A Senior Moment

Another one from my journals written on Thursday, June 9, 2011. As I read it, I realized that things are more or less the same, if not worse, when it comes to the impatience of the younger generation towards their predecessors. Though people of an older generation have advanced in their learning and application of new technical skills, and they’re better than they were in 2011, a majority will still not be at par with the existing skills of youngsters. And if they aren’t, it’s all right.

These seniors have learned to drive today’s modern cars. They’ve learned to navigate their way through crowded roads; roads more crowded with vehicular traffic than they were in their day. They’re keeping up with the constant development of mobile phones with new apps, new technology in photography, communication, and a fast-changing world, in general. Change is not easy. In fact, it is hard for most. Yet, the seniors adapt and adjust to the new. 

Do these young ones appreciate the effort senior citizens make? Do they understand that learning new things at an advanced age is more difficult? Could they be more appreciative and patient with the seniors?

It’s the same as it was earlier; the percentage of those who are appreciative of seniors’ efforts to catch up is much lower than that of those who don’t.

And, in case you’re wondering; I’m not yet a ‘senior’! ūüôā But as the previous post suggests, I’ve always held these views about the treatment of our seniors: old parents, grandparents or neighbors in terms of their adjustment problems or learning issues. If you can’t help in any way, don’t berate or act like an arrogant know-all, and definitely, don’t think they are stupid.

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The old was once a new invention! The seniors have seen a lot of new inventions and changes. They have changed and moved with the times. But with age, things slow down for many. Instead of being arrogant and uppity with the older generation, help them or better, teach them with patience if they can learn even a little bit. And if they can’t just appreciate them. They’ve got a big experience behind them. (Pic: Matt Artz on Unsplash)

 

A Senior Moment

This post was prompted by a forward I found in my inbox. It was an illustration of how a member of the younger generation (a college freshman) perceives the people of the older one as primitive beings.

While I haven’t run into many youngsters like the obnoxious one mentioned here, I can safely say, they exist with all their pompous arrogance. I’ve seen it as road rage and disparaging remarks thrown at senior citizens driving on the road. I fully understand that at times they can do things wrong while driving and, at times, cause an accident, but then so can you, my young one. If they’ve still got their driving license they have as much right on the road as you have. At least the traffic authorities deem so!

I have noted the frustration of young drivers honking madly as an old person laboriously crosses the road. I’ve heard and seen enough to wonder from where all this comes. On the brighter side, I have heard and seen a great number of young people being kind, gentle, and patient with their elders. These are the ones you will not find airing their disapproval of the older folk they encounter, outside their families and homes.

Generally, one can say youngsters, these days, are becoming quite impatient and intolerant of older people who have not kept abreast of the times. Having been born in a world where everything has to be super fast, almost instant, they adopt arrogance and condescension with those they perceive as stupid and slow.

They fail to see that the fruits of progress they are enjoying today didn’t happen overnight. These senior citizens have been a part of the process; they have moved through the stages of development. Each has seen an improvement on a previous generation in terms of innovations and discoveries.

As children, we grew up with some new inventions that our parents never knew in their childhood. We also enjoyed improvements on existing devices which made them faster, quicker and more efficient. But I don’t recall being impatient, intolerant or arrogant with senior citizens who hadn’t seen these things at their time.

Instead, we would be keen to explain about new gadgets, and even try to convince them that the new device worked better and was good to use. I know how difficult it was to sell pressure cookers to housewives in small towns back in the tail end of the 50s and early 60s. The general fear being; it would burst! My mom, though a bit apprehensive, went ahead and bought one in 1963, and I thought she was brave!

It was the same when kerosene stoves entered the kitchen to replace coal and firewood. Later on, when they introduced LPG for cooking, it found the same initial resistance. Yet, I wasn’t intolerant with my grandmother who still used firewood and coal to cook and heat the house in winter. In fact, I enjoyed sitting in her kitchen.

Computers are still a #challenge for the older generation in my country. Some have learned or taught themselves the basics so they can surf the net and stay in contact through emails.

However, with the introduction of mobile phones and iPads and such hand-held devices, many more have crossed that line of doubt and fear and ventured into the world of internet and Wi-Fi. Their knowledge might be basic but they know enough to get on and keep in touch with the progress and that includes me too. I’m not a tech person, but I manage. The younger generation is impatient with this too. If you can’t keep pace with them, you’re not worth their time.

The progress in the past two decades has happened at a faster pace than earlier years. This could be a reason why not many who carry the #seniorcitizen tag have been able to catch up with recent developments. I’m sure that is no reason to view them as stupid or inefficient.

 

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They’re not dinosaurs; they are survivors. They are the people who have adopted new ways of living and adapted to more life-changing inventions and developments than you younger people have. But that’s just me. Tell it to an impatient generation that has grown up on #instant gratification.

(Reposting with a few additions and more editing!)

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How Sudhaji Murdered English

I met Sudha for the first time thirty-three years ago when we moved to a city in the south of Rajasthan. She was our immediate neighbor. On our first meeting, I found she was friendly and a good neighbor; she sent over trays of cold water and snacks on our arrival (it was summer and boiling) and she even offered food which we declined. We were tired from the journey and dusty too as we unloaded the luggage and shifted and pulled furniture, wooden crates, cardboard boxes, and suitcases into their right places.

Her thoughtfulness impressed us; she was so helpful. This wasn’t the usual behavior a newcomer expected. That was our first impression. They say the first impression is the last impression, but my impression of her would change a couple of times before the ‘last’ confirmed the first! She was indeed very helpful when it came to the crunch. But that’s another story which I’ll save up for later.

