The Runaways!

Bunny In The Cupboard

There is never a dull day when there are kids in the house. There’s always some surprise waiting around the corner. But I’d never encountered any surprises in the kitchen. It’s not a place they frequent unless they are hungry. But with the two younger grandkids, when they were 2 yrs and 3++, I’ve had some lovely discoveries. While we were hunting high and low for some “lost” things upstairs in the bedrooms, family room, and even the dining room, the ‘lost ones’ were up to mischief in the kitchen!

This is what I love about photographs. They dredge up memories and it’s lovely to relive those moments. And if the pics remind you of things like this, it’s so wonderful.

We searched high and low for Myra’s “Bunny bedroom shoes.” We didn’t find them and neither could she. Needless to say, she was quite upset. The next day, I found them cozy and snug on one of the shelves in the (everyday) crockery cupboard. She had no memory of putting it there herself. So we had to agree with her version of how they landed up hobnobbing with the china plates and bowls. “I think they were lost and walked into the cupboard by mistake.”

Reaching Out!

And another day, I walked into the kitchen to see a little glove reaching for an orange. Keen to hear the owner’s explanation, I asked her how it got there or was she trying to reach the oranges, which were out of her reach, using a glove.

“No. Not me Dadi,” she quipped, “it is Zara’s glove! See!”

“I see it, baby. It’s not you at all,” I agreed.

“I told you. Not me,” she beamed.

I enjoyed all five of my little ones to the hilt. And as time passes, the conversations change, and other things draw their time and attention.

They are grown since then… There’s a pre-teen, three eight-year-olds, and the littlest is just five. The conversations have changed. But the love, happiness, and caring just keep growing. They add so much joy and laughter to my days.

The Unique Tree

A fellow blogger described a tree that had these unique leaves… I remembered it as greenish-grey leaves with white patches. But it seems it was “grey” leaves. Apart from this, I wonder if this tree looks anything like the one she passes that draws her attention because of its uniqueness. Let’s see. I enjoyed sketching it. Let’s see what she says. I await the feedback.

I haven’t used paints. Just pencils and a marker.

Here it is:

Here’s a close-up of the leaves.

Message In The Sky

A pic I took some years back from the kitchen! I heard the sound of a plane or planes, perhaps. One doesn’t usually hear that much sound close by. It would be a rare sight of a helicopter, at times, and its drone that identified it. One saw commercial aircraft flying way up but one didn’t hear them. So out of curiosity, I peeked out. I loved what I saw. The plane/s had left two smoky trails that formed a V. So I stepped out the door that opened onto the backyard and clicked this beautiful picture. “V for victory”, I said to myself. It was as if this message was written in the sky, especially for me. I needed it then. I hadn’t gotten over my lock, stock, and barrel moves, two of them – two countries within four years, and the insecurity that I felt because of feeling ‘rootless’.

Pic: joy Clarkson Titled: V for Victory

Yesterday, I came upon this picture while going through my cache of photographs. And it spoke to me once again. The same way. I needed this reminder. A nudge that helped me to recall all the ups and downs I’ve dealt with (alone) face-on and come through, if not with flying colors, all in one piece and without losing my sanity or never-say-die spirit. The highways and trails of life are not always ideal, straight, smooth, easy, wonderful, or even safe, but sometimes, our journey just has to be on such paths. And I’ve traversed almost all of the categories – good, bad, and terrible. It was only my faith in God and the trust that He walked with me and went through every high and low, and even unsafe stretch with me that brought me safe and whole this far. I trusted my GUIDE. So when I saw this photograph once again, it echoed what I had said back then when I first read the message in the sky: ‘V’ for VICTORY!

I hope it speaks to someone else too!

Amusement at the Amusement Park

A memory from a few years back popped up when I and the twins were talking about understanding dog “language”! And they were trying to fit words to different barks, grunts, groans, growls, and whines… it was fun and I had tears running down my face as we rolled with laughter. I recalled having posted in WP something about a dog and its owner at an amusement park we had visited about three or four years back. Sharing it here as the memory brings a smile and a chuckle back again.

“We’re going to an Amusement Park this Saturday,” piped the twins.

“Where?

“On an island.”

“An island?”

“Yes. It’s not too far. We’ll be taking a ferry ride.”

“Okaay… How do you have an island with no sea around?”

“It’s a river island.”

Clicked this from the ferry as we approached the Amusement park at Centre Island.

IMG_2289

Satisfied with this info, I wondered what I’d do at the amusement park. To see me on a normal day, of which, thankfully, I have many in the continuum of ‘good’, ‘not-so-good’, ‘better’ days, you’d wonder why I was skeptical about the amount I’d have to walk and the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the outing.

Well, my condition is quite unpredictable. I could be walking, bending, and doing things normally… and then, just like that, I’d be laid down with a lumbar disc issue which would leave me unable to walk, sit up or even turn myself on my side in bed; not to mention, the excruciating pain. And then, not to be left behind, are a cervical disc and knees that like to surprise me now and then. So every action, even though I am careful, can trigger terrible consequences. Although I am careful, things can go wrong with the most simple turn or bend I make.

So, I decided I’d be the official photographer and resort to people watching to keep occupied and humored. I wasn’t disappointed. One encounter with a young couple and a grandma with her little grandson makes me laugh even now.

I was sitting on a bench and eating nachos while the rest were doing the rounds of a few rides that they had still to go on. A young, Indian couple with a cute little dog, a 5-month-old pup, sat on the bench behind me. I picked up a conversation about the pup. Soon, a granny, whose grandson was crying sought the pup as a good diversion for the little boy; it worked. He stopped crying and she swapped stories with the couple about their respective pets. I returned to my nachos.

Just as I lost interest in their conversation, the grandma turned to leave, her purpose in speaking to them being achieved. The pup began yapping at her as she walked away and she turned and waved to it. It wagged its tail. Then she turned to leave again and it yapped. This drew my attention back to them and I eavesdropped on the conversation that followed. I admit I’m glad I did… I was getting bored!

The young man apologized for his pup’s incessant barking and thought he should explain it like this:

“He doesn’t want you to go. He wants to talk to you.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” she said, graciously but eager to move on. However, the young man was not done yet. So she lingered a while longer as he continued.

“But he can’t talk, you see,” he explained, as if he were imparting some unknown fact, “that is why he is barking.”

‘She knows that silly!’ my mind said. I was enjoying this little scene that was playing out before me.

“It seems he likes you and doesn’t want you to go. So sorry,” the young man continued. And tried to pacify the pup that was getting shriller and more agitated.

I wondered, ‘why are you going on and on playing interpreter? It’s a dog. It’s barking. Period!’

“Yes,” chipped in his companion, grinning broadly, “he can’t talk our language, no? So he’s talking in his language.” I thought she was done, but she wasn’t.

“We can understand his language,” she said with a broad grin, nodding her head from side to side, “but everyone can’t understand, you see. So don’t mind that he’s barking at you. He’s actually liking you.”

The smile on the lady’s face was no longer amiable and a glazed look replaced the warm one. I could see that she wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Were they daft or did they presume she was daft? She opted to say nothing.

She nodded her head briskly and walked away with a quicker step dreading, I suppose, that he’d drag the inane conversation further.

I was indeed at the Amusement Park and I’d had a quiet laughter ride with no risk of injury!

Standing Out – Snow white

This tree has its own identity and beauty. It’s different from all the ones around it and that is what makes it stand out from the crowd! It makes it more beautiful. In a swirl of shades of green, it’s a swathe of swaying white. Standing out and outstanding!

A closer view of it below. I have no idea what tree it is. I saw it while on my walk. It looked amazing!

Just three little words – I love you.

“The words that a father speaks to his children in the privacy of home are not heard by the world, but, as in whispering-galleries, they are clearly heard at the end and by posterity.”

~Richter Jean Paul

I lugged the picnic basket up the little hillock. It was a bit heavy and big for a puny six-year-old, but that didn’t matter. After all, it contained our “victory treat.” I just managed to keep up with my brother and father, who were carrying our prized kite and the paraphernalia that goes with kite-flying. My father had clubbed a picnic along with this kite-flying event. I was flushed with excitement. We were going to “finish off” all our contenders that day with our daddy-of-all-kites. It was “biiig”!

It was a beauty with reinforced string, called ‘Manja,’ painstakingly made by dad. Why all this trouble? Why not just buy a kite and string as usual? This was in response to our lament that we never “got the better of the others.” We usually got cut off (literally) and would trudge back home disappointed that we didn’t even get to enjoy just flying our kite for a longer time.

Looking back, it was indeed a day to remember. A victory crafted for us by Daddy.

I was six years old then, but six-plus decades later, the memory is as fresh as ever. There are myriad memories painted on the canvas of my childhood about the fun things he did with us and mostly all to do with activities outdoors. And many more that taught me and molded me; gave me the strength to push on; determination and perseverance to “never say die” when the going got tough. To know what to pursue – wise choices. He inspired me and instilled in me the importance of never giving up hope.

The youngest of four children, my younger brother came much later, I wasn’t docile nor girly and tried to copy my elder brother and his friends. This aggravated my mother especially since my other siblings were docile and quiet. It didn’t help that my father had a big hand in my bold pursuits. She’d lecture him too about it pointing out that the stories he regaled us with were a bad influence on me. Of course, he didn’t see how it could be so, and kept me hooked!

The tales of his boyhood rivaled Tom Sawyer’s and fired my imagination almost to the point of setting out to explore the world at the ripe old age of eight (mum set that right!); getting into scrapes with bullies who picked on my brother; creeping through the underbelly of a rail cum road bridge, on a narrow metal plank, over the backwaters of the Arabian Sea below, until I was a good way over the waters.

Here I would sit to cheer my brother who had gone ahead; had jumped from the plank and grabbed the side iron railing supports, positioned himself securely, and thrown down his fishing line and hook. We were ambitious kids trying to catch a whale (even a baby one would do!) with a fishing line made of thick twine and a ‘big’ fishing hook. Big as in bigger than the ones we used to catch fish closer to the shore.

Or getting pumped up by a bunch of our friends to jump across a duck pond after some of my friends’ brothers, a couple of older girls, and my own brother too, jumped over and convinced me it was easy and doable. So, I did. And landed…

…with a splash in the middle of the pond. The ducks flew out quacking wildly at me for disturbing their peace while the humans clapped and laughed at my expense. As appeasement, my brother didn’t find it worth the fun after we got home and he had to face the music. And, I had my laughs and song and dance as he scowled.

Or then becoming the ‘test’ parachute jumper for my brother and his friends (once again!). The dare was to jump off a ledge that was nine-ten feet above the ground. They knew the only way they could get me to do tough or daring things, I knew I shouldn’t do, was to say that girls were too weak and scared cats and couldn’t do anything. I found it hard to ignore their dare. I mean, I was just a little girl who was fiercely defiant of any boy putting me down because I was a girl.

This dare came about after I and my brother showed them a parachute we had made out of an old tablecloth. It drew a lot of praise but there’s always one person who has to poke a hole into your balloon.

“All that’s fine. But does it work?” piped up one kid.

“Yup,” quipped my brother in defense.

“Show us,” retorted the other.

My brother looked at me. He had made me try the parachute, that was the truth. But where and from what height? I had jumped from a tall laundry basket… we had those tall wooden ones where you threw in the dirty clothes from the top of a wooden box with a lid and no bottom. It was open below and sat on a lower box with cane trellis work sides offering air through the holes to the clothes collecting below. The lower airy container had a door from where one pulled out the laundry for wash. The clothes on top would fall in and take their place. Yeah, so having successfully tested the parachute, from a height of say five feet, and qualifying as an experienced parachuter, I became the default test jumper.

Now, from where was I going to jump here? They decided that the best place would be the ledge protruding over a window. This would have been about 9-10 feet above the ground… and the ground was a concrete side path running along the wall. I was scared to death.

Jumping off a laundry basket and jumping off a ledge that high with a parachute made of a tablecloth! No way I was going to do that. I was just a seven-year-old, and a small build girl.

“Well,” said the bull-headed boy, “you’ll be the youngest para-jumper at age seven! That’s a record.”

“Do it, otherwise they’ll make fun of the parachute.” whispered my brother.

“You do it. you’re bigger and taller,” I whispered back.

“You’re lighter and smaller and the parachute will open better with you.”

“The ground is too hard.”

“Remember to keep your knees flexible. Not stiff. Bend them when you land,” was his parting shot.

Long story short. I jumped. I bent my knees. But not before the jarring pain shot through. Thankfully, there was no serious damage. My knees ached for a few days. And I decided that I would no longer get bullied into being their stooge. Jumping off a nine-ten feet high ledge onto a hard concrete floor was not something that made me brave. I felt anything but that.

I suspect Daddy liked the firebrand element in my nature, for he never reprimanded me nor criticized my escapades. But over a period of time, I suspect he found my mother was right and I needed to get involved in other activities. He was getting alarmed. He never pulled me up or checked me, but spoke to me gently. Soon, I was introduced to music, classical Indian dance, drama, drawing, and painting. He began taking us to visit museums and historical monuments, and he encouraged my interest in history and art.

At about this time, he also began talking to me about the values of life and religion. Not as one would with a child but as one would with a teenager or young adult. Needless to say, there was much I didn’t comprehend. This would be the drift of our conversations in the future. A lot was going over my head. I didn’t get it, but some of it stayed with me. I remembered it.

As I grew older, all that had been above my understanding, finally went into my head and my heart. I grew in years and understanding. He was my idol. A signpost on my path.

His Quirks and Failings

I have to tell you about one of his quirks. He loved to sing and even in public, as he walked, much to my mother’s embarrassment. He would burst out into song while walking down a street causing passersby to turn and stare. Oblivious to my mother’s scowl, I’d clap and laugh and join him, if I knew the chorus for those were the songs he sang. I joined him as long as I was a little girl. As I grew older, I’d smile shake my head and let him enjoy himself.

His favorite one was – Trust in the Lord and don’t despair, He is a friend so true. No matter what your troubles are, Jesus will see you through. Sing when the day is bright. Sing through the darkest night. Everyday, all the way. Let us sing, sing, sing.

Then, marriage took me away from my hometown at the age of twenty. And widowhood brought me back. This sudden turn of events unleashed years of turmoil and struggle. I saw many friends’ and relatives’ masks fall off. And my idols (Dad was one of them) topple from their pedestals. Until that time, I had never bothered to observe my father apart from our relationship where I was a pampered daughter and he was my idol. His public image had dwarfed all else – a great orator; a powerful preacher and a storehouse of biblical knowledge.

Until that time, I had never observed the ‘walk’ behind the ‘talk’. It was a painful discovery to learn that he didn’t practice all that he preached. There was a lot of talk but a bit less walk. More preaching than practicing. I’m not saying that he was a hypocrite. It’s just that he, at times, practiced only what was convenient and not too demanding.

Bereft of comfort and support, I found myself falling back on all that he had taught me. My trust and faith in God grew stronger with every onslaught of misfortune. Was it surprising then to find myself singing – “trust in the Lord…” as I wearily lay my head on my pillow? No. It wasn’t. It was my dad again.

My IDOL had toppled from its pedestal, not my DAD.

The man who was my father was just a human with the frailties and faults of humankind. I had made him an idol. He never claimed to be above and beyond the ordinary. He might not have walked the whole talk in his personal life, but he put signposts up for me to follow. Even if I strayed or took a wrong turn trusting in my own judgment, I could always find my way back.

I could face the challenges. I could overcome them. I could walk alone – because I learned to walk in faith, hope, and trust in God from him.

The initial pain of being abandoned by my parents had given way to a deeper understanding and forgiveness. When I look back today, it is with immense gratitude to a parent who gave me a goal and showed me the path to tread.

I’ve come a long way Dad and I want you to know, that I am proud of you. And so grateful for the life lessons you taught me. So appreciative of the time you spent listening to me when I came to you, as a child; a young teenager; a young woman; with a million questions and arguments against things I couldn’t understand and hence wouldn’t accept. You kept your cool with me even though I know you were never very patient with arguments against your word, especially if it came from a source of utter ignorance!

A short time before he died, I had traveled back to my hometown to visit my siblings and dad. And out of the blue, he did something so alien to his nature.

He apologized!

I just stared at him in disbelief. Dumbfounded and not sure I had heard right.

“It’s ok, Daddy,” I mumbled. “It’s past. Gone. It’s absolutely ok.”

He repeated the last line again, looking directly into my astounded, wide eyes – “I truly regret not holding your hand and standing by your side… not staying with you in Rajasthan.”

It helped that he realized much later how he had failed me. And apologized for not being there when I needed him the most. And true to the man he was, there were no ‘because’, ifs or buts sort of reasons or long explanations to justify himself. He didn’t make any excuses. He accepted what he realized was a failing on his part. I was surprised as I didn’t expect it nor did I hold it against him. I had forgiven him a long time back in my heart and told him so again. But he said that he had to say it.

About four months later he died suddenly of a heart attack.

The man I had turned to for guidance; the man who made up ditties with my name and sang them joyfully for me; the man whose teachings and guidance had steered me through the years encouraged me and motivated me to carry on when everything seemed to be bearing down on me and life was falling apart; the man who had put up signposts for me along the path had gone on his own journey. And in leaving left me the greatest message, a gift in his apology.

So, I gather all the love, respect, gratitude, appreciation, pride and joy I’ve always held in my heart in being your daughter in these three little words…. I love YOU.

THANK YOU Daddy!

Battlefield of The Mind- inner conversation with I, Me, Myself

I don’t know about you, but I spend time choosing what I’m going to wear… even if it’s only for my daily walk. I guess many would be doing the same or not… that’s not important. But as an example of “choosing” something for ourselves to feel good, confident, and comfortable, I think it is a very good one.

I look in the mirror, see myself in the clothes, accessories, and cosmetics I’ve picked to wear that day, and feel great; ready to take on the day; accomplish my goals. My self-confidence gets a boost. My morale is high. So what did I do to feel that way?
I CHOSE what I’d wear.

Choosing to ‘choose’ your thoughts acts the same way. But how can I “choose” my thoughts? you might say. “They just pop into my head”. Well, you can. Just as you may say an emphatic “NO” to something in your wardrobe or jewelry box. Or a shade of lipstick… anything that doesn’t fit right with how you want to feel.

Don’t we choose our attire according to where we are going? We choose according to the occasion. Or according to the weather. No matter how much we like some dress, jewelry, or footwear, we know that it wouldn’t be right for certain events or occasions or the weather, and select accordingly. We don’t want to feel uncomfortable or ill at ease.

Think about an examination.

Think about an interview.

How do we prep ourselves? Do we allow thoughts of failure to set the stage beforehand? Or do we go in with confident thoughts? With hope for a good result. And if we don’t get through as well as expected, do we give up and allow morose, depressing thoughts to put a roadblock in our way? Mostly the answer is NO! So what have we done… chosen to replace those thoughts.

That’s how our thoughts must be selected. Changing our thoughts will keep us from getting derailed from our purpose and aim. It will keep us on track.

It’s something you can do if you are sure you want to feel good… better than allowing your current thoughts to keep you in the doldrums. It will not be as simple or as easy as pushing away a dress or a pair of earrings or shoes, but it isn’t that hard either.

That doesn’t mean you stick your head in the sand and not face things. It means you face it boldly. Life comes with ups and downs; the road may, at times, be undulating, curving, and twisting; filled with potholes, and dirt tracks. But they are roads you can get through. The ride may be bumpy, slower than you’d like, but you’re going ahead.

Don’t host a pity party for yourself. Avoid people who encourage you to wallow in self-pity. Pity parties make one’s mind a morass. It sucks you in and keeps you bogged down. Select the right environment. It enables you to get into the right mindset with the right thoughts and replaces the ones that are pulling you down.

You will have to make the CHOICE of taking things in your stride with a constructive mindset, and choosing how you respond to the challenges. Are you going to choose to complain, moan, groan, and kill your spirit or are you going to choose better? Are you going to play the victim by allowing depressive thoughts to lower your morale? Make you feel like a helpless victim?

The choice is ours! Make the right choices with what you dwell on in your mind. The mind is the battlefield… 

Select your thoughts carefully and you will grow stronger with each right, constructive, productive, positive thought you choose.

Acknowledge your feelings whatever they are – sad, deflated, depressed, alone, anxious; accept the struggle. Then choose how you are going to deal with it and control your thoughts from spiraling into an abyss.
Thoughts are very powerful, filter yours. Keep the flame of hope going.

Visualize a better scenario; something that isn’t a fantasy but attainable, workable. Focus on the goal. What is it you want to achieve? If one road gets blocked, don’t give up and allow morose defeatist thoughts take over. Check to see if you are on the right track. Pursue your goal with diligence and faith.

Put your trust in a higher authority: GOD. Pray, believe, and move ahead. Select your thoughts. Focus on them. Gain strength from them. Choose right. Choose wise.




Right message, Wrong Address

A bit of humor I found on one of the pages here. Smile, laugh, chuckle. It helped me this morning.

It’s a bright Tuesday outside, but a rather low-energy one for me inside… I’m still trying to figure out what dream it was that gave me a splitting headache and woke me up at an unearthly hour. I know it was a dream but it’s so hazy and not even complete. Sleep thereafter was doze, wake… the headache is gone though my head feels heavy and my eyelids are droopy! I know it’ll pass by early noon. Anyway, here’s the email that made me laugh.

After being nearly snowbound for two weeks last winter, a Seattle man departed for his vacation in Miami Beach, where he was to meet his wife the next day at the conclusion of her business trip to Minneapolis. They were looking forward to pleasant weather and a nice time together.

Unfortunately, there was some sort of mix up at the boarding gate, and the man was told he would have to wait for a later flight. He tried to appeal to a supervisor but was told the airline was not responsible for the problem and it would do no good to complain. Upon arrival at the hotel the next day, he discovered that Miami Beach was having a heat wave, and its weather was almost as uncomfortably hot as Seattle’s was cold. The desk clerk gave him a message that his wife would arrive as planned.

He could hardly wait to get to the pool area to cool off and quickly sent his wife an e-mail, but, due to his haste, he made an error in the address. His message therefore arrived at the home of an elderly preacher’s wife whose even older husband had gone to his reward only the day before. When the grieving widow opened her e-mail, she took one look at the monitor, let out an anguished scream, and fell to the floor dead. Her family rushed to her room where they saw this message on the screen:

Dearest Wife,

Departed yesterday as you know. Just now got checked in. Some confusion at the gate. Appeal was denied. Received confirmation of your arrival tomorrow.

Your Loving Husband,

P.S. Things are not as we thought. You’re going to be surprised at how hot it is down here.

Hope it made you smile if not LOL (laugh out loud).

