and you may think this unseemly and unkind, but I can hardly wait! It means I get my life back, well, at least my mornings 🙂

And so to the decade…will keep this short coz it’s late and I’m sleepy and this post is already a mile long 😛 Lets see…we moved countries, quit jobs, had Ishaan, and lost my brother…that’s the short version and for now I’m happy to leave it at that. I’ve had much happiness this decade and great sorrow. I’ve learnt a few things along the way and have many more lessons to learn. As I’ve said before, I’m not into making resolutions any more. This year in general and these last couple days in particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about Independence, by which I mean the freedom to just ‘Be’, whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever…you know what I mean. It’s not a new thought nor original, but it’s particularly relevant to me at this time in my life, when I so often feel penned in by responsibilities and burdened by expectations. I’ve always been a misfit as far as the traditionally accepted Goan way of life goes. Nothing about me conforms. I’m opinionated, frankly vocal, disdainful of customs that I perceive as being based in fear and superstition, dislike fish, jewelry and saris (My poor Mother!!), like my liquor and don’t hide the fact, don’t think Goa is Paradise on Earth, and find the company of most members of my community boring!!! (Nobody’s going to read me after this!!) Moving back to Goa and trying to make a life here is without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done so far, made harder by the fact that my family is conservative and orthodox in many of their beliefs. In their eyes I’m probably the worst sort of ‘libertine’, although none of them will ever say so to my face!

If I must wish for something therefore, I wish for an Independence of Spirit. A way in which to be true to myself without being obnoxious to others (I’m told it can be done!), and patience…truckloads of it…not only with Ishaan and the rest of my family, but for myself. I need to be patient with myself and though I’m better at it now than I was years ago, I’ve a long ways to go. I wish there was a ‘patience-fairy’ I could appeal to. I mean really, what good does the tooth-fairy really do people?!

And to you my readers and friends and inspiration…I would like to say THANK YOU…for being who you are and doing what you do 🙂 My Life is fuller and happier because of it!!

Have a good celebration People. Stay Safe. Do NOT Drink & Drive. Laugh a lot. Dance as much as you can. Smile often and HAVE FUN 🙂

A Healthy, Happy 2011 to All!!