Sudha was much older than us and according to the prevalent custom, we as younger people would have to address her with respect. That meant, we either called her ‘didi’ (sister) or ‘aunty’ or suffixed a ‘ji’ to her name. Since the kids called her “aunty” she decided how we should address her; so “Sudhaji” it was from then on.

As time went by, I discovered that Sudhaji was a gregarious person and an incorrigible gossip too. So we had to be wary when we chatted with her. She had a knack of getting people to talk, and this is how she knew everything about everyone. 

This vast ‚Äėknowledge,‚Äô coupled with her cheerful nature, opened many doors for her. But, she had loose lips; nobody‚Äôs secrets stayed safe with her! Besides, after I got to know people, I also realized that she altered her accounts, tempering them with her own feelings and interpretations. Most of her stories weren‚Äôt exactly what the person had said or the way they had said it.

However, she had a funny side to her as well. She loved to show off her knowledge of English. In India those days, not many women her age, in Rajasthan especially, had studied in English medium schools so had little or no knowledge of English. Sudhaji was one among these. Now, why would the lack of an English medium education matter so much, you may ask. Well, it was a prestige issue in those days. It brought in social class distinctions. Sudhaji hadn’t studied English, but she wanted to speak the language because it would add to her prestige.

So, she picked up a smattering of the language from listening to people speak or listening to the news in English and reading English newspapers. She picked up words and phrases and peppered her conversation with them. I found this commendable, except for the prestige part. I don’t support that reason for learning.

While I agree that learning English helps in furthering one‚Äôs career options, I don‚Äôt believe knowing English gets you on a higher rung on the social ladder in any way; just as not knowing it doesn‚Äôt lower your prestige! Anyway, I found it a source of much good-humored fun whenever she spoke in English or inserted phrases in her ‚ÄėHinglish‚Äô conversations.

I don‚Äôt recall everything she said and wouldn‚Äôt want to share many of her blunders but a few that I can, I will share here. I used to tease her about these, and we‚Äôd laugh heartily. Yes, I‚Äôm going to share some funnies and no, I‚Äôm not shaming her in any way, I’m just remembering her and her great sense of humor. Trust me, we laughed at these together as I corrected her.

Fulfilled water tanks & Footballs

There was the day when water was pouring down the drainpipe profusely and it wasn’t even raining. She explained it this way:

“Overhead tank¬†fulfil ho gaya and the¬†football is¬†spoil. Is liye paani¬†outflow ho raha hai.”¬†(What she wanted to say: The¬†overhead water tank is full and the float valve is spoilt so the water is overflowing.)

Sisterly Reflections!

She saw some pics of my elder sister and exclaimed:

“So much¬†reflections in the face.”¬†

“What reflections do you see and on whose face?” I asked.

I didn’t get it. The pic was clear and in fact, it was clicked by a professional photographer. She promptly replied looking surprised that I didn’t know about it.¬†

“Tumhe nahin pata? So much reflections in the face. Pata chalta hai you are sisters.” (What she said:¬†Don’t you know it? So much reflections in the face. Anyone would know you are sisters.)¬†

I got it! Finally. She was talking about resemblance!

The Criminal

The funniest one was when she had to go somewhere and would miss the milkman and asked me to take the milk from him.

Doodhwala se hamare liye please doodh le lena. Mujhe¬†criminal¬†mein jaana hai.”¬†(What she said:¬†Please take milk for us too from the milkman. I have to go to a criminal.)

I was lost; she had to meet a criminal?! No, something was wrong. 

“Are you going to the court, Sudhaji?

“No. Court aaj bandh hai, it’s a holiday.” (The court is closed today. It’s a holiday.)

“Don’t tell me you’re going to a criminal in the jail!” I exclaimed.¬†

“Nahin, jail mein nahin. Yeh criminal is in….”¬†( No, not in the jail. This criminal is in…)

She named a place.

Now my interest was piqued, I couldn’t let go.

“Who is this person? And why are you meeting him?

“Arre, woh humare door ke rishtedar hain. Hum milne nahin ja rahe hain (and she laughs) respect dene ja rahe hain; criminal hai!”¬†(What she said: Oh, he’s a distant relation. And we aren’t going to meet him (she laughs) we’re going to pay our respect; it’s a criminal!)

She ended with a tone that said… that’s what one does, don’t you know that!

“Okay! But I don’t understand. Why would you want to “respect” a criminal?”

She burst into laughter again. And I was wondering what was so funny in my questions. 

“Kya ho gaya, lagta hai tumhe samajh nahin aaya. Kisi ke death par criminal mein respect dena hota hai na. Tumhare community mein bhi aisa karte hain.”¬†(What she said:¬†What’s wrong with you? Looks like you don’t understand! When someone dies, you go to pay your respect at their criminal. You do the same in your community too.)

I burst out laughing. Now it was her turn to look at me as if I had gone crazy. In between bursts of laughter, when I caught my breath, I told her the difference between a criminal and a funeral. She joined me and we had a hearty laugh.

The Who & the Crew

When they were trying to get their son into college: 

“Percentage¬†best¬†nahin hai. So, by who and by crew, hamein admission karwana hai.”¬†(What she said:¬†His percentage isn’t good enough. So, we’ll have to get him admitted by who or by crew.)

I told her it was ‘by hook or by crook’. It took some time explaining the hook and the crook to her.

Proudy woman & Impotent man

About a member of her kitty party group:¬†“She’s very¬†proudy. Uske husband ka promotion hua hai, ab woh bahut¬†impotent man hai aur she is hawa mein flying.”¬†(What she said: She is very proudy woman. And now that her husband has got a promotion and become an impotent man, she is flying high in the air.)

She didn’t know what the joke was about until I told her what impotent meant. But she didn’t think ‘proud’ was the word… so “proudy” remained in her lexicon.