Your Word

Recently, I came across a quote on ‘commitment’ that reminded me of another one I had read many, many years ago, and which has stayed with me since then. The recent one was this:

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

-Unknown

It sounds great, very strong, however, it left me with a feeling of ambiguity. It does not convey the whole message. The stress on caution was missing. In the spur of a moment, caught up by a wave of emotion, we may commit to something without even giving it a second thought. What are we committing to? The reference to “the mood” is ambiguous. The mood could have been anything: frivolous, drunken, even just a dare or vicious, bitter or vengeful. What message is it conveying exactly? To a narrow mind, a narrow perception this message could be misleading. Before we make a commitment; a promise, we must be careful before we give our word.

The message seems to justify any commitment made in any “mood.” While commitments must be kept, it is important to know what we are committing to. Is it violating our value system? Is it going against the law of the land? Is it the right thing?

The value of commitment was written on my heart when I was in grade five. It was the year my father decided to put in his papers and take early retirement from the Navy to devote his time wholly to the “Lord’s Service.” After the formal send-off by his department, he was invited by the Chief of Staff, Admiral B.S. Soman, to a private dinner at his home. My elder sister promptly gave my father her autograph book for the Chief’s autograph. Admiral Soman obliged with more than a signature. He wrote these wonderful words of caution and wisdom:

“There is nothing more valuable than your word, so be careful.”

I read it. I re-read it. I liked it. It sounded profound. I didn’t get it.

It was too profound for my limited intelligence in this area. So, as always, I had to ask Daddy. And, as always, he sat me down and explained it to me, supporting it with simple examples and some biblical references too. I nodded. It all made sense, but I still needed to think more about it. I mulled over it and then so many other matters of change occurred in my life, that I had no time to ponder over such things as my word. But, neither the words nor the lesson was lost on me. I remembered. It was ingrained in my mind. This small sentence with a huge message has stayed with me ever since; nudging me, poking me, stabbing me so many times during the years of growing up. If I thought I had learned it well, I had another thought coming. Some lessons have to be learned and re-learned as long as it takes to get them. Even today, it kicks me hard, especially when I find myself caught in a maddening situation of honoring a commitment foolishly made.

It is better, any day, to say an emphatic ‘No’ (or a mild one!) but a definite NO, rather than lie outright, make lame excuses, or give outrageous, ridiculous reasons to wiggle out of keeping your word on a commitment foolishly and hastily made!

Would you like to be known for the commitments you never kept? Or by the ones that got you into hot water? I guess not. So be careful to whom or to what you give your word.

Your ‘word’ is valuable.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Zach-in-the-box – very short stories

pexels-cottonbro-4720370 Jack

 

“Please Mama, don’t send me to school,” pleaded Zachariah.

“Zach, honey, I understand how you feel, but Grandma’s school is only up to Grade three. You’ve passed Grade three, remember?” said his mother patiently. This wasn’t the first time they were having this conversation.

It had been difficult for Zacharia to settle into the new school, and the repercussions were felt at home too. Zach was dyslexic and found it hard to keep up with the rest of the class. The impatience of teachers and sniggers of classmates didn’t help either. But a few months later, Zach stopped complaining much to the relief of his parents and ‘Gramma’.

“Oh no, Mrs. Sethi’s class,” sighed Zach as he took out his English Reader. Mrs. Sethi didn’t seem to understand Zach’s problem and would constantly intone, ‘Concentrate Zach, concentrate. You’re never going to learn if you don’t c-o-n-c-e-n-t-r-a-t-e!’

“No problem, I have my box” he whispered to calm his nerves. “I didn’t have to lug my box to Gramma’s school, though. How I loved going to that school.”

Then he got into his box just as Mrs. Sethi entered the class. Zach felt secure inside his box. He found it a a bit dark but that didn’t bother him much. It was better than trying to concentrate all the time.

‘I become stupid when I concentrate,’ he mused. ‘Why can’t people understand that? Mrs. Sethi thinks I’ll become clever if I improve my concentration. But I won’t! I don’t understand a word I read when I get all strained and tensed up. Concentrating makes the words jump up and down. It makes me stupid.’

“Zachariah!” Mrs. Sethi’s voice pierced his reverie. Zach jumped out of his box, startling the teacher and the students.

“Yes, ma’am,” he almost shouted.

“Did you find the Learning Tips we discussed helpful?”

“Yes, ma’am, very helpful. I’ll follow your advice,” Zach said nodding his head vigorously . “I’ll try not to disappoint you,” he added, wondering what she had discussed.

“Good!” she smiled, leaving Zach to go back into his box.

How many minutes to go? he wondered. He began to count… one…two… three…four…

Zach was eagerly waiting for the next two classes Art and PT (Physical Training). He enjoyed co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. He liked theatre workshops and Yoga… five… six… seven… eight…

Mrs. Singh never tells me to concentrate when I draw. She’s nicer than Mrs. Sethi, and prettier too! Mr. Basil is cool. He really helps me with my cricket and tennis. Ms. Dolly’s class is fun… nine… ten…eleven… twelve… The bell rang!

“Whoopee!” shouted Zach as he sprang out of his box, startling Mrs. Sethi once again.

“Zachariah! Don’t you dare do that again,” she warned him.

The teachers who understood Zach went on to become his mentors and helped him to develop his confidence. That meant, he couldn’t jump into his box whenever he wanted to. To say it was very difficult for Zach to not get into his box would be an understatement. But with their support, patience, and encouragement, he began to stay out of the box for longer periods.

They taught him that if he wanted to control his life, he would have to control his fears, and his thinking. He’d have to learn to be confident about himself. They guided him and helped him. He followed their advice to think, speak, and act as he wished to be, and then, he would be that which he wished to be. He learned to compete with himself; learning from his mistakes rather than running from them. He built himself into a concentrated dynamo of energy. He began to explore and discover new truths and their value to him. His creative imagination soared and his thoughts and emotions found expression on canvas.

The fear of failure often arose but he never allowed it to settle in. It remained a fleeting thought that didn’t take hold. It couldn’t dominate his competitive spirit. He was moving on and ahead in his life. Confident. Stronger. Doing things that he loved doing. Out of his box!

Zachariah became a movie star. A star who was recognized and acclaimed for his intense performances. So when he had had his fill of being under the spotlight as a brilliant actor, he decided to foray into the sphere of production and direction. Needless to say, his fans and friends and colleagues in the industry had great expectations. His first film, produced and directed by him was released following big hype by the media.

Zach was on tenterhooks when he arrived for the premier of his first directorial venture. He needn’t have worried. No one was disappointed. The audiences loved it. The critics praised it, and Zach himself was more than satisfied with it.

Stars On Earth, his film, was the story of a nine-year-old boy’s trials and his indomitable spirit as he dealt with dyslexia. The movie swept the box-office and garnered all the major awards that year.

Zach had sprung yet another surprise!

PS: This is pure fiction. The only facts are: that I wrote this based on my experiences of having a dyslexic student in one of my classes. Things he shared with me in the private chats I had with him to understand his problems in class. And also with input from one of my nieces who is borderline dyslexic. Both have done well for themselves in life.

This story was first published many years back on whisperingleaves.blogspot.com where I used to blog.

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Travelers In The Sky

The clouds in the sky don’t always come out to blackout the sunlight, sometimes they come to hug the sun.” -Joy Clarkson

I gazed at the clouds floating above. They appeared so light floating high in a cerulean sky. Carefree and free of the weight of fears, worries, anxieties: no burdens!” -Joy Clarkson

“I love to stand at the window and gaze at the clouds in the sky. They remind me that everything changes. Life changes. Situations change. We change too!” -Joy Clarkson

“Cotton balls or wooly sheep? I thought. They traveled on steered by the wind. They have no choice but to go where the wind takes them. The shepherd wind and its flock of sheep.” -Joy Clarkson

Farley Defends His Turf -Part 2

The first part of Farley’s adventures, is in a post in which I introduced Farley, the seagull. Read about him here: https://wordpress.com/post/capturedjoyaimshoot.wordpress.com/607

On another day, at Tim’s, I was amused to see how Farley had appropriated that area for himself… his territory, and how he would defend it! I’m glad I could capture it in photos. I do have a short video that I cannot share here.

I espy Farley walking to the garbage bin outside Tim’s. Behind, I see a crow, also eager to forage for food at the same place. Farley hasn’t noticed it yet, or then, chooses to ignore it.

Then he senses movement and knows that the crow is edging into his territory.

He turns around and flies into a rage, literally! The crow is caught unawares and hops away and out of reach.

But Farley isn’t giving up. The crow is certainly intimidated and tries to protect itself. As if it knew it was trespassing.

Once he chases it outside the boundary of his territory, Farley walks back triumphantly to have his lunch. The crow hangs around a little while, not attempting to cross the line but stay at a safe distance. Then it gives up and flies away.

Ever since the pandemic and lockdowns etc. Farley, I’m guessing, gave up eating at his new haunt! Now though this place has opened up, Farley is missing… I miss watching him. Especially how he’d scrape off every bit of mayo that dropped on the sidewalk!

I Saw Farley At Tim’s – Part 1

This was first published on Capturedjoyaimandshoot.wordpress.com, my photoblog.

In over a year of visiting Tim Hortons, almost every day, this was the first time I saw garbage strewn outside. I had just entered and having bought my tea I sat at a seat near the window. I was shocked to see garbage lying on the sidewalk by the parking area right outside the window.

I knew there was a garbage bin outside but there’d never been garbage on the walk. I was wondering who could be so irresponsible and crass as to not put their trash into the bin carefully. That’s when I saw the culprit – a gull! I immediately christened him Farley, the gull who’s always in search of a snack! He walked out from where he was hidden by the wall. I watched him go about opening closed plastic containers and gobbling the food. I noticed Farley ate what was inside a burger and not the bun which it tossed.

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Farley loved the mayo! Wherever the mayo fell when he tossed, turned and shook what it was he was eating, he went to each white spot and, literally, scraped as much as he could off the ground!

The people at Tim’s and Wendy’s were informed but before they could attend to the mess, he had his time.

There was a plastic bag that was filled with stuff but the bag was tied tight at the top and the plastic was too strong for him to tear. He tried. And tried. Again. 

He dragged the bag off the sidewalk; pulling it with his beak and making stops to peck at it furiously. It was of no use. The bag didn’t give.

Sea Gull

Finally, he gave up and flew off. He’d had his fill.

The mess was cleared soon after and no one would have even known what Farley had done! 

On second thought, I wondered why gulls had to come into a city and eat fast food. It was food for thought and I came back and Googled it. There were a whole lot of articles about it and quite a few not in favor of the seagulls and their forays into the city. There were reasons that seemed valid. I had a lot on my mind when I went to bed. Well, nothing as grand as a plan to save the world or gulls or… but quite a bit!

A Different Perspective – a bit of humor

I came across this picture, on the internet. I do not know who clicked it but it was worth sharing. It isn’t uncommon to see words spelled wrong sometimes because the person doesn’t know what the word means and has only heard it. Or then, like this trucker, who obviously knows what he wants to say – ‘Praise the Lord’ – has erroneously praised the ‘load’! Many people who have a limited knowledge of the English language depend on what they hear. The ear decides the spelling. So a lot depends on what they are hearing and accents play a major part in this.

On the other hand, one could assume the person knew what he meant and wrote exactly that – ‘Praise The Load’! From a business point of view, for a truck business, a big load translates to money. Whatever, it is a piece of humor and I’m sharing a laugh or two for this weekend.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Lou Holtz (Pic: Internet)

I have another one, something I heard at Sunday School…yes, it is an old, old memory! But I still laugh at the example and the play on words. So this is how it went.

A miserly, old businessman was in church one Sunday and was singing ‘Guide me O! thou great Jehovah’ with gusto. And this is how a slip of the tongue totally changed the context of the hymn and fitted perfectly with the image he carried among the people in the community – a Shylock! The verse from the hymn, Guide me O, thou great Jehovah, went like this: (look for the play on a word to get the humor.) 

Hint: What would a miser value most & want to save more than anything else?

“When I tread the verge of Jordan,

Bid my anxious fears subside;

Death of death and hell’s destruction,

Land my safe on Canaan’s shore.

Songs of praises, songs of praises,

I will ever give to thee;

I will ever give to thee.”

{I hope you caught the Freudian slip}

And with that, I’m done. Laugh, chuckle, giggle. Have a good weekend.

Ma Mingalar, Padmini, Peggy – the hidden story

INTRODUCTION…

Ever since I was a little girl and heard about Ma Mingalar (I’m not sure if it was Mingalar or Mingala!), Padmini, and Peggy, I’ve been intrigued by the story that crosses over the borders of two countries; India and Burma, now known as Myanmar. How did these three people get along with each other? Did they even know each other well? Perhaps, though each lived individually, all in one house! Intriguing, I must say.

Before I go any further, let me remind you, my mind has been weaving tales in and around these three ever since I was introduced to them at the age of seven. I still wonder about these girls who grew into women together. There wasn’t much divulged to me then, but whatever was, fascinated me and still does to this day. I wish I could find someone who would tell me more; someone who knew the truth.

In the meantime, I spin my tale around the existing facts, as they were told to me by my mother. I do not hold myself to speak only of facts because I must build the story based on my premises and surmises. I’ve tried to be logical and rational in my imaginings, but if you (someone who really knew her, and I mean the truth about her) find it preposterous, just stop reading…and give me the honest facts with proof. I’m not going to stop writing this. It’s too haunting and I have to get it out of my system. Hopefully, it will give me some inner peace.

Ma Mingalar… 

I’m not sure whether the name was Ma ‘Mingalar’ or Ma ‘Mingala’.  I can only remember being corrected when I repeated the name as one whole – Mamingala. I was told that it was said as two separate words. I faintly recall being checked for the ending too – ‘r’ or ‘a’. I can’t recall which one had to stay and which did not! Anyway, to move forward, Ma Mingalar was the granddaughter of U Ba Doon, a prominent member of a political party in Burma. I asked for the parents’ names but never got that information and not much else. It was a sketchy biodata. This was one of the main reasons for me to suspect that something or possibly everything was not quite right in Ma Mingalar’s world.

Ma Mingalar’s mother’s name was kept secret but her beauty was extolled. It seems she was extremely beautiful and had a complexion like porcelain. Her hair was very long and black and fell like a cascade to her calves; when it was not bundled up into a bun on her head. She lived a lavish and luxurious life, waited on hand and foot. She loved her cigarettes, which she smoked in slender holders, and chocolates were never far from her. There would always be a box kept within arm’s reach.

Besides her hair, she had captivating eyes and an oval face. She had doe-eyes that slanted, and her eyelids were ringed with long curling lashes. She loved jewelry and had a large collection of diamonds and Noga rubies. Not much was divulged about her father except that he was a diamond and ruby merchant who came to India for business. Ma Mingalar was born in the Madras hospital in the city of Madras, now known as Chennai. I think it was renamed: Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital much, much later.

Ma Mingalar’s story ends soon, with her mother abandoning her. Her mother left her in the care of the Matron of the hospital, who she knew. Whether theirs was a patient-nurse relationship or they were friends before Ma Mingalar was born is not clear. But the Matron, a Mrs. D’Sylva, took the abandoned baby under her wing. Initially, the baby was in the nursery and taken care of by the staff.

“But why would she abandon her baby? It’s cruel!” I exploded.

The reason, I was told, was that the mother found the baby dark-skinned. So what? Why would that matter? It did to the mother, it seems. This seemed so untrue because, in fact, Ma Mingalar was fair, as the story goes. Perhaps not the same skin tone and texture as her mother but definitely fair-skinned. I would protest at this and remark at the frivolity of the reason.

However, later on, as I grew and learned a bit more about her, many reasons for the given ‘Reason’ popped into my head. My speculations were logical but cannot be substantiated.

Padmini…

They called Padmini a very lucky baby. No, she had no near-death situations preceding her birth nor any infections or disease that she had overcome. She was a small, little bundle lying in the nursery with all the other new-born babies, and looked much like them, except she was the fairest of the lot.

So what separated her from the other babies that she was tagged ‘lucky’? It was a distinguished visitor who came to see her almost every other day. The lady would be accompanied by her woman attendant. She never stayed long but gave generously to the nurses and attendants caring for Padmini. Yes, she had christened the baby Padmini! This lady was of very high status – the Maharani of a place nearby ruled by her husband, the King. How she got to know about this baby and why she was so concerned about her is a mystery. She loved the baby so much that she wanted to adopt her, and she conveyed this to Matron D’Sylva.

“Your Highness, I love the child too. Besides, her mother left her in my care. Please don’t take her away.” Mrs. D’Sylva was distraught.

“Think over it. I will not insist if it means so much to you. But give it a thought. She is my child already, my little Padmini,” she said looking lovingly at the child who lay oblivious of the manner in which her fate lay in the balance… between a life in the palace with a Maharani and a not so opulent but very comfortable life with a Matron.

Mrs. D’Sylva, the Matron, looked at the Maharani as she made her regal exit. She was worried. Baby Padmini slept peacefully.

Padmini’s fate was decided. The Matron took her home!

She was a well-to-do lady of ample means. Her husband was a doctor, and they owned a big bungalow with a lot of land sprawling all around it. She had grown-up children of her own but she did not believe that Padmini would have a secure and happy life in the palace. So she adopted her. The Maharani would be the only one who’d care for Padmini she thought; and who knew the ways of the palace and royalty. Their whims and fancies were as changeable and unpredictable as the weather. And here ends Padmini’s story.

I was curious about the queen who’d visit her. But although her visits were spoken about, I was made to believe that no one knew why she came or why she named the child or even why she wanted to adopt her. I never did believe that!

Peggy…

“I don’t want to go to boarding school,” wailed Peggy as her mother petted and consoled her. She was older now and her mother wanted to send her to Goodwills Boarding School in Bangalore. Once again she repeated all the pros of a residential school, hoping that Peggy would calm down.

Peggy was an adopted child. Her foster mother had brought her home one day. Her much older half-sisters were shocked by this kind deed of hers. It was a bit extreme. So, Peggy was accepted as one of their mother’s whimsical, philanthropic gestures. One they would have to live with and tolerate. Although they weren’t mean to her or anything of that sort, there was no bonding either. They were so much older than her. I have no information about her foster father’s reaction. I guess he was okay with it or there would have been something added to the telling of the tale. All I learned was that he was a doctor and he was in Quetta when the big earthquake occurred in 1935. According to what I was told, he died there.

Boarding school was the best option under the circumstances as Peggy was growing up and beginning to notice and resent the way she was isolated from the older children in the house. So, finally, she was packed off to Bangalore with promises of frequent visits. She found that her stay at school was not as bad as she had expected it to be. She had a headmistress named Ms. Roper. The girls would often pronounce it as “rope her” for laughs!

The day came when Peggy passed out of school and returned home. Her mother had selected a college for her and had even registered her name, but Peggy had other plans. She was going to join the WRINS – Women’s Royal Indian Navy Service. Her mother was shocked.

“What are you going to do there Peggy?”

“Work, of course,” answered Peggy matter-of-factly.

“Yes, that’s clear to me, young lady. But what do you intend to work as? You go to college and then join the Force.”

“No. I don’t want to go to college. I’ve already applied for a secretarial course with Pittmans. I’ll be a stenographer!” 

“Do you know how much they pay stenos? You silly girl, you’ll spend more in a month than they’ll pay you in two.”

Peggy stood her ground. She was as stubborn as the proverbial mule.

Peggy D’Sylva joined the Navy. She moved to Bombay now known as Mumbai. Along with her went Ma Mingalar and Padmini. She never left them behind. Over the years you could see the traces of each personality getting bolder in their influence over Peggy.

Ma Mingalar was a snob and very fastidious. She was also stubborn, wanted a lot of attention, and was self-absorbed. She was fashionable and loved to dress well. She liked jewelry too. Her favorite haunt was The Taj Mahal Hotel. This is where she would go for breakfast, many a time, or even when she wanted a cup of coffee. She’d take along a couple of newfound friends too! It wasn’t a hotel she could afford on her salary. But her mother sent her an ample allowance every month. Her mother knew her love for the good life. This was Ma Mingalar’s strongest phase.

Padmini was very much a South Indian though she didn’t look South Indian. She had a distinct southern accent; gestures and expressions too. She’d tell everyone she was a Tamilian, and look directly at them defying them to disagree. No one dared to, even though they’d carry big question marks in their eyes. Padmini could pass off as a Burmese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, or any such race but certainly not a Tamilian!

The food she’d eat or serve would be South Indian fare and she’d discard her airs and discard cutlery to dig into rice with her hands. Padmini’s influence grew stronger than Ma Mingalar’s over the years. She even decided the people Peggy should befriend. Needs no saying, all were from South India. She even decided that Peggy should wear the Indian uniform (a sari) when she joined the WRINS (Women’s Royal Indian Navy).

Padmini was defiant. She was rigid and had a smoldering temper. She could be mean and even unscrupulous on rare occasions. Padmini was also a doomsday prophet. She was negative or suspicious about everything. She would find faults before praising. She would even find a tiny spot on a pristine white wall to reject it!

Peggy was the jovial, giggly, Anglo-Indian girl. Her foster parents were of Portuguese descent and their way of living was westernized. She’d be free with her expressions and speak only English and treat every other language with disdain, barring Tamil and Malayalam (both South Indian languages) and she was especially critical of Hindi and Punjabi, both North Indian languages. She’d inform everyone that her mother tongue was English! Some of the everyday terms she’d use were typically Anglo-Indian ones which you’d hear only in those homes. 

The food would be South Indian preparations or continental or Chinese or Goan dishes. Peggy could be shy and took offense easily. She loved to sing and write poetry. Peggy could be quite immature, at times, and even as a grown woman she would compete with women much younger than her or be envious of them. Often considering them as adversaries when they didn’t even have the tiniest thought about competition in their minds.

As life took them on a roller-coaster ride, the first casualty was Ma Mingalar. I was sad to see her go. She was the one who added a bit of style and spice to Peggy’s life. Padmini held on tenaciously. I think Peggy liked her a lot. But down the years she succumbed to ill health. Padmini departed leaving behind Peggy. 

When Peggy died, she died alone.

The only real part of the story had gone taking with her all the secrets of her birth and parentage.

My mother had left me to figure it out if I could. The three-in-one tale of Ma Mingalar, Padmini, and Peggy.

I have theories about my mother’s birth and parentage, but these are not based on proof. I’m sure each one of you who knew her will draw your own conclusions from existing facts if you have any. And I say that because I know, she never divulged any details to anyone for the simple reason that no one asked. No one was interested in her life to the point that they’d pester her with questions and facts, except my father, I suppose. I was the only one as curious as ever and wanted to know more.

I had been doing that for years; trying to complete the jigsaw puzzle. But it remains incomplete. I kept asking my mother for the truth but she wouldn’t tell me more than what she’d already told me. She didn’t tell much to anyone. My pestering exasperated her so much that I got scraps of the truth which I have presented here.

However, I know for a fact that the Maharani part was true. My mother had picked up the courage once, to visit her when we were in Madras for a short holiday because Daddy was there on Ty Duty and he thought we’d enjoy the break so took us along. At that time the Maharani was the Raj Mata or Rani Ma (queen-mother), the king had passed away and her son was the King. But mummy’s courage slipped away right outside the gates of the queen mother’s palace.

She sat in the car and gazed at the gates but lacked the will to go in… she longed to go but hesitation held her back. I asked her if she thought they wouldn’t know her.

Her reply was quick, sure, and confident, “She will remember me.”

“Even after so many years?”

“Yes,” was her firm reply.

“Then let’s go in,” I said excitedly opening the door.

“What’s the use? What difference will it make?” 

Though I was only seven then, I still remember the look on her face. She sat back in the seat, her eyes still on those big gates. There was a gamut of emotions reflected there… longing, sadness, regret, resignation, and the futility of trying to reconnect. Then she asked the driver to drive on.

I know which kingdom too, but I shall not speak it because as mummy said, “What’s the use?”

I understand now why she wouldn’t tell me more. What I can recall of that day when she was so close to taking me to the source of the truth was her pain. Probably, it hurt her too much, or the resentment and anger hadn’t died and she couldn’t reconcile herself to the abandonment.

My heart has always been heavy with her concealed pain. I wish she had spoken about it and released the agony thus saving herself the pain, and she could’ve owned her true identity and lived her life as the person she knew she was.

PS: Daddy had described her mother to me. Mrs. D’Sylva, her foster mother, had shown him a photograph of her. Daddy also tried to find out more about her grandfather and had made a trip to Rangoon. But he was advised not to pursue the matter and to go back. According to him there seemed to be a veiled threat under that seemingly mild advice. He even told me that my elder sister resembled my mother’s real mother quite a bit.

A Room With a View – from window to door

“Through the small tall bathroom window, the December yard is gray and scratchy, the tree calligraphic. -Dave Eggers

Autumn had almost gone leaving behind this “calligraphic” tree. Earlier, I could barely see the birds on its branches for its leaves in Spring. It looks beautiful from my window in all seasons.

I love to have big windows in every room, and until now I’ve been fortunate enough to have grand windows opening to beautiful views. A window with a good view keeps me from feeling claustrophobic in a closed room. But things change with time and moving from country to country and different residences, puts you in rooms with smaller windows, sometimes.  And that’s where, now, I sit or stand and dream or reminisce or capture joy by just aiming and shooting!

These are photos from 2017-18. All I had was an old iPhone 8. No swanky, classy or new camera!

It didn’t dampen my spirit – I love clicking pictures of things that captivate me, engage my attention, revive memories or just… seep into me. I love looking at them later and reliving the moment.

May 28th, 2017, new places, new faces.

“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.   -Denis Waitley

Every morning, I find something or the other that’s click-worthy to me when I look out my window. So I click away. Mostly it’s clouds! My obsession! I might delete most of these photos later for very poor picture quality…yes, even my untrained eye can see a very bad click, lol.

Some days are rainy and grey and the window looks gloomy and there isn’t much I can see outside save for the tears of rain running down my window pane! Back from my school days, teenage years, come the notes of Mary Hopkins’ song, ‘Knock, knock who’s there,’ and I start to sing or hum, and soon slip into another old-time favorite – ‘Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain…’ and another and another. And my day gets set to a very romantic, lyrical note.

But gone away is the Spring, Summer and the Autumn… and the winter is here to stay, at least, for the next few months! We’ve had our first snowfall and I’m grounded! Well, not seriously. 

“People ask me what I do in winter… I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. 

-Rogers Hornsby

The seasons pass by as I watch the changing scenes through my window! Back to the present…in a new region; a new city. Bigger, busier, and bustling.

I miss the previous, comparatively smaller one. I miss my room with a view and my window that opened out to lovely views and open spaces. I hardly stand at my window now, in another place, which is more of a brick jungle. It’s better I don’t; It doesn’t afford me any great scenery through my window… this is not a room with a view.

Neither do my walks with buildings looming on either side of the sidewalk afford any breathing space for a person like me… a city girl, who gets claustrophobic in a concrete jungle if she has to live in it under these conditions!

That’s where my memories, like these, in pictures come to my aid. It helps. And I become grateful for the reminders of big mercies and wonderful moments captured in photographs. This puts me in a mellow mood and points me towards what is there rather than what is not.

And the small mercies are always there if we get ourselves out of the negativity and moaning. Some such ‘small mercies’ are the spacious deck and a lovely green grassy patch and a small garden in the backyard. It affords a lot of openness and fresh air. One can even walk on the grass that stretches from the side gate at the front all the way to the shed that stands way back by the rear fence.

So what if the backyard is bounded by tall fences on three sides.

So what if the double-storey houses outside these fences, on all three sides, block out the open view of the sky, the clouds, the trees, the open spaces.

So what if the only glimpses I get through my window are of cluttered backyards across the road from my room that’s front-facing or worse, a view from the windows and door of the dining room and family room into the interior of homes at the back whose windows stand with curtains undrawn or open blinds.

So what if I don’t have any window in any room, front or back, with a view worth gazing at.

I have something else…

I have a door with a view!

The big glass double door, in the dining room, that replaces the ‘window with a view’ and looks on the backyard and provides a lovely view of grassy greenery and brilliant colors of the season’s blooms. And the little creatures, feathered and furry, who keep me engrossed and amused as they scramble and flit around.

The feathered one that’s busy building a nest under the roof over the deck! And also its mate that hops around the deck pecking at something or the other.

And the ‘outdoors’ black cat, that isn’t ours but is a regular visitor in our backyard. It’s got to know about the nest and threatens the bird by sitting and gazing at it hungrily. Or then decides to be a peeping Tom!

The squirrels that run about and at times sneak into the deck.

It is a fairly spacious backyard. A patch of our own green, open space…flowers and birds. A few pine trees. What if all of these weren’t here?

But they’re here. And that’s something I appreciate. To have this in a big crowded city is in itself a blessing, all realities considered.

I can be miserable and moan and groan about things that are not exactly how I’d want them to be. Or appreciate what is here and be grateful for that good fortune. I can make the most of what is here and enjoy life or mope and make life miserable. I build my own happiness or misery. A window or a door? A room with a view or a room with no worthy view?

The choice is mine… pitiful or powerful?

Period.

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

“A cheerful heart is good medicine…” Proverbs- 17:22

“Overly serious but working on it.”

Oh no, that’s not me! I just read how someone has described herself in her Bio. It made me wonder how someone could be so serious that to laugh and lighten up… get a bit of humor…was something they had to “work on.”

I wouldn’t be able to go through the day without laughter. There is always something that brings it on. A memory, a fumble or silly mistake with hilarious results; a joke, sight or sound, a conversation. Alone or with people, there are so many reasons why I laugh. I am amused by many things. I’m not talking about making fun of someone or ridiculing someone or something… not that kind of laughter. I’m speaking about a pure sense of humor. I even laugh at myself! I do some really funny, silly things and I enjoy a good laugh after.

Some days, I find humor that’s gentle, quiet, and subtle. And other days it could be – ironic, characteristic, delightful, playful, or then, just on point.

On a hunt for some pics to use for an article, I came across some interesting ones. One of an eagle. I saved it. Then I came across one with birds sitting on a wire. I saved it. And then there was one of a bird perched on the head of a statute. I saved that one too. I had no clue what I was going to do with these pics. None of these suited the article! But as I looked at them, subtitles popped into my head. And the article I had planned to write took the back seat as the pictures gave me prompts that reflected my thoughts on myself with a huge dollop of humor. Not the uproarious kind. The on-point kind.

Some days I wake up feeling on top of the world raring to go.

I’m a David, confident of knocking out Goliath!

I’m an eagle, soaring above the earth, just beneath the clouds…the lord of all I survey.

And I step out and meet the hustle and bustle of a typical weekday. I jostle or get jostled in the crowded streets by other ‘Davids’ also headed to face their goliaths.

I am outnumbered.

I feel weighed down and harried.

I feel the gall rising.

My breath quickens, my nostrils flare as my breathing accelerates.

And then… I spread my wings and rise… rise…leaving the flood of human traffic overflowing the streets below.

I leave the flock of pigeons behind. I am Eagle!

“Don’t be afraid of being outnumbered. Eagles fly alone. Pigeons flock together.”

~Unknown
Pic: Ben Lowe on Unsplash

And then, some days, I am the pigeon… preferring to do what my flock does. Go where my flock goes.

Pic: Kristina Tolmacheva on Unsplash

And other days, I am the statue! Low in drive, energy, aimless, cemented. And my get up and go has already got up and gone! I’m stuck. Blank. No joy. No sorrow. Everything’s a no-go.

Pic: Abdul Zreika on Unsplash

“Some days you’re the pigeon and some days you’re the statue!”

~J Andrew Taylor

And then I read something that perks me up with a dollop of humor. One can’t stay down in the dumps after a good laugh! Humor is the best medicine. I got this as a forwarded message on WhatsApp.

Now, I better get out of here. Hunger and humor aren’t the best of friends. It’s not going to be very funny if the lunch is served at tea time!! And humor doesn’t work with ‘hangry’ 8-year-olds!

Dressing Up Nude Walls

It was one of those lovely sunny days in Summer; a weekend too! So we went down to a fair in the Harbourside area. On our way to the car park, I noticed a group of people excited about something happening down, in the water. They were all gathered by the railings and their conversation was animated, their faces intent as they watched whatever was going on below.

The curious one, as always, in the group, I turned right and walked to see for myself. I found a place among the spectators at the railing and looked down to see what was going on. Had someone drowned? My jaw dropped!

What I saw was amazing.

There was this guy on a tiny paddle board, with all the paraphernalia an artist needed, painting a huge mural on a huge wall. What was astounding was that he didn’t fall off the board, nor did he mispaint a single brush stroke as his board kept bobbing and shifting when he reached up, down, left, or right to create this fabulous picture of a girl almost submerged…whether she was drowning or whether she was just rising out of the sea like a mermaid, I couldn’t say. Her expression could be interpreted as anything according to how you saw it.

During the short time I stood watching, I saw him lose one of the paddles which drifted out of his reach before he could grasp it. So he had to go after it, retrieve it and get back to work again. So let me tell you who this man is and also that he is quite well-known in the artist circle, it seems. Meet Hula aka Sean Yoro.

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The work I saw him doing was this one:

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And here he is getting ready to go after the truant paddle!

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I was so engrossed in watching him I almost missed the artist sitting down on the ground beside me and painting the painter (Hula), in the water, painting too! If I didn’t almost fall over him, I wouldn’t have caught this fantastic scene of- a painter painting a painter painting! {how’s that for alliteration! ;)} Here you are: He’s made a seat for himself on his skateboard… what passion these guys have!

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That’s it for today.

Hasta Mañana. 

This post was first published on capturedjoyaimshoot.wordpress.com

The Slow Demise of Snail Mail

I love the rebelliousness of snail mail, and I love anything that can arrive with a postage stamp. There’s something about that person’s breath and hands on the letter.”

-Diane Lane

I switched with the times, and also because ‘snail mail’ was precisely what our postal system used to be way back in the pre-internet days… and perhaps even now since fewer people write letters these days. I began writing letters as emails. The same format as one would follow in a regular letter penned on letter paper. Typing was harder and slower than writing with a pen, but the strong desire to learn and get better at it was the knowledge that it would reach immediately at a click. Also, the anticipation of an equally quick reply spurred me on.

Snail mail usually brought news of welfare, someone’s illness or sought advice in some bleak situation. By the time your precious advice would reach, the matter would have been resolved for better or worse. And as for your queries about the latest developments in the illness and prayers for a speedy recovery, the person would have either recovered a month or so before and would be back at work in a recovered state of health or worse, had just expired! Within the country itself, letters would take weeks to reach at times if one lived in regions far away.

So, emails became my way of maintaining my love of letter writing.

And I wrote emails quite regularly to my dearest and nearest…did I get e-letters? Ah! now that’s a million-dollar question. Suffice it to say that, I just switched to WhatsApp when it became available. Not the same, but it works for me. It’s more like a substitute for the telegram than a mailed, handwritten letter… a supersonic speed telegram via WhatsApp!! (I wonder if they still use telegrams to communicate. Concise. Crisp. Succinct. The very dry form of communication)

I recall grandma telling us how she dreaded getting telegrams when my father was at sea during World War II. Letters were extremely rare. And once, when a letter he’d written arrived, it was after he’d got back! So if he would send telegrams whenever he could to inform them that he was well. Not that they reached as early as you’d expect they did. But definitely earlier than a letter would! Both my grandparents waited anxiously for news and yet dreaded it when the postman knocked on their door. Grandpa would laugh as he recalled how grandma would start crying even before the postman placed the telegram into her trembling hands… Only to end up drying tears of joy!

Back in those days, the postman in a small town in Punjab was more of a friend. Many illiterate people would ask the postman to read the letters out to them. And it wasn’t odd if they even asked him to write a letter for them as they dictated it. At my grandparents’ place, he was their tea and hookah buddy. No wonder letters were delayed more than necessary, they weren’t delivered in time!! And I say this with understanding and not as a rant.

I had the opportunity, much, much later to witness a tete a tete between my grandfather and the postman on one of his delivery visits. He was a storehouse of news. And my grandfather wanted to hear all the inside news about everybody! As did many others I suppose. Needless to say, I didn’t understand a word. Even though the postman had changed by then, the new fellow carried on the tradition.

I myself found snail mail wonderful – there was a lot of anticipation and the joy of looking forward to an envelope or inland letter bearing your name and address beats an email on your laptop or phone. There was pleasure in guessing from the handwriting whose letter it was before checking the sender’s name on the flip side to confirm. The handwriting was a personal touch. Besides pushing a letter into a letter box also held so much of hope and expectation… Something that is lost in an email.

I was thrilled when I received an unexpected letter addressed to me in the mail in April, this year. It’s been donkey’s years since I’ve received personal mail via snail mail. I was excited like a child! I tried to guess the handwriting from the handwritten address. But it wasn’t familiar. This piqued my interest even more. Finally I tore open the envelope and discovered it was a handwritten letter asking about my welfare and if I had settled into life in a new city. And wishing me for Easter. It was from our pastor and his wife in NB.

I have kept that letter in safe keeping. It meant so much to me that someone had thought about me and cared enough to not send a store bought card but write a personal greeting and letter. It didn’t matter that it reached eight days after Easter. The personal touch… what happiness it brings.

Not writing letters by hand is bad enough, but what’s worse, I discovered that I was finding it awkward to handle a pen. My handwriting wasn’t as neat as it used to be! With everything typed out, I found the pen an alien object. Anyway, I persist in keeping a handwritten journal even though I’m not regularly writing in it. Needless to say it seems like chickens have been running wild on the pages leaving behind their untidy scrawl.

Times change and we must change with it to keep up in many things. I’ll always miss the personal touch of a handwritten letter that held more than the identity of the person in the strokes, slashes and curls, and the cuts and the dots!

Glorious Pageants

When I was a girl, I would look at the clouds and find figures of humans, animals or figments of my imagination floating in the sky. At times Mummy would join me and we’d laugh at some funnies and even make up stories about whoever or whatever we thought we saw in a cloud. These moments passed with time and cloud watching was relegated to the chapter called ‘childhood’. Through teenage years and young adulthood, there were many other things engaging my interests and clouds weren’t among them. Until I came to Canada, decades later!

People spoke of its natural beauty, no doubt, it is marvelous but I came here after living in Chile and India and have seen nature’s wondrous beauty in its many forms…mountains, hills, valleys, and plains. Rich flora and fauna, lakes, rivers, seas, and oceans, fertile greens and arid zones. Different cultures, foods, and people. Canada was among one of these until I discovered the old mates of my childhood: clouds! The glorious clouds in Canada’s blue skies!

Ye glorious pageants! hung in air

To greet our raptur’d view;

What in creation can compare,

For loveliness, with you?

~Bernard Barton

So, with an old iPhone, I clicked pictures of the ever-present changing clouds that broke the monotony of the wide expanse of blue sky. I didn’t find forms in them, I found joy, exhilaration…I found immense beauty in them. Most of my mobile shots are of clouds because…well because they are so beautiful and I have to capture them. Like time, they do not remain the same and keep changing with every passing second. Look at them with me and enjoy them.

Today I’m sharing the ones I took at St. Andrew’s and on the Highway while driving to and from. The Highway ones have all been shot from a fast-moving car. One may say, ‘you could have stopped,’ but, no, we couldn’t keep stopping. So I did miss some beauties on the way.

“See yonder little cloud, that borne aloft, so tenderly by the wind, floats fast away, over the snowy peaks.” 

– H.W. Longfellow

Some ride into the sunset, some drive into a cloud bank!

The one below was taken when we made a pitstop to pick up some coffee and hot chocolate!

I had an awesome day at St. Andrew’s and I clicked, and clicked, and clicked…the sky over the sea was amazing with its cloud display. But those pics are for the next post. Here are a few I managed to get, from the cache of pics I took on the way back home, that are ok to put up. {Remember: We were driving on the highway, no need to mention speed! I was shooting through the front windscreen. I am a grandma with a phone camera, in love with clouds…no experience, no photography knowledge. Just love!}

It was raining on the way back and when it fizzled down, this is what we saw…a rainbow! The road above the one we were on seemed to lead to the end of the rainbow…to the pot of gold!

“Clouds suit my mood just fine.” 

-Marie Lu, Champion

How many of you, go back to the days when kids would try to find images in clouds… animals, birds, fish, human faces, or shapes?

I’m Good! Meaning it makes it so!

‘How are you?” says the voice over the phone.

“I’m good! How are you?” I say cheerfully.

“Good! Good!” says the voice in reply. Not so convincingly.

Then, as the conversation carries on, somewhere, towards the end, Covid crops up. The tone changes from a hearty “good, good” to tiredness, frustration, worry, anxiety, and the lament – ‘when will this end! I’m so fed up. Even schools are reporting cases these days.’

Our worry for our little ones eats into us.

One sees the news report on the number of cases of Covid. We are all concerned about this virus that’s on a rampage all over the world. We go about our day some going to work and others working from home. WFH seems to be the mode for most working people.

The initial dread has lost its terrifying edge, no doubt, but the threat remains – very real and present. But, we do say we’re ‘fine’ and ‘doing great’ because we have experienced grace. It is gratitude for good health that makes each moment of each day great. We cannot take our good health for granted.

More than ever before, I am grateful each day that I am ‘vertical’ and well. Though the headlines no longer scream the new “cases” nor the numbers of those who have succumbed, we know that the virus is still up and kicking. We know there is something dreadful out there waiting to get us.

According to current reports, the virus is still around, a different variant from the last variant! We still need to wear our masks in public areas; shopping malls, restaurants, schools, and public areas. Schools have been reporting some cases too. People – adults, and kids, who have been affected are getting well, but senior citizens aren’t faring so well. And where kids weren’t catching it earlier, they are catching it these days.

A slight irritation in the throat or a stuffy nose becomes alarming. I start to analyze every little thing I experience physically. It could be a muscle pain – a sprain that I know has nothing to do with a virus! Or a sleepless night – yes, it could be stress and anxiety and not a virus! Or a stuffy nose that causes difficulty in breathing because I didn’t dress appropriately according to the inclement weather when we went out, and not because of the virus!

So yes, every day I get out of bed and am vertical, I have so much to be grateful for. I can no longer take my good health for granted. No matter how careful I am, no matter how often I take care to wear a mask, wash my hands, not touch my face, sanitize after getting back from a trip out… I can still become the next victim of this monster. Yes, I do feel great about being free of the infection, but do I really feel ‘Good’ inside?

I can keep saying out loud, and as often as I want, that I’m ‘Good’ doing ‘Great.’ But if I do not put the truth into the words, it will have little or no effect on how I feel inside. I do not get stronger hiding behind words I do not believe to be true. So I can be genuinely glad that I am not laid low or worse and feel great OR I can put on a show. Just a sham. Can it make anything better though? No, a mere show cannot change anything.

Unless the truth is in the words they cannot make a day good or better. By uttering empty, merely positive-sounding words and feeling fear or anxiety deep inside, you don’t change anything within you. You are not looking forward to another day with the enthusiasm and belief you just expressed.

But I’m not going to mope and make myself more miserable by being afraid and not live the life that I have. We have to face it and the best way is to take one day at a time with prayer and praising… raising ourselves; our spirit.

We must be strong. Follow the rules and guidelines for precaution and safety and leave the rest to God. Make it a good day by not just saying so but believing it to be so. Proclaim it as the truth you feel deep within. Put the bit of truth in the ‘horse’s’ mouth. By saying it with conviction, you make it so because YOU believe it.

From The Bank Of A River

I am not too regular with my photography these days, so I am planning to close down my photography blog: capturedjoyaimshoot.wordpress.com. I am transferring my photographs here, where I am more regular.

These photographs were clicked when I first came here in 2017.

Driving around the city, a new one, in a new country where I was visiting my son, we stopped at this point which is tagged as the Photo Spot. It definitely qualifies as a great spot for photographs. 

So armed with my old faithful iPhone, I clicked away. I hope you can catch the beauty and serenity of this place through my not-so-perfect photos! I love quotes and combine them in my posts when my own words fail to convey my thoughts and the impact of the beauty, serenity, peace of my surroundings, and my own feelings that are overflowing. The thoughts and words whirling around are hard to harness as properly coherent whole sentences. The quotes express my own thoughts, more eloquently.

“The river asked me who I was to be gazing so longingly into her curving body of cascading dreams and shifting beauty.” – Todd Crawshaw

“Are you watching the #boats?” Cornelia guessed. She craned her neck to see if there was any excitement on the river.” -Lesley M. M. Blume

“There is another alphabet, whispering from every leaf, singing from every river, shimmering from every sky.” 

― Dejan Stojanovic

“I thought how lovely and how strange a river is. A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too…Even the greatest rivers- the Nile and the Ganges, the Yangtze and the Mississippi, the Amazon and the great grey-green greasy Limpopo….must have been no more than trickles and flickering streams before they grew into mighty rivers.
Are people like that? I wondered. Am I like that?…..” -Aidan Chambers

The ducks swam undisturbed by our human presence. We spent some time here taking in the peace and the immense array of nature’s beauty.

Too soon, it seemed, it was time to leave. But, I’ll be here for some time and will visit again… and again!

Be Happy

Be happy.

Easy to say; not so easy to be. And that means that it’s possible.

So what makes it so difficult to ‘be happy’?

From my own little trials as a girl and bigger struggles as a woman, I’ve learned that most of the barriers were external factors and my own perspective of them and how they would affect me.

Conditioning? To a great extent, yes.

What Will People Think?