Cooking Sexfully

I all but rolled on the floor the day she tried a new recipe and announced how her new dish came out:¬†“Mera project¬†sexfully ho gaya. Everybody happy.”¬†(¬†What she said:¬†My project was sexfully completed. Everybody was happy.) I had to teach her how to pronounce ‘successfully.’

Time & Age

When she got confused with telling the time and telling the age:

Pointing to a picture of her son who was two and a half at the time the photograph was clicked she said: 

Half past two¬†tha jab picture khinchi thi.”¬†¬†(What she said:¬†(It was a half past two when this picture was clicked.¬†)¬†

I wondered why she was referring to the time and asked her how she could recall the time of day so long back and why was the time so important.

“Time toh nahin pata. I don’t remember. Par tum kyun pooch rahi ho?”¬†(¬†What she said: I don’t know what time it was… But why are you asking?)

I pointed out that she had mentioned it was half-past two when the picture was clicked. Now it was her turn to laugh. 

“Maine time thodi na bataya. Maine age bataya. Time kisko yaad hai!”¬†(What she said:¬†I didn’t mention the time. I was telling you about his age in this picture. Who remembers what time it was clicked!)

She got to know the difference in telling the time and someone’s age.

No one could say it the way Sudhaji could. She was so entertaining. She had become friendly over the years and realized that I didn’t share personal matters that didn’t concern her, so rarely probed for information. I welcomed her company.

My efforts to stop her from murdering English met with uproarious laughter. She didn’t care a hoot about her mistakes; it was enough that she was using English words and phrases to season her conversation.

According to her, most of the women in her circle were not even at her level of “proficientcy” so it didn’t make any difference and the dubious prestige of knewing”¬†English remained intact.

I told her that I would quote her funnies and she laughed and said I could do so as long as it wasn’t to people who knew her; that would tarnish her¬†“im-age” (pronounced as two separate words!). So she continued murdering English with impunity! Here, though it’s an open page, she’s safe. You don’t know her and she doesn’t know you! But my spell check and editor know and my post is underlined in red!

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The Collaborator

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I bring you another one from my journals. This incident also centers in the period of war with Pakistan in 1965. Refer: My Sister Makes A Wish!

We were well into a full-fledged war with Pakistan. And placed where we were; close to an important main road and the railway line that was coming under fire. It was unnerving. Take a seat and come with me to a town in Punjab.

 

1965

It was all about location. We were between two prime targets, the GT Road and the railway line, both of which were the main transit lines for military equipment, troops etc. to reach the northern borders where the fighting was fiercely on. And as mentioned in my earlier post, we weren’t too far from the Air Force base.

For some time we were sitting ducks for stray bombs that missed the target. I didn’t know whether I should applaud or cry… a miss was good for the country but bad for us! Then the bombs began to fall farther away from us but closer to the targets. Fortunately, none caused any major damage.

But this story is not about the fighting. It’s about another side of a war.

One house away from ours lived an elderly couple. The gentleman was known by his sobriquet, Mr. Major. I never learned what his real name was. In fact, I wonder if anyone even remembered it. He liked to be called Major which wasn’t his name, but his rank in the Salvation Army! I’m not sure if anyone ever ‘retires’ from the SA, but he was no longer an active member.

He and his wife, a soft-spoken little lady, lived a quiet life in a small house. They had a patch of green in the front, where they grew flowers and a vegetable patch behind, where he grew amazingly huge snake gourds among other vegetables.

We never met them socially. However, there were cordial exchanges now and then over their garden hedge and our boundary wall. A vacant plot separated our houses.

When the war broke out, the authorities solicited¬†security measures through citizen awareness and participation. Daddy and Uncle Johnny were a part of this special group. They had to inform the people in our residential area about certain things, like how to observe total blackout, and what the ‚Äúshoot at sight‚ÄĚ order meant. This was when we met him and his wife for the first time.¬†

I remember the day Daddy and Uncle returned from a meeting with the authorities in charge of vigilance, security, law, and order. Both looked serious. Along with a few others, they had been given the authority to challenge suspicious persons and shoot-at-sight, if necessary.

Daddy and uncle had defense service backgrounds, they owned firearms too; including the Carbine; a semi-automatic rifle. So they gave the authority to shoot-at-sight to them.

For the first time, we saw the rifles coming out for a purpose other than¬†‘shikaar’.¬†It was unnerving. I watched as they checked the rifles and¬†counted the¬†ammunition.

“Will you really shoot a man?” I asked Johnny uncle who had been a gunner on INS Betwa, a Type 41 Leopard-class Frigate; had seen action against the Portuguese in the liberation of Goa, and was a crack-shot in this family that loved shikaar.

“Yes, Bina, if he doesn’t come clean. In war, we shoot the enemy. But you don’t worry your head about it. We’re here and you are safe. Nothing will happen.”¬†He had spoken too soon.

Something did happen.

From then on, Uncle took up position, every night, on the roof of our house with the carbine. Our house had an elevated structure on the roof and this provided a better and farther view of the terrain around us. Sandbags had been placed around as fortification. Daddy patroled the boundary of the two houses; ours and my grandparents’. He carried a 202 rifle. Grandma would also be with him. She refused to get into the trench even when an air attack was on. Except for one occasion (read here)My Sister Makes A Wish!, I never saw either of them in the trench. A few nights passed without incident. Just as I began to relax, it happened.

One night, I heard Uncle loudly challenging someone. I rushed out of the house only to be hastily sent back with stern orders to get inside and stay in and away from the windows and doors. Uncle informed Daddy and Grandma that there was someone in the field behind our house with a lighted cigarette. It was a dark night, and the glow was bright and clearly visible.