Growing up in a home with mixed cultures was confusing at times. Add to that my mother’s own confused cultural upbringing. She was born a Burmese, raised in a westernized family with Portuguese origins who had settled in southern India. She studied in a British-run boarding school. There was a big South Indian influence of friends and the surrounding community too. 

There was a lot of freedom at her home in contrast to the strict Christian discipline at school and she tried to balance her culture with that of her South Indian friends, to fit in. Then, she’d bounce back to her Anglo-Indian culture at home to fit in. As I said… a big mix up.

So we had this mix of Punjabi-Anglo-South Indian-Conventional Christian environment at home. However, she came with her own “What will people think” attitude. It seemed that everything she told us we should do or not do was based on pleasing an invisible group of people.

It didn’t bother me because I couldn’t see the “people” who would approve or disapprove. But, it stayed stuck in my mind. And when I ran into the people who thought they had a right to judge all that I did and said or thought, it kicked in with force. Their opinions seemed to be important. 

We kids developed our personalities in this very interesting multi-cultural environment. I found it easier to be happy because adjusting, I suppose, was easier for me. But it was not so for the rest of us.

I liked both my parents’ westernized ways and some of my father’s Punjabiness. My mother’s South Indianess, I left most of it to her, except for the food! I liked her SI preparations which she’d adjust a bit to suit my palate.

So I was a happy child.

Burden or Challenge?

With all the adjustments and difficulties, I was able to find things to do, learn, observe… things that made me happy. Challenges that brought out the best in me. That doesn’t mean I was this forever bubbly, smiling, laughing kid or teenager. I had my moments… even meltdowns. But what worked was that I knew only I could make myself ‘be happy.’

I didn’t rely on anyone, anything, or situation to change according to my wants; no she/he should not say or do this or that. Or blaming someone or something for making me feel unhappy. I guess a lot of it came naturally or then maybe because I was the fourth child, the baby of the family until I was ten. And also because I was influenced greatly by my father who gave me pep talks and examples of people, including himself, who had maintained a positive attitude in the face of grave difficulties, and had overcome them with a good attitude.

Being happy is an inside job. It starts in you; with you!

From being overly concerned about “what will they think” to “what they think about me is their problem, not mine,” has been a very long, tough, but enlightening journey.  This, however, was just one of the hurdles.

What were the others?

Big Changes In Life

Life was always full of transfers. In the Armed Forces, people get posted out often. In India, this means a lot of changes. Every state we moved to would have a different language, food, customs, and traditions. Besides, I would be leaving my friend circle and all that was familiar behind. But we adjusted to the changes because socially we had no changes. Academically, we’d have some problems because we’d have to learn a second language which would be the local language. But shifting home never shattered me or caused any negative impact until the last big move.

I was in my tenth year. It was a period of shattering change, especially at this age. Though I dealt with the physical shifts and the resulting changes, mainly the loss of friends due to the move.

This was a move to an absolutely alien environment! Going to a place that was a one-horse town in Punjab, in the mid-sixties, was a nightmare for us. Daddy assured us all would be fine, and Mummy didn’t put up much resistance either! Or perhaps, she did but to no avail.

I knew we would not have the basic amenities we were used to; the proper bathrooms, running water in taps, and neighbors not so different from us and who we could speak with, in a common language. I did not know the language of the region, I looked different from the other kids, and spoke with a different accent from the locals. 

I came to realize my horrifying reality at my grandma’s place: dry sanitation toilets, no proper bathrooms with running water in taps! There was a hand pump in the bathroom! No English medium schools nearby; the closest was eighteen miles away. I had to learn how to wash and iron my own clothes…and yes, washing anything, crockery, dishes, clothes hands, face… and a bath… was done with water pumped from the hand pump! This was fun for a while but on a regular basis, it wasn’t camping fun, it was our daily challenge.

We had no domestic help as mummy didn’t approve of any who came for the job. I know this might sound like the rant of a rich, spoiled child, but I assure you it isn’t. We were anything but “rich” as defined by society. To understand why this is a normal rant of any Indian family, in our day and in the present, you’ll have to know the Indian society and how it works. With a huge population, and a large number of people illiterate or with a meager education, many women work as domestic help. They are aplenty and their services are affordable.

We are used to having domestic help.

As kids, it became difficult to adjust to many things. We didn’t understand country life. We were city kids.

However, these weren’t the things that pulled me down. I got over the initial shock. These were the challenges I enjoyed. I was quick to learn and loved the newness of a lifestyle so different from any I’d known. What caused some damage was facing discrimination and biases.

Low Self Esteem

Mine went so low, it was around my ankles.

What made me feel less than came from the attitudes of some of our relatives from my father’s side, and from religious prejudices in society. This was new for me and I wasn’t aware that such things existed. No one had prepared me for this. In those days a ten-year-old wasn’t as knowledgeable as one today would be. I heard things like:

“Your nose is so flat. It’s a slave’s nose. We have sharp noses, we’re a higher class.” And this from an uncle; my father’s youngest brother!

Kids at school were no better.

“Your eyes are so small. Can you see properly?”

“Are you a scheduled caste? An untouchable?”

“If you are a Christian, you must be of low caste. My mother says so”

“No, I don’t want anything from your tiffin box. My mother told me not to eat your food because you eat all sorts of things. But you can share mine.”

“You aren’t a Punjabi. You speak English at home.”

I had never faced such queries and statements. But then, this was rural Punjab in the 60s!. I’d lived in cities and had never faced such prejudices and biases. All of a sudden, mummy’s “what will people think” made those invisible people real.

It was hard to not be affected by these almost daily taunts. My mother was no help in this matter, she told me not to listen to them… How? They were there all around me!

So, I spoke to my father. He helped me.

“There are all kinds of people in this world.” he said, “All have their own opinions. You can hear it with one ear and pass it out through the other. Don’t dwell on it. They are ignorant if they speak this way. Make friends with those who want to be friends and accept you for who you are. If you have even one good friend, you’re good. Numbers don’t count here. Don’t try to argue or defend yourself when they say these things. You’re there to get an education, yes? Well, this is a part of your education. Focus on learning, in the classroom and out of it.”

So I focused on my studies. I did well. I participated in cultural activities and sports and won many prizes and certificates of merit. 

Was I happy through all that? Yes. I never wanted to miss school even though it was a harrowing experience to get to school. And that was a major challenge.

The Long Bicycle Ride

In the first three years,, I and my brother, made that journey of 18 miles (36 miles to and fro) on a bicycle. Yes, two on one bicycle! I sat on the carrier that Indian bicycles had fixed above the back wheel. Given the extreme climate in the north, summers were blistering and winters were freezing, our journey was cruel to our bodies. Our cycle route took us along the highway and then, a shortcut, on a dirt road along a canal. Wide-open spaces and fields; it was burning hot in summer and freezing in winter!

The scorching summer sun would burn my skin. The freezing cold would numb my toes and fingers and the tip of my nose! There were days when we’d have icicles on our eyelashes and eyebrows by the time we reached school. This went on for 3 long years. Grade 5 to Grade 7.

Did I hate school?

Did I make a fuss to go to school?

Did I fare badly at studies?

Negative to all those questions!

I still wanted to go to school and I was active in my studies, cultural programs, sports, and athletics. I had happiness within me that made me happy.

I was growing up fast. Learning new lessons faster.

My antidote: Self-Compassion.

I saw myself through my eyes – warts and all; the good and the ugly. I saw myself as human as the next person. I acknowledged and accepted my strengths and my weaknesses. I liked who I was… a normal human being. A person who had nothing to do with physical appearances but sought to be kind, considerate, faithful, loyal, disciplined, hard-working, positive, caring, thoughtful…and forgiving.

Yes, I saw me for who I was and that was uplifting. My self-esteem went up. No, it isn’t narcissism. I wasn’t comparing myself to others and feeling superior. Neither did the rude comments bother me so much. However, getting to that point of acceptance took longer than it appears in these few sentences.

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I Don’t Want To Be Alone – Fear of being alone

I had left behind my friends. Here in this isolated existence, there was no way I was going to have friends in our neighborhood. The place I could make friends was at school. But they were judgmental, harshly so.

Following Daddy’s advice, I jumped into curricular and co-curricular activities, all of which I enjoyed. I was happy at school, and being basically friendly by nature, I did not reciprocate their initial feelings toward me. In time, the walls came down. 

I made friends.

I was on friendly terms with the whole class (the jibes had stopped), but I had just one good friend! And it took me from grade 5 to grade 9 to make that one good friend. Up until that year, I had classroom friends… class camaraderie and loyalty, that’s all.

Often, the fear of being alone drives us into less than ideal friendships. I preferred to be friends with someone who shared, if not all, some of my interests. A person who had the right attitude and looked towards sharing and learning, uplifting and also giving constructive criticism.

When Janaki V. and I clicked, I was content to have that one friend. I owe a lot to her for helping me to learn Hindi to the point where I liked the language. Decades later, I became a drama artist with AIR (All India Radio) for Hindi plays. The credit partly goes to her and more greatly to my Hindi teacher Mr. Mohanlal Kakkar.

It’s better to not have a friend than collect a bunch of girls who care tuppence about your friendship. I follow that principle to date. Many friendships, but a few faithful friends.

To Be Happy, Be Happy

So how did I ‘be’ happy?

I was a girl growing up amid all these harrowing experiences, yet, I was happy. I was doing well in my studies. I participated and won prizes and medals in sports and athletics. I participated in school plays and cultural activities. My teachers liked me. I was a happy person in school and back at home too. At the time I didn’t do anything consciously, I wouldn’t know the first thing about what to do or how one engineered happiness!

But as I look back, I realize, I was following what my father taught me to do, instinctively. I just did it.

I Took Charge 

Only I could make myself unhappy. So what did I have to do to keep myself happy? Take charge of my own happiness. That I did following Daddy’s advice that people would behave the way they were brought up. The way they were taught, the things they were taught, or according to their experiences outside their comfort area. This molded them.

I realized, the difference in my experiences here was that most of the kids in school were locals who had not been out of their small towns. I was a rare species, so to say! It made me laugh, and I learned how to take things with the proverbial pinch of salt. I did things I liked and which made me happy. As long as I wasn’t hurting anyone in my activities, I cared less for what they thought.

I Kept A Positive Attitude

“Happiness doesn’t depend on any external conditions, it is governed by our mental attitude.”~Dale Carnegie

“Never say die” was my father’s oft-repeated phrase. I took it to heart, and I never forgot that giving up was never a first option or even the last. There were moments when I’d want to just throw in the towel and say, “That’s it! I’m done.” But I never really could do that. It went against the grain.

The bicycle rides to school ended when I was in the 7th grade. Due to certain unexpected circumstances, I couldn’t continue going to school on a bicycle. So, I was sent to the city for a year in the 8th grade and then, I returned for Grade 9.

I started going to school on the local bus. I had to change buses in a town called Mullanpur, mid-way, to catch the other bus that would drop me off in front of my school. To reach in time, I’d have to catch the first bus which left at 5.45 am from our town!

You can imagine how, from the age of 10 years, I had to wake up at 5.00 a.m every day. Even during the biking days, I had to wake up that early. We didn’t have 5-day weeks then. Our weekdays were 6-day weeks! Just one holiday to rest on Sunday.

There were those horrifying days when the bus would be overcrowded and I’d be pawed or have hands brush me as I’d try to get off at my stop. I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hit the person or persons hard enough to break their bones. But, all I did was get off the bus, wait for the next, and get on with my studies. I’d self-talk myself into a positive attitude. I’d say good things for me could only come with hard work, perseverance, and if I gave up, what would I be looking at?

These bus rides went on for three interminably long years until we moved to the capital city of Punjab, never to return to this town again.

keep moving forward

Have A Goal

I believe the reason why I was able to keep going was that I had a sure answer to ‘WHY’ I had to surmount the hurdles and roadblocks. I knew nothing about goal-setting and stuff like that. But I did have a goal. An aim. EDUCATION.

It was very important to me that I get an education. I valued the life lessons I got from my father and grandma and teachers like Mr. Mohanlal Kakkar and Mrs. Jolly, and the academic ones too. This was a challenge, and because I had a strong reason, it kept the motivation high. I knew the only way to reach my goal was to deal with whatever would get in the way of achieving it.

Be Helpful

This is another important point. Some people are eager to help, but they expect favors in return. It’s good to be helpful provided you offer help without expecting anything in return.

Helping someone with the expectation of return favors is not being helpful. It doesn’t contribute to your happiness. This is just a bargaining chip in the guise of helpfulness. It can not make you truly happy because it is selfish.

The attitude of being helpful has come to me from my parents. Both of them were helpful,  helpful to the point where people often took undue advantage of their helpful nature. I was that way too until I realized that letting people take unfair advantage of my help was not a part of ‘being helpful.’

I had to learn how to say a big, emphatic “NO” to such people. It’s ok to do so. It’s the only way you can counter their selfishness and be happy deep inside. That spring of joy fills when you lend a helping hand to someone in genuine need.

Prayerfulness & Meditation

Start your day off right with God. The day is always better when you’ve talked to Him first. It gives you the assurance that whatever the circumstances, God is there to help and guide you. If He brings you to it, He’ll take you through it. Keep Him first.

This has been my mantra. From a young age, I’ve leaned on prayer. Needless to say, once again, Daddy was my font of wisdom in this too. To date, I rely on both – prayer and meditation on a daily basis.

These days, since I don’t go to work anymore, I have a Prayer Breakfast! Yes, it’s a solo affair in the morning. I listen to a message, say a prayer, and as I partake of food for my soul, I partake of food for my body too!

Maintain a Grateful Heart & Appreciate the Simple Joys of Life

“Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.”~Jim Rohn

One thing I am eternally grateful for is that I have a grateful heart. It’s not something I can take credit for. I was born that way. If credit is due, once again, it’s mostly because of Dad’s pep talks. He and I talked a lot. Right from a young age, he was my go-to person when I needed understanding, comfort, or encouragement. It’s the only reason I survived those early days of my education in Punjab.

I was grateful I had an English medium school to attend. So I survived the hardships.

I was glad I had a comfortable home to live in. There was no lack of anything inside our house that Daddy built within a year of our moving to his hometown. Once inside the gate, it was a haven. All my struggles and tiredness of the day would fall off at the first step inside.

I was thankful for parents and my sisters and brothers.

I was grateful for the big garden, my favorite tree where I’d perch on a branch and read a book…the little chipmunk I raised, the wildfowl chick I rescued, the chickens we reared… the flora and fauna all around me…for my grandma who told me wonderful things and from whom I learned many things.

Yes, I was grateful for every little and big thing in my life.

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The troubles existed, but gratitude towered above it, and with the simple joys of my life, gratefulness dwarfed the difficulties. I was able to surmount the hurdles I faced.

To be happy you gotta BE happy.

Why Proof Reading?

I found this picture on someone’s post on Fb about the importance of editing and proofreading after a writer has finished writing.

However, errors do take place, I suppose, as this example shows. I have no idea from which book this has been extracted and who is the author, but I do think that the editor would have been a competent one. Even the best can miss something, sometimes.

I got something in the mail about this. Here it is. It’s the silliest goof up I must say.

Or like here below- a glaring miss by the editor! Let’s see if you catch it on the first read.

“And then Robinson Crusoe stripped naked, swam out to his ship, filled his pockets with biscuits, and swam back to shore….”

“What?” I said, hefting my pack and frowning at the child.

“Nothing,” she said, getting to her feet. “Just an old preHegira book that Uncle Martin used to read to me. He used to say that proofreaders have always been incompetent assholes-even 1400 years ago.”
― Dan Simmons
, Endymion

Or this one… “Amphibious”? Really!! It’s ambidextrous!

It brought back a humorous memory of a three-letter word, ‘doc’ that I had mistyped as ‘Dic’. So the autocorrect on my phone changed it by adding a letter – K, and that ended up making it a ‘name’ I didn’t intend to type. It changed the entire context and meaning of what I was saying. If taken out of context, it would have been shocking, depending on who I was sending it to.

I was chatting with a friend, on WhatsApp, about my health issues and my doc, in particular, who was excellent in his diagnosis and treatment of my ailment. And quite the gentleman to boot! What I wanted to say was, “I’m so lucky to have found such a wonderful Doc!” What I typed was ‘Dic’. And thanks to auto-correct, it became a name that had other connotations. I assume you’ve got the drift! Considering who read it, it turned out to be a rib-tickling joke between us friends.

The autocorrect has free rein to correct what it thinks you are saying because it doesn’t have such a word in its memory bank. Most of us hardly ever proofread what we’ve texted.

I do try to be careful, but I rarely re-read my texts. I don’t believe in overburdening myself because of an over-enthusiastic autocorrect. If it produces a gaffe such as this one, which was hilarious by the way for me and my friend, so be it. I don’t mind the laughs.

Here’s one to wind up. Miss Ippi’s or the place… 🙂

Domestic Goddess! She’s all that and more – Very Short Stories

“Hurry up darling, give me a fresh towel, please.”

“In a minute Raj. Here you are honey,” she smiles and turns to go back to the kitchen and anxious raised eyebrows replace the smile. She hastens to check on an omelette getting cooked in the pan.

“Did I lower the heat?” she mumbles to herself. “I better run!” She quickens her pace and as she enters the kitchen, she hears her son calling out to her. She’s needed again! A quick check. The omelette is fine.

“Mom! Are you listening? I can’t find my socks. I told you not to tidy my room.”

She opens her mouth to retort – ‘Take a deep breath before you answer,’ says her heart just in time.

“Okay, Kirit, I’ll remember if you remember to tidy it yourself. Your socks are in the second drawer on the left-hand side,” she said on the go and was just in time to take the omelette out of the fry-pan, before it burned, and place it on a plate. The filling, the filling.. quick!.

‘Now for the filling that “gets folded in after and not cooked”, she is amused, and flicker of a smile plays on her lips. She stretches her hand to pick up the grated cheese…Raj didn’t like the cheese as a filling cooked inside. He liked it folded in a hot-off-the-pan omelette; three-fourths-melted; a filling “not cooked”. She grabs the cheese…

“Sweetheart, Where’s the blue tie? The one with the diagonal stripes.”

The cheese can wait. Run baby. Run.

“It’s right here Raj with all the ties,” she says holding back her exasperation. She makes a dash for the door.

“While you’re at it, please keep a fresh handkerchief out too,” grinned her husband.

“Sure Hon.” She takes out a hanky and makes good her escape.

Back in the kitchen, she moves like a whirlwind getting packed lunch and breakfast ready for the family. Omelette and hot buttered toasts for Raj. Banana pancakes and milk for Kirit. Lunch packets for both. Green tea and a cheese-marmalade sandwich for herself.

“Darling, I’m running late today, could you hurry up and give me my breakfast,” said Raj as he sat down at the table and opened the newspaper.

“Hi Mom, can I skip cornflakes, today?”

“No! What’s the big deal? You’re a growing boy and you need proper nourishment.”

“That’s the big deal. Can I have an omelette too?”

“NO!

“But why not?”

“Just in case you have forgotten, you have a working mom. That’s why!”

“So…?”

“So I don’t have the time to whip up an egg and…”

“Chill Mom,” Kirit interrupted, grinning. “I don’t want an egg. I’ve had my cornflakes anyway,” he laughs impishly. She gives him a whack with her napkin, which he dodges and runs off to the bus stop.

“Darling, just listen to this.”

“I can’t sweetheart, I need to hurry too.”

“Babes, you’re going to end up getting sick if you stress this way. Relax.”

“Yeah. I’ll do that Hon.” She zips off to change into her office clothes.

“Hey, you didn’t even kiss me,” she hears him calling out.

“If you can wait fifteen minutes, you’ll get it,” she calls back.

She hears the door close and the car starts up. She’s dressed and dashes off to the stop where the office cab picks her up every day. After a few minutes, she realizes the cab isn’t coming. A quick call to the office confirms her worst fear. She looks at her watch, she’s five minutes late and has missed her cab. The time had changed for pickup. How did she forget!

‘Got to get a cab,’ she thinks and begins to walk. The cab stand is a good ten minutes walk.

“You’re late Neera,” said her senior colleague, in surprise.

“I’m sorry! I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she smiles, managing to be apologetic and charming!

“Hurry Neera, we have to be in the Conference Hall in ten minutes.

“I’ll be right there, you get going.”

She brushes her hair. Checks her lipstick. Picks up her laptop and a few notes she had scribbled on the way. As she walks to the conference hall she feels a nervous tension building up. She has to make a presentation for a very important client. It was a big deal and clinching the deal meant a lot for the company.

Her mobile phone rings.

“Hi Sweets, forgot to tell you, we’ll be having guests over for dinner. Think of some nice Mughlai dishes and let me know what you need to cook up your famous dishes. I’ll get it for you on my way back.”

“Raj,” she says trying hard to keep a cool head. “That’s breaking news! You should have told me earlier. Sorry baby, you know how tied up I am with work. You’re great, you’ll manage very well on your own. Talk to you later, bye!”

She’s at the door of the Conference Room.

She pauses. Takes a deep breath and says, “Here I am Lord! What I am, and what I’m not. Take my natural self and add your ‘SUPER’ to it. I need it today.”

She enters the room with a small smile on her face, exuding utter confidence and calmness, like one who is sure of victory.

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In this ‘challenge’ topic, ‘SUPER’, on FaithWriters.com, I combined the experiences of working wives and mothers who were my colleagues or friends, as shared with me, and a bit of my own too, through the mid-’70s to the early ’90s. Things have changed a lot (for the better) since then on the home front and for the working wife and mom.

This story was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009)

Memories – we hang on to

“Absent-minded professor!” That’s often how I am! I could walk from my bedroom with clothes to be put into the laundry basket, but en route, turn into the kitchen, open the lid of the garbage bin, and promptly drop the clothes in. Well, it’s happened just once, but that once has become a hilarious joke for me and my friends. The thing is, I had the lunch menu on my mind and a deadline to meet, and I had the less important task of putting my clothes in the laundry basket. And the kitchen door came before – get the drift?

Most times, there are two (or three) tracks of thought running through my head. And they tend to throw me off track if I’m too engrossed.

I’d have to think hard if you asked me what I had for lunch on a day where the workload is heavy.

Yet, there are memories from years back that I can recall quite clearly.

The greater part of these memories are of the times of happiness, fun, and enjoyment, and of experiencing and learning new things.

The not-so-good memories are there too. Of sadness. Disappointment. Fear. Loneliness. Struggles and hardships, etc. They are embedded in my mind. However, not all are stuck in the crevices of old memories. I realized this when someone would ask me if I remembered some incident or the other and my mind would be blank. Or then, the memory would be hazy.

How true! There are many memories that remain imprinted on our hearts, our minds.

And most often they are the ones of times, moments, experiences in the extreme… too sad, too scary, too painful, too happy, most difficult, exquisitely beautiful… memories that have impacted us; helped us, taught us, tried us.