He called out a warning. No response.

“If you don’t come out,” he shouted again, “I’m going to shoot.”

There was still no movement or response. As Uncle prepared to shoot, Grandma intervened.

“Wait!” she shouted, “Give him another warning.”¬†

“I’m counting to three, you have been warned.” He began a slow count… “One… two… ”

NO,” bellowed a voice. A dark shadowy figure rose from the field.

“Raise your hands. Who are you?” shouted Daddy, his rifle cocked and ready.

“Major.”

“Get out here, you bloody S&*%#. And keep your hands up,” swore Uncle.

While Daddy kept his rifle aimed at Major, Uncle made his way down from his lookout post on the roof. By the time Major had walked to a few meters from the rear boundary wall of our house, he was down and ready for him.

Major begged and pleaded with both the men who weren’t satisfied with his explanation of what he was doing in the field with a lighted cigarette when it was a blackout. Twice, Uncle lost his cool and raised the rifle. Twice, Grandma asked him to wait and make doubly sure that he was doing the right thing.

Major had said that he had gone to the field to answer the call of nature! This reason fell flat as their house had an attached toilet. He explained this away with the excuse that his wife was in the bathroom and he had an upset tummy. He kept crying and giving all kinds of silly reasons for not answering when challenged. He was lucky that Grandma was there.

If it hadn’t been for her, he would have been shot that night. But he went home alive. Daddy and Uncle were not convinced that he was innocent; Grandma was not convinced that he was guilty. The jury was divided 2:1.

She kept telling her sons that rural folks differ from city people. They react differently, think differently, and this was a unique situation where one couldn’t expect them to fully comprehend the emergency conditions and the implications of their actions. One should not judge them by a city yardstick, she cautioned.

They resumed their positions on the roof and at the rear boundary wall. But Uncle was on high alert. He suspected something was very wrong. The night wore on. All was quiet. Suddenly, gunshots filled the air as bullets whizzed through the air, barely missing Uncle. He was ever alert and retaliated with a few shots. There was a cry of pain; he had hit someone. The attack stopped as suddenly as it had started. There was the sound of feet thudding through the field.

A heavy silence descended. Before anyone could gather their wits, the siren went off and planes zoomed through a night sky that was dotted with red blobs of tracers and the glow of the sporadic anti-aircraft fire. That was a tense night; the biggest concern being, the security of the family.

We had encountered saboteurs!

When had they landed? Where had they landed? Speculation was that it would have been either before Major was spotted in the field or while he was being questioned. Uncle was sure he had hit one of them.

In the morning, a reconnaissance of the place from where the men had fired at us revealed the tracks of four people and signs that someone or something had been dragged. This incident was reported to the police but nothing about Major was mentioned. He had the benefit of the doubt.

As the events of the night were analyzed with police inputs collected from the inspection of the area, it became clear that the saboteurs knew where to shoot. They knew that the more dangerous weapon was on the roof and the lookout provided a better view of the area. Also, the ‘something’ that was dragged was a body. The police had found a bloody trail too. This gave Uncle and Daddy some consolation.

Slowly, some other truths began to trickle in.

We were informed through anonymous sources that Major was a non-smoker and his wife wasn’t at home that night he was caught in the field. In fact, she hadn’t been home since the war broke out. Also, this wasn’t the first time he had gone into the fields with a lighted cigarette. He used different locations. We were shocked to learn that on a previous night, saboteurs had landed quite close to our residential area.

But it was too late. This information was of no use to us. Major had disappeared, and the house remained closed for a long time. They had been private people, and no one knew where their roots lay; family, friends and general information was nil. The police found no clues to their whereabouts.

Grandma felt awful… not because she had saved a traitor, but that her intuition had been so off the mark! Each one had their own takeaways from this incident. She’d keep saying, “How could I have been so wrong in my judgment of character? Mere ko bewakoof bana diya us Major ne aur uski aurat bhi!”

Mine was the intense fear coupled with a sharp sense of adventure. I had clutched my baby brother close while I munched my way through a bottle of dry fruit that my mother had kept in a makeshift shelter in our half-built house. (it was under construction when the war broke out).

My fear manifested itself when I slept, in nightmares. I’d run around wildly shouting things like, “They’re coming… the bombers are coming!” Or “Look… look the sky is full of bombs. They’re falling!”¬† Then, Grandma would catch hold of me and gently take me to her bed, all the while soothing me with soft talk. That always calmed me down. In the morning, I’d have no recollection of it and would not believe that I had done that in the night! ūüôā

Holding my brother protectively made me brave; I forgot my own fear. Eating… I don’t know how that helped!!

When a ceasefire was declared, I welcomed it with mixed feelings. A big relief, no doubt, but now, I’d have to go to school!

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Glossary:

Shikaar…. hunting

Shikaari... hunter 

Bina… Uncle called me by this name. He pronounced ‘i’ with a short vowel sound.

Mere ko bewakoof bana diya us Major ne aur uski aurat bhi!”… The Major and his wife made a fool of me!

GT Road…The Grand Trunk Road (commonly abbreviated to GT Road) is one of South Asia’s oldest and longest major roads. For several centuries, it has linked the eastern and Western regions of the Indian subcontinent, running from Bengal, across north India, into Peshawar in Pakistan. Today, the Grand Trunk remains a continuum that covers a distance of over 2,500 km. Within India, the major portion of the road – the stretch between Kanpur and Kolkata – is known as NH 2 (National Highway 2),¬† the stretch between Kanpur and Delhi is called NH-91, and that between Delhi and Wagah, at the border with Pakistan, is known as NH-1. Between Delhi and Muzaffarnagar is National Highway 58 which further goes to Dehradoon.