Memories of people we have met, known well, or in passing.

And those who have been less than ideal people to meet or work with or befriend.

The strangers who became friends and the friends who became foes!

As time passes, I’ve seen that I’ve got a lot of them in all these categories, but I also realize that some of the mundane, too boring ones are also tucked in somewhere in the crevices along with some extremely bitter ones.

The latter don’t surface without context, and if they do then too it’s without the bitter, sharp edge and pain.

Just the learning point.

But rarely do I bring them up and refresh them.

They may not be totally forgotten, but they certainly don’t occupy front space in my mind unless I need them as a reminder of caution, alertness, in situations –

what to be wary of…

who to trust,

where to place trust,

and when to walk away.

When to be patient and not speak out and

when to not rustle feathers… kind of reminders.

The memories we visit often affect our mind. Our thoughts mold our attitude, our behavior, and our personality. We are built with blocks of memories. Our expectations, our hopes, our world view are all built through our experiences.

I accept the memories. The ones that have been instrumental in building my mental, and emotional strengths. The ones that provided unique experiences and insights into the attitudes, values, reactions, and responses of people with whom I connected socially, professionally, and even those within the broad area of family relationships.

I accept the lessons they carry. The wisdom they have imparted. The knowledge I gained. The joy they bring. The sorrow some carry. The bitter truth a few unveil. The honest truth that others bring out. The hard ones that show me my mistakes. The ones that strengthen my resolve to change what needs changing. The encouraging ones which boost my desire to keep learning and growing.

They are all a part of my life journey. I cherish all.

Gratitude springs for all – the best ones, which are in greater numbers, and for the hard lessons learned from the few worst ones!

The River – Very Short Stories

This story is fiction loosely based on a true incident. I have woven it around news and true incidents of floods and flash floods that occur at many places during the monsoon season. Read more about it at the end.

The river had always been there. It had been a part of every phase of Nandu’s life. His boyhood was spent cooling off in its cool water during the hot summer afternoons. And of course, the fish which was their daily meal came from the river. The river was their lifeline.

Nandu used to make and sell marigold garlands to the devotees, who thronged the ‘Ghats’. They were people who bathed in the river, believing it would wash away their sins

The river was holy for those who believed. For Nandu, it was an extra buck. The more the people, the more garlands he sold, as these were used in the ritual of offering prayers and other religious rites.

Nandu was an orphan who would have met a watery death in the river if it hadn’t been for ‘Nani’ (Nani is the Hindi word for maternal grandmother). Mary, who was called Nani by all and sundry, wasn’t his relative. She had picked up the abandoned baby from the riverbank. She was the only family he knew. She was poor but had a heart of gold; uneducated but wise. Very early, she taught Nandu the importance of the river in their lives.

He remembered how fascinated and scared he was as a child, when he saw the river in spate for the first time, during a rather heavy monsoon downpour. It swelled and overflowed its banks and the angry swirling water threatened to flood the town.

“Nani, where does the river come from ?”

“From a very big mountain, high up in the Himalayas,” she replied.

“Where does it go ?”

“Very, very far. To the end of the rainbow.”

“What does it do there ?” asked Nandu in wonderment.

“It goes up the rainbow and returns to the mountain.”

“Nani, does the river never end?”

“No, it goes on forever.”

He thought for a while, then turned to Nani again.

“But Nani, why is it so angry?”

“Because you have been very naughty.”

“If I say I’m sorry, will it stop from flooding the town?”

“Well, it’s always good to say you’re sorry,” was her circumspect reply.

“Will it forgive me?”

“That’s for the river to say. I cannot speak for it,” was her gentle reply. “It does what it has to do, goes where it has to go. It is controlled by external powers that often overpower man’s superior and scientific mind.”

“It scares me when it is in fury, like this,” he said. “I fear it will wash me away too. It will carry me away to the rainbow.”

“Don’t worry about that. You weren’t destined to be carried away.” She said that with the confidence that only comes with knowledge.

“How do you know that Nani?!”

“The river takes only those who belong to it,” she replied quietly, “those whose life purpose has been fulfilled. Only they flow to the rainbow.”

Nandu sat quietly, contemplating that information.

Mary’s life revolved around Nandu. Their need for each other arose from a deep-seated pain within, which grew out of rejection and abandonment. Nandu’s adoration and respect for Nani grew as he watched her slog from dawn to dusk, to keep him clothed, fed, and educated. Mary would take up any work she found. Sometimes it would be breaking stones, where a road was being built, or carrying mud and bricks on her head at a construction site. But she was always full of warmth, comfort, and love.

Her face was sunburnt and her hands were rough. She was strong. Nandu was in awe of her especially when she got into one of her tempers. Her eyes would blaze and her tongue would lash the recipient of her ire.

One day, Mary came home with Paul, whom she had met at the site where a Christian hospital was being built. Nandu and Paul sat talking late into the night. That day Nandu learned about another river – the river of life that flowed from the Rock of Ages.

Paul began visiting them often. Nandu’s curiosity led him to question and debate all that he was learning about the “great Fisherman”; His life, crucifixion, and resurrection. Day by day he grew in the knowledge and love of Christ. He would read passages from the Bible Paul had gifted him, and listen intently as his new friend explained the mysteries of the Word. Mary watched with immense joy and contentment. Her life’s work would fructify in Nandu and flow like the river, beyond the rainbow to salvation and everlasting life.

One day they gathered at the river and Nandu was baptized by a visiting pastor. That night dark clouds gathered in the sky. There was a mighty crash of thunder as a cloudburst over the town took the people unawares. Before they realized what was happening the deluge engulfed and destroyed everything in its path.

Nandu awoke in a hospital ward. He was disoriented and confused. Paul, sitting on a chair by his bedside, silently watched him.

Nandu shut his eyes and slowly it all came back.

The flash.

The roar.

The deluge.

It wrenched his heart and his body convulsed with bitter sobs. The only vivid memory he had was of Nani being carried away by the devouring water. She didn’t fight or try to save herself. She seemed a part of the river — She was the river, flowing on forever.

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(This was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009) Under the title ‘Beyond The Rainbow’. I’ve edited it a bit and changed its title.

This story was inspired by a true incident where someone I knew, an affluent lady, adopted the girlchild of a laborer she saw while driving down the hilly, undulating roads of the place she lived. The woman was on work as a part of the paid labor working on repairing the hill roads. Her baby girl, about a few months old, was in a hammock made out of cloth and hung from branches of trees stacked up to hold the hammock with its tiny load. She agreed to give up the child who was the youngest one of perhaps 4 or 5 kids! She already had two girls and was only too happy to give this one away. This little girl grew up in her new well-to-do, non-Christian family without any knowledge of her birth parents. She was educated in a prestigious Christian school.

Much later, when she was a young woman, like Nandu in the story, she embraced Christianity. I learned about this last development recently. Another similarity, like Nandu, she lost her mother, my colleague, when she was still a young schoolgirl. It was an untimely death and came as a shock. When this story was written, I never imagined in my wildest thoughts that the little girl my colleague had adopted would turn to Christ since the family followed another religion. So I was quite surprised at how this story merged in some points at the end.

The rest is all fiction.

Chasing Happiness – Tiny Conversations

A puppy was playing with a ball on a grassy field. It would flick it with its nose and run after to retrieve it. An older dog sat by and lazily watched the pup at play. The little one, tired of playing with the ball looked around for something interesting. As it turned around this way and that, it caught sight of its tail and decided it would play tag with it. No matter what it did, it couldn’t catch its tail.

It went and flopped down beside the older dog.

“You couldn’t catch it, could you?!” said the older one laughing.

“Nah!”

“And yet you will keep trying! It’s what we all do, all the time,” said the wise old one.

“Why, yes! It’s so much fun. It’s happiness! So happiness is my tail. That’s my philosophy!” And then he jumped up as an idea struck him.

“I’ve become a philosopher.”

“And what have you learned from that, ‘wise’ little one?”

“That my tail is happiness and if I keep chasing it, I will catch it. And when I catch it, happiness will be mine!”

The old one chuckled.

“What?!” said the pup wrinkling its brow. It had expected praise.

“Well, I also would love to get a hold of happiness whenever I want. Every dog would love that. And I also believe there’s happiness in my tail. But, it’s strange that when I chase it, it runs away. The harder I try the faster it runs.”

“So what do you do then? Have you thought of a way to catch it?” asked the pup hopefully.

“Yes and No!”

“What does that mean?”

“That I don’t need to ‘catch’ it!”

“But”, said the pup, “I read this today”:

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Hmmm… and I read this,” answered the old dog:

“Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.” -Bertolt Brecht

“I noticed that, when I go about my work, doing what I have to do… getting along with my business, it follows me! I carry my happiness with me! I don’t need to chase it!”

“You mean, you can be happy where you are?”

“Yes! I choose to be happy! If you believe happiness is in your tail, then why are you running after it and trying to grasp it? You carry your happiness with you.”

Tele-Sympathy – Very Short Stories

From the archives: The answering machine, in this story, popped up in my mind when some of my calls were answered with fed-in messages on a couple of answering machines. It popped up as an ideal instrument and provided the answer to the protagonist’s dilemma!

Rrrrrrring Rrrrrrring. Susan waited for the ringing to stop.  She was thoroughly fed-up with the anonymous calls.

The bell rang insistently. She picked up the receiver and waited to hear the mocking and taunting remarks. Susan had retired from her teaching job and settled in this little hill-town, where she intended to start a Bible-School Holiday Resort, for school children. A place where they could come during their summer vacation, for a two-week program.

The concept was to approach the teaching of Christian values and principles with less legalism and preachy methods. She wanted Christian children to learn the practical way of applying God’s word to their lives so that they could enjoy being Christians while they continued to be in right-standing with God. Her friends had volunteered to contribute their cultural, artistic, and musical expertise to enhance the program. However, she wasn’t granted permission to open the resort as the locals opposed the proposition. They thought the resort was a cover to brainwash young minds.

Susan was disappointed. Then the anonymous calls began. Most of them were filled with taunts, jibes, and resentment. Susan was at the end of her tether. She had to do something about this. 

“Use their instrument but to provoke unto love and to good works,” whispered her inner voice.

Susan couldn’t understand how God wanted her to use the telephone. She decided to shift her mind away from this unpleasant situation. She called up a friend. No luck just the answering machine. She tried another and then another. Three answering machines later, she decided to go for a walk. 

Oh, God! Help me, she thought, and added as an afterthought,  at least YOU don’t put me on an answering machine! and she laughed. Then abruptly she stopped laughing. 

The answering machine, the answering machine! she whispered.

Without wasting a minute more, she hurried back to the town. A few inquiries, a few calls, and Susan returned home bursting with hope and great expectations. Finally, the answer to her prayers arrived securely packed in a cardboard box. With the help of a linesman working with the Telephone Department, the answering machine was connected and Susan waited.

All the calls were now greeted with a cheery message that said,  “Hi, I’m praying for you. If you have any problems, let me know, I’ll pray for that too. Thanks for calling.”

After a few days, the calls stopped. Was it the calm before the storm or “the peace that passeth all understanding,”  Susan wondered?

And then it came; a call; a prayer request made in a breathless, hushed voice. Others followed. Susan could recognize the voices of her five persistent callers, and she believed they were between twelve and seventeen years old. She had even given them names according to their attitude and tone and language so she could identify her anonymous callers.

Now she learned that Saucy Sue was exasperated with her parents’ constant quarreling, Giggly Gertrude wanted to run away from the orphanage because they sent the kids to work as domestic help during holidays. Stuttering Stewart didn’t like being teased, Arrogant Aaron didn’t believe in an invisible God or that one even existed, and Martyr Marty was always feeling the victim. Long conversations with each other led to a special bond of trust and faith between the two sides. This continued for some years. Susan never tried to find out their true identities.

That was fifteen years ago. And now Susan would meet them for the first time. Their visit coincided with the welcome reception her church had organized for the new pastor. Two happy events. She hurried to church eagerly that Sunday. To her surprise, Susan found Reverend Sushil Simon, the new priest, younger than she had expected.

She delivered her welcome speech and as she returned to her seat, a familiar voice said,  “Thank you, Susan, for such a warm welcome. It’s nice to come home again.”

Susan almost fainted. Arrogant Aaron! She was sure she had heard the voice that had argued incessantly with her about a non-existent God, almost to the point of making her give up.

She stood still. She couldn’t believe her ears. And was sure she wasn’t mistaken. 

“It is you!” She whispered. Later, when the formalities were over, Sushil walked up to her and smiled.

“I’d like you to meet some of the others,” he said. 

He introduced her to the others. All had done well for themselves. Susan looked at Arrogant Aaron (she still couldn’t call him anything else!) with a question in her eyes, which he answered softly, “1 John 4: 12, I finally understood it. Thank you.” (12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.) NIV

Susan couldn’t speak, but her tears spoke volumes, as she led her friends home. There was so much to say, so much to hear.

This was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009).

On Breaking Down

From the archives:

I cringed at having to attend funerals. I never seemed to know how to express my sorrow and to what degree. Emotional by nature, I was moved very deeply by someone’s grief. However, expressing it was an art I had yet to master.

Often termed ‘tough’ by my family, I had molded myself to live up to the impression, without consciously realizing it. My shoulder was always the Rock of Gibraltar that gave solace to weeping, heart-broken friends in college. Over the years, counselling, advising, and listening became my forte and I soon became the agony aunt people sought.

Marriage, in-laws, kids, and career posed new challenges along the way. Each was to be met and resolved firmly, positively, and cheerfully. I had learned the art of hiding my emotions. Displaying pain, disappointments, tears of anger, frustration, or grief did not become me, hence they needed to be hidden. At some point in time, I became a perfect pretender.

Then tragedy struck. I lost my husband. I couldn’t cry, really cry, in public. Not even in front of family. A trickle of tears was all that managed to get past the dam. I found myself incapable of expressing the deep sorrow, fear, and insecurity I felt. To people, I appeared calm and composed. They called me BRAVE.

Since then, funerals became even more difficult to attend. Fortunately, there weren’t any I had to attend of close friends or relatives till that day in August 2000. My eldest sister lost her elder son to militancy in Tamenglong. He was just 26 yrs old. My nephew was a young, brave, promising officer in the Army. Just twenty-six; he was not only the apple of his parents’ eyes but also the pride of the entire family.

I did not know how I was going to console my sister and express the deep sense of personal loss I felt. Dry-eyed, I tried the best I could. It was not difficult as both she and her husband faced it with a stiff upper lip. I wondered if they were going through the same turmoil I had experienced in my own tragedy.

The memorial plaque in my nephew’s name with many others who were martyred in action. These memorial plaques are along the Raj Path, in New Delhi, between the Rashtrapathi Bhawan (the President’s official residence) and India Gate (which is in the background, to the right, in the pic)

Their son was given a martyr’s funeral with full military honors. When the buglers had sounded the Last Post and the echo of the gun salute had faded away, the flag that had draped his coffin was presented to his parents. In the deep silence that wrapped this poignant ceremony, we heard the broken voice of my brother-in-law saying – “We bear no ill-will against those who killed our son,” as they accepted the National Flag.

Somehow, the quiet dignity in sharp contrast to their pain-wracked faces and haunted eyes unlocked the door on years of pent-up emotions and I felt the pinprick of tears. They welled up, broke the dam, and overflowed.

I cried.

Unashamed. Unmindful of the onlookers – military personal, news crew, TV crew, journalists and many civilians who had come to honor a martyr from their city – I was crying not only for my sister and her family but also for myself.

I had learned, finally, to accept the pain and sorrow, anguish; feel it and express it without feeling that I was a weakling.

In years of trying to be what my family thought of me, I had forgotten to be myself. By reaching out to my grieving sister and experiencing her pain, I came face to face with my true self and I was not ashamed. I came away laying to rest all my fears and misconceptions.

I no longer shy away from the onerous task of condoling a death or offering solace to the bereaved. I can share their pain and sense of loss because I have accepted my own pain and deep sense of irreparable loss.

And I am at peace with it.

Note: This article was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009)

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Below is a bit about my nephew Capt. Hemant J. Prem Kumar.

Capt. Hemant Prem Kumar (SM) https://www.honourpoint.in/profile/capt-hemant-prem-kumar-sm/

Captain Hemant Prem Kumar was born on 29th October 1974 and hailed from Pune in Maharashtra. Born in the military family of Lt Col Joseph Prem Kumar and Mrs. Priscilla, Capt. Hemant nursed the idea of joining the armed forces since his childhood. He followed his dream and joined the army at the age of 23 years. He was commissioned on 5th Sep 1997 into the 15 Jat battalion of the Jat Regiment, an infantry regiment well known for its gallant soldiers.

Manipur Operation: 30 Aug 2000

In 2000, Capt. Hemant Prem Kumar’s unit was deployed in the Temenglong district of Manipur. During that period Capt. Hemant was performing the duties of an Adjutant, as well as, functioning as commander of the Ghatak platoon (commandos) of the battalion. At that time several insurgents belonging to NSCN-IM (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) one of the factions of NSCN led by Isak Chishi Swu, were active in the AOR (area of responsibility) of the unit. Capt. Hemant Kumar, in a short period, developed a strong intelligence network and undertook numerous operations against the insurgents in the area.

On 30th Aug 2000, Capt. Hemant Kumar carried out one more counter-Insurgency operation in Temenglong Bazar. After the successful operation, Capt. Hemant Kumar & his comrades headed back to the unit. The insurgents belonging to the NSCN-IM faction in a pre-planned move attacked  Capt. Hemant Kumar & his troops at around 1335 hours.  Capt. Hemant Kumar was the primary target of the attack and he received direct hits in his chest, back & leg. However,  despite being injured Capt. Hemant Kumar in a rare show of courage engaged the insurgents effectively. His gallant action forced the attackers to flee thereby saving the lives of many of his troops. However,  Capt. Hemant Kumar later succumbed to his injuries and was martyred.

Capt. Hemant Kumar displayed exceptional courage, leadership & command during the operation. He was given the gallantry award, “Sena Medal” for his bravery and supreme sacrifice.  Capt. Hemant Kumar is survived by his father an Army veteran Lt Col Joseph Prem Kumar, mother Mrs. Priscilla, and younger brother Nishant.

I Win the War, One Battle at a Time – weighty problems

Some of these ‘lost and found’ stories/articles that were entered in the challenge round on FaithWriters.com are a fillip to my soul. Like this one. I hope it speaks to someone who is going through something similar and can relate to the way I felt and it helps them.

I recall my orthopedic doctor telling me in his wonderful baritone, “Ma’am, the only way we can make any progress here is if you make a serious effort to follow my instructions and take the first step: LOSE weight.” I had osteoporosis and osteoarthritis was setting in. And the only way any treatment would work was when I reduced weight. It took some years to accomplish because of my attitude and reluctance to rise above my feelings. Years later, this article brings a wide grin and also a sense of pride and gratitude for God’s grace in what I achieved in the BATTLE of the BULGE against ill health. So here goes another from the archives with a spot of editing!

The original was first published on FaithWriters.com (2006-2009)

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“Why don’t you join the WWF?”(World Wrestling Federation)

“Fat doesn’t suit you!”

“Oh my gosh! You’ve become soooo fat! I didn’t recognize you at first!”

These are just some of the painfully direct questions and reactions I get to hear nowadays. Till some time ago, I had enjoyed the compliments that generally came my way due to a slim, well-maintained figure and youthful looks, that had more to do with my genes than any effort on my part or help from beauty regimens. But that was many yesterdays ago.

Six years later and twenty kilos heavier, I find myself cringing at the disbelief I encounter along with the accompanying comments. The onslaught of cancer and the necessary hysterectomy (uterus and ovaries) which followed have defeated all my battles with the bulge and I watch helplessly as my girth grows.

While I labor under a 20kg (44.09 lbs) increase on a 5’2″ frame, it makes me realize how people who are overweight might feel at most times. To have been overweight right from the start is one thing, to become rotund after a lifetime of “slim” is an entirely different issue. It isn’t easy to be sane or practical when you see odd bulges and shapes reflected back at you in the mirror. No matter what you do, the plump face refuses to look anything but puffy!

I try to explain to myself that under all that ‘blubber’, I’m still beautiful because I’m the same person. But who am I kidding? I see my confidence disintegrating every time my husband eyes that pretty, slim, thing that floats by. I feel threatened by his smart, young secretary, and the innumerable slim ladies who walk in and out of his hotel. I hide behind loose, ill-fitting clothes that make me look even more hideous and bulky. And then, I sink into the abyss of “IC,” inferiority complex. (I remarried after six years of widowhood at a time when I was still slim and it’s been only five years in this relationship).

For folks at home and in the office, I’ve become the butt of their jokes. So I have learned to laugh with them. And the worse I feel the louder I laugh. I even make jokes about being a ‘heavy weight’ sumo wrestler. And since I always laugh at myself (in a good way) and joke about the slip-ups and silly things that I do, it appears normal. And I fool myself, too, into thinking that I’ve finally learned to live with it.

Then why am I so low-key? Why do I opt to stay at home so often? Why do I suspect my husband wants to have an affair with every thin woman he sees?!

Why don’t I drown in my tub of lard!!

I need to get a hold of myself. The ‘self’ that I am inside. I’m finding it difficult to live with this person I am becoming.

And then, something happens. I become a widow again! I am in the doldrums and my condition worsens.

As the days pass, thanks to my doctor, I get fresh insights about myself and a better understanding of the situation I am in. It has taken time, but my good humor is restored. I realize what being happy and content is all about. I can see that I am who I am, not because of the kilos my weighing machine records; nor the shape my clothes show off. It’s my attitude. The right attitude will finally win the day. Obese or anorexic-I need a positive mind to lift my spirit (low spirits)! I accept the situation and the reasons for it. And I know it is up to me to change it for the better. Better health – physical, mental, and emotional.

I look at what I have in my life and need to appreciate; be grateful for it.

I still have my family; I still have my friends; I’ve still got love; I’ve still got my job; I still love who I am inside – the real me – and ultimately that’s all that matters.

Postscript: And that’s how the WAR was won, one BATTLE at a time over many years- On low self-esteem. On dwindling confidence. On negative attitude. On self-pity. On ‘pity’ parties. On weakening faith, hope, and joy. On Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis from my late forties onwards. Today in my sixties, I can look back at this arduous journey and smile with joy at having removed the biggest hurdles to better health and a better quality of life.

If you are struggling in the same way as I did and have overcome your battles, I high-five you.

If you are not quite there yet, take heart. You have it in you. You can do it. Stay strong. One day at a time, one step at a time. You can do it.

Things I’ve Learned – a random selection

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

-Wayne Dwyer

So here they are – some of the things that are forefront in my mind.

There is not always comfort in my comfort zone. 

Especially these past almost three years of the pandemic. It’s not a great thing to be locked in for such a long time indoors under restrictions in my home, which is my comfort zone!

(Response: Weigh the options. Choose well. I considered the outcomes… Stay at home and be more protected from the virus. Or break the rules. Open yourself, your family, and friends, to the vicious attack of a killer virus! I chose well.)

Change is a good thing but not always easy!

It’s intimidating. And rises, at times, as an insurmountable mountain. Especially if you have no say in the decisions that are bringing about the changes in your life.

(Response: Face it and you will overcome the initial apprehensions. Things settle in when you are open to working it out for yourself without losing yourself.)

joshua-earle–87JyMb9ZfU-unsplash

When I am feeling downhearted chatting or playing games with a child cheers me up every time. (Especially the laughter and giggles of my grandkids.)

pic: joy Clarkson

That it’s not WHAT I have in my life but WHO I have in my life that counts.

(ResponseAnd remember with gratitude- also those who have been a special part of my life, at some point, and have contributed greatly to my learning experience and growth.)

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

-MAHATMA GANDHI

To accept people the way they are, their natural selves, and appreciate the differences.

(Response: Not always easy but I’ve learned more by appreciating diversity)

nina-strehl-Ds0ZIA5gzc4-unsplash Word press 11

That I should eat what I need to eat and not what I want to eat. Most times, the latter isn’t going to benefit me in any way.

(Response – Decide wisely before ill health forces you to. It took a severe health issue to knock this sense into my head!)

“The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.”

-OPRAH WINFREY

That no matter what happens, God never fails.

(Response – Patience. Faith. trust. I just have to WAIT for his TIMING.)

priscilla-du-preez-tfu0R745Deo-unsplash

To accept what comes and do with it the best I can to make it better suited to me.

(Response – an open mind. Something I learned from my experience of living in different countries and, at times, outside my comfort zone.)

That I can allow the tears to roll down every time something beautiful I read or see moves me emotionally. Or when hilarious laughter sets the tear ducts overflowing. I needn’t be embarrassed.

(Response – Don’t bother about what people will think. Be your natural self.)

That I need to walk every day! If the weather doesn’t permit, I just have to walk indoors!

(Response walk along a hallway in the house (if there is one) or in the basement (if it’s done up and large enough to serve the purpose) or then in my room! I’ve actually even walked over a thousand steps in my room, though I must say, it’s not something I like. Put health as a top priority and do what needs to be done.)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

I need to dedicate a fixed time to write. I do write when I have to, but it’s not on any allotted day, or time… no fixed schedule!

(Response – I’ve fixed a schedule and I’m trying my best to stick with it!)

And last but not least…That I can’t afford to spend so much time binging on web series

(Response – Realized why I needed to change this. I have many other things to do instead, like READING! It saves my eyes from stress and keeps them from watering. I need to take care of them. And reading books is good for me mentally too. And there’s an added benefit; I get to have a walk… the library is not too far from our place.)

I learn something new every day – through my own experiences or from reading about others’ lives, struggles, and victories. And also…

2photo-pots-X1RQ3b6ZhUs-unsplash

…from listening to and observing other people around me. And most importantly, from my own ups and downs – the struggles and overcoming. The wins and losses. The changes and what they teach me. At work, at home, through interactions with family, friends, neighborhood acquaintances, or even strangers with whom I might have had just brief conversations.

(Response – Observe. Learn. Grow. There’s no age limit or bar, besides it’s good for oneself.)

Going Through Our Good Fridays

Are you going through a hard time: Loss of a job, the death of a loved one, depression, distress, financial woes, and the frustrations of flopped results despite the hard work? 

You are not alone in this. But, perhaps, you are also one among the many who do not know or do not believe that something good can come from the tight spot you are in now. You don’t believe it? Well, it’s not me saying so – it’s God’s promise!

Jesus experienced hard times too. Though, none as difficult as the walk down Via Dolorosa — the path he walked to his crucifixion.

Even he was “sorrowful and troubled” in the garden in Gethsemane. He prayed:

“….My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will.” (Mathew 26:39 ESV)

Difficult choices

Jesus was troubled and under great stress. The agony, after his arrest and when they crucified him, would be horrendous. But, he knew he had to go ‘through’ the pain. There was no going around it. This would be the most difficult choice to make and he surrendered to God’s will and went through it until the end.

Like Jesus, we too have to make some tough choices at our level and surrender to the test if we must gain something good.

Like many great prophets, leaders, teachers, or even ordinary people who faced many troubles and hardships but pressed on, we too will have to make the choice that leads us to our cross; our difficult walk for the best outcome.

Our Crucifixion

I’m not implying a real crucifixion or martyrdom, but we have our own agonizing crucifixions. We may not suffer the extreme pain as Jesus did, nevertheless, it tears us, slashes us, and bleeds us and we suffer almost daily in little ways too.

There is nothing “good” about these Fridays we face in our lives neither is the walk through our own via Dolorosa a good experience. We’d rather go for ‘growing and learning’ in good times than bad. Yes?

But here’s the thing: It’s called Good Friday because of the result – the resurrection. It’s the end result that makes our struggles good… and maybe even awesome, like the resurrection. We rise above our circumstances. Grow in faith. We grow closer to God in our walk through the storms. The old changes for the new in us. New perspectives and courage.

So if we meet our ‘good’ Fridays in the same way as Jesus did his, by submitting ourselves to the Lord’s will and guidance, there will be a better Sunday.

Every Friday comes before Sunday!

From Pain To Gain

As Jesus knew he had to walk that painful, terrible walk to the cross, we, too, must believe that we need to go through our own Via Dolorosa in faith, and trust that the result will be good if we walk with God. Believe that He will work it out for our good.

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”-Romans 8:26-28 (MSG)

In hard and difficult times, it is good to remember these words. These verses have been the life preserver that kept me going in strong faith, trust, and hope in God’s better plan for my life.

In the times when things didn’t work out how I wanted them to; all I had done right went wrong and all whom I trusted let me down, I repeated these verses as a ‘mantra’. 

It kept me grounded and believing that God will work it all out… my mistakes, ill-placed expectations, disappointments, the cheaters, the hostile people around me; the gossip-mongers, and even my weakening body and ill-health… yes everything would all work out for my good.

Believe you have an awesome God who can take the ‘pain’ and turn it into ‘gain’. A miracle-working God who can transform your ‘messes’ into ‘messages’ of hope, faith, trust, and perseverance.

You might stray from the path; make a detour that wasn’t there on the journey plans meant for you. Trust me, if you love the Lord, He will bring you to the destination He intended for you. 

Our foolishness or naivety, at times, leads us against our better judgment to make the worst decisions and mistakes. Or it could be, that we trust the wrong people and allow them to get involved in our lives thus bringing in unexpected pain and misery. 

Whatever, He can lead us out of our messes.

Our detours and stupidity make it a longer walk than He had intended for us. Much longer than it should have been and it costs us many more worrying and trying hours than it would have if we had continued on the right path, in the first place! 

But, He brings us out of it: better and wiser.

The End Result Puts The “Good” In Our Fridays 

What makes our pain and suffering worth it?

The end result – The benefits we get.

The good that comes through it for us and others; our families, friends, and perhaps more far-reaching impact on society. 

When I look back at my walk through a dark tunnel with not even a pinpoint of light at the end, I realize that it would have been futile if I had given up mid-way. 

I wouldn’t have discovered myself: my strengths, my talents, and my spirit wouldn’t have developed and become strong to make me a secure, confident woman. My faith, instead of dying grew stronger!

It was a choice I had to make to continue walking in faith even though I was scared, unaware of how to survive as a single parent, provide for the kids, and hurt so bad.

Even though I thought death was a better option than the living hell I was in, I continued to push through. When you put your trust in God, He holds your hand. It does not mean things will get better in a snap. It isn’t like a magic wand in a fairy godmother’s hand.

You will have to face the storms, the struggle; the difference is, He’s by your side. You aren’t alone in it. He is the teacher, the guide and you are the taught!

The Difficult Times Are The Growing Times

We had good times, yes, many great days but, I realize now; they were the times of stagnation as far as growth goes. I can recall my deep desire to grow and develop beyond where I stood then.

It wasn’t dissatisfaction or frustration (or maybe it was!), but I was convinced that I had the potential to be more than what I was and I had untapped talents and abilities that were languishing unused. I wasn’t the person God intended me to be. Those were the thoughts that revolved around my head.

My time to grow came only when we hit the hard times. It took years before I learned to not get in God’s way and submit to His will with complete faith and trust and not make the learning process, or the progress more arduous than it already was!

The Test Of Endurance 

Besides the proverbial heads & tails ‘two sides of the coin’, there are two sides to many things: good & bad, night & day, hot & cold, and so on. The cross, likewise, represents two results or two sides: Crucifixion & Resurrection – death & life. 

To save us all, Jesus had to cross over from one side to the other side; from death to everlasting life. Simply put: He had to endure the bad side to get to the good side.

If he didn’t we would not be saved.

We’d have no savior.

No advocate in heaven.

And no forgiveness for our sins.

So, when we face tough times; trials that test us to the point of breaking, that’s when we dig deeper and get closer to God.

We should recall that Jesus himself faced the terrible agony of the cross, even though he was the Son of God, to obtain the prize – defeating death through his resurrection. 

If we endure, we will come out better rather than bitter on the other side.

 The keyword is Endure – to undergo especially without giving in. (Merriam-Webster), Suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently. (Oxford)

Jesus endured.

His walk was a long walk of pain and suffering. It did not begin with a trial and move immediately to the cross. There was an in-between period.

In the time between his sentencing and crucifixion, he suffered extreme torture, then battered as he was, he had to carry a heavy, wooden cross and walk to Golgotha. Following this, came the actual nailing to the cross – I won’t go into this, it is unbearable pain.

The test of endurance didn’t end here. He bore it for three more hours!! He endured all this for the ultimate good of mankind: for us.

Good Friday doesn’t hop to Easter Sunday. There is a Saturday in between. There is the darkness of the sealed tomb.

We have to endure many in-between times to complete the walk of endurance. Our days could stretch interminably, but we must endure by taking strength and courage from Jesus who endured from the beginning through the middle and to the end.

Jesus is the greatest example we have of endurance. No matter what times befall us, we must keep him in our minds and hearts; gain strength from his example and push through if we want to achieve something good and better. 

We could suffer for doing something wrong or even for something we righted! {Yes! Sometimes the right thing gets us into trouble with the wrong people. There are many examples of that! Evil is kicking and on the prowl}.

It could be unexpected circumstances that have nothing to do with us directly but we get caught in the consequences of someone else’s actions through association. Whatever, we have to go through it. 

When we endure with faith and trust, we will experience joy at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s Talk… not on the phone

I’ve noticed, in particular, during the lockdown days, how people, who weren’t employed in any job (so no WFH) were more often on the phone calling or face timing with friends or relatives. It’s not that they weren’t doing it before, but during these days they seemed to be desperately in need to chat. I would wonder how they could keep chatting almost every day for hours. And I wondered what they talked about. And then it struck me that it was a psychological reaction. The lockdown distanced us physically. And that created a false sense of emotional distancing as well. So facetime calls and phone calls picked up to belie the false sense of being cut off from family and friends.

I’m not much of a phone person and as such, I don’t get any calls unless there’s something – some news or necessary information – that has to be conveyed to me directly. I rarely call someone just because I want to chat or someone wants to chat with me. Some have tried calling me to ‘pass time’ as they call it, but either I would be occupied with something and not pick the call or then I’d be brief, and after finding there wasn’t anything important or urgent about the call, I’d curtail the chitchat.

If at all I connect, it is via WhatsApp. And that is always a back and forth short messaging. I get to know what’s happening at their end and that all is well. They get to know that we are well. Videos allow me to see activities, conveniently at my time, without me getting stuck in one spot. Barring one friend, I’ve not had phone conversations with anyone, friends or relatives, that lasted any great length of time! And even with her, we’re not on the phone often. Our calls are few and far between, but when we connect, we lose track of time and could be on the phone for two hours! No exaggeration.

So the lockdown didn’t send me to the phone. It’s not that I wasn’t affected. I was. But in a different way. I missed not being able to have my usual pit stop after my walk, at Tim’s, where I’d sit with a cup of almond milk tea and read, write, or catch up with a group of new found “Tim’s” friends. I savored those moments… at times three hours would pass away in a jiffy and I’d be surprised.

And also the times, at least thrice in the week, the grandkids would accompany me on my walks only because they wanted to sit with me at Tim’s later. It’s amazing how they’d also keep occupied with crafty things, reading, drawing or then we’d play table games like Name-Place-Animal-Thing, Qwirkle, or Spot It! We’d talk too… joke and share little snippets of our day. These were wonderful moments. The creation of beautiful memories. I missed this very much.

I admit, the lockdown did affect me. But it didn’t drive me to the phone. My walks helped me at these times. I love to be in open spaces. But inclement weather, rainy days, snowfall, black ice, storms, played the villain quite often through, each in its own season, season after season but more so during the long winters.

Snowbound… beautiful outside, but bound inside! Pic: Joy Clarkson

I missed not being able to connect with nature. Be out in the open. Beneath the boughs of the trees that lined the sidewalks and lanes. Look at the clouds that floated above or an early moon that walked me home.

The companion that walked me home. Pic: Joy Clarkson

Still, that didn’t send me running to the phone. I never needed to chat away the hours to ward off boredom or the doldrums. Instead, I’d occupy myself with reading sitting by a window, or as I do now, where I shifted, by the wide dining room door that opens out onto the deck and the backyard.

I’m glad I connect with nature, in a way, daily via my walks. But I’m also glad I am that person who when locked in during the pandemic restrictions or then due to inclement weather, will stand by the window and look out and:

Soak in the patch of blue sky. Float on the billowy white clouds

My patch of blue. And billowy clouds. Pic: Joy Clarkson

Gaze in awe at the splendor of a sunrise or at a sunset as a masterpiece of divine art.

A beautiful sunrise. Pic: Joy Clarkson

Sway on the branches of the tree below my window.

Pic: Joy Clarkson

Run with the squirrel along the fence in the backyard.

Pic: Joy Clarkson

Hop with the little bird on the deck looking for morsels of food.

Our frequent visitor. Pic: Joy Clarkson

Or have a staring match with the black cat that also comes uninvited into the yard and at times peeps into the dining room! A peeping Tom!

The peeping tom. Pic: Joy Clarkson

Sit with a crow in silent companionship – he perched on a lamppost by my window, I leaning against the window – solitary observers.

Pic: Joy Clarkson

Dance with the snowflakes to the song, “Hey. hey snowflakes, my pretty little snowflakes, the change in the weather has made it better for me, Hey, hey snowflakes, my pretty little snowflakes, you got me warm as a fire with a burning desire for you,” as they twirl in crazy swirls, buffeted by the wind and float down past the window pane.

I need nature – the outdoors, even if it is only a glimpse, as the parched earth needs the rain.

A phone call and gossip aren’t what I need to fill a void.

I love to chat with friends and family, but not too often on the phone. I prefer a face-to-face conversation. I think that places me in a minority group. Almost everyone from teens to the elderly is connecting with family and friends daily, more than once in a day! I can’t call up someone just to tell them what I’m cooking or give them a rundown on my daily chores. Nor would I call just to pass on some juicy gossip! If at all I’m inclined to do so, there’s always WhatsApp! It keeps chatter short. To the point. Gets news across and spreads gossip even faster! 😛

“When you meet me, you think I’m quiet. When you talk to me, you’re glad I’m not. When you know me, you get scared when I’m quiet.” I have no clue who to attribute this to. I read it online.

I’m not a quiet person per se. I am quite chatty. But I like my quiet moments between exchanging news and views with the immediate family around me, conversations, and games with the grandkids. I’d rather immerse myself in a book, or in a mystery/detective/thriller/comic web series, movie. I like to cook if I have hearty eaters to feed. I like to sketch, paint, sing, and click photographs, or then get engrossed in some form of activity involving words if there’s nothing much to talk about or there’s no company!

Lately, I’ve been seriously trying to record as many memories as I can to compile coffee table books with photographs, recipes, anecdotes, etc. for the family. And all these activities preclude conversation. Unlike many others, I don’t like to chat even when I’m cooking! I want to be alone while I work in the kitchen.

The mobile phone, as far as I’m concerned, is a great thing to have when you need to communicate with someone urgently, or convey a message, give necessary instructions, and very convenient for reaching overseas contacts. Handy as a ready-at-hand diary. You have all the important information like addresses, phone numbers, etc., in one place and at hand.

So, yes, though I don’t use it all that much to chat with friends and family, nevertheless, it’s something I need. I panic if I go out without my phone. The phone is as necessary and important to me, too!

Across The Bridge – very short stories

From the archives! This one is loosely based on a true story told to me by a colleague. I’ve added some and embellished it with my own imagination.

Anna awoke from her sleep with a start. She sat up in bed. She was drenched in perspiration and her breathing was heavy. The dream was recurring more frequently these days. Teresa was by her side in an instant.

“What is it memsahib” she asked. “Is it the dream?”

“Yes, the same bridge with turbulent waters flowing beneath, and I stood looking longingly at the dreamland on the other side, but was too scared to go across. I was trembling all over.

Pic: Ronaldo de Oliveira. Unsplash

“Don’t worry memsahib,” Teresa said, and gave her a glass of water and tucked her in.

The next day, Anna woke up to exceedingly good news. Rhea, her granddaughter, was coming from Singapore. She had met Rhea for the first time the previous year. She was twenty-three, bright and vivacious. Anna’s son had married and settled in Singapore. She had met her daughter-in-law just once, when Deepak brought his newly wedded wife to meet his family. After that Deepak too was an infrequent visitor.

Anna was ecstatic. She flitted around tidying up her little room and even took extra care in choosing her clothes and doing her hair. Teresa was happy to see her memsahib looking so nice. It had been a long time since Anna had taken interest in herself.

Anna was born into an affluent family. She was the only child and her parents doted on her. Every little wish of hers became their command, till she turned seventeen. Anna fell in love with a boy her parents didn’t approve of, but she stubbornly stood her ground, and they relented quite reluctantly. Anna’s hopes of continuing her college education were cut short when she became pregnant a month after the wedding. By eighteen she was a mother; at twenty-one, she lost both her parents in an accident, and on her twenty-fifth birthday, she became a widow.

According to the custom of her in-laws’ community, she was forbidden to wear bright colors or jewelry, and she could not participate in any celebrations. And according to superstition, she was considered unlucky. Her husband dying on her birthday made things worse. There was talk about it being a punishment for this ‘interfaith’ marriage. “Manhoos” (bad luck) was what they branded her. She was shifted to two small rooms in the outhouse attached to the servant’s quarters. However, Deepak, her son, was made to stay in the main house and was brought up by his uncle.

This was when Anna realized her folly in not paying heed to her parents’ objections to her marriage outside their religion and culture. Deepak grew apart from his mother and the chasm widened when he was sent to study abroad. If it hadn’t been for Teresa, Anna would have landed up in an asylum. Teresa had been sent to her by her parents, to look after Deepak. But God had other plans and Teresa became Anna’s caregiver.

Anna couldn’t forgive her in-laws for what they had done. She was angry and thought God had given up on her too. The only person she met or spoke to was Teresa. Sometimes someone from the house would come to meet her, but she wouldn’t talk to them. Soon even these visits stopped. Then Rhea came into her life like a bright ray of sunshine. Whenever she came on business trips, she visited her and she’d spend most of her time with Anna whom she called Dadi (father’s mother). She was pained to see how Anna had been treated by the other relatives and couldn’t understand why her father did not take his mother out of this pathetic living condition. She had left with promises that she would do something if no one else did.

Anna kept looking at the clock on the wall. Time was dragging its feet! She was annoyed. She was excited. She was waiting eagerly for her beloved granddaughter. What if she didn’t show up?

The sound of a car, a honk, followed by the sound of footsteps, perked her up.

“Dadi, I’m back,” announced Rhea hugging Anna tightly. Wasting no time in further chit chat or pleasantries, she turned to Teresa, “Pack up Dadi’s things. Oh, and yours too,” she added.

“Why missy baby?” asked Teresa.

“Because you are coming to live with me too. I’ve joined a firm here and shifted base and I’m taking my darling Dadi with me.”

There was hardly anything to pack so it wasn’t long before they were in the car and speeding along to their new home. Anna closed her eyes and relaxed. And once again she was at the bridge, but this time she was not alone. Boldly she put her hand into her Maker’s hand and crossed the bridge.

“Dadi, wake up. We’ve arrived.”

Anna opened her eyes and smiled, Yes my child we have indeed, she said. What’s that line you quoted the last time you were here?

“If you hug to yourself any resentment against anybody else, you destroy the bridge by which God would come to you,” repeated Rhea.

“Ah, a wise head on such young shoulders,” and she kissed Rhea tenderly.

Joy Clarkson

(This was first published on FaithWriters.com in a series of stories between 2006-2009)

The White Charade – very short stories

Pic by FotoSleuth;cropped and plates blurred by uploader Mr.choppers – Daihatsu Charade CX G11, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=150386

Another one from the archives. The idea for this one came about when I saw a Charade on the road and someone commented on the choice of name; what it meant and why on earth would a car company give it to their car! I clubbed it with news that I had read about some time back. I’ve edited it a bit.

The white car turned the corner at break-neck speed with a screech of tires. The two young men inside guffawed as people walking on the road jumped to the side, in a reflex action of safety. A dog scooted out of the path of that speeding machine saving itself by a hair’s breadth. This remote village seemed to have been shaken out of a stupor, as some people came out and others peeked through barred windows and half-open doors. It took exactly five seconds for the cacophony to erupt.

Abuses, opinions, comments, observations, laughter, dog barks all vying to be heard one above the other. And as suddenly as it started it stopped, and the village returned to its torpid life. Two weeks later, the car drove through the village again, and there was a middle-aged woman beside the young man who was driving. They didn’t seem to be in a hurry as they drove along surveying the houses and the occupants who were curiously and unashamedly staring at them. This time however the vehicle failed to draw much attention and except for a few children who ran alongside grinning at the occupants, there was no stir.

And then they were gone. Sitting inside the car, Bibi looked back at the receding village and said to the young man at the wheel, “Darsheel, it’s perfect for what I have in mind.”

It wasn’t long before Bibi, Darsheel, and the white car became a common sight in the village. So why would two slick, seemingly sophisticated, and obviously rich people come to this god-forsaken village? That was soon revealed when Bibi took a small place on rent and set up an employment agency for domestic help called, Mercy Domestic Solutions ( MDS). She also had a small training center, where she taught the girls and women, who had registered with her, how to speak, behave, and how to handle housework in a city.

The first batch of workers was ready in three months, and they were taken away to a city very far from their homes. But there was no apprehension as Bibi and Darsheel were a constant presence in the village and they had earned the trust of the people. Soon money began to pour into the homes of those who had gone out. The poor sleepy hamlet was fast becoming a busy place as proper stone houses replaced the mud huts and shops and other small businesses mushroomed.