 

 

 

 

 

A Prophecy & A Bowl of Butternut Soup

“When you say something or sing something enough times, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s almost as casting spells. I don’t mean in the necessarily flighty, ‘I’m going to buy a cloak with a hood now, way.'” –Feist

I don‚Äôt shush predictions and ‚Äėprophecies‚Äô if they‚Äôre made sincerely and by a person whom I trust not to be dramatic or religiously overenthusiastic! My mother-in-law was such a person who wouldn‚Äôt make much of hocus-pocus prophecies. But here‚Äôs one prophecy that gave me many thoughtful, doubtful moments before I found what to believe.

Once more, I dig up a story from my journal. Meet Rosaline Thomas, my MIL.

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The Prophecy

I discovered two things in the past few days: First, the truth of a prophecy, that’s such a biblical word, but then, I guess it fits in this case and the second, the deliciousness of a butternut squash soup.

To my mind, butternut squash is a variety of ‘kadu’ aka a pumpkin in India. I like kadu as a vegetable, cooked Indian style. I also like the kadu halwa (a dessert) my mother used to make. A laborious task which she’d undertake after I’d begged her almost on my knees! So, when my daughter-in-law said she would make a butternut squash soup for dinner, I balked.

I could imagine a kadu mashed up in a soup, what I just couldn’t imagine was me drinking it. She reassured me it was yummmm… yes, she stretched the yumminess. I thought it was simply to psych me into drooling. Only the night would tell.

But I’ve meandered. To come back to the prophecy.

Once upon a time, as stories began when I was a kid, my mother-in-law, who I shall refer to as Ma Rose going forward, told me about a lady who would visit the family home in Barmer; very often out of the blue.

She was a very religious woman; old but healthy and mobile and with the gift to predict things. These things she predicted were referred to as prophecies because she was anchored in the faith. On one such unexpected visit, she told Ma Rose that she would die when one member of Ma’s family would go into the Lord’s service. She made this prophecy some years before I heard it from Ma.

Both Ma and I contemplated the meaning of this. Not because it was hard to understand the prophecy, but because we couldn’t find more than one promising candidate who qualified as a servant for the Lord’s work in the future.

This person, one of her grandsons, was a teenager then. He was quite keen on listening to Ma Rose’s religious talks and was a regular churchgoer. In short, totally religious unlike all the other youngsters his age. But as time went by, our hope in him diminished. I told Ma Rose that the old lady must have been a bit off the mark this time. She refused to accept that. I shut up. Just my mouth, not my thoughts!¬†

Then came the day when one of the granddaughters, her daughter’s child, decided to marry a boy who was all set to become a priest. Ah! The prophetic words resurfaced in our conversations with renewed strength. Ma told me, rather triumphantly, that the old girl was not off the mark. We were off the mark! We hadn’t thought of the girls.

Now, one was going into the Lord’s service and the time for the prophecy to come true was drawing near. It made me uncomfortable to discuss Ma’s demise, in the near future with her (she tended to make it nearer than it was) in such an objective manner. So I tried to drill holes in her theory. For quite obvious reasons, it was clear her enthusiasm to prove the old lady right had blinded her to the fact that her grandchild was not going into the Lord’s service. She was only going to marry someone who was going to serve in the church.

But Queen Victoria, as I and my hubby would refer to her in private, could not be influenced or side-tracked so easily.

“It’s the same thing,” she said with regal finality that discouraged all arguments. Again I zipped my lip and only my lip!

Ma Rose passed away a few years later. Her said grandchild’s husband changed direction. The priest moved out of pastoring a flock and became the head of a Bible College instead while she continued her teaching job. Ma Rose had gone, but the prophecy and its veracity remained a point of thought. It didn’t fit in, not to my mind at least. The pieces didn’t fall into place so the picture wasn’t complete. At least not in the way she had thought it was.

Many years later, I learned that the only other granddaughter, her son’s child, had become a pastor! The pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I will have to take the story further to complete the picture.

This grandchild, who I’ll refer to as ‘R’, was a simple girl with no college education. She was brought up, mainly, in a small town. She stayed at home and did the domestic chores. Later, she did a beautician’s course and worked in a cosmopolitan city. But that career was short-lived. She returned to her small town home and domesticity. I remembered ‘R’ as a lively, witty girl but not inclined¬†to intellectual pursuits. So hearing she was heading a church in a big city, came as a huge surprise.

Anyway, this news soon got buried with so many other things piling up, it no longer held my attention. But not for long. For some unknown reason, my thoughts back-tracked to the prophecy again; to Ma Rose and to the many conversations we’d had over the years. And I had a eureka moment! Stay with me a wee bit longer, as even now, I have to catch my breath by the revelation.

On the last night, before she died, Ma Rose was talking to ‘R’. It was getting late, past midnight, so ‘R’ told her to rest and try to sleep. Ma agreed and asked her to put her hand in hers. She held ‘R’s hand and closed her eyes. After some time, ‘R’ went off to sleep with her hand in her grandmother’s hand.

When she awoke, her hand was still in Ma’s hand only Ma’s hand was cold. Very cold. Ma had passed away peacefully in her sleep, and in passing on had also passed on the prophecy to the most unlikely person in her family!

I had been off the mark; disinclined to believe without the shadow of doubt. She had believed implicitly. Five months after Ma Rose died, ‘R’ was married to a widower with two sons. This was the first step towards the fulfillment of the prophecy and building a new relationship with Jesus.

The marriage, from what I heard, became a bit rocky. Whatever happened, it made ‘R’ turn to the church and God in a way she had never dwelt on the Word before. The thing is that the most unlikely person was chosen to do God’s work. She became a pastor.

Now I understand. It was a prophecy… it holds its aura… it holds that strength and firmness… it holds that belief!