By this time Bibi and Darsheel had left the village after having appointed a local boy named Gulaba, whom they had trained, to carry on the work. Once every month Darsheel would visit to check on the work and deliver the cash to the families.

Bicycles had been replaced with scooters or motorbikes and the village even boasted of two cars! They were progressing very fast in material terms and the simple folk were not as apathetic as they used to be. They had established a link with the outside world through their people and knew a lot more about where the rest of the world was going and they liked what they heard.

The morning was breaking and the silence of slumber was broken by the chirping of birds and sounds of human activity. The village was slowly stirring to life. But today’s awakening was not to be a slow surfacing to consciousness as the roar of jeeps shattered the pastoral quietude. In a moment policemen were crawling all over the place. A loud banging on Gulaba’s door brought a bleary-eyed youngster out.

“Are you the Manager of Mercy Domestic Solutions?” they asked him.

“Yes Sir, I am,” said a flustered Gulaba. In answer, handcuffs were slapped on his wrists.

“What’s wrong? Why are you handcuffing me? What have I done?”

His queries were cut short as a constable dealt him a blow on his calves, with a baton. At the Police Station, based on Gulabas’s statement and those of the families whose children were employed by MDS, inquiries were underway for a white car, a Charade, that fit the description and carried the number plate of the one that was used by Bibi.

“What has happened?” asked an old villager.

“Don’t pretend old one,.” hissed a constable.

“From where has all this wealth come from?” queried another. “Your grandfather didn’t leave it to you!”

“Your children are sex workers in the city,” sneered a constable. “You should not trust outsiders you do not know. Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing!

Just then another picks up the ringing phone and shouts out, “Sir! They’ve found Bibi and Darsheel, and the car. It’s a white Charade.”

——————————————————————————————————————–

Joy Clarkson. (This story was first published on FaithWriters.com in 2006-2009)

Charade: an empty or deceptive act or pretense

How Green Was My Valley – very short stories

I was surprised and exhilarated to find some short stories and articles I had written over fifteen years back. I had just started experimenting with writing to keep my mind off my severe bone-related problems that kept me from walking beyond a few steps at a time; sitting was painful after a short while; turning on my side in bed required help; cervical and lumbar discs kept me in constant pain… in short, I tried to take my mind off by writing in short spans as and when I was able to sit and type. I avoided painkillers and bore the pain as I didn’t want to get addicted to painkillers. This writing activity kept me going in fits and starts. How grateful I am for this discovery! And the journey I’ve taken with (I admit) many groans and moans towards a better condition. The story is pure fiction based on the current situation we were facing at the time.

Shikhara on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. Pic: Amit Jain on Unsplash

‘Terror strikes again in the Valley

‘Car Bomb Explodes Near……in The Valley

‘Terrorists Kidnap Four Foreign Tourists in the Valley

The Valley was making headlines everyday. It had always been written about but never this way.

This beautiful hill station or “Valley,” as it had come to be called, had always inspired poets; writers of nature; naturalists; and had been the backdrop and location of many romantic stories and movies. It was a tourists’ paradise. I used to call it MY valley. But it wasn’t mine anymore. There was a time…

Three decades ago, a young college girl visited the Valley for the first time. She never left. Here she had met a handsome, young officer who had recently been commissioned into the Army. He belonged to the Valley region and his family had been living there for years.

Shikhara on Dal Lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. Pic: Ishani Mathur on Unsplash

The days that followed could well have been out of a Mills & Boons novella. Their love bloomed and one could see this pretty, young thing with her tall, handsome Adonis taking long walks along the lake. Or going on treks into the mountains. Often they would hire a shikhara, a flat-bottomed boat, and sit silently holding hands while they took in the exquisite beauty of the vast expanse of placid water, surrounded by verdant hills. The boatman would row the shikhara to Char Chinar, a little island with a small restaurant, in the middle of the lake. It got its name from the four (char) Chinar trees that grew on the island.

At the Char Chinar, they would alight and drink Kahwa, a delicately flavored tea (without milk) with green cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, saffron, dried rose petals, and slivers of almonds in it.

They used to talk and laugh a lot. Her striking, gentleman officer was not only a good conversationist but also had a great sense of humor. Their return from Char Chinar was always very romantic. The sun would be setting and the water of the lake reflected the hues of the burning sky. They would ask the boatman to sing a love song of the hills. And as the lilting melody wafted across the lake, their boat glided smoothly over the slowly darkening water. She always wanted that moment to stand still…

…I felt a slight nudge. All of a sudden three decades had flown by. I was in the present, surrounded by people – Army officers, dignitaries from the Government, journalists. I mustn’t let my mind wander. I have to concentrate and listen to the announcer. Yes, he is describing the heroic exploits of an officer as he faced a terrorist attack on the Army Base in the Valley.

And then I step forward and walk to the podium to receive from the President, “the highest gallantry award for bravery in peacetime, awarded to… posthumously.” My officer of the Valley was no more.

The tears sting my eyes, threatening to overflow. I mustn’t cry. The President is saying something. There are flashes as Press cameras click away. It’s all a blur. Then I walk forward, lift my hands to take the medal and Citation and walk back. I had been made to practice this, so it came automatically but so did the tears. They never made me practice holding them back.

A young, handsome, Army officer opens his arms and holds me. He looks like his father. I lay my head on his shoulder.

The Valley had given and the Valley had taken.

I lift my head and look into the eyes of my son. How much was the Valley going to take before peace was restored…..I dared not even wonder.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Info:

  • TITLE: How Green Was My Valley
    By joy Clarkson First published on Faithwriters.com
    08/13/06
  • Jan Ackerson: This is lovely, and a wonderful glimpse into an unfamiliar (to me) culture. If you attempt publication, you may have to change the title, as it is the name of a famous novel. Very nicely written.
  • Valerie Routhieaux: This is very good. Titles aren’t copyright. The title fits this piece.
  • Lynda Schultz: Excellent. You had me glued to the page.

Questions there are no wrong answers to!

When my boys were little boys, there was no end to the questions I had to answer. The Why, What, How, Which, When, and Why not. So at times, I had to actually think about my answers; how to word them, and how much to tell. At other times I’d shoot off some funny reply that would set them laughing, and then there were those days when I’d have to look up an answer to verify my facts!

Many years later, I am back catching questions thrown at me by my granddaughters between the ages of 5-12. With the immense changes that have taken place, and the intelligence today’s kids have due to their exposure to so much of knowledge and information, my answers are questioned for further clarification and often challenged by their opinion (yes, they have opinions)!

Well, I thought I’d ask some questions today that can’t be challenged because there are no wrong answers. Just pure fun and laughter. Or you could even be serious and provoke some serious thought with an answer. It’s your answer and it’s the RIGHT answer!

Don’t worry, the Qs aren’t going to put weight on your gray matter. Nor do you have to refer to any books. But you would need a lot of imagination, a bit of humor, or (decent) crazy (there are boundaries you shouldn’t cross here!). While the questions may, at first, appear kiddish to you, pause a while. Think about it. What if… then just write down your answer/answers in the comments.

What is the nicest “I love you” moment you can recall from this week?

What is the funniest word you’ve ever heard?

When you are tempted to do something you know is wrong, what helps you stand strong and not do it?

Would you have liked to spend 40 days and nights in Noah’s Ark with Noah’s family and the animals? How would you have passed the time?

What day of this past year would you like to live all over again?

If you could be invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?

That’s enough for today! I had a great time thinking about the answers. At times I had to choose between two answers, and I liked both equally. Have a nice day!

Three’s A Crowd – Cagha with a bell.

I think I’m missing the flora and fauna of my surroundings in NB. I miss the crows that would often alight on the trees behind my room and the ones that frequented the big one outside the dining room window. So, I hopped over to my photoblog to view some pics I’d clicked through my window. I liked these ones and the refreshed childhood memory of my pet crow Cagha. A crow that I didn’t call my pet because it was caged. But a crow that flew free and wild but visited me and responded to my call if it were ever in the vicinity. I am sharing this post I’d written much earlier for my Photoblog.

Through my window, I watched a scene played out within seconds between 8.21 am and 8.22 am, on the branches of a tree. At 8.21, I observed a single crow land on a branch. Quick on its tail came the second one. That’s when I decided to click them.

I hurried but by then, I saw the third fly in and perch by them. I clicked furiously and before I knew it the third whizzed off. The other two continued in silent companionship for a while and then made for wherever their heart desired. Somehow I found some humor here and also nostalgia.

Two’s company, three’s a crowd,’ I thought. My mind going back to #Cagha… my ‘Cagha with a ghungroo’! A ghungaroo is a small dancer’s bell. A number of these are either stitched to a panel of cloth or strung on a cord which is then fastened around a dancer’s ankle.

I was looking for some quotes about crows and found quite a few; poems, quotes, sayings. There are so many things written about crows and not all complimentary or kind. Its black color and lack of any aesthetic features, its nature – predatory, all seem to go against it.

Back in my country, crows don’t come under such strong discrimination. At least, I’m not aware of it. In fact, superstition says, if a crow sits on the roof shingles, patio, verandah, garden or branch of a tree in close proximity to the house, faces your property, caws away to glory, it means you’ll be having guests, usually, unexpected ones!

When I was a little child, and we lived in the Southern part of the country, locals believed that eating crow’s meat would cure whooping cough! I cannot vouch for this cure but it remained a popular belief.

To me, crows were sneaky snatchers. I’ve had sandwiches and other eatables plucked out of my hand many a time. But as a child and an adult, my attitude towards them has never been one of hatred or dislike.

In fact, as a little girl, I found them interesting. I associated them with the occult, magic, and other sinister activities and since I loved reading about witches, ghosts, and everything scary, yes, they had my attention; crows were intriguing. This anecdote from my childhood will illustrate this better.

CAGHA my pet crow –

We lived on a Naval base in the South on a manmade island in the backwaters. Flocks or should that be a murder of crows flocked to our big front garden daily because I and my brother would feed them with crumbs or anything we could snitch from the store. I would call out “Aaa, Aaa,” {”come, come”} with an outstretched arm, goodies in my cupped hand {that’s also how, sometimes, my food would get snatched out of my other hand! ;)}.

One day, a young crow landed plonk in the middle of the spacious front verandah where I sat astride the balustrade eating and feeding the crows as usual. My elder brother picked the bird to inspect what was wrong because it was hobbling, and couldn’t fly either. Someone had clipped a few of its wing feathers haphazardly and injured one leg.

We swung into action. It was so exciting. We yelled for Mummy. She always knew what to do when we were stumped! Especially with wounds, cuts, bruises, or illness. She’d come up with some home remedy that would work winders.

Sometime later, Mummy, with the cook’s help smeared turmeric and some kind of oil, coconut or mustard, I’m not sure, on the wound and bandaged it. They put the poor thing in a cage that had once housed a parrot that escaped. I removed a small brass ‘gunghroo’ from my ankle bells {Indian dancers wear them around their ankles} and tied it around the neck loose enough so it wouldn’t choke, and tight enough so the bell wouldn’t fall off.

We nursed Cagha, that’s what I named the crow, back to health. The wing feathers grew back a bit and it would hop and make short flights around the room until one day, Cagha flew out the door and perched itself on the balustrade of the front balcony. There was a sudden shout of joyful cawing from a few fellow crows gathered outside; in the garden and the tree outside the wall.

Cagha cawed, spread his wings and joined the tribe. I was sad, lost and alone.

Many days passed and Cagha never returned. Mummy consoled me saying that the season had changed and the crows would be back after a few months. Still, I would ritually make my calls for Cagha every day from the front verandah. I have always been the ever hopeful, persevering one!

She was wrong. 

Cagha returned after two weeks or so.

He flew down to where I was, bigger and stronger, with the ghunghroo jangling around the neck. Words can’t describe my joy! Our twosome companionship carried on a few months and then, Cagha disappeared.

Later that year, I spotted him, the jangling bell giving him away. He was in the branches of the tree outside. I called to him. No response. I gave up.

Then I heard a flutter of wings, a caw and there was Cagha. He flew in like the wind, perched near me for a split second, and took off. Not alone, but with the other one on the tree. He had forged his own twosome – COMPANY. I made it a CROWD!

“Goodbye Cagha,” I whispered softly.

My seven-year-old heart was broken!

Years later in my teens another pet, the wild and free kind, a chipmunk named ‘Chippy,’ conveyed the same message to me with a tiny nip on my palm! It didn’t break my heart, but it took me by surprise!

How Do I Tell Thee?

To me there are three things we should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, think, and cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special...”

Jim Valvano

I often get tongue-tied and at a total loss for words. There have been occasions for which I have rehearsed lines I would like to say, and then, at the right time, when I have to say them, the cat gets my tongue. That speech which I had thought up, yet, I am at a loss for words. I just can’t articulate it when I am overwhelmed and I have to speak.

That’s speech which my mind has put together and not borrowed rhetoric that I should find it hard to recall. But, reticence, nervousness, anxiety, fright, or any such immense emotions play on the mind and tangle up speech. That’s what happens very often to me. Yet, communication doesn’t end there. When words become inadequate to express feelings tears do the job!

I am moved to tears by happiness and extreme joy. I am moved to tears by anything beautiful; an experience, a piece of exquisite music, emotional verses, a story or movie, happy memories, funny things… and also, copious tears express anger, frustration, helplessness, grief. Loneliness seldom moves me to tears, but the memory of good times in sad or lonely moments makes me teary yet happy. I’m moved by gratefulness for those precious moments.

When the mind fails, the heart speaks…through tears. Happy, joyous, funny, tickled, angry, helpless, ecstatic tears speak as eloquently and effectively as words.

These are those silent moments of release…of tears or unshed ones, which may or may not be understood.

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ”
― Colette

It brings to mind our dining table talk. I would be the one chattering on the most. The talk was mainly light, and also about the silly/funny incidents that I heard about or that took place at school. I’d ask questions about something to involve the others, my hubby and the boys. But, mostly, it was I who was doing the talking.

I didn’t realize how much my news, anecdotes, jokes about my daily experiences meant to the family, especially my hubs.

On an odd day, I’d be too tired or preoccupied with an overload of school related stuff that I had to see to, and I’d be quieter… not absolutely quiet… just less talkative than other days. It was on one such day that I got to know how much my chatter at the table enlivened our meal time together.

I was chewing my food contemplatively; I must have spoken the few usual words – Have some more of this or that. Do want more rotis? Like to have some rice? How was school? How was work? Did you…this or that… I was engrossed in my schoolwork plans and totally unaware of how the sound of silence hung over the table gloomily as the three boys chomped on their food.

“Are you okay?” The question broke into my thoughts.

I looked at David with raised brows and question marks dancing in my eyes.

“I mean, you are so quiet today. Did something happen in school? Is everything alright? Are you feeling well?” The questions poured out one over the other. And he did look very concerned.

“Yes,” I answered giving him that quizzical ‘what’s wrong with you’ look. “Why do you ask?” I continued.

“You aren’t saying much. You are unusually quiet. Tell me, did something happen in school?”

“No, nothing unusual or horrible happened in school. It was a normal day. It’s just that the Annual Function is coming up and I’m totally in charge of the whole thing and I have some ideas to change the way they’ve been presenting the show for the past so many years. I also have a play I’m directing which is absolutely different from what they’ve been doing. What’s more I’ve decided to do a Hindi version of the play Snow White and the seven dwarfs. I’ve got to get it translated by the Hindi teacher, check if it’s done the way I want it, simple everyday Hindi which everyone can understand, and then select the cast etc. Props need to be made. Opening presentation which I want to change too…so many things!”

By the time I was done with this explanation, I noticed he was laughing his silent laugh, his eyes were dancing with joy, and he was enjoying his food.

“What?” I said knitting my brows though a smile played on my lips.

“Nothing. Keep going. What else do you have to do? Can I help? Just keep talking.”

“What do you mean? What’s tickling you so much? Have I missed something?”

“No. You haven’t “missed” anything, but I was missing something… the joy you bring to the table with your small talk and laughter. It’s not the same when you are quiet. The whole eating experience changes when it’s not garnished with conversations and laughter; your stories and humor.”

I beamed a radiant smile as the tear ducts opened. I blinked the tears back. I had no idea how much my chatter lent to the family meal and what it meant to them… especially HIM! I was drenched in the sunshine and warmth of family love and joy!

“So keep talking sweetheart. Keep regaling us with your stories and jokes, don’t keep quiet, please.”

I couldn’t say anything… the smile and the withheld tears said all that I wanted to say – I was overjoyed.

However, I wanted to say something more… I needed him to know that I need my silence very much. I needed him to understand these silent phases. I wanted to ask him to understand my silence too. Not just for issues at work or on the domestic scene. I needed to be quiet within myself. For myself. With thoughts that had nothing to do with the outside world. I needed to be quiet for my soul. I wanted him to understand this. I wanted to say –

But if you don’t understand my silences, how will you understand my words?

– but I couldn’t.

I let myself drown in the pleasurable warmth of a family sobremesa. Ours starts not at the end of the meal but at the start and carries on through the meal! I’ll break my silence here.

I will be silent another time. I’ll silence the cacophony in my mind. My silences are for me as much as it is for my home and family. I will be silent for myself.

Rangaswamy’s Ode To The Tiger

Scrolling through the archives of saved articles, pictures, etc., I came across this wonderful, humorous poem that was published on Fb. some years ago, actually, 2018. Thought I’d share it. A bit of humor on a Friday morning to celebrate the approaching weekend. The title of the poem, RANGASWAMY’S ODE TO THE TIGER is given by Kerry Edwards.

rishabh-pandoh–iZV3CqT7LM-unsplash

Deep in jungle I am went

On shooting Tiger I am bent

Bugger Tiger has eaten my wife

No doubt I avenge poor darling’s life

Too much quiet, snakes and leeches

But am not feared these sons of beeches

Hearing loud noise I jump with start

But noise is coming from damn fool heart

Taking care not to be fright

I am clutching rifle with eye to sight

Should Tiger come I will fall him down

Then like hero return to native town

Then through trees I am espying one cave

I am telling self, “Rangaswamy be brave.”

I now proceed with too much care

From nonsense smell this Tiger’s lair

My leg is shake, I start to pray

I think I shoot Tiger some other day

Turning round I am going to go

But Tiger giving bloody roar

He bounding from cave like shooting star

I commend my soul to Kali Ma

Through the jungle I am went

Like bullet with Tiger hot on scent

Mighty Tiger rave and rant

Rangaswamy s*** in pant!

Must to therefore leave the jungle

Killing Tiger one big bungle!!

I am telling that never in life

I will risk again for damn fool wife.

-Author Anon

Tiny Conversations-the Chinese Whisper!

I was bent over one of the many notebooks piled up for correcting. One of the banes of being a language teacher in an Indian school! Skewed teacher-student ratios, written classwork, written homework, and all the work had to be checked regularly. There were regular checks by the Principal to see if proper correction was done (with remarks and suggestions where necessary).

Parents in India, most of them, check their kids’ notebooks too to see if their work has been checked by the teacher. 

In the middle of one such day at that particular time, a colleague and neighbor knocked on the door. I opened it, and in she walked with a broad grin which was met with a forced one from me and a muffled groan. 

“I was so bored at home, thought I’d have a cup of tea with you and some gupshup!” She said beaming.

Gupshup is a colloquial word for chat. I didn’t say anything and, thankfully, I had got up to put the books away and my back was to her so she couldn’t see my less than hospitable expression. 

I hoped she’d see the notebooks and that I was in the middle of work and in no mood to entertain her and certainly no chatting which would just be her gossiping about everyone especially our colleagues. 

“Be warned: A person content to sit with you and criticize others will speak critically of you out of earshot.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

“Oh, you’re checking the books?! I finished mine.”

“Good for you! You have a ‘handyman’ to help with other things.”

“Handyman? I don’t have a man servant. I have a Bai (maid). You know that. What made you think I have a male servant?” 

“I wasn’t referring to domestic help. I was referring to your hubby, I laughed. He helps you around the house and even with the marketing. I don’t have that kind of help.”

I sensed rather than saw her tense. She clenched her teeth. Her eyes lost the convivial look it had just a moment ago. 

I realized she didn’t understand the joke in my comment. So I tried to explain it to her. Not that it helped!

“Come on. You know I wasn’t referring to your hubs as ‘domestic’ help. And you do know that having a husband at home does mean you don’t have to shoulder all the responsibilities or tasks. They do pitch in, in many ways, and lighten the burden… physical and mental.” 

“Of course I understand. What do you think? I’m not daft!” And she laughed loud shaking her head in disbelief. I wanted to believe her.

I would have believed her but nothing in her reaction conveyed that feeling. Neither her laugh nor the off-handed way she assured me. I had known her long enough (before we became colleagues) to read through the fake show. 

Anyway, I had much more important things to see to and such silly things couldn’t bother me much. As far as I knew, nothing I had said could be, even remotely, misconstrued as me labeling her husband as domestic help! 

“There are people who take rumors and embellish them in a way that can be devastating. And this pollution has to be eradicated by people in our business as best we can.” – Bob Woodward

However, the next day, the gossip mill was churning furiously with the latest breaking news! Yeah, you guessed it. 

Mrs. J had called Mrs. T’s husband a domestic help.

The general rumblings were, “Our husbands help us too. Does that mean they are servants?” And soon the Chinese Whisper grew to encompass all men who helped their wives at home. And from there it went further. They wanted to put me through the mill and grind real fine. 

“She’s a widow and is jealous! Is it our fault that she doesn’t have a husband?!”

Good heavens! If it wasn’t such a far-fetched notion that was so absurd and ridiculous, I might have been hurt. But I laughed my guts out at the stupidity of people who were ‘educated’ and working as educators themselves! 

Honestly, life brings you the hardest and best lessons and teaches you well in the times when life is a grind!

Suzy Kassem says it best in these lines:

“Never judge someone’s character based on the words of another. Instead, study the motives behind the words of the person casting the bad judgment. An honest woman can sell tangerines all day and remain a good person until she dies, but there will always be naysayers who will try to convince you otherwise. Perhaps this woman did not give them something for free, or at a discount. Perhaps too, that she refused to stand with them when they were wrong — or just stood up for something she felt was right. And also, it could be that some bitter women are envious of her, or that she rejected the advances of some very proud men. Always trust your heart.” – Suzy Kassem

A Better Morning. A Proverb. And A Mare’s Snort!

Needed a reminder to hold on tight to my sense of humor. Sometimes, it threatens to slide and I feel a weight on my shoulders! Well, it’s back up where it should be. I am so glad I read this today. The memory is funnier than the account.

It's In The Tale

FullSizeRenderA street in Viña.