Phew! Talk about soup for the soul!

The Butternut Squash Soup

And here comes the butternut squash soup. I peeked into the pan as M, my daughter-in-law, stirred the creamy, lovely, sunshine yellow broth around. I have to admit, it was inviting. Not a reaction I had expected. Soon, I was impatient to taste it.

She took her time cooking it just right, pouring it into the cups, dropping in the croutons… and I took the first spoonful. Yummmmmm…….I went… Had I been psyched?!!

Here’s the picture of the first cup of ‘kadu’ soup that made me a die-hard fan and advocate of its goodness. I am a new butternut squash soup nut! For my Indian friends; it’s just another kind of ‘kadu’ in a soup made with an Indian touch. ūüôā

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Dashing Through The Snow

“As I took my children sledding this morning, I watched them fly down the hill Рaiming for the jump and flying in the air. Getting the wind knocked out of them as they landed hard then climbing up to do it again Рrelentless and brave. 
I took a moment to be happy they are young and innocent and appreciate the simple thrill of going fast down a hill. I pushed my own nervous inclination aside and instead of saying “Be careful!” I said “Aim Straight!” Then I let them go down the jump again and again because in this world, we need to be relentless and brave and I need to be sure they don’t unlearn it.‚Ä̬†
‚Äē¬†Elizabeth Tambascio

I can’t upload videos here so I’m uploading the pics.¬†

Getting the younger two ready for their first sledding experience. M aged 4 and Z aged 2+
I worried that Z would be scared… I needn’t have. She was excited and not a bit scared. Neither was M!

Back in my home country, my first experience of snow came when we moved from our country home in Punjab to the capital of Punjab & Haryana: Chandigarh. A small city then, in 1971. A brief about Chandigarh:

(It was one of the early planned cities in post-independent India and is internationally known for its architecture and urban design. The master plan of the city was prepared by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, which transformed from earlier plans created by the Polish architect Maciej Nowicki and the American planner Albert Mayer. Most of the government buildings and housing in the city were designed by the Chandigarh Capital Project Team headed by Le Corbusier, Jane Drew, and Maxwell Fry.  

Shimla was the temporary capital of East Punjab until Chandigarh was completed in 1960.) (source Wikipedia)

Chandigarh wasn’t very far from Shimla, a hill station and the capital of Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayan foothills, which sees heavy snowfall. The roads were fairly good, even back then, and every year, we’d keep an eye for the news of the first snowfall. Daddy would call the driver, Jaspal Singh, and we’d leave home very early. It would be only for the day. We returned in the evening! All we did was play in the snow. And, of course, we loved the drive. I was a teenager then. All snow-related experiences ended in my early twenties.

I moved away to a desert area and I got to know sand dunes and arid zones.

Decades later, I worked in a residential school (aka boarding school) in another hill station that experienced heavy snowfalls, but I never got to live the winters there. Residential schools closed for about three months in winter. By the time we returned, the snow had vanished even though the winter lingered!

Z gets in front and M climbs on behind. I thought it was a crazy idea… one of the kids would tumble off and get hurt! (age gap/generation gap…LOL)
As¬†I¬†watched,¬†I¬†couldn’t¬†help¬†feeling¬†quite¬†proud¬†of¬†this¬†little one as¬†she¬†settled¬†herself. She made herself comfy and secure. It was her 1st ride!!.
 Aly sat and watched them, patiently waiting her turn on the higher and steeper slopes on the other side.
¬†They¬†weren’t¬†done.¬†Kept¬†trudging¬†back¬†and¬†sliding¬†down¬†again¬†and¬†again.

Fast forward to the present; I have snow all around me for months and I am not as keen about the snow as I used to be. It stays too long here and I can’t afford to ignore the consequences of walking out alone. What used to be a comedy when we fell, rolled or tumbled down a snowy bank or slipped on ice, will be a tragedy now ūüėÄ #idontlikelongsnowywinters

But I do enjoy getting out to watch the kids when they go sledding. As long as I have an arm to steady me, I’ll walk on snow and dare the hidden ice beneath!

The¬†Britt’s¬†Pub¬†&¬†Eatery¬†beckoned¬†as¬†I¬†tried¬†to¬†keep¬†warm and¬†not¬†
fall as I 
clicked pictures of the surroundings.

Though I was tempted, I thought better of getting into Britt’s. I wanted to sit with the kids and hear their experiences and share their joy over some hot chocolate and tea later at Tims’s, closer to home!

Back¬†at¬†Tim’s,¬†I¬†listened to¬†their¬†endless¬†chatter¬†and¬†basked in¬†the¬†glow¬†of¬†their¬†joy.

A tired but happy bunch.

                                                 Thank you for visiting my blog!

 

 

Superstitions, Myths, Black Magic

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India is a land of many superstitions. Today, we do not hear much about them, as education and science have played their part in a large way. Having said that, I must mention that all don’t come under this education of the mind. India lives in the villages and in these villages superstitions thrive. 

Grandma was a storehouse of strange stories, superstitions, and myths. She was a strange mixture of cynicism and credulity. She was a firm believer in God, yet, she had a few beliefs that had nothing to do with Him.

At times, I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to believe her or not. However, what I saw convinced me she was right about developing a strong conviction, but not about the superstitions per se. What I saw was not superstition…it was extreme calm in the face of danger.

This courage was born of unshakable faith. When one has an implicit belief in anything, it transfers immense strength to the inner self. This is what I saw and learned. But her stories and actions based on her belief in certain superstitions were, indeed, very interesting; and for that moment, I allowed myself to go with it. It gave me the thrill that scary movies give… goosebumps and white-in-the-face breath-stopping moments!