It’s a cold day… it snowed in the night and was snowing when I awoke. But now it’s stopped and I’m feeling the cold. My thoughts, as they tend to, travel back and forth to better memories of places or incidents; times that could take my mind off the cold by warming my heart. So, I read through my journal.

This entry brought a smile as it ended. I do recall that day.

A Better Morning

Well, it’s usually a good morning every day for me. So, I thought I should qualify that by a degree and add “Better” instead to the morning. Chilean mornings are different. The house is quiet, in fact, the whole world around our block and a couple of blocks away too are blissfully silent. Not even a squawk from the gulls. Probably, there are no gulls anyway.

How different from the…

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Where Did You Grow Up?

Every time I come to my Facebook timeline, it prompts me to “complete my profile,” and the first column asks, “Where did you grow up?”

I wish I could put my finger on any one place on the map. But the question ends with a period (.) not literally, of course! It suggests the end of growing up… and I have not stopped growing up yet. And I hope I don’t till I am alive. The journey is so much fun, who wants to put a period to it?!

With every year I add, I’ve grown up a little more. I’ve grown in knowledge, wisdom (hopefully!), in my world view, in patience, temperance, gratitude, and compassion.

And if I had to put a finger on a place, it will take me all over my country; from the north to the south and to the west. Then to two places more, where I have lived, out of my native land. And I still haven’t stopped growing. There’s so much more to learn and experience. New experiences and growth go hand in hand.

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I’ll never, ever be full. I’ll always be hungry. Obviously, I’m not talking about food. Growing up, I had nothing for such a long time. Someone told me a long time ago, and I’ve never forgotten it, ‘Once you’ve ever been hungry, really, really hungry, then you’ll never, ever be full.’

-Dwayne Johnson

I’m grateful I can say that there’s no stop to ‘growing up’ as yet. Back home, they call post-retirement the ‘second childhood’. And as such, don’t we need to learn and grow up in this second innings all over again?

However, the question sent me on an interesting journey down memory lane. I revisited all the places I’ve lived and ‘grown up’; rummaged through my memories, some vivid, some dim. And I’m sure there are many moments and experiences I’ve forgotten.

The process of growing up, in years and through one’s experiences, is so different once you cross a certain post-retirement age. With a lot of ‘living, learning, and growing up’ already accomplished, and ingrained, it becomes difficult at times to accept the new; the changes that a younger generation, society has brought into an old order. Where the once acceptable norm is totally unacceptable and vice versa.

This is the “place” I would pinpoint if I had to, answer Fb’s question. Not a geographical region, but another century, another generation altogether, many decades after the one I was born in.

This, growing up, is an ongoing process and I am very grateful that I’ve been blessed to have traversed through this period into a totally different era from my childhood, adolescence, adult years of growing up. Unlike many who refer to advancing years as ‘aging,’ to me it is a continuum of the advanced learning and growing (up) years.

“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.”

-Maya Angelou

So, no Fb, I can’t pinpoint any one place because, even if I didn’t take the question in the light that I did, there are literally too many places that I grew up…and some more where I continue to grow!

Tiny Conversations – Gloating, Glowing & Loved!

The biggest change that came about when I became a grandparent was the way I’d allow relaxations on rules on more occasions than I did as a mother with my children. And I’d join in the huge fun they’d have because of it. I also noticed that while I loved my sons and still do to the moon and back, with the grandkids it’s difficult to explain how my love surpasses that! I was proud of my boys’ achievements back in the day and in the present too. But with these little ones, I’m ecstatic and over the moon and gloat (shamelessly!). It doesn’t matter if someone might not be so pleased to hear about what they did and how proud they make me. I crow! (shamelessly!)

So here’s a warning: This is a gloating, proud grandma posting!

I like to keep a Word Search booklet with me. It keeps me happily occupied when I’ve done all that I had to do or when I need to take a break from something or the other! For a few days Amaara, the older twin ( by a few minutes) had been watching me. The twins were 7 yrs old then.

Amu: “Dada, why aren’t you doing your word search? Are you tired of it?”

No! I’ve finished the whole book. I need to buy another one. And with all the restrictions and warnings, I don’t go to crowded places myself.

Amu: “Then why don’t you ask mama or papa to get it for you?”

No… I don’t want to bother anyone. Besides, I prefer to buy my things myself. I like to pick and choose what I want. Someone else will not know exactly what I want.

Amu: “Oh! Yes, they won’t know. And if they get something you don’t like, you won’t use it. It will go waste.”

Exactly my point! It will be a waste of money as well. That would be worse.

Amu: “Oh, Dada! she said with the most loving and adoring look.”

She left my room after a bit of chit chat. Later, that afternoon, Miraaya, the younger one, came excitedly into my room with a broad grin on her face.

Mia: “Dada, Dada! Guess what! Amu has a surprise for you!”

She sure had the biggest, sweetest, and most loving surprise for me. My little sweetheart had made a Word Search booklet for me.

Amu:“Dada, see what I made for you. You don’t have to go out. Now you can do your word cross puzzles!”

But I don’t do cross word, baby. I prefer the quicker and easier word search. It leaves me more time for other things.

Amu: Makes a funny, disappointed face. “I made a big mistake. I forgot the name of the activity and wrote Word Cross Puzzle instead.”

She gave me the stapled 3-page booklet with a cocktail of emotions. On her face and particularly in her eyes, I could see the great waves of love, kindness, caring, thoughtfulness, and they engulfed me. What a special bonding we have!

Here is the little booklet Amu made for me so lovingly.

The mix-up in the title she was sorry about.

And I was quite impressed, one day, when the younger twin, Miraaya, brought back this Math feedback she gave to her teacher in class.

I went through the three points she had mentioned and thought back some decades, to the time I was a 7+! I’d have never been able to write with such clarity about what I wanted more from my Math lessons. And in any case, I wasn’t doing what they are learning now in Math class! At seven we weren’t talking “strategies”! And even if I could express myself so well in writing, I wouldn’t have written a positive ‘feedback’ about Math. I never liked math! LOL

I am so glad she likes Math so much. And I’m so blessed to be able to experience these little day-to-day activities. Being a grand parent is such a beautiful part of life. I’m fortunate to be able to be a part of all my grandkids’ daily life. I learn so much when I talk to them; play games with them; when they share their thoughts with me or ask me numerous questions.

Well, if you’ve reached this far – Thank You! I appreciate it 🙂

Leftovers

Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.

-Thomas Fuller
Pic: suad-kamardeen-ItFTJoh1A8c-unsplash

Leftovers always present challenges I can’t resist, and I rise to meet them.

A bowl of last night’s chicken, veggies, chapatis, old bread, or even a bowl of humble dal fires my imagination and challenges my culinary skills.

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It becomes imperative that I transform these miserable leftovers, which everyone would rather see given away or better still dumped in the bin than on the table as respectable dishes that can hold their own against any discriminating palate. And quite often, I am stunned by the amazing results!

I see so many possibilities in bits and pieces of cloth, wool, old clothes, ceramic tiles, empty bottles; anything that would appear as waste to another eye. A stitch or two here, a dab of paint there. Some embroidery, a little crochet or knitting here and there. A bit of glue to stick imagination to an otherwise useless bit of garbage, and what lovely things emerge with new value of utility and beauty.

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As I travel through life, I view the leftover part of my journey and I’m fired up to do wondrously beautiful things with it. I start to collect bits and pieces of memories, experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly to make up an intricate mosaic. Each moment has so many possibilities and potential to develop into life points, aha-moments, thought-provoking points, crazy, hilarious nonsense, tender and loving snapshots, thoughtful silences, romance, moonlight, and tears and so much more.

It excites me. It humbles me.

I appreciate leftovers. I love the way they push me to find what is good and useful in each day of my life and put it to good use.

Tiny Conversations… He gave me a recipe

Way back in 2013, I was living in South America, and I was often at the clinic with some ailment or the other. Nothing serious, just some prevalent osteo-related issues. A troublesome cervical disc and a lumbar disc were causing most of my mobility issues, not to speak about pain.

Pic: Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

The doctor listened to my problems carefully and then asked me a few questions about the treatment I had received and the instructions I was following. Among these health-problem related questions, he asked me a bit about my daily regimen and our culture too: food, exercise, medication, and also about religion, superstitions, beliefs, and so on.

Doc: “Señora, you eat very spicy food?

Actually, we don’t. And especially I don’t.

Doc: “But all Indians eat very spicy food, no?”

Broadly speaking, I suppose you could say that, but there are quite a few, like me, who don’t. In fact doc, there are a few Chilean foods I find too hot for my tongue!

Doc: He laughed. “Yes, we have some like that.”

Especially the dishes that have jalapenos! I added. We laughed.

Doc: “Are you Hindu? Do you speak Hindu?”

No doc, I’m not a Hindu. And the language is called Hindi not Hindu, I corrected him gently. And yes, I do speak Hindi and I know a bit of another Indian language – Punjabi.

Doc: You have many languages? How many?

We have as many languages as there are states or what you might call regions or provinces. So Hindi and English are commonly used if one doesn’t know the local language.

Doc: So if you have twenty or thirty states, you have same number of languages?

Yes. And there are dialects too. You understand what dialects mean? I don’t know the Spanish word for it.

Doc: Yes, yes. I know. That’s too many languages!

Doc: “You have too much poverty in your country, no?”

Yes, there are many who live below the poverty line. But we have a very large population too! So the numbers seem larger. Chile has its own too, but in numbers it seems low. You see your whole country has as many people who would fit into one of our metropolitan cities! I smiled.

He nodded in agreement.

Doc: “So you have many religions in India. Can I ask what is your religion? Muslim, Buddhist?”

You are right doc. We do have many religions in India. And we are Christians.

I thought that was the end of the conversation, but his curiosity about me; my cultural, socio-economic-religious background had been whetted.

Doc: “How did you become Christian? Are there many Christians in your country?”

There are quite a lot of Christians, but we are still a minority in comparison to the Hindu community. Well, as for how we became Christians is a very long story doc. Perhaps we’ll save that for another day, yes? I’m sure the patients sitting outside must be getting impatient.

Doc: “Yes! Yes! You are right.” He laughed heartily. “I have written what medicines you have to take. I have told you what exercises you have to do when the pain you are having now goes away. And your diet also,” he added.

Thank you doc. It’s been a very interesting consultation. I got up to go.

Doc: “Yes, señora. I like to know more about people of the world. And here is your recipe.

He handed me the prescription he had written while he was chatting with me.

I like the way they call a prescription a recipe over here. It sure has all the ingredients, and the right amounts of whatever is needed to make a healthier person. So with the recipe in hand I look forward to a strong and healthy me!

Life Begins At Forty…

When I was a young kid in the middle Sixties, I thought anyone above forty was old! And even in my twenties, it was the general assumption that once you hit forty, you were no longer a youngster. You became a newbie in the middle-aged group.

Most girls would get a college degree, a B.A or BSc, even if they weren’t thinking of being ‘working women’ and marriage was their goal. A degree would ensure an educated groom from a good family.

Girls who wanted to work before they got married studied for a professional B.Ed degree and/or a Masters too, to bolster their B.A degree. As did some who were practical and wanted to add qualifications against a stretch of misfortune, where they might have to work after marriage. This assured them of a teaching job and a better salary. These girls usually married a little later… 24-25 years old.

There were not many educated girls who remained unmarried in their late twenties. At least that’s how it was in the northern states of Punjab, Haryana. My elder sisters were in this last category. They were career-oriented girls and got married in their late twenties, just before hitting their thirties.

I was in the first category. I had some professions in mind that I aspired to, but my father didn’t approve of any. He gave me a couple of professional options, which I shot down. So I stubbornly dug my heels in and said I didn’t want to do anything beyond a Bachelor’s degree. He said I should go in for an additional degree to augment that. A bachelor’s degree in education. A B.Ed degree. I told him the last thing I wanted to be was a teacher!

Long story short, I was the girl in the first category who got married as soon as she passed out of college. I was lost when it came to domesticity. I hadn’t any experience in domestic chores, except for helping mummy now and then. And then, I was a mom at twenty-one! Totally ignorant about motherhood. That’s when I realized the wisdom of my elder sisters.

All I can be grateful for is that I was an observer and learned a lot just by observing my mother and grandmother. Also, I was very communicative. I would ask them about the why, how, and what of many things they did or didn’t do. And I always hung their gems of wisdom on the hangers in my mind to refer to and keep whichever proved its worth.

I had ignored the wisdom my father was trying ever so hard to knock into my nineteen year old head. I couldn’t get it then, I couldn’t see the sense in what he was saying. Why he wouldn’t let me do whatever I had chosen. Years later, in my forties, I knew why he had counselled me to change direction to other careers.

Why is it so hard to pass on wisdom to others? Why do we find it hard to accept wise counsel too? Counsel we can lean on later in life when destiny knocks on the door. Fortunately, I had kept all the wisdom I had been given rather than throwing it out before testing it. I rifled through all the pearls on the hangers in my mind-closet.

Coming back to the forties. By the time my elder son reached his fortieth year, the scene about age had changed. Hitting FORTY was now a huge celebration. ‘Life begins at forty’ had taken a totally different color. At our time forty meant the start of winding down.

I can recall talking to my husband about planning and saving for the future. And we were in our early thirties then. I’d caution him that life happens, as he was on tours traveling by car three-four days a week. Anything could happen. What would I do? I wouldn’t know what to do!

He smiled and reassured me he had it in mind and would start thinking about it when he got to forty. That was how we considered the forties in our day. It was the time to shift our thoughts to plan our after-retirement life. In the forties, we’d be in a pre-seniors batch! Life wasn’t “beginning” for us. It was the start of the downtrend.

We didn’t think much about the wisdom offered to us by people wiser in experience than us until we reached our fortieth year.

But I didn’t share his views. I began to almost nag him about it. I wanted to do something concrete so we could secure things for the future, earlier than later. And then freely enjoy our lives and the relative freedom we’d get as the boys grew older and more independent.

I was thinking mid to late forties, well before the official standard retirement age, which was sixty years. I was thinking vacays for just the two of us. Dinners for two. I guess I was thinking more progressively than our middle class society did then.

Retirement for most in our social circle and in the family too meant – Sit at home. Be on-hand and on-call grandparents (if you have grandkids). Become super religious. Attend as many religious functions as possible until you feel a shining halo above your head, and then you could preach to all and sundry. Be staid. And “act your age” whatever that meant.

I didn’t subscribe to any of these silly notions and I didn’t bother about what anyone thought or labelled me. I wanted to start living our twosome lives with some more to it than just the grind of dull routine even during the weekends or festival holidays. The forties held more promise for me than what the others thought of it. I was looking forward to it with a lot of hope and expectations. It held a promise of new chapters beyond just run-of-the-mill stuff. Adventure, new experiences, new learnings, growth, and more freedom.

So, he was waiting for his fortieth to build a strong, secure future. And in a way so was I looking forward to it. I was looking forward to a more secure future and more freedom. But life has too many lemons and curve balls. It tossed the lemons and curve balls. Eight months before his fortieth birthday, my husband died on one of his tours. Three massive heart attacks, within a few hours, took him away at the young age of thirty-nine. I couldn’t even be with him at the time of his death.

I was thirty-six. No knowledge of the workings of the big, wide world. Cocooned and safe in my little world all these years. From parental protection to a hubby’s protection. Everything had been taken care of for me. I only ran the house. The only time I went out alone was to work in a school and back home. I had lots of bookish knowledge no real, practical knowledge of how things are in the other sectors of the world nor how to handle them outside of the home and school. All theory.

For me, Life Begins At Forty, stands true, in a very different way. It took me two-three years after his death to find my bearings. I floundered, struggled, fell, got up, and kept moving forward. I was able to keep the home fires burning. Keep my boys’ education going. Keep wolves in sheep clothing away. Keep both my jobs going and money coming in. Learn how the world runs. And how I had to change. And also deal with how friends and family can change.

Coincidently, the age forty kicked in at this point of my life. And in truth, my life really began at forty. I found my bearings, confidence, and the strength to rebuild my life even better after it fell apart only in the forties.

I learned about trust… how and who to trust. I was learning bitter truths on the way. I was also growing along the journey. This is when I fell back on the wisdom that had been given to me when I was a girl. It helped me to understand better what each meant. It also opened my eyes to the hypocrisy of some whom I trusted implicitly. I was gaining experiential knowledge and experiential wisdom.

The hubs had been at the helm always. I was in the backseat when it came to matters outside the home. I was the Queen of the home. It was my “Queendom”! Earlier I was carried along, I was not in the driver’s seat. Now I was steering the ship. Choppy waters, gales, smooth runs, breakdowns. Through it all, I was in the driver’s seat, and I had to keep the home running. It meant dealing with everything.

It was scary because I knew nothing about this new position that was dumped on me out of the blue. I had no time to crib or cry about fate and how unfair life was and all that. I had no time to dwell on the faithlessness of those I relied on and trusted for help and support. The wisdom that had been shared with me kept me going trusting in God’s grace and mercy. And I learned more about faith through these years.

Yes, life begins at forty. This period found my life rebuilding even better after crumbling around me. Wisdom tells us that life is a book which has many chapters. We write some chapters and life dictates some. Are we writing a good story? Are we rebuilding and making the best use of the experiences, and the opportunities that come our way? We have failures. We have losses. We make stupid mistakes. Wrong judgments. Are we using wisdom to set the wrongs right? Are we being wise in the choices we make? Are we writing a glorious story of faith and trust in God? Are we making good friends along the way? Are we being the good neighbor or friend we ourselves want to have?

I realized how important wisdom is. Wisdom that was shared with me, and that I have picked up from reading, from stories, from sermons, the Bible, and some wise people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. This is why we share our stories and wisdom. Someone might need to read them. People can read our experiences and stories and find something similar to their situations in a way that helps them.

I didn’t want to be a teacher. I didn’t study for my B.Ed despite my father insisting on it. But, eventually, I took up a teacher’s job when my youngest started going to school. In those days it wasn’t important to have a degree in education. If one was proficient in their teaching subject and had studied the subject for their Bachelor’s degree, they got the job. I taught English.

But a few years before my husband died, I got this strong desire to get a Master’s degree in English. He was totally against it. But the gut feeling inside was too strong and I went ahead and with the help of a friend in church and an English professor they knew, I got into the Master’s program for private study candidates who were working. My husband didn’t like it. He thought I’d not be able to see to the home and needs of the family with a job and studies to boot. I assured him nothing would change at home. And I made sure it didn’t by studying after domestic work was done for the day. This meant I was studying while I was cooking and then late into the night when the family went to bed. I used to study from after ten in the night to 2.00 in the morning. I’d be up at 5.00 am to start the day… breakfast, packed lunches for the boys, lunch for the family and then I’d rush off to work where I had to check in at 7.00 am! Long story short… I passed with a good second division. Two years of hard work. My husband was surprised and confessed that he had allowed me to go ahead because he thought I’d flunk and give up studying further!

A year later, I wanted to do my B.Ed. He wasn’t for that either. I went ahead anyway. I’d have to first give an entrance exam. As usual, nothing changed in the running of the home… nor the hubs’ guests who we’d have for a meal, dinner usually, quite often. I never fussed and never failed to serve delicious meals. I studied as I had done for my Masters. When the results came in, I couldn’t find my roll number in the result sheet. I couldn’t believe it! I knew I couldn’t have failed this exam. Then a colleague at school congratulated me as did the Principal and Vice Principal when I went to school the next day. I was surprised and told them that I thought I had failed because I didn’t find my roll number in the Pass List. They asked me if I had checked the section of toppers. No, I hadn’t! Well, that’s where I was among the toppers! I got through that with flying colors. Then I applied for the main course.

Before the course started, hubby dear had died. I was shattered. My whole world had crumbled. I was scared. But I didn’t give up. The very situation that had devastated our lives, gave me the courage, strength, and determination to go on and complete my B.Ed studies even as I went through the turmoil of settling into a new life which put me, an ignorant driver, in the driver’s seat.

Well, this wasn’t the only challenge. I found that for my B.Ed exams, I didn’t have any notes in English. I mean even Psychology was in Hindi! I am not very good in Hindi but not so bad either. I was working and now playing both the roles of man and woman of the house. Meaning, I had to see to all that he used to see to… paying electricity bills, rent to the landlord, groceries, any job that needed professional help – electrician, plumber, gardener etc. So little time for study.

I didn’t give up. I sat and translated the notes into English, writing them in registers. Then I’d study them. Along with that went my teachers work too of checking note books etc. and exam papers. I never gave up even when I’d be in pain… headache, body ache.

Final day arrived. I went to write the exam. I was so nervous that when the doors of the examination Hall opened, I felt like puking and I just made it out into the garden outside the hall and puked my guts out near a bushy plant. Someone gave me water from her water bottle to gargle and wash my mouth.

I sat down to write my exam and forgot about fear, nervousness. I wrote and wrote and felt relieved when I handed in my papers. But it wasn’t over yet. I had to go for a practical exam in a higher secondary school. I wasn’t nervous about this. I had to make some charts etc., I conducted a class there while two examiners sat and assessed my teaching skills.

I got First Div. marks in both written and practical. I was thrilled. And so grateful to God for giving me the will power, strength and ability to go through this.

Looking back, I realize how important it was that I get these qualifications. If I hadn’t gone through the difficulties and around the spokes my hubby put in my way to dissuade further education, how would I have looked after my boys. The rules had changed already in the Education Department. All teachers had to have a professional teaching degree, and for higher classes, a Masters as well. I had both, and just in time.

Turning 40 is often a big symbolic point in one’s life. In the 20s we feel we can do anything, but as the 30s progress we become more mature emotionally, and in terms of work tend to focus. These two things combined: emotional maturity and career focus, often produced an explosion of self-purpose in our 40s.

-Tom Butler Bowden

Tiny Conversations – Proving a point!

There was never a dull day when the three girls were little. This conversation took place when the youngest was two years old. I loved her confidence and the argument she presented to prove her case! I’m glad I had it recorded. So here’s one more tiny conversation from my journals.

Baby Z: “Look, Dadi, my socky!”

“That’s a glove, baby.”

Baby Z: “No! Look at me.”

She was on the floor pulling the glove on her foot. I was in ‘teacher’ mode and hastened to correct her.

“Gloves go on the hands sweetie. Socks go on the feet.”

Baby Z: “See! It’s not glove… I putting foot in it. It is sock Dadi!” She looked up at me to see if I got it.

I was about to extend the ‘class’ but decided against it. I didn’t argue with that. 😀 😛 I had just told her that socks go on feet! Her little two-year-old mind had countered that to prove her point! She knew quite well that gloves and hands go together and socks go on feet.

“Hello ‘Chicken Licken!'” I said, laughing.

She looked puzzled. Chicken Licken?! That wasn’t her name!

Well, meet our little chicken, and no the sky isn’t falling… just me rolling with laughter. She had won the argument and made her point clear.