One of her firmest beliefs was that a snake got hypnotized or, as she put it, got “blinded” if the firstborn child of a family stood in front of it. Since she was the firstborn child in her family, she believed that snakes couldn’t move if they encountered her.

We lived in the country and had a big fruit garden and a vegetable garden so our home was host to many snakes; permanent residents as well as visitors. Many of these unfortunate ones met their end at her hand.

Now, killing a snake isn’t such a great feat as killing a snake that stayed rooted to the spot while she picked a lathi or stood quietly watching the snake while a stick was brought to her! Now that’s something I have never seen or heard of before.

The snakes were quick and agile when any other member of the family tried to nail them. Quite often, they’d make their escape. To explain it further, I’ll recount an incident that left me flummoxed.

Grandma retained the rural identity of her kitchen to the core. It was spacious with an inbuilt Chula occupying the right corner in the north. A chimney over the Chula released the fumes and smoke of this typical earthen cooking place. They used coal and wood to light it.

This corner Chula stayed burning or smoldering throughout the day and half the night. There would always be a kettle of tea on the embers. This was also a constant feeder for their hookah fire.

The Chula was on ground level, so cooking was done seated on pidhis. These are very low stools made of wood with woven jute ropes forming the seat. There were four or five of these around the place. In the left corner, there was a table and a comfortable armchair. The other two corners in the south were occupied by a big grain bin and a hand pump. Grandma would sit between the Chula and the table, with a kerosene stove or an angithi, whichever suited her, on the floor. Her choice depended on what she was cooking. All the meals would be cooked this way. 

One day, I was sitting in the armchair and happily chatting while I ate a hot, crisp cheeni paratha straight off the tava. Suddenly, Grandma put her finger to her lips; signaling for me to keep quiet. I looked at her quizzically but refrained from any verbal query.

She stretched out her arm and got hold of the iron phukni which was lying near the Chula. Then she gestured that I should lift my feet off the ground. By now, I knew it had something to do with a snake, but where was the creepy crawly?

She got up, phukni in hand, and bending down lifted her pidhi and kept it to one side. There coiled up and petrified lay a cobra. I gaped and the next second I felt a scream coming up. Thankfully, it got frozen into silence. Grandma lifted the iron phukni and smashed it down on the snake. She hit it some more to make sure it was dead then called Grandpa to take it out and burn it. Burn it? Why? I wondered. There is another myth attached to that!

I asked her how she knew the snake was there and when had it slipped in. She admitted that she did not know when it had come in but had sensed that there was one under her! She felt sorry that she had to kill a cobra. She had another belief connected to that!

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When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible, for that mind, in its maturity to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I can do it myself.”-Mark Twain

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She repeated her firstborn theory again and frankly, I couldn’t but believe her then. But till date, I often wonder at the power of conviction for that is what it was all about, it had nothing to do with her being a firstborn.

There were many similar instances when we saw her take her time dealing with snakes (poisonous ones too!) that lay quietly like lambs for the slaughter. However, none of these were burned.

There was another weird belief in the villages that cobras carried a picture of their slayer in their eyes; like a negative and not like a positive print. So, if it wasn’t burned, its mate would see the image and then seek revenge on the killer. In the bargain, it would attack many humans until it found the actual murderer!

This was why any cobra that was killed had to be burned! Even as a child, I found this a pretty far-fetched belief or notion. I wonder how people could so whole-heartedly digest this absurd story. We even had quite a few Bollywood movies, in those days, propagating this myth.

Grandma also believed that people used black magic to get even with their enemies or to get something they wanted real bad. I loved to hear her stories. They were spooky and gave me chills down my spine. However, what actually spooked me was an incident that convinced me that people did resort to some practices that could only be termed as ‘Black Magic’ because they had evil intent. Whether these practices had the desired result is anyone’s guess.

We had a teacher living down the road. She had married rather late in life and desperately wanted to have a baby. I am talking about the year 1965. India was a young nation then, and very under-developed. We had no advanced medical facilities and rural women who wanted to have babies and could not conceive visited sadhus and medicine men who would perform rituals to help them while others went to tantriks; the people who perform black magic.

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You¬†never¬†see¬†animals¬†going¬†through¬†the¬†absurd¬†and often¬†horrible¬†fooleries¬†of¬†magic¬†and¬†religion…¬†Only¬†man¬†behaves¬†with¬†such¬†gratuitous¬†folly.”-Aldous¬†Huxley

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One evening, Grandma told us kids and my mother not to allow the teacher to carry my baby brother the next day. We found this odd as the teacher showed no interest in my brother. She was only on ‘hello’, ‘hi’ terms with us. Besides, Grandma was cautioning us about the next day! This was even more unusual.

I asked her what made her expect the teacher and why we shouldn’t allow her to carry my brother. She told me that sometimes it was best not to ask too many questions.

Early, the next morning, I was with my baby brother in Grandma’s garden when the teacher leaned over the low boundary wall of Grandma’s house. The alarm bells went off in my head! She asked me to bring my brother to her.

The sight of her put me on guard. This was bizarre!

Grandma was right, as usual, she did appear and she did show an interest in the baby. I refused to give her my baby brother. Then she asked me to bring him closer so she could play with him. I saw no harm in that, as she wasn‚Äôt going to carry him. I was just ten years old then and quite na√Įve! Not like the ten-year-olds of today.

No sooner had I reached the wall than she leaned over and grabbed him from my arms. I yelled at her and called out to Grandma. She came running and took in the scene at a glance. She snatched my brother from the teacher and for the first time, I heard her talk to someone in such a harsh manner!

The teacher almost ran back the way she had come. My grandparent‚Äôs vehemence terrified her. And truth be told, right then, I was terrified of her too! She looked awesome; like an avenging angel…eyes blazing and wrathful face wreathed by her crown of snow-white hair. ¬† ¬†

I was next in the line of fire. I explained that I had not let the teacher carry the baby; she snatched him from my arms. This was when she sat me down and told me that the day was particularly auspicious and used for magical rites. I don’t recall what day it was. She explained that the teacher had displayed all the signs of black magic rituals. It had something to do with her freshly washed hair; wet, left open and uncombed. There were a few other things she mentioned, but I can’t remember what they were.

Anyway, she called my mother and told her to keep a check on the little fellow; to monitor any change in him. By then we were all highly perturbed and worried. We did not believe in these things but Grandma was so serious about it and that affected us.

Within the hour, my brother developed a high fever. He was taken to the doctor but I don’t think that was of any help because the fever wouldn’t subside. Soon he was throwing up. Grandma came up with all her home remedies and prayers. She prayed and prayed.

Finally, the fever broke; it began to lower and he got well. I can recall, without exaggeration, that my plump little brother became a twig in those four days.

Coincidence? Black magic? I still don‚Äôt know what it was. But Grandma had predicted that the teacher would come and had warned us about it. My hale and hearty brother developed a strange fever suddenly, after being carried by the woman… again something Grandma had feared would happen.

No, I don’t know what to make of it even after so many years. You can draw whatever conclusion you want.

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What¬†we¬†don’t¬†understand,¬†we¬†can¬†make¬†mean¬†anything.”-Chuck¬†Palahniuk

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Glossary
Chula…..it means oven. Coal and wood are used to light it. It is made of clay (soil)
Phukni…. a bamboo or metal blowing-tube (for a fire).¬†
Cheeni Paratha…..cheeni¬†¬†means sugar and parathas an unleavened Indian flat-bread. It is made of layered whole wheat (atta) dough. And fried on a tava¬†(griddle) There are many kinds of parathas. Cheeni paratha means sugar stuffed in the paratha.

A Better Morning. A Proverb. And A Mare’s Snort!

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A street in Vi√Īa.

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 mornings I experienced in a bustling city in India! The world there woke up before daybreak! At least the moms or women did, I presume, as I didn’t see many men hitting the kitchen to rustle up breakfast for the school-going kids or themselves at that hour.

I mean no offense nor a barb intended for the husbands. It’s just how it usually is in India. And with the waking would come the sound of a grand welcome ushering in a new day; the kitchen band struck discordant notes: clangs, bangs, whirs of a mixie and whistles of a pressure cooker.

What a contrast!

Here, in my room where I’m all by myself, it is certainly a quiet morning. I’m as quiet as a mouse. The only sound that you can hear is me shuffling about, the wooden floor squeaks under my weight (which is great!), and there’s the click of the bathroom door shutting; running water and the occasional thud/clang of me or a pan falling! Otherwise, as I said, I’m as quiet as a mouse. Is my tongue in my cheek?

In truth, I haven’t fallen down and I hope I’m not speaking too soon. But in my haste to get my hot cup of ginger tea… well, accidents do happen! You can’t hold me for that, can you? I don’t expect an answer. It’s plain rhetoric.

A Proverb

At my Prayer Breakfast, I got a verse from Proverbs for meditation. I was listening to the lesson: A Teachable Spirit. The verse says:¬†“Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool.”~Proverbs 17:10 (NKJV)

Think about it. I had a lot on my plate as I mulled over the verse and attempted to plumb the depths of its meaning and the application in life.

Do I have a teachable spirit?

Do I walk in humility?

In all honesty, I’m not there yet, but I’m on the way. This tells me I’m not a lost cause. For today, that gives me hope and as I said, it’s a better morning… however, my tea got cold!

A Mare’s Snort!

I went to buy some vegetables yesterday. I walked down to the store not far from our place. I was halfway there when I saw a group of young women coming my way. One, in particular, caught my attention as she stared at me and tried to hide a snicker. I’m not very observant but since I was getting a snicker, I gave her a look-over too and passed by.

Nothing about her drew any thought; good or bad, funny or ugly in my mind. As we passed each other, I heard a loud snort of laughter… the kind that goes haw-haw-snort, haw-haw-snort! It reminded me of a horse… or a mare in this case… of Sandra Bullock in one of her movies where she plays this character who snorted when she was actually laughing!

I smiled and that led to silent tummy-shaking laughter. I’m glad she gave me a funny moment rather than a nasty one.

I knew what she was laughing at. First, I had on very loose trousers and a very loose sweater! And I walked awkwardly. Loose clothes so I could accommodate double layers to keep me warm. Also, so I could conceal the bulky waist support with rods in it and the knee support around my right knee. Add to that the collar I had for my neck. I am obese and I walk awkwardly with pain.

Although not justified, I can understand how some young people are insensitive to alien sights. And I must have qualified as one; a foreign face, ill-fitting clothes, and an awkward gait. But, a spoonful of humor helps the untasteful go down, if I may misquote a line from Julie Andrews song in The Sound Of Music.

Since I started writing, the weather has changed. The sun has put his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray! The sun has put his hat on and is coming out today. On that kiddish note, I sign out. It’s a Better Morning already!

Five years later, as I read this account on a cold day, my spirits are uplifted. I recall how it was for me then. Today, I’m not obese. I don’t have to wear my waist support with its rods, or my knee support and the collar daily. I’m not in constant pain. And though I know I’ll never be free of osteoarthritis; it’ll worsen with age, I’m filled with gratitude, praise, and worship for my present state of good health and mobility.

The sun hasn’t “put his hat on” and it’s still cold… but it is already a Better Morning!

“Every time you find humor in a difficult situation, you WIN!”